3 Steps To Make Your Practice Website More Welcoming To All

Lynn at Brighter Vision on May 14, 2018

This article is a guest post from Lynn at Brighter Vision.

We could all be a bit more welcoming to people who are different from us. This problem may have come into stark relief for you when creating your practice spaces – both in-person and online. After all, many of us are accustomed to creating personal spaces for ourselves and ourselves only, and it becomes easy to take your eye off of your own biases and blind spots when creating communal spaces for your business.

For example, have you thought about your office’s waiting room accessibility to differently abled clients? What about the stock images you’ve chosen for the different pages of your website – do they focus on one cultural setting or type of person much more than others? 

Our natural biases can create personal blind spots like these, developing pain-points for your clients without your awareness. And when they see this, potential clients will seek out a practice where they feel more accommodated or accepted. 

In today’s day and age, the clients that interact with your practice online are no exception. From the first click, you have a number of opportunities to make your website visitor feel welcomed and accommodated – or unseen and unwanted. 

Making your website more inclusive will save you from having the perfect client slip away because the way you presented your practice made them feel unwelcome. 

Here are some simple steps that can help to get you started on making your practice website more inclusive to all kinds of clients. 

Make Sure Your Site Is Mobile Optimized

Mobile optimization (also known as mobile responsiveness) is important for any public website nowadays, especially one trying to sell a service like yours. There was once a time when it was enough just to be “mobile friendly” – to simply show up on a mobile device at all – but modern mobile optimization and responsiveness takes it to the next level, reformatting the website into a simpler, cleaner, faster version whenever it senses a mobile device. 

(For example, the Brighter Vision website will shift and look different when viewed on your mobile device vs. a desktop computer.) 

Yet I bet you’ve never thought of how mobile optimization can contribute to your site’s accessibility to clients of different backgrounds. 

Surfing the web on mobile devices is not just a millennial habit – the way that mobile optimization simplifies and reformats a website on a smartphone can be helpful to some visually impaired clients, and in every walk of life there are people that either don’t want or can’t afford a “full size” computer but still have a smartphone for their everyday needs. 

If your site isn’t mobile optimized, you’re creating a chore for your potential clients just to learn about your practice. Nobody is going to willfully spend ten minutes pinching and zooming and squinting and fumbling around a non-responsive site on a mobile device when there are other practices online that will accommodate their need to use a smartphone. 

Avoid Setting A Bad Trend With Stock Images

It’s one thing for your stock images to have a matching tone when it has to do with your practice specialty (e.g. if your practice focuses on children and/or teens, then the people in your stock images are likely to be younger across the board). It’s a whole other thing, however, when the people or cultural settings of your stock images start to look the same in a way unassociated with your specialty. 

You may assume that one of the most common bias-monitoring pitfalls with choosing photography for your website is choosing photos that only feature people of your same race or cultural background, which is true and a common occurrence when we’re not paying attention to our own choices. However, a trend in your choices can also develop for other reasons, like if you have a particular picture in your head of what your target client looks like and then your selection of photos starts to reflect and reinforce your prejudice. 

For example, imagine your practice focuses on treating depression as one of your specialties without a particular focus with teens or children, but somehow most of your stock images feature moody looking teenagers…

It’s worth noting that the stock image industry still tends to feature frustratingly few people of color and other minorities, so making your website stock imagery more diverse can sometimes be easier said than done. However, it’s an important step in amending the message your practice website is projecting. 

If you’re looking for a place to get started, give nappy.co a try – a beautiful collection of high-res, free stock photos featuring people of color. 

Watch What You Write

As you know, there is a lot of writing and content creation required to get a practice website up and running on your own. When you take into account the homepage information, the services and specialty pages, the About Me page, the FAQ page, any blogging you might want to do… Before you know it, it feels like you’ve written a whole novel!

Yet all of those places where you get the chance to talk to your website visitor in your own words are powerful opportunities to connect with and convert your potential clients. However, in our effort to come off as casual and friendly, we can sometimes slip into language that fails to connect with more than a narrow band of readers.

When you’re reviewing what you’ve written for your website, try to keep these ideas in mind.

  • Stick to gender-neutral language. Unless your practice focuses exclusively on one gender over the other, try to avoid pronouns and hypothetical descriptions that exclude the experience of either men or women. Sometimes a “him” or “her” is needed, but I think you’ll find that a lot of the gender references we make in our metaphors and other descriptive language is superfluous. For a sort of broad example, if you’re looking for an anecdote or example to connect with potential clients of any gender who struggle with anxiety, a story about struggling to choose an appropriate formal dress is simply less likely to resonate with male-identifying readers. You’ll lose the opportunity to build rapport with them and potentially make them think they’re not the kind of clients you want.
  • Avoid culturally niche references/humor. There’s a difference between sharing stories or information about yourself, and painting your practice with your personal worldview. Niche references or humor are likely to glaze over the eyes of anyone “not in the loop,” but avoiding them is about more than boring your audience. While it may feel like everyone feels that way about a current event or thinks your amazing joke is in good taste, allow for the possibility that diverse potential clients might have their opinions and priorities elsewhere. Could you accidentally bore and isolate a would-be client with that joke about your favorite hobby? Will the political reference that fuels the final thought of your About Me page be distancing to someone in a different cultural sphere? Is it possible that someone from a different background could find that quotation you’re about to use on your homepage inflammatory? Remember, this isn’t about a personal judgment on you as a person – this is how you are presenting yourself to a diverse public as a mental health care provider. There is no reason to risk creating divisions when you’re already busy enough trying to persuade the reader that you’re the right choice for them.

It’s normal for you to feel good inside about making your website more inclusive, but it’s valuable business sense to realize that’s not the only reward you’ll reap. When you open up your practice to more diverse clients that you may have been otherwise discouraging from looking at you as a serious care option, your client list can benefit greatly. These are just the first steps to presenting your practice in a more inclusive way, but increased inclusivity and self-awareness can only benefit you and your business as a clinician. 

When you look at it like that, isn’t it silly that you let something like lazy photo choices keep you from welcoming more clients into your practice? It’s a great opportunity to remember that classic piece of business advice, “Don’t leave anything on the table!

Lynn works as the content marketing strategist for Brighter Vision, the worldwide leader in therapist website design & service.

Decide to grow your practice by becoming a Brighter Vision customer today, and we’ll build a beautiful Search Engine Optimized website for you and your unique private practice.

Give us a chance and sign up for a FREE 2-week trial of Brighter Vision by reaching out here.

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