Practice Development for Medical Expert Witnesses
Beryl Vaughan, Consultant
Nationwide

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

Medical Expert Witness’ Guide to a Great Website

for Attorney Visitors

By Beryl Vaughan

The Medical-Legal Expert Website is unlike that of any other profession.

These values must guide content on your site.

  • Law
  • Professional Ethics
  • Best Practices
  • Reputation for impartial opinions
Build a Great Website and They Will Come…and Stay

Whether you have a Website or are starting fresh, a site functions best when you give the user something of value.

Attorneys who receive answers to their questions and relevant information are more likely to call you with cases and forensic work.

Do you need to fix an existing website or start from scratch? 

A successful site:

  1. Produces calls about cases that result in your retention. The income returns your investment in building the site.
  2. Produces emails from the Contact page or from a regular email that references the site AND which result in your retention.*
  3. Engaging articles. At least 3 engaging articles or case studies.
  4. Appears on Google pages 1-4 responsive to logical attorney search queries.
  5. Attorneys report they found you “online somewhere” and then saw your website.
  6. Data reflects time spent reading content (e.g., Google Analytics.) Data confirms users are viewing and reading content with meaning, e.g. more than 2 minutes per article.
Audit– Run a Test

Don’t know what to “fix” for boosted results? Test the site yourself and do the same with a few friends and colleagues. Human feedback is the best.

If you can watch others use the site, even better. See when they click and nothing happens or spend time looking for something obvious.

Note when the user pauses to read. Ask why.  If anything annoys or confuses you or your test subject, your visitor will feel the same. These are your target “fixes.”

  • Is font and layout legible? Do you have to squint or put on reading glasses? Must you, or your tester increase browser size above 100% to read it?
  • On a phone, are they “pinching to enlarge?”
  • Are they clicking on something more than once, without a result? (They expect something is a link, but it isn’t.) Short back-end code can correct that in minutes.
  • Test on multiple types of computers/mobile devices. Are all elements the same regardless of device size?
  • Use more than one browser. Chrome and Firefox are the most common.
  • Do they visit the “Contact” page?

*Reduce spam received from your contact page with Google reCaptcha. This universal tool does a good job of filtering “bot” use of a submittable contact form.

Considerations and Values

  • Law
  • Professional Ethics
  • Best Practices
  • Reputation for impartial opinions

Let me know if page gets all the fixable tips right or wrong! (I may have put in a few fails to see if you’re reading 🙂

 

Audit this Page

Any mistakes on this page? Let me know. I may have hidden a few intentionally. Let’s see what you find.

Basics Everyone Appreciates

 

Search feature.

Easy to find your phone number.

Video conference services are clearly stated–with only small graphic. Finding that option on your site will mean your are available for long-distance consultations and IMEs.

Internal and External links. External links reinforce your science by linking to research, for example. Internal links help attorneys navigate between related content on your site. Also, links help with SEO to get your site higher on browser results.

Update the Old Code Website

 

website design
This site is clearly dated, but why?

This site was constructed with html code, the standard 20-25 years ago. Current sites use CSS with the occasional html element. They adapt to larger monitors than were availble 20 years ago, and the smaller mobile devices we now use.

An outdated site is a serious problem: it communicates an inactive practice, as well as rendering your excellent content useless because html reverts to illegible font sizes.

Performance

A site built on WordPress, that is 2-5 years old, should show up on searches within the first 4 “pages” when the search terms are specific to your area of medical-legal expertise–assuming content and design are solid and Google “sponsored” ads (paid) don’t dominate the landscape. You can’t control that unless you join that bandwagon. Let’s set that aside for a second.

Bear in mind that for most searches, paid ads, scholarly material and schools that teach the topic will dominate early results. That’s ok. They aren’t your real competitors. Attorneys know how to scroll past what’s irrelevant to find their target.

Common problems for a site that isn’t performing–that you can change

  • SEO. SEO techniques impact how early your site appears in results. Tools that maximize your solid content and interesting topics include backend “Htags,” and much more that together prioritize that meaningful content.
  • Visually and functionally (out)dated site like the one shown above. For example, sites older than 5 years may have been written in html which works intermittently. Older sites can be off-center and too small, like the 90’s designed site image above.
  • Breathing room.Content is packed together without unfilled space, or transition between concepts. I won’t call out anyone, but I know of several medical expert witnesses with this issue.
  • Content is boring or off -point. Everyone makes this mistake somewhere. Carve out time in your schedule every now and then to review content and improve it. Also, a copyeditor can be a good investment as they can help with suggestions and save you time.
  • Contact information is missing or hard to find.
  • Content is stale. Writing should be added at least every 6 months.
  • Wix and Squarespace. If you built on a DIY site like Wix, you are fighting Google’s algorithm that dings Wix sites. Squarespace gets a little more love. WordPress is the gold standard. [Companion article DIY Websites.]

Is your site built for Mobile Devices-phones and tablets?

There are dozens of mobile phone sizes and the site should look good on all of them-iPhone, Samsung, different screensizes, and tablets.

Test your site on a random Android phone and a random iPhone and you’ll get the gist.

Helpful Mobile Features
  • Texting your site to a colleague. Texting is an easy way for attorneys to direct their staff to begin vetting a potential expert witness. Also, litigants might do the legwork to find an expert and then want to text the site to their attorney. The mobile Chrome browser also has a  an option to share the URL. 
  • Clickable address to find on Google Maps is helpful if you have a brick and mortar office. Attorneys may be looking for someone close to their client for the IME, or simply in their jurisdiction.
  • “Return to top” button – for mobile. This is the little arrow, usually on the right of the screen. Mine is black. On mobile, a simple up arrow in a circle works. 
  • Pinch to enlarge. If your text is small on a phone, people expect to enlarge it with their fingers. In your audit check that this works. If not, a plugin on WordPress adds that element.
Security Updates and Back-End Considerations for an Older Site

Security and encryption is valued by Google and should be for you too. Older sites may lack these features and get “dinged” by browsers as a result.

The back-end of web development has come a long way. Back-end means the coding behind the visual interface of your site. The code is generally CSS or a CSS/HTML blend. Other back-end elements include protocols to create firewall and hacking protection. SEO boosts include coding that occurs behind the scenes.

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, do a little research to ensure you have a secure site.

For example, when you see your site in browser results, or when you click on that listing, are there any alerts to the user that the site is not secure?

In your online search for yourself, click on the links to your website from others, such as a colleague, clinical site, directory listing, etc.

What did you find? Be concerned if these are the results:

  • A link goes to someone else’s site you did not intend. These can be human error (the wrong url was linked,) or malware. In the case of one expert I worked with, a hack (2 years after the site went live) took the link to a  porn site. The site had to be rebuilt from scratch because hackers embed code so deeply it is not worth the time to hunt it down.
  • Message from browser “Site Not Found” or that the site is not secure. This can occur if your domain name begins http:// and not https:// Without the “s” your site is not encrypted. An SSL or Security Certificate is the free solution. Your backend developer can generally obtain the SSL Certificate through your hosting service.
  • Page on your site that goes to “404 Page Not Found.” This result is also fixed with a page redirect.
  • You are getting spam emails from the site’s contact page.
Internal vs. External Links

External: Clicking on the link takes the user to an outside site that is relevant. For example, check out how the American Bar Association helps attorneys use an Expert Witness and my favorite Laws, Rules of Procedure, Precedent.

Internal: Clickin on the link takes the user elsewhere on your own site. E.g., This internal link will take you to an article on this site about Data.

Internal “Call to Action:” You can have a clickable link or button that uses an on-site tool for the user. E.g., “CTA”: Let’s schedule a time to talk about what’s next in your practice.

Good User Experience Improves Results and Prompts Use of the CTA

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.

Baseline Content Isn’t Performing?

It is a mistake to build a basic website and leave it alone….for years. In such a case, the 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.

Return on Investment

Assessment and improvement can be more cost-effective than designing a new site if it is functioning “adequately.”

If your existing website produces $40,000+ annually, improvements like those in this article (not a design overhaul) will likely be a worthwhile investment.

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 a 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.

Perfectly Fixable. 

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”[1] 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. Some 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: I recommend my blog on that topic for tips and tricks, DIY Websites.

Looking Good on the Phone 

Look up your site on your phone. Does it work? Does it look ok? Make note of what doesn’t work and fix it.

If your site doesn’t look right on your phone, the solution is “responsive design,” meaning whatever code ensures your site features as they appear on a desktop, are reformatted to the smaller screen (e.g. large font becomes smaller, images resize).  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. Try relevant words specific to legal matters (med mal neurologist or personal injury psych.)

Getting on the first page of Google is a goal for 2 years down the road but you have 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. Break it up for readability. 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.

[1] A “404” is the page you get when nothing is found. 

Cheat Sheet to Excellent User Experience “UX”

Function

Links work. Clicking takes you to the right destination.

Fast loading speed.

click to call actually dials (on cell).

Font is easy to read.

click to email sends an email.

Menu is logical and accurate.

Form

Design, images and color are distinctive and specific to you.

Engaging content; interesting topics, good writing.

Explains your field. Answers questions lawyers ask.

Answers the same questions juries ask.

Demonstrates your ability to communicate fluidly for counsel and trier of fact.

Documenting Results

Attorneys report the site motivated them to call

Data analytics confirm users are responding positively.

“Calls to Action (CTA)” are used.

Users found the site with logical search terms.