This is a guest blog post by Amanda Green.
We talked a lot about the psychology that goes into creating a good website in the post “Turning Website Visitors into Clients.” Today we are going to talk about the mechanics that go into a good lawyer website. Why? Because the design and usability of your website play just as big a role in your marketing success as all of that content that you've worked so hard to create. Here are three of the things you need to focus on when you are working with designers to build your site.
Design with psychology
Have you ever heard of the Gestalt Principles? These are principles that illustrate the different parts of design psychology. For example, visually group things together in a space, people will naturally think that those things have something in common. This means, for example, that if your law firm takes on several different types of cases, you want those specialties listed all together on the same part of your site and in the same space on your landing page.
When you look at the landing page for Thompson Wedeking (a San Diego personal injury attorney firm) you can see that the links for information about basic information about the overall firm are grouped together and the links for the different types of cases they take are still together but distinctly separated from the first group.
While there are some sites out there that are starting to experiment with horizontal navigation, your customers are likely going to expect vertical layouts and navigation. Whether you want your pages splayed out in a navigational bar somewhere on your site or listed in a sidebar is up to you. What matters is that you make getting around your site as easy as possible.
There are several factors that influence ease of navigation, says KissMetrics. One of the worst is having a drop down navigational menu. This makes users have to hunt through a bunch of different lists to find the links they need. It's better to have all of your pages listed separately…while also making sure that you don't have too many pages. For example—you don't have to link to all of your blog's category pages from your company's landing page (unless the blog doubles as the landing page). You should, however, have them listed in the blog's sidebar.
While you're at it, make sure all of your links go to healthy pages. “404” error messages are a business killer!
Most people use smart phones and tablets to surf the web now. Unfortunately not all websites are built to be viewed on a smaller screen. Many of those that do insist on simply creating “mini” versions of their primary landing page. Sometimes—especially if your landing page is very straightforward—this works. A lot of the time, though, it just makes your site look cramped and hard to read. What you really want is a responsive site design—this means that the site is built to be sized properly and to display information in different and specific ways depending on the device that is being used to view it. It is especially helpful for smartphone viewers.
Even so, writes Brian Honigman, your firm could definitely benefit from a native app as well. If you don't have the money to develop both, start with the responsive design…but try to set aside some marketing funds for app development too.
Remember: your site's success isn't just about the content. It is also about mechanics. The last thing you want is for potential clients to respond to your marketing and then wind up at a site they can't use!