Guide to a Great Expert Witness Website: Wins and Fixable Fails
By Beryl Vaughan
Build a Great Website and They Will Come…and Stay
Whether you have a Website already, or are building something new, a site functions best when you give the user something of value.
Attorneys who receive information of value from your site will call you–to pursue more information or you in particular. That means cases and forensic work.
Do you need to fix an existing website? Yes–if the operative word is “Fix.” The site should be producing a few calls or emails from the site’s Contact page. If it isn’t, and is more than one year old, then it isn’t functioning to capacity.
You can improve your user’s experience (aka “UX“)
The Dated or Amateurish website: Leave Bad Impressions Behind
DIY: If you’ve used Wix, Squarespace or other website builder–or are considering one, I recommend taking a look at my blog on that topic for tips and tricks, DIY Websites.
A webdesigner-built site that is more than 5 years old is likely visually and functionally (out)dated.
Built for all Phones. Is your older site designed for cell phone interaction? This technology is constantly changing.
There are dozens of mobile phone sizes and the site should look good on all of them-iPhone, Samsung, large cell screens or small.
Successful Mobile functions to Consider:
- Texting. This mobile-only feature is expected. But you have to provide the clickable option or attorneys can’t use it. (The Google Chrome browser on cell does have an option to share the url; many uses don’t know this or how it works.) Imagine the Associate attorney doing a little handheld research and finding your site. They want to quickly share your site with a senior trial attorney.
- Clickable address to find on Google Maps (if you have a business address, as many clinicians do).
- Return to top” or a scroll up button – for mobile. Ever scroll way down a page on your tiny phone but you can’t get back to the menu or info higher up? Yeah, if it bugs you, it will bug someone using your site.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
Assessment and improvement can be more cost-effective than designing a new site is one Theory. If your existing website produces $20,000 of work, improvements will likely be a worthwhile investment.
Security Updates and other Back-End Considerations for an Older Site. The back-end of web-development has come a long way. Back-end means the coding behind the visual interface of your site. But it can include the tech that’s out of sight: security features (firewall/hacking protection), hosting services, SEO which are all standard in a new site.
Reverse engineering is possible on most older sites. Ask your web developer to run an assessment to see what’s possible, what’s needed, and provide an estimate to bring it up to date.
If you are your own site designer (see DIY below), do a little research to ensure you have a secure site.
Basics everyone will appreciate:
- Add a Search feature
- Make it simpler to find your phone number
- Video conference scheduling with a clickable button. Post-pandemic/post-universal-vaccination, we will continue to see people expect a video interface. Now that we have all mastered the learning curve, finding that option on your site will mean (a) you know how it works, (b) are available for long-distance consultations, (c) want it to be easy for your visitors to use video with you.
- Add links to professional organizations, interesting research in the field, attorney resources (“external links”) or information on your site (“internal link”) Here are examples:
What are Internal vs. External Links? External: Check out how the American Bar Association helps attorneys use an Expert Witness. Internal could be a link to any other page on this site. One type of powerful internal link is a “CTA” or Call-to-Action. Here is an Internal Call to Action Link: Let’s schedule a time to talk about what’s next in your practice.
You can improve your user’s experience (aka “UX“) without changing the original elements that made your site successful.
However, if you aren’t getting any inquiries from the website, it isn’t functioning as it should.
CV on Steroids or A Business Card
Many doctors make a basic website and leave it alone….for years. Their website essentially functions like a Rolodex: Name, address, phone number and a note. That isn’t a bad thing, but it taps existing clients who already know you–it doesn’t attract a new client.
The “About” page is your CV. Experts have to be qualified with the appropriate credentials. An About page assists the attorney to filter Experts and also perform their initial due diligence. Every website should have this page as credentials, experience and expertise are at the heart of Expert Witness practice.
An effective Business Card is in the website design itself.
This site dominates my monitor. Hunting for the phone # led me down the path of many turns of the scroll wheel, another leap to the Contact Page, more scroll wheel turns and finally, a phone #. Completely fixable.
New or Old Websites should provide contact info. front and center.
Put your phone # in the menu bar and footer. These appear on every page of a website.
When will your user decide to look for your #? Ideally, the decision is made while they are reading your CV/About page, or the article you wrote that is on-topic for the attorney’s case.
No matter what the user is reading, you will want it to be easy to call you.
Rage Quitting. This is an old gaming term applied to website use: a site visitor becomes so frustrated with the site’s function that get fed up and leave.
If you’ve experienced this, you know the negative consequences can even cause the user to avoid even exclude the site thereafter. You may not only lose cases once, but for that user-you may lose them forever. Even if you are the precisely right Expert Witness for their type of case.
A rage quit can produce spiteful even punitive behavior. I bet you’ve experienced this yourself. Think about what frustrates you and make sure your site doesn’t make the same mistakes.
I recently went to the site of a doctor and you had to click on several pages to get to a phone number. That’s not intuitive for users and they may not know when they are going to decide to call you.
Change is Good. If your site is static and no calls are coming in, then ignoring it will not produce a different outcome.
New Website. When you’re building a website from scratch, take a leaf from ideas given above. Find a talented web developer–someone who is a good designer / artist and CSS Coder. Asking colleagues or using a service like Upwork could be a solution.
What’s up with the competition?
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. Sites are unattractive or confusing. Information is hard to find.
And that’s if a site exists at all. Med-legal sites for physicians, like a forensic psychiatrist are few and far between.
Having a site that is simple and straightforward will be a relief for attorneys. It’s just that hard to find an Expert Witness in a medical field at all.
Finding the time: whose is best? To improve your website yourself, you’ll need to master the tech learning curve, or find someone who has. That’s why I recommend a Website Developer over a home-cooked site.
You’re a busy person. It isn’t surprising websites take a back burner.
Consider if the “busy”ness is keeping you from having an engaging website. Remember, a less than stellar site is forestalling better cases, so it comes with a price tag.
Text is easy to read. (Is text hard to read?)
Broken links. You click on something and it doesn’t take the user where they thought it would, or to the dreaded “404” page. This is a broken link. Changing the destination for the link is very straightforward on all website platforms/builds.
Navigation is Awkward. We expect a Menu to look a certain way and use it predictably. Ensure you have a Contact Tab and form (and that it works!), the item on the menu tells you what the user will find. I have seen websites with no Contact page. That makes it a little tricky to…contact you.
Templates and Themes. Because of changes in technology, it’s common now to use “templates” of site design that are cookie cutter. These can be timesavers, but they won’t distinguish you. My advice? Stand out or be invisible.
Check out common “themes” (aka templates) WordPress offers. They are identical to those found on Wix, Squarespace and other common website platforms. They are not very customizable without the benefit of a skilled CSS coder. More about this on–yup, I’m going to say it again–because so many doctors struggle with the topic: DIY website builders.
Looking Good on the Phone. Do it now, look up your site on your phone. Does it work? Make note of what doesn’t and fix it. If your site doesn’t look good on your phone, the solution is what is called “responsive design,” meaning whatever your site looks like on a desktop, it will rearrange itself depending on the device the user is using. A Web Developer can handle that.
If you don’t have a site, check out a colleague’s site. Or just type in big words for your field and add a .com (ptsdexpert.com or medmal.com)
Getting on the first page of Google is a goal for 2 years down the road but yo uhave to start now to get that result. Google keeps upping the ante on its algorithm. For best SEO, do the basics. In 2015 they announced a preference for mobile-friendly sites. That’s old news. In 2020 they added multi-media, video and privacy pages to their algorithm for prominence. Now, we’re having updates like “last Monday’s”–tweaks are happening all the time. But what matters most is solidly interesting content.
Forensic information is text-heavy. Chunky blocks of color and huge photos — the norm for most websites — are not suited to a profession where knowledge, not spa services, are your stock in trade.
Forensic psychiatry, forensic psychology or any Expert Witness in a medical specialty are wordy professions. It’s all about what you know. If your site has too much “wall of text” readers may be turned off.
Use graphics and color to break up the text. Subheadings and bullet points are actually part of the Google algorithm! Readability, Google identifies, is what drives a successful website.
Content. An attorney must know what you do and what you know. This will never rely on a large photo of a mountain range, floating lotus blossoms, two suited hands shaking, or a model smilingly chatting on her headset (ubiquitous imagery).
You might benefit from a few quick suggestions, or you may prefer to hand over door-to-door design and management of your site. Either way, implementing even the shortest shortlist is better than altogether ignoring your website and what it conveys to your potential clients.
 A “404” is the page you get when nothing is found.