Last week, we discussed several methods law firms can employ to ramp up their website’s usability. Making your firm’s site as intuitive and easy to use as possible helps give potential clients a positive experience and prompts calls and conversion. A well designed, fine-tuned website also encourages users to share your site and refer others to your firm.
Attention to detail in an attorney website is something that is most notable when absent. When done well, no one item stands out. The whole user experience is positive and effortless. When executed poorly, users realize very quickly that they are confused or uninterested. A frustrated user is almost impossible to reach, and you may not ever have the opportunity to win disenchanted visitors back in person.
The lesson is that you must pay attention to usability. The good news is we have compiled a list of tips to help. Part one is here. Part two follows:
6. Give feedback on user actions. Users have come to expect responsive websites. They expect a certain amount of acknowledgment that they have done certain things. Responsive websites encourage users to take action and to spend more time on a site exploring the content. User feedback ranges from smaller effects like rollovers and drop down menus to more complicated interactive features like slideshows, galleries and even 3D animations, all of which can happily be done without the use of bulky Flash. But remember, users who access your site via a mobile device will not be able to experience many of these responsive features in the same way. Do not rely on them exclusively to identify important links.
7. Create easily scannable pages. Research has shown time and again that users do not read web pages. They scan them. Important information must pop off the page and be organized in a way that grabs a user’s attention. Place critical information toward the beginning of the page, followed by details and supporting information. Pay particular attention to the beginning (first few words) of sentences, paragraphs and headlines. Users often scan the first few words to see if the remaining content is worth reading.
8. Use headlines and lists to break up long blocks of text. People do not look at websites the same way in which they view print media. In addition to scanning pages, users tend to read in sections, a habit content management expert Gerry McGovern describes as “block reading.” We tend to see web pages not as a whole, but rather as separate groups of information. We jump from group to group looking for content that is relevant to us. This habit makes long chunks of content, which are inherently difficult on the eyes, even more problematic on the screen. Break content up into logical and easily readable sections that are obviously delineated with concise headlines. When possible, split some content into a bulleted list to give further separation and variation.
9. Use white space. White is simply the absence of information. In terms of website usability, the absence of information can be as important as the information itself. White space should be employed on both the micro and macro level. On a micro level, give letters and sentences room to breathe. Make sure there is enough space between headlines and paragraphs and between individual lines of text. On a macro level, make sure there is enough space between blocks of content. This makes the page more readable and easy on the eyes, keeping users engaged and generating interest in your firm.
10. Test the site on real users. Do not assume that other people are looking at your website in the same way you are. The best way to determine whether your website is working the way you need it to is to test it. Online resources like Crazy Egg, allow website owners to create a variety of visual maps that illustrate user habits. These maps reveal what people are actually looking at when they visit your site.
You can also conduct your own usability tests. Have people who are unfamiliar with your website sit down and take a look around. Observe what they do and where they click. Encourage criticism. If you want honest feedback about your firm’s website, ask for suggestions. It is important to get all the feedback you can when determining whether your website is performing at its best for your firm.
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