Camille Stell

Law Firm Websites: Beauty or the Beast?

By Camille Stell and Monisha Yowell

Have you taken a look at your website lately? I mean, really looked at the aesthetics and functionality of your site? For many firms, setting up a website was something to check off the to-do list and has since been neglected. However, as technology evolves and clients become more tech savvy, firms must ensure that their websites are up to par.

It’s 2016 and if your firm’s site still has Web 1.0 elements, you have some catching up to do. Here are some tell-tale signs that it’s time to update your website:

Dark Colors: While this aspect is not going to make or break your firm’s site, it’s important to have some contrast in colors.

Dated Clip art. “You know it when you see it.” Dated clip art is a website killer and you should avoid using this type of clip art on your website.

Unformatted text. Your website should provide a quick snapshot of your practice. Most potential clients will scan your site before deciding whether or not they should contact the firm. Long columns of unformatted text are difficult to scan.

Link overload. Too many links will make it impossible for users to distinguish between what’s important and what’s not. Imagine a web page that has lots of links, all of which appear underlined like this. It’s very distracting isn’t it?

No variety in formatting. If your website looks like a bunch of rectangles stuck together with pictures inserted in the boxes, it’s time to make some changes. Use different styles and font sizes to make your site more visually appealing and place emphasis on your messages.

No or few images. Images are essential to websites. Your website should include professional photographs of all your attorneys. Including photographs instead of stock photos will help prospective clients connect with your firm. Photographs of attorneys will help build brand recognition.

How does your firm’s site measure so far? In contrast to the dated design elements of Web 1.0; Web 2.0 encompasses the latest style and trends. Web 2.0 sites are more modern and more attractive. Here are some Web 2.0 design elements that will take your firm’s site to the next level:

Keep your site bright. We previously talked about the unattractive dark design of the Web 1.0 format. Website 2.0 formats typically have white or light colored backgrounds. The bright colors help create clean, modern sites that are appealing to clients.

A little pop of color works. While it’s great to have a white or light colored background, it’s fine to experiment with colors. Like most things, be sure not to overindulge. Balance is key. Make sure your design elements don’t take the focus away from the message of your site.

Keep it simple. Keep your website design clean and simple. Overwhelming site visitors with too much information and too many graphics will work against you. Does your website pass the “10 second rule?” It should take your site visitors 10 seconds to look at and understand what is on your web page. While drop-down menus, navigation links and topic headers are all great Web 2.0 design elements, they can cause your site to be cluttered and take away from the site content when used too frequently.

Use Navigation tabs wisely. Navigation tabs enhance the functionality of your website. Navigation tabs lead site visitors through your content. However, it’s important to categorize your site topics in a way that doesn’t lead to too many tabs.  It’s recommended that you keep the number of main category links on your firm’s website to seven or fewer topics. However, you can have more than seven subtopics. You, as the site administrator, provide the categories, however, when subtopics are opened, this action is initiated by the site visitor.

More Flash, more problems. Flash is a widely popular type of animated coding. However, many search engines are not able to “read” the code which makes it difficult for sites that are built entirely of flash to get high search engine rankings. It’s imperative that you choose a website format that translates well on mobile devices. Did you know that flash content cannot be displayed on iPhones? Considering the number of people who have iPhones, imagine what a hindrance relying completely on this design element would be to your website’s reach.

Web 2.0 offers design elements that can greatly enhance your current site. We’ve all seen really great firm websites and we’ve also seen examples that need a lot of work. By now you should be thinking about ways you can improve your firm’s site. Why do so many firm websites flop? It’s simple. Firms tend to build sites that they love, without considering the users—their clients.

Your website is often the first stop a potential client makes before they make a phone call. Make the first impression a lasting one by ensuring your website has a creative design, fresh content and most importantly is client-focused.

Camille Stell is the Vice President of Client Services for Lawyers Mutual. Monisha Yowell is the Marketing Coordinator. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at camille@lawyersmutualnc.com or Monisha at monisha@lawyersmutualnc.com or 800.662.8843.

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