The Friday series on private practice has been focusing lately on the development of practice websites. One of the main factors that hold people back from creating their site is figuring out the content that they want to include. They fear forgetting something crucial.
Part of this trepidation comes from the experience of writing papers: You only hand it over once it’s complete. A website, though, is completely different. It is never complete. You can add to it any time you like, so it doesn’t matter if what you first put up is imperfect.
Nevertheless, it’s good to have some at least some clue what you want to put on your site. There is a perfectly simple way to do this.
Look over at the desk of the person next to you to see what they’ve been doing. You’ve been inoculated against doing this from the day you entered Grade One. Now that you’re an adult, however, all bets are off.
You know enough not to plagiarize, obviously, but it is completely legitimate to get ideas from what other people have been doing. Call it “market research.”
A downloadable form
At www.changeways.com we have a page of downloadable forms to accompany my book Private Practice Made Simple. Although buying the book is a great idea (go do it; here it is on Amazon.ca and here it is on Amazon.com), you don’t need to do so to get access to the forms.
For our present purposes, this is the one you want:
Print it out and then set aside an hour or so to get to work.
Conducting your survey
You’re going to look at 10 existing websites for people from your field. If you are a psychologist, for example, just Google “psychologist” and, if you like, your city. It doesn’t really matter which city you pick, because what we’re doing doesn’t vary by region.
Go to the first website you see. Write down the address so you know not to go there a second time.
Look at the home page. On the Survey form, quickly jot down all the types of content you find there, one type per line. “Address & phone number; name of clinician, photo of clinician, type of practice, list of clients seen.”
Then work through the rest of the site, page by page. Add all of the other bits you find. “Vita, definition of bulimia, radio interviews done, slides from past talk on PTSD, google map of location, personal philosophy, etc.”
Now go to another site. Do exactly the same thing. But this time, if a piece of content (“address”) was on the first site, just put a checkmark beside that note rather than writing it down again. If there is anything on this new site that wasn’t on the first one, add it to the bottom of your list.
Then do the same thing for the next eight sites. You’ll need several sheets of the form.
Reviewing your survey
What have you got? A complete listing of every type of content that appears on any one of ten therapist websites. Plus, an indication of how many sites include any particular type of content.
If an item has six checkmarks beside it, that means it appeared on one site, then reappeared on six more. So it’s on 70% of the sites you visited. An item with no checkmarks appeared on only 1, or 10%, of your sites.
So now you know what other people put on their sites. You can look through the list and circle the bits you want to put on yours. The greater the number of checkmarks, the more likely a bit is to be considered standard. That probably means it’s useful at least to consider for your own site.
Some bits (“picture of therapist’s dog”) appear seldom, or you notice that you react negatively to them. Fine, drop it as part of your own site.
Also notice any nagging dissatisfactions that occurred to you as you conducted your survey. Does something seem missing? “Hey, nobody defines what kind of therapy they do.” Lovely. Add this to the things you want on your site.
Remember that your site doesn’t have to have everything on it in order for you to create and launch it. You can always add other bits later.
Next up: Eventually you will want to map out all the bits of your site across different pages. I’ll discuss a strategy for this next Friday.
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Want more information on operating a private psychotherapy practice?
Check out my book Private Practice Made Simple. It contains information on starting a practice, creating a space, designing a website, getting referrals, managing finances, avoiding burnout, and much more.