Web design circleThis is the second post in my series on how to build the best website for your law firm. My last article gave an overview of topics which this series will rant about and also explained why the practices I’ll be discussing differ from what attorneys typically see in other law firms. For reasons way beyond my understanding, lawyers tend to pattern their marketing after what they see from other law offices. This is in spite of the fact that virtually every attorney will openly admit to being bad at business. Call me crazy but, as I’ve said before, it’s a really frickin’ bad idea to pattern your business strategies (which include marketing) after those of someone who openly admits to being bad at business. Given that the average solo’s earnings have dropped from $70,747 in 1988 to an inflation adjusted $49,130 in 20121, I think you should be looking to non-attorneys as a model of what to do. So when trying to figure out what the user experience/UI of your website should look like, the last thing you should be doing is looking at the sites of other law firms. I’m going to use this article to discuss why your website should be built entirely around the idea of a potential client’s user experience and how to provide the best experience possible. Let’s get to it.

Most law firms do not consider user experience when designing their websites

The most important aspect of your website’s design is how easy it is for potential clients to use. Think about it for a minute – do you really think potential clients are going to contact you if they find your website difficult to use? The answer is “no” and if you think it’s anything else then you’re deluding yourself. Whether a website is simple to use can really be boiled down to a few simple questions:

  1. Are users annoyed by their first glance of the website?
  2. How quickly can users find the information they are looking for?
  3. Once users have analyzed the information they were looking for, how easily can they execute on a purchase (contacting your office in this case)?

The reasons that everything boils down to these three questions is quite simple. First, your website is like anything else in life – it only has one chance to make a first impression. Second, today’s world provides rapid access to information and people (myself included) are not willing to hunt for the information that they are looking for. Finally, people who want to contact you will be frustrated if you don’t facilitate their ability to do so (duh). Projects for clients of our attorney website design and SEO services are always completed with the users (meaning potential law firm clients) in mind. Given that many of our clients have now been with us long term, we must be doing something right.

While the idea of designing for the end users may sound like a given, many small business owners (including lawyers) don’t take this perspective. As an example, I recently performed a consultation with a potential client and I had them compare their current website to an example of one we had built. I pointed out to the potential client that, from their current home page, getting to certain information required more clicks than were required from the home page of the website we had built. The potential client immediately recognized that making people click more, to get to where they wanted to go, was a problem but also said that it was an issue they had never considered. The bottom line is that most small businesses (which, again, includes attorneys) have their website built around ideas which they think are cool but do not necessarily help the end user.

Law firms can make their websites more user friendly by maintaining a simple UI

How many law firm websites do you look at that provide scrolling/sliding/heavy graphic experiences? The answer is quite a few. The issue with this is that people are coming to your website for information. The more you put between them and the information which they are looking for then the worse your user experience becomes. Here are some really simple words on the topic:

“The way we’re running the company, the product design…all comes down to this: Let’s make it simple. Really simple.

The main thing in our design is that we have to make things intuitively obvious.”

– Steve Jobs

What made Apple II, the Mac, the iPod, and the iPhone such successes? To a big extent it was the fact that they were incredibly easy to use for most people. Another example is Google, have you ever wondered why their home page is so sparse (it contains no information other than their name and the search box). It’s because they didn’t want to subject people to clutter which distracted them from what they were there to do – search2. While these may seem like grandiose examples, they apply to your website as well. These are the reasons why we’ve built the blog that you are reading right now with a minimal and easy to use approach. We consider this approach an important part of the success which our clients have enjoyed.

Want to build a law firm website with a good user experience? It’s important to keep it simple. The experience should be the same regardless of which page or blog post the potential client is on. The information they are looking for should be as few clicks away as possible and finding where to click, to reach that information, should be “intuitively obvious.” In an area that stands out, you should list your most popular blog content (the content that is getting clicked on the most) – take a look at the right hand side of this post and you’ll notice what I mean. It’s important that you feature the blog content that is receiving the most traffic and not that which you personally want clients to see. The content which is being clicked on the most is that which is most likely to appeal to the widest range of readers. Make sure you include a search box on your site as many people will use it as a way of finding the content they are looking for. Finally, make sure you have a contact option which scrolls on the page as the user scrolls – they should have to take no extra steps to contact you from wherever they are on the page.

One final point is that you should not add anything to your website which fails to add value for the end user. The bottom line is that if it isn’t something that the end user will click on then it has no business being on your website. When determining what people will click on it’s important that you leverage data and not your personal opinions.

At the end of the day your website should be about one thing – adding as much value as possible to the experience of your potential clients and making it as easy as possible for them to access that value. Following this approach will result in your getting more clients and growing your practice.

Why do you feel that so many law firms fail to focus on simplicity when it comes to their websites? Please chime in through the comment form below.

References

1The Fall And Rise Of Lawyers. May 23rd, 2015. Accessed at: http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/22/opinions/barton-rise-and-fall-of-lawyers/
2Brin & Page Revealed – Bloomberg Game Changers (web series)