Mistake: Your website looks like a 4th grader built it.
Everyone notices that most therapist websites demonstrate a distinct lack of attention to design. Some people say that design doesn't matter.
Is that really true?
The way to see this clearly is to ask: "What is design good for?"
What is Design Good For?
To understand what design is good for, take a look at the way you have furnished the room you do therapy in.
Your therapy room shows exquisite attention to many details by which you set the client at ease and convey your status as a professional. You masterfully establish the paradigm for your relationship with the client. So much is conveyed by that room, in the way you've arranged it and in the careful touches by which you create sacred space within an established seriousness.
Your aim is to make the client feel comfortable, and to set the tone for work to be done. And so you harness the power of a carefully designed environment to establish unmistakable competence. By this means you profoundly influence the experience you and your client will share there.
Now here is the point: Your website can, and should, do exactly that.
Theoretically you could establish your competence by simply listing your credentials and quoting the DSM IV. But entirely aside from the matter of what makes for effective text, if your website has an amatereurish, incoherent appearance you risk looking foolish. Your prospective client may conclude that you can talk the talk, but if your website looks like a 4th grader built (as so many do) it they may not feel so confident that you can walk the walk.
How the World Sees You
Many therapists have not considered how or why a website would convey anything beyond the words they've written and whatever the ubiquitous photo of a forest glen gets across. And that's not their fault. Website design is not common knowledge at all!
Consider this objective observation of a typical therapist website: There are a lot of mismatched type faces that compete with one another relentlessly for attention. There is an overall ecclectic randomness in the approach to presentation that could only be created by an amateur.
Most of your visitors are quite web savvy, and they will recognize immediately that you've done this yourself and that you are unconcerned with (or oblivious to) the unfortunate and unflattering subliminal messages your website is sending.
The Power of Metaphor
Why don't you furnish your therapy room in mismatched styles and ecclectic randomness? Why do you care whether the appearance of that room conveys amateurishness? Why not buy the cheapest serviceable furnishings you can find? Why concern yourself with the framing, matting or colors of the art you put on the wall? Why not just stick several nice photos from a nature calendar into the cheapest frames money can buy and be done with it?
Wouldn't that save you a bundle of money?
Perhaps you've never thought about your room's messages in quite this way. At some level it is probably instinctive to you how to create the right feel in that room, so you may not have really considered all the statements that you're making in the way it looks and feels.
Making Design Work FOR You
Make a list of all the things you're conveying and how important each of those subliminal messages is. Label it List A.
Now list the statements your room would make if you filled it with mismatched, cheap, tacky, yet perfectly serviceable furnishings. Label it "List B". These are the statements your unprofessional website is making.
The point of professional design is to use your website to make the statements you wrote on List A instead of the statements in List B.
These are all matters of "branding".
Branding is what makes you stand out and feel right to your ideal client.
Branding is about making a specific impression that causes your ideal client to feel compelled to contact you.
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