8 Things You Need to Consider When Building Your Site
Whether you have your own private practice, coaching services, or run a large facility, your website is your most valuable asset. Even if you have a large referral network, a well-designed website is imperative to your success. If there is anyone in doubt, current online search volume for the phrase “therapist near me” is 31,000 searches per month. Indeed, your audience is taking to the web to find the help they need. Having a properly functioning website that is designed with your audience in mind is critical to bringing in new clients.
Your website should resonate with the right audience, walk a potential client from inquiry to intake, be HIPAA compliant, and build trust within seconds of landing on your website. Not to mention, your website should follow ethical standards, answer the most common questions, and, of course, position you as the best option for treatment.
If all that feels a little overwhelming, you’re not alone. Most of our clients have no idea where to start when it comes to their website. And it makes sense – you’re in your profession to help people, not to worry about what goes into an effective website. Since it’s our job to worry about your website, and as a small thank you for making the world a better place, we’re giving you 10 free tips for building an impactful website for your therapy practice. These tips apply whether you’re a mental health professional, a coach, a rehab, or a holistic practitioner.
With that, let’s get to it!
Design is more than color choice and pretty pictures. While these are certainly important, your design should speak to the right audience, send visitors where you want them to go, and consider the mental state of your audience. Since having the right voice and having an aesthetically-pleasing design is a given, this section explores the design of the user experience.
Making sure your website speaks to the right audience can be tricky, and actually warrants its own tip, which we’ll unpack in #2. For now, just understand that it is a crucial component of website design.
Customer Journey: Equally important is that your design funnels your visitors where you want them to go. Having clearly defined funnels, or “buckets” as we call them, will give you the greatest chance of converting your traffic.
Say, for example, you’re a therapist who offers individual therapy and professional training, and would also like to grow your network. You would want to have 3 distinct buckets and make it very clear, very easy for each targeted group to enter their specific funnel. The funnel should then ensure the visitor journey addresses the needs of that specific group, and end in a call-to-action that is appropriate, depending on what action you want them to take.
Mental State: Website design for therapists and other mental health professionals should take into account the mental state of those seeking services. Unlike other industries, consumers of mental health are often in crisis, struggling with anxiety or depression, intoxicated, or otherwise limited in capacity to take in a lot of information. Answers to visitors’ questions should be clear and easily accessible, as should contact information and calls-to-action. The homepage and main service pages should be easy to read so visitors can easily flow through the funnel you’ve set up.
Provide mental health resources in a “resources” section and/or a blog, so they don’t compete with your funnels, but are still available for those who need more information.
2. Target the Right Audience
Seems easy enough, right? Well, not necessarily, especially when it comes to a website for mental health professionals. We find that with many specialties, including anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders, and severe mental health issues, it is often the loved ones who are doing the initial research to help their loved one. Sometimes it’s because they notice the problem first and are trying to wrap their heads around the loved one’s condition. Other times, the loved one is resistant to seeking help, so friends and family take to the Web to have resources at the ready in case their loved one comes around. Still, in other cases, friends and family are doing the research because their loved one is of limited capacity to do it themselves.
It’s important to remember that your target audience isn’t always your client. Designing your website to appeal to the people actually researching services like yours, and, in some cases, the people who are paying the bill for your services, will go a long way. Of course, you still want to appeal to your prospective client, but don’t forget the people they’re leaning on in the beginning of their journey.
3. Your Website is the Beginning of a Relationship
Online, your relationship with clients (and their loved ones!) starts with your website. When producing content for your website, use it as an opportunity to let visitors get to know you. What is it like to be in a therapeutic relationship with you? Are you a good fit for them? How will your approach help them? Why are you doing what you do? Don’t be afraid to let your “voice” and your style come through. This will both help you attract your ideal clients, and help them determine whether you’re a good fit for them. For many people, your website will be their first impression of you. Use your content as an opportunity to start the relationship and allow your website to do some of the heavy lifting.
4. Establish Trust
This obviously goes without saying. You want to have a polished website that conveys you are a knowledgeable expert who can help them. Beyond that, however, you want to convey that with you, they will find safe space. Take every opportunity to assure them that services with you are private, confidential, and provided without judgement. The same messages you use to establish trust at the beginning of your therapeutic relationship with a client should be conveyed through your website.
Aside from the basic provider/client trust, and depending on which populations you serve, you will need to establish trust with any other target audiences. Say for example, you’re a teen psychologist. Not only will you need to establish trust with your teen client, you will also need to establish trust with the parents. A resource page designed for teens can help you establish your client’s trust, and a FAQ section for parents can help you establish trust with them. Think about the major concerns and questions parents typically have surrounding your services and be sure to answer them in the parent’s section. Go a step further and provide some additional resources for parents to let them know you recognize their needs and you’re there to help them, too.
5. The Boring Pages
T&C’s and Privacy Policies: A Privacy Policies page is legally required, especially if you track or collect data (a whole separate blog topic). A Terms & Conditions page is also highly recommended, especially if you are offering any advice or resources on your website. Be sure your pages are clear and capture your actual terms, conditions and policies. We never recommend copying content from other sites, and these pages are no exception. You may also want to have an attorney look them over just to make sure you’ve covered your bases.
Intake Forms: Whether you decide to have your forms on your site is entirely up to you. Having them available can cut down on intake appointment times and people usually like to be able to fill them out at their leisure. Just remember to update your forms on your site if you make changes to your documents, and keep in mind that some people will still want to fill out their forms in person. You will also want to keep HIPAA compliance in mind and ask clients to bring their forms with them to their appointment, versus emailing them or submitting them through the site, unless you are certain your e-communication is secure. Which brings me to the next point.
I’m not talking about security against hackers (again, that’s a whole blog in itself), I’m talking about information security. Make sure your site has a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate installed and keep it up-to-date, especially if you collect information or have a contact form on your site. SSL certificates encrypt the exchange of information and is legally required for HIPAA compliance. If you’re not sure if you have a certificate, or if it’s installed properly, look at your website address in your browser. Sites without SSL will read: http://www.exampledomain.com, whereas a secure site will read https://www.exampledomain.com. As an added layer of protection, you’ll want to make sure your email service is also HIPAA compliant (GSuite is often a good choice).
7. Contact Pages & Forms
Speaking of information exchange, be aware of your contact pages and forms. Be sure to let people know the best way to contact you and what they can expect when they do. Will they get your voicemail if they call? If so, how long does it take to hear back from you? Similarly, how often do you respond to emails? Is there anything they shouldn’t discuss through email and/or a contact form? If so, let them know. The standard emergency disclaimers should also be included when offering a way to contact you.
Some providers prefer to use a form instead of direct email. This way they can ask for specific information with required fields. Additionally, if you prefer that prospective clients keep their initial inquiries brief, you can limit the number of characters allowed in the text field of the form.
8. Reviews and Testimonials
This post won’t go into the details of review sites and whether you should use them, but I do want to cover using reviews and testimonials on your website. Be sure to always ask permission to add a customer review or testimonial on your site, whether it’s anonymous or not. I always advise clients to have a standard form that their clients can sign so permission is in writing.
In the mental health space, it is not ethical to directly ask clients for a review or testimonial, but the weight of this social proof cannot be ignored. Powerful testimonials cut through the noise of the Internet, and makes you stand out against the several other providers who do what you do. In short, you need to have them. The good news is that there are some creative ways to capture these in an ethical way and protect both yourself and your clients. If you’re interested in a testimonial campaign, just reach out – I’d be happy to talk with you about it.
If you do have a profile on a review site such as YELP, you’ll want to be careful about pulling in the actual reviews to your site. For mental health providers, we recommend having a simple icon on your site that invites people to your profile to read the reviews.
Whew! That was a lot of info, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of websites for therapists and other mental health professionals. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, or prefer to have someone take care of your website design and development for you while you build your practice, we’d be happy to help. Whether you just need a little bit of consulting to make sure you’re on the right track, or a team of experts to take care of everything, we have a reputation for helping those who help others. We specialize in digital assets for the mental and behavioral health field, taking care of it all so you can take care of your clients. Give us a call!