Happy New Year! With the advent of the New Year, it’s a good time to talk about what website design is new, exciting, and effective, and what looks dated.
- Don’t try to put as much information as possible “above the fold” Past website design best practices focused on placing as much information as possible “above the fold” (meaning what people could see on an average computer screen without scrolling down). The rationale was that if users could see the top 62 reasons why a firm should be hired without having to scroll down the page, that firm, and not a competing firm, would be hired. Long text passages on the home page of a website are much more likely to be ignored than they are to convince a prospective client to call a firm. Lots of links and boxes lead to competing calls for attention and reduced resonation, as website visitors don’t know where to look (or click). Focus instead on a simplified design with key messages
- Do make good use of white space and images. Major e-commerce companies have spent tens of millions of dollars in testing to determine what colors, backgrounds, and design aspects produce the best results. The winning combination? White (or light-colored) backgrounds, good imagery, and comparatively little text. For two examples, see www.bestbuy.com and www.target.com.
- Don’t assume that your website visitors will read all the pages of your website. They won’t. A good law firm website might have an average of 2-4 pages per visit, which is usually far less than the total number of pages contained in most law firm websites. If you have important information that prospective clients should know, such information should be highlighted on the home page and often other website pages.
- Do consider a “horizontal section” design approach for your home page. A horizontal section design presents key messages laid out in horizontal sections that take up the width of a computer screen (often with a white or a light-colored background or image to distinguish between sections). Each section is highly focused on one message or aspect, with a limited use of text. Sections are also fairly large in size, often with each section taking up the equivalent of most of the screen of an average laptop computer. Because each section often takes up much of the space on a screen, and because each section is usually highly focused on one element, as users scroll down the home page they see precisely the messages and aspects desired to be seen by the website owner. With traditional websites that use a 2-4 column approach and an emphasis on putting information as high as possible on the home page, often the result is a number of messages, links, and other information competing for the user’s attention. The Best Buy and Target sites noted above use the horizontal section approach. (For an example of a law firm website that our company developed using this approach, please see www.schoolviolencelawyers.com
- Do understand that the purpose of your website’s home page is about creating resonation. Website visitors tend to spend about 4-14 seconds before deciding whether to invest additional time with a website to learn more, or to click their back button and return to the Google search results page. This limited time only allows website visitors to read headlines and absorb aspects such as imagery, colors, and layout. To create a positive resonation in this short time, think about your website’s home page as being like the cover of a magazine in a grocery checkout line – you want users to make a quick decision to spend the time to engage with your website, where they can then learn more about your firm’s services.
- Do keep your website’s focus on how you help clients with their legal matters. It’s easy for a law firm’s website to turn into significant accomplishments and bullet-point practice area lists. Your clients, however, want to know exactly how you are going to help them. They may not understand the legal terminology that lawyers use to define their practice.The more that a law firm’s website is focused on exactly how clients are helped, the better that the website will resonate with clients (and the more likely it is that the firm will be retained).
Good luck for a very prosperous 2015!
Jeffrey Lantz, Esq. is an attorney in Arizona and CEO of Esquire Interactive, a company that helps law firms develop new business through branding, websites and strategic business development.