Practice Development for Expert Witnesses
Beryl Vaughan, Consultant
Nationwide

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

Breakable Rules

“Rules” of website design that I’m breaking and why.

By Beryl Vaughan

The forensic expert witness’ website is not like that of most other sites. Design should step outside our assumptions to reflect the professional and legal nature of the role of an expert witness.

Breakable Rule 1.  You need a new website that will wow your visitor. 

If you have a website, get a fresh set of eyes to see if it works. There is benefit to keeping a design that reassures repeat visitors they are in the right, and familiar place.

Cutting-edge design is not the forensic expert’s goal.

Common issues on older sites are functional and fixable.

  • Readable font size
  • Mobile design–the site looks fine on all sizes of devices; features that work with a cursor also work with a touchscreen.
  • User navigation works: Buttons take the user where they expect to go, links and navigation perform in the expected manner.

More tips follow.

If you don’t have a website, Click to read about why you might need a website.

A Gift From Google

Google gives priority to long-standing site names over minty fresh domain names. They also look for updates to content.  Unchanged content is interpreted as an inactive business, thus shoving you to the back of the line in searches.

If your site isn’t generating work, tap Google’s reward for ever-changing content.  Freshen up the design and write something for your site. Even short-and-sweet triggers a Google reassessment.

Breakable Rule 1.  You need a new website that will wow your visitor. 

If you have a website, get a fresh set of eyes to see if it works. There is benefit to keeping a design that reassures repeat visitors they are in the right, and familiar place.

Cutting-edge design is not the forensic expert’s goal.

Common issues on older sites are functional and fixable.

  • Readable font size
  • Mobile design–the site looks fine on all sizes of devices; features that work with a cursor also work with a touchscreen.
  • User navigation works: Buttons take the user where they expect to go, links and navigation perform in the expected manner.

If you don’t have a website, Click to read about why you might need a website.

A Gift From Google

Google gives priority to long-standing site names over minty fresh domain names. They also look for updates to content.  Unchanged content is interpreted as an inactive business, thus shoving you to the back of the line in searches.

If your site isn’t generating work, tap Google’s reward for ever-changing content.  Freshen up the design and write something for your site. Even short-and-sweet triggers a Google reassessment.

Most business computer research is conducted on a desktop. (Photo ca 1981)

Breakable Rule 2. Design for Mobile first, desktop second.   

Mobile in perspective

We are beaten over the head that Google penalizes designs that are not mobile friendly. (Check out Is Google God?) Indeed, to appear higher in Google searches, Google will place mobile adaptive sites higher than those that are not. The design, however, isn’t as important to Google.

Do attorneys search for experts on the phone?

At least 70% of the time your potential clients are sitting at a desktop computer, not on a tablet. 

They are usually solo attorneys,  or junior associates or paralegals tasked with finding an expert witness. 

The desktop experience is what counts. 

The most important item on a miniature screen is your phone number, name and field of expertise. In that order.

Breakable Rule 3: “Traffic, traffic, traffic.  It’s all about how many people visit your site.”  Wrong.  In a specialized field, quality is more important than quantity.

More people are searching for glasses than expert witnesses who can speak to, say, whether Bipolar Disorder can exacerbate an autoimmune disorder.

If you have the same amount of traffic month after month, you may be doing just fine.

Visitors who call, not how many see the site.

Consider how many of those visits resulted in work.  100 visitors a month vs. 300 is irrelevant if, in both scenarios, 2 visits turned into work that accounted for a chunk of billable hours.  I find forensic psychiatrists and psychologists get dozens, maybe hundreds, of website “hits” from attorneys per month.  If you think thousands mean you’re more popular, consider this: how many of those visitors are looking for a psychiatrist vs. a forensic psychiatrist?

Remember those 2 valuable clients? I track data. It can confirm if a visitor stayed on the site long enough to read what you have to say. There are inexpensive services that record where a user “landed” on your site (which page) and how long they stayed there.  If they go to your CV page and spend 4 minutes, they’ve taken the time to read it and that’s positive. Most visitors will stay less than a few seconds because they’re looking for something else. So which visitor(s) are retaining you? Interpreting the data reveals patterns and behavior.  E.g. an attorney from Boston calls you. My data-mining service tells me there were 3 repeat visits to the site originating in Boston, each staying several minutes or more, all on the 2 days preceding the call. See how that works?  100 visitors on those days are meaningless.  The visitor from Boston was the only important traffic on the site.  The site’s consistent traffic pattern reflected a successful strategy.

Breakable Rule 4:  “Website visitors have a short attention span.  Keep writing short and sweet.”  I disagree, in part, as you have probably already ascertained.  (Relevant question: are you still reading this? If so, then the “rule” to “keep text brief or lose the attention of visitors” is false.)

Engagement is necessary to keep people reading what you have to say, but your knowledge is not bite size and doesn’t have to be presented that way. Content on your site should reflect you know what you’re talking about.  Research shows content between 1100-1400 words gets the most attention, which defies the idea of writing short, simplistic articles. Still, any content is better than none.

Breakable Rule 5:  “Color isn’t that important. Keep your design simple. Black text on white background.”  Colors are distracting.

I’ve visited hundreds of websites to see what works and what doesn’t.

White pages with bold line accents, like a blue border around text, are ubiquitous because they’re easy to read and decode what’s important.

However, an expert witness is not a generalist. Erudite content can be broken up visually with color and other visual design “tricks.”

Your site doesn’t have to be boring to meet the expectation of “conservative design” associated with the sober field of law.

Easy fixes: color and imagery associated with your field.

  • graphics (e.g. a logo)
  • color
  • layout
  • phrases

About color

Color theory and research is a powerful way to communicate.  In a verbal profession, non-verbal cues can be powerful tools.

Breaking up a long article, visually. Standard content is 1500 words. No visual breakup produces the sleep-inducing “wall of text.”

Your words can come back to haunt you on the stand.

Color can’t.

Color research in a nutshell:
Green=Calming,

Red = Action (or Aggression),

Yellow is hard to read unless on a darker background=dynamic or can be perceived as a warning.

Website nomenclature

Blue =a clickable “link.” 

One theory about color and business is that some colors say “take me seriously,” and others the opposite.

Would you rather have a Pink theme or Blue?  (Sexism is everywhere.)

The pinkest site:

One prominent expert’s site is pink. The entrance to her page is a pink door decorated with a heart. Most of Page 2 is  her CV devoted to impressive credentials and a history of publishing legal analysis, or testimony, in complex high-profile cases. She is successful in her forensic field. Pink doesn’t seem to impede her.

Too flashy for you? No Problem. Let's make a few changes.

A more conservative alternative.

CONSERVATIVE vs. EDGY

Breakable Rule 6: Always Be Conservative.

Unbreakable Rule 6a: Edgy does not speak to a jury and that’s the entire point of marketing an Expert Witness.

Must a forensic expert witness site be “conservative?”

Yes, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring.

Current “trends ” in website design call for dramatic, graphic, dark themes that push the envelope of what we expect.

Eye-catching, however, does not have to mean “precocious.”

While “edgy” is my favorite kind of design, I restrict it to my private life.

Below are examples of several different design trends, and also the most traditional.

There is room in between.

The Icon “5 Signs of PTSD” is graphic and dramatic but has nothing to prove, a nice adaptation of “graphic” with “informative” and “serious.” (Not “stuffy”.)

The beige block of text is….well boring.  Does it make you want to read it? Were you in a hurry to call the Expert?

If you want to know what happens when someone lands on the page, read it, and tell me if you finish.

 

[Not] Conservative

Layout

 Conservative Layout


Harvard Professor of Law and Medicine, Dr. Jones has been practicing since 1972 and is board-certified in 25 subdisciplines, Diplomate and Life Fellow of 16 areas of medicine including multiparanormalisticaphasiaticsciatica.
He has never testified but will not share that until paragraph 162 at which point you will be asleep. However, he has conducted 16 paranormalitisanthropodalities with few complications which were reported in the American journal of nothingness, which is not peer-reviewed but you should take his conclusions seriously for no apparent reason. This paragraph will now continue for approximately the next 18″ of your monitor so keep reading by all means. Let me know when you feel you are impressed that this doctor can keep a jury alert and intrigued by his opinions which go and on. In fact his fees were exorbitant in a case where he spoke for nearly 8 days straight.

5 Things to Know About Medical-Malpractice

2 Signs of PTSD

Buyer Beware:

* You’ve probably received spam emails from website designers with an aggressive offer for an exciting new website. Quotes run the gamut because there’s no market standard for such work.  Flat fees mean you’ll get what you pay for (their profit margin is acquired by producing as little as possible.) Big prices might mean you pay too much. ($7k isn’t unusual; $300 is unrealistically low. That’s a big range.)

Caveat:

** What happens online stays online (the internet archive www.waybackmachine.org is a library of the internet over time.)  Content can be brought up during cross-examination, so remember, what you said in the past should still stand OR state research or laws that change material on your site in the past.

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