Practice Development for Expert Witnesses
Beryl Vaughan, Consultant
Nationwide

Email go@forensicexpertpro.com or Call (415) 302-9589

Website Wins and Fails

By Beryl Vaughan

Website assessment and improvement can be more cost-effective than designing a new site.

Do you need a website at all? Read the answer in this companion article “You Need a Website and Here’s Why.”

If your website produces cases, then the cost of updating or fixing your site’s flaws is a worthwhile investment.

However, if you aren’t getting any inquiries from the website, it isn’t doing its job.

Sometimes a few inexpensive tweaks improve the site without reinventing the wheel.

Baby steps are fine.

I track the sites of your competitors and clients almost every day and am surprised at how easy it can be to outperform other experts’ sites. 

Site Repair:

Attorneys use a forensic expert’s website in predictable ways. Their intuition drives your site’s functionality–not your beliefs about how sites should look and work.

Here are some of the most common problems that are easily solved.

  • Navigation.  Users navigate the site from a legal perspective.  Menus and clickable links to appropriate information should make sense and work.  If the click doesn’t go where it needs to, it is frustrating for the user and diminishes the professional impression you are trying to make. Changing that can be very simple and fast.
  • Text is hard to read. 
  • Links aren’t optimized for search engines. For example, there aren’t enough links to reliable organizations or research.
  • Too much text and not enough graphics–visual learning cannot be ignored on a website, in a textbook, or a magazine!
  • Options for contacting you are hard to find. Your goal is for an attorney to contact you. A common issue  is that email, phone, address, video conferencing links, are not available or easy to find.
  • Substantive problems require a little redrafting if information isn’t relevant, or is worded for doctors rather than attorneys.

Run a site test.

Do you give answers to obvious questions and if so, where?  (E.g., are you Board-Certified?  If not, why?)

Do you sound knowledgeable about that weird issue in their case?  (The solution is to address a range of issues that pop up in litigation.)

What will opposing counsel find to use as fodder for cross-examination or, alternatively, will o/c find your expertise and communication style is likely to make for a rough trial ahead.

Cleverness Can Backfire.

My personal favorite (pet peeve) is “clever” features. One expert had a magnifying glass that swept across the screen enlarging each item as it moved. I could barely read the expert’s name and was not inclined to stay and read more.  About a year later, the magnifying glass became a graphic that did not move, making it considerably easier to read the site. Clearly I wasn’t the only person who found it distracting.

Can I fix my site myself? 

There’s a learning curve to the back end of website programming.

Plenty of services offer a DIY approach and you may already be using one like Wix, Squarespace or Weebly. I can find out for you fairly easily, if you don’t know.  These services might be a good simple choice for you. If your site is already on one of these platforms, fixes might very well be something you can do yourself.  “DIY Websites for Forensic Psychiatrists and Psychologists” might be of interest.

If websites aren’t your calling, finding a web developer can be daunting-if you get a name by word of mouth, check the developer’s portfolio and try to get an estimate before jumping in.  Upwork is a service that puts you in touch with hundreds of skilled developers all over the world.

Ignore dysfunction or underfunction at your peril.

Template Websites Beware. Are you a Psychiatrist? Yoga Instructor? B’n’B?  So hard to tell… Because of changes in technology, it’s common now to use “templates.”  This is a pre-made layout for a website into which you plug your own information.  Perhaps there’s a box for your email, another for a photo, one for text.  A popup asks if the visitor wants to sign up for a newsletter. There’s a shopping cart (!). Worst of all, free services may provide space for ads for their service and they hide this in the fine print.

By their nature, such templates are cookie-cutter. You can barely tell one person’s website from another if they are using the same template.  

If you use a template site, disable features that don’t reflect your practice. 

Your site on a small screen.

Since 2015, Google has give, preference to mobile-friendly sites. In 2020, mobile sites are more important than ever before.

About 1/3 of all traffic to the sites of my clients originate on a mobile device.  The site has to be readable on a phone. It’s that simple. I don’t recommend spending 2/3 of your budget on it. Keep that for the desktop version.

Update a dated site

Changes in website coding in recent years reveal the biggest changes to how websites look.

The programming language of web design used to be HTML. In 2002 most sites began to use CSS, a design language that introduces more efficient and interesting effects.  Simple HTML sites are noteworthy because text runs right down the center rather than using all the monitor space from left to right. Photos and graphics are used minimally because they were trickier to code. 

It is not uncommon to find only a single web page with a name, address, phone number and perhaps a tagline (“Expert Witness”). This type of basic site has one use: it is a quick way for a client to find your phone number while on the run. That may be your intention.  

Does your site look like it was designed in 1995? 

As soon as your visitor lands, your website should convey who you are and what you know. 

To encourage users to stick around on your website, you’ll need imagery and words that identify you–not just your name, but your entire expertise and experience.

 

NB: ForensicExpertPro is a Marketing Consulting service for Forensic Experts, especially in Psychology and Psychiatry, not a website mill like those junky emails you get.

Hint: Art being in the eye of the beholder, none of these are suited to a practice in forensic psychiatry or psychology. Pretty pictures shouldn’t overwhelm the message, unless you are a dog groomer and it’s a photo of a dog.  What do you think of this font?

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