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Friday 20 April 2012

Private Practice: Your website design

A new website is a sapling.

The Friday series on private practice has been focusing lately on the development of practice websites. Last week, I suggested that people wanting to develop a website conduct a survey of existing sites owned by similar professionals, and provided a form for this purpose.

Eventually you will want to work on your own site. You should do this before getting a designer to create your site, because it can take a lot of time and you don't want your designer hanging around, and your designer can't say what you want to communicate. Designers are for creating the medium, not writing your message.

Hopefully you have some idea what you want to put on your site. Two observations are particularly relevant at this point:

First, you don't have to have your site completely designed and written before you get started. Unlike an essay, thesis, or academic paper, which have to be in their final form before you send them off, a website is never complete. You will update and add to it over time. So to get started you mainly need a home page and perhaps a few subsidiary pages. 

Think of your website as a young sapling. It's spindly and has only a few branches. As it gets older you may prune off some of the branches, and others will become thick platforms from which many more limbs protrude. All you are doing at this point is creating the trunk and a few small limbs.

Second, be stingy with your home page. This is the only page that virtually everyone who visits your site will see. You'll want to make it powerful. Don't use a welcome screen ("Here's a pretty picture of my dog that I'll make you look at before I'll let you see what you came here for"). Don't clutter it up (if google can make their welcome screen look tidy and simple, so can you). And don't start with a vague, meandering rendition of your philosophy ("Gosh, life can be difficult for any of us, blah blah blah ...").

Your main agenda for the home page is to help your viewer find what they came to see. Spell out the main branches of content. "Welcome. We offer psychotherapy, professional training services, and consulting for large organizations. Click on each to learn more." Don't muddy it with a lot of preamble.

As usual, the adjunct materials from my book Private Practice Made Simple include a form to help you out. Here it is:

Resource Form:  Your Website Design 

The form is five pages long, but I suggest you print multiple copies of pages three, four, and five.

The first page describes the structure of most websites, which is:
  • Home Page
    • Major Theme 1 (e.g., "Clinical Services")
      • Subtheme 1 (e.g., "About cognitive therapy")
      • Subtheme 2 (e.g., "Difficulties we treat")
        • Subsubtheme 1 (Anorexia nervosa)
        • Subsubtheme 2 (Trichotillomania)
        • Subsubtheme 3 (Pica)
    • Major Theme 2 (e.g.,"Consulting Services")
      • Subtheme 1 (e.g., "Supervision for psychologists"
        • Subsubtheme 1 (Arranging supervision)
        • Subsubtheme 2 (The structure of a typical session)
      • Subtheme 2 (e.g., "Organizational consulting")
        • Subsubtheme 1 (Mental health awareness programs for staff)
        • subsubtheme 2 (Training programs for managers)
    • Major Theme 3 ("Contact Us")

As you can see, for this basic site you'd need three copies of the "Major Theme" page, four copies of "Subtheme", and seven copies of "Subsubtheme". 

Don't skimp on the subthemes. Remember that you don't want a huge amount of content on any one page. If the person has to scroll down more than once, consider splitting the content over two pages. Additional pages do not cost any more money to host, so use them liberally.

Take your list of "bits" that you want to include on your site (my philosophy, my vita, about depression, about PTSD, about CBT, my address, my menu of public talk topics, links to relevant sites, whatever) and start dividing them up across major themes, then decide how to split up the resulting material across subthemes and subsubthemes. You may discover that three topics (about depression, about bulimia, about autism) necessitate four pages: a page for each, plus a larger theme page from which they branch ("About the disorders we treat").

Once you've decided how to lay out your content, it's time to start writing. And for that, I'll leave you on your own.

Want to know more about clinical website design? Consider picking up my book, which is available from here, and from the Canadian site here.

Next Friday:  A client intake form for your practice.

*   *   *

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.

The book is available at bookstores, from the Changeways Clinic website, and through Amazon here.

Vancouver Workshop November 29 2013

Click here for information and registration for the one-day workshop Private Practice Made Simple being held in Vancouver Canada Friday November 29. 


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. It is true that you don’t have to have your site completely designed and written before you get started. You can actually get started promptly and improve as you move forward. And yes, a website is never complete. It needs to adjust with the trends, seasons and internal celebrations.

    Andrew - website design and development company based in Florida.

    1. It seems to be a good service. Thanks for sharing the same.

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