Is Your Therapy Website Repelling Potential Clients? Your Biggest Mistakes to Fix Now.
Does your website contain some annoying elements that drive potential clients away?
Everyone has their irritants when it comes to websites. Some of us tolerate these things, but as we’re becoming less satisfied with crappy design, we are more impatient with unpleasant online experiences. It only takes one nuisance to chase away what could have been a returning or prospective client.
You might find this list to be a little nit-picky. I agree that it is. However, I’m not in the business of creating just-good-enough websites for therapists. My goal is to create a modern website that reflects your awesomeness. The problems I have outlined below will undoubtedly detract from your individuality and prevent potential clients from understanding you.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common website issues that are preventing many websites from being effective.
I READ YOUR LOGO, HEADLINE, AND TAGLINE AND I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DO
One of the most basic website design recommendations is that your readers need to know exactly what you do or how you can help them within about 3 seconds. If the first section of your home page doesn’t explicitly say what you do, then your readers will likely leave or feel confused.
There’s one exception: If your home page header element is SUPER compelling and makes your audience scroll down or click to read more. I’ve only seen this done well a few times.
IT’S A PAIN IN THE ASS TO VIEW YOUR WEBSITE ON MY PHONE
You surely have experienced, and have been frustrated by, websites that force you to pinch, zoom and scroll left and right to view content on your mobile device. Don’t put people through that!
If your website doesn’t provide a smooth, simple mobile experience, then your SEO and conversion rates are going to suffer as well.
IT’S BROKEN OR INCOMPLETE
A website shouldn’t include any broken content or features. If a link doesn't work or a contact form stops working, it should be fixed or removed as soon as possible. If your website appears broken, you sacrifice credibility, and your visitors aren’t likely to stick around.
IT MAKES ME ANXIOUS
Too much clutter will only do one thing: distract from your goal.
Many websites have copy and pictures scattered all over the place. They look knavish and hard to scan. White space on a website is the area around elements in the design to help them stand out or separate from the other elements. The absence of text and graphics helps the site visitor know where to look and creates room to breathe. When there is too much navigation, too many elements competing for attention, or inconsistent space on elements and text, your readers will feel confused and anxious. Make sure all the elements are intentional, and text has consistent spacing with enough whites space to avoid looking cluttered.
IT GIVES ME SERIOUS EYE STRAIN
There’s nothing more frustrating when trying to read website content that is difficult to see. Here are issues I often see that will lead to eye strain:
The logo is so small that text in the logo is itty-bitty. I’ve seen this SO OFTEN. What good is that fancy logo if I can’t see it?
The text on top of the photos (overlay text) doesn’t contrast enough with the picture, making it difficult to read or completely unreadable.
Long paragraphs of centered text are difficult to read because your eyes have to search for the beginning of the sentence. Only headlines, taglines, single sentences, and section titles should be centered.
For the same reason, bullet lists should be flush left. If you want a bullet list in the center of your page, increase the margins (in Squarespace, add spacers on either side of the text block) and then make the list flush left.
The text is tiny or light gray, and I CANNOT see it. This seems to be a fad because I’m noticing it everywhere!
Sentences that are too long.
Large blocks of text.
Too little or too much space between lines.
I DON’T KNOW HOW TO CONTACT YOU
How do I reach you? Do I call or email? Do I do both? What if you don’t get my email? Would you think I was annoying if I called and emailed you? OMG, there’s a contact form too? Aaaack!
Reaching out to a therapist is already challenging. Don’t leave your potential clients confused with how to reach you. Most therapists believe that more contact options are better, but actually, the opposite is true; clients become anxious about which method is more likely to get a response.
I use only a contact form on my website (I have written a post about why I do this here). If you have two methods of contact, I recommend you explicitly state that either way is fine.
IT’S HELLA BORING
I can’t stand unclear and vague copy, especially if it’s written in words no human being would utter spontaneously. If I’ve read your entire home page and have no sense of your personality, then I’m going to bail. Your readers need to know why you’re unique. Your copy MUST resonate.
YOU PUT TWO SPACES AFTER PUNCTUATION
I dropped this terrible habit in my teens. How is it possible that so many people who completed 6-8 years of college never unlearned this?
YOU HAVE UGLY OR TOO MANY CREDIBILITY BADGES
Too much reliance on credibility images like logos from professional organizations, “Verified by Psychology Today,” or others makes your website feel impersonal. It’s okay to have a few, but don’t put them front and center, especially if they distract from your website design. If you must have them, place them along the footer or bottom of your website, and make sure they are similar in size and design as the rest of your website.
PHRASES LIKE “YOUR JOURNEY” AND “COMPASSIONATE PRESENCE”
Nobody talks like this except therapists. So unless you’re trying to attract therapists as your clients, leave those phrases out. There are many ways to let clients know how you can help them. Use plain language.
IT LOOKS ABANDONED
If your website has news, events, a blog or other dynamic content that is outdated, this gives the impression that it is no longer in use and can drive away potential readers. You should always update your content.
“We don't have to do all of it alone.
We were never meant to.”
TOO MUCH BRENÉ BROWN
I’m sure some of you will fight me on this one. I’m a big Brené fan, and yes, she says some seriously wise shit, but I see her quotes on soooooo many websites. Isn’t it interesting how therapists spend all day handing out little nuggets of wisdom and inspiration, and yet we fill our sites with other people’s words?
WHEN YOU SAY “WE” AND “US” BUT THERE IS NO “WE” OR “US”
It’s very confusing to read ABC Counseling use “we” and “us” only to discover on the About page that only one therapist makes up the business. Using “we” might give your business a more established feel, but it’s not necessary. If you are a solo practitioner, “I” and “me” make your business sound more personable, more flexible, and more accessible. Noting that you’re solo might help you gain clients who are looking for a person rather than a company.
Besides, your website, which is also the face of your business, should represent you honestly. Don’t misrepresent yourself.
Modern web designs are very image-heavy. Full-page background images and large image carousels are popular right now. When an image is that prominent, it better be good.
Here are some common image problems I see on therapist’s websites:
Pixelated images - “Pixelated” means the individual pixels of color in an image are visible. This is often caused when an image is too small image and then stretched to fit into a large placeholder.
Unrelated images - Photos that aren’t related to the content are just plain confusing. I saw food photos on a therapist website once, and her work had nothing to do with food.
Unprofessional photos and portraits - Adding a filter to a photo from your last vacation is not a good way to represent your business. If you can’t afford a professional photo session for your portrait photo, then ask a friend with a decent camera to take a few nice shots outside in front of a tree or shrub. There are many free stock photo sites where you can get high-quality images for your website.
Selfies. Yes, I see selfies — more than you’d think.
Non-transparent logos and badges that are placed over colored backgrounds, leaving a white box around the image. This is fine if the white space is part of the design, but I can usually tell when the therapist (or website designer) didn’t bother with making the background transparent.
STOCK PHOTO CLICHES
You know what I mean: lotuses, cairns (stacked rocks), sunsets, hands holding plants, and people jumping in the air, running through fields, or standing on a mountaintop with both arms raised as if to call to the heavens. I get it – good stock photos can be hard to find. Resources like pexels.com, pixabay.com, and unsplash.com offer plenty of free stock images that are unique.
JACK OF ALL TRADES
There’s nothing like a list of 3,592 services with hard-to-understand descriptions to create distance between you and your potential clients. If the client weren’t already anxious about looking for a therapist, now they don’t even know what service fits them best.
Another issue I see is when one practitioner is administering several services that aren't similar. This can make you look too jack of all trades, master-of-none. For example, I recently saw a therapist offering specialty programs in pregnancy and prenatal mental health, a Brené Brown program, a career coaching program, and nutrition counseling. I also see many therapists providing counseling and coaching without defining the difference between the two.
A big long list of credentials, education, and honors does very little for your website. First, most clients don’t care about those things. Second, credibility does not need to be thrown in people’s faces for them to see it. Moreover, it takes up valuable space that you could be using to show your personality. Too many projects and certifications and you’ll come across as insecure, unfocused, and perhaps spending too much time in a classroom and not enough time with clients.
the ABSOLUTE WORST website mistakes i’ve seen:
A footer that was empty and extremely long. Did you forget something?
A banner image on a homepage that was grayed entirely and covered up the logo.
An advertisement for the website builder in the HEADER! “This website was created by Wix.com website builder. Get your website today!” Did this therapist forget to pay their bill?
The therapist copied several paragraphs from their psychological theories textbook and pasted it into their website.
One guy made a Bitmoji of his face and used it as his portrait photo.
If you have any questions about this or any other practice-building topic, use the comment form HERE, and your question could be featured in a future blog post.
Level Up Your Practice is a business consultation and web design company in Gig Harbor, WA. Level Up specializes in private practice consultation and therapy websites for therapist, counselors, and coaches. Services are offered in-person or virtually.