Confession: When it comes to website design, I'm always struggling between leaning towards the unique and bowing to the standard. No doubt having my Mercury in Aquarius is to blame, but that's a whole 'nother story for a completely different blog.
So I know it's confusing for my do-it-yourselfer colleagues trying to market a psychotherapy or psychic medium practice. One minute we're told it's imperative to stand out from the crowd. The next we're advised to align with what website visitors have learned to expect as the norm for where to find what they need.
No wonder so many solopreneurs give up on getting a website online.
How about I offer some design logic to help you with this organizational challenge?
First, some vocabulary, so you can locate what I'm talking about. There are 3 standard sections to all well designed websites:
the page body
Each of these sections has a specific job to do for you, and for your potentil client. And these jobs are essential not only to basic organization and navigation of your website, but also to creating the first container of reassurance for site visitors.
This is the area that looks exactly the same at the top of every page of a website. The job of the header is to immediately establish that visitors have a chance to get what they need from you, and to direct readers where to find it.
The header must establish either who you are, or what your business is, or both. That means including your personal name, your credential initials, and your business name or some indication of what you do.
For SEO purposes, the header should also indicate who you serve with what kind of general problem in your geographic area. Think keywords here. For eample, if you specialize in helping high schoolers with learning disorders, your header should have a brief line something like this: Helping Austin teens with ADHD.
Maybe even more important than name and service keywords is the website menu bar -- or what you might call your page tabs. Menus usually look like a horizontal line of text links or buttons, but you might also have a vertical stack type of menu like the one I use on this site.
The menu is the first place potential clients look to see if you provide what they want. It is essential that they see page names that reflect what they want and what they need. More on this below.
And last, your header should display your phone number.
Anything else in the header is extranneous and should really be assessed according to how much it helps or hinders getting the visitor to what they need to make the decision to request an appointment.
The Page Body
This is the majority of each page. It's where your content goes, both written and visual. The job your page body has is to make an emotionally compelling connection with potential clients that persuades them to stay on your site long enough to begin to trust you enough to make an appointment.
There should be some basic consistency from page to page for the most part, although the home page can be a bit different from the rest. Consistency is created with sticking to one color palette, one way of displaying photos, one style of button, one basic text font, and one basic headline and subhead font.
When you have consistency in these items, the design supports the readability of the content. And readability is what influences visitors to finish absorbing your entire marketing message.
This is the strip or section that is identical at the bottom of every page. The job your footer has is to provide verification info.
The footer is where to put:
your copyright line with symbol, year, and your name
your complete address
social media icons
logo badges of locator directories you're in
a line directing people in crisis to the nearest ER or hotline
I've seen sites where people have put maps to their office, blog tickers -- those little rotating pictures used in your blog with the post title -- as well as ezine opt-in forms, contact forms, online scheduling buttons, and even PayPal buttons. None of that is necessary, but you can locate those things in the footer if you want to.
Organizing Your Menu Bar
A menu bar is sort of a mini site map -- it's an immediate way to show what can be found there. But it has a more subtle function, which is to lead the visitor through all parts of the decision making process until they feel motivated, even determined, to work with you.
If your ultimate marketing purpose is to get clients on your schedule as quickly as possible, here are the page names and the basic, left to right, structure that your menu bar should follow:
4. Fees & FAQs
5. Blog (or Resources)
* If you aren't a mental health professional, this page name should reflect your general service. Maybe "Readings" for my esoteric services friends, or "Healing Services" for alternative medicine providers, or just "Coaching" for life or health coaches.
Don't get creative with your page names. They work best as SEO tools when they are simple and match the main search term your potential client uses.
Most psychotherapists I know specialize in more than one kind of problem. You will want one page devoted to each niche, such as:
Niche pages like this will show up on a drop down menu when the Counselng tab is hovered over. The Counseling page itself is called the parent page. The niche tabs are called the child pages. The idea is for the potential client -- and Google -- to see at one glance what you offer and how it fits together.
Making visitors and search engines stumble on random links scattered around the body of various pages to find everything you offer is really detrimental to the conversion of visitors into clients.
Of course, you might treat many more issues than this sample of four. They don't all need to have separate pages.
Panic, trauma, OCD, social anxiety, for example, can all be separate sections on the Anxiety page. Bipolar, SAD, postpartum depression, and suicidal thoughts can all be sections on the Depression page. Staying together, surviving divorce, and blended families can all be on the Couples page, and so on.
Each of these speciality niche pages needs a well written marketing message. The Counseling* page itself works as a hub. The content for that page should be one or two short paragraphs that make an immediate connection with the visitor's pain or problem, and gets them to click on to the niche pages.
A Note about the Fees & FAQs Page
Yes! I believe it is absolutely necessary to post your fees. Even if your clients all use insurance and their out of pocket payment is small, potential clients want to know what to expect. It helps establish your trustworthiness to make this info readily available.
Other content for the FAQ page varies. Generally this is the place to define your policies, and explain your process. From the emotional decision making perspective, it is also where clients get reassured by your direct, kind, and professional business-like approach that they will be in good hands with you.
So there ya go -- website organization in a nutshell. Now, go with confidence and create a website!