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Ten Lawyer Website Usability Tips – Part One

Your firm’s website is at work for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is a valuable advocate and proxy, often communicating with potential clients before you have had a chance to speak to them in person. And, as a bonus, it will continue to do its job without complaint while you are asleep, on vacation or at trial.

Ideally, your attorney website is functioning at optimum efficiency, converting visits into calls and prospects into clients. But you cannot just assume that this is the case. Your website is ambivalent – it will work for or against you without giving it a second thought. Putting your website to work effectively for your firm is a process. It requires attention to detail during development and ongoing monitoring, tweaking and updating after launch.

Optimizing your website’s usability is key; users must be directed unambiguously to take action. Here are some usability tips to help you get the most out of your firm’s website.

1. Develop effective headlines. Studies have shown that users pay particular attention to headlines and taglines, in many cases more so than pictures and graphics. The words you put on the page matter. Make sure they are succinct and relevant. There is such a thing as being too clever – you can outsmart yourself right into confusing your visitors and turning them away. Speak directly to your prospects; make it about them, not you.

2. Create obvious calls to action. Simply slapping a form somewhere on your website is not maximizing your site’s potential. Details matter when creating forms, links, buttons and other calls to action. Jared Spool wrote a case study a few years ago about how two simple changes helped one company increase sales by 45% in one month. His example is still very relevant today. Good form and button design, thoughtful placement of calls to action and clear instructional copy can be the deciding factor in whether or not your website generates leads and new cases for your firm.

3. Use concise, relevant content. Developing content for an attorney website is a balancing act. Search engines love to see words on a page, and content is still king. However, users respond best to content that is concise and to the point. Visitors typically scan a web page and will likely not read it from beginning to end in a linear fashion. To combat short attention spans, simplify your content. Avoid wordy sentences and lengthy paragraphs. State your point quickly and leave out unnecessary information. Try to connect with readers on an emotional level by explaining clearly how you can be trusted to help with their needs.

4. Create an obvious flow of information. Prospects should not have to jump around the page reading bits of disjointed information. They should be able to follow a clear path that begins by addressing their needs and leads them towards the action you want them to take. Remember, some users will want more information that others, so it is useful to give people the option of continuing down the path or jumping directly to the goal you have set for them.

5. Clarify your navigation. This is a tip you will see on every list related to effective websites: the navigation must be obvious. Users look for the most important links at the top of the page and then look down the page for supporting information. Make all links obvious, and do not use graphics that look like links but are not. One of the quickest ways to frustrate a user is to present them with confusing navigation, or to have them clicking at things that appear to be broken.

Your firm has likely invested too much time and money into your website to have it functioning at less that its potential. Monitoring user behavior and focusing on usability will help ensure your website is working for you.

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