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Create strong website layouts by putting content first

Create strong website layouts by putting content first

Attorney websites are primarily informational. Firms aim to create traffic through marketing with the ultimate goal of converting visitors into clients. Since the quality of information on a site plays an active role in determining whether or not a visitor will contact the firm, a website's design must provide a showcase for quality content.

Content marketing is not new; good marketing companies have long stressed the need for quality content. Given its importance, the role of content in the web design process has, until recently, been surprisingly limited. Designers would create a nice header and logo, place some widgets in a sidebar and plop a footer at the bottom. What was left – the “content area” in the middle – was then stuffed with text. But this method fails to address how such placement affects a reader's experience.

Ironically, creating a page structure first places emphasis on all of the ways a visitor can leave the page. Links in the header and sidebar direct users away from the content they came to read. Instead, start with content and build from a solid foundation, giving priority to the visitor's experience. Make sure pages are easy to read, easy to understand and capable of directing users to perform a set of desired actions. Having with a clear understanding of what a site must communicate from the beginning helps the design process flow smoothly; graphics, typography and layout will all support the content.

Putting content first opens up the potential for truly creative design solutions. Once you have cleared your mind of traditional structures, you can analyze ways in which to display content free from preconceived notions of what constitutes an appropriate website layout. Only by focusing on visitors and their relationship with content can you produce an effective, contemporary website.

Anticipate the needs of potential clients and develop content that answers those needs. Consider the following:

  • Why do potential clients come to you website?
  • What are some of the most common questions clients ask and how can those be addressed through your site content?
  • What action(s) do you want a visitor to take?
  • What services (if any) would you like to emphasize?
  • Is your content readable? Does it lend itself to easy scanning?
  • Are calls to action clearly worded? Do they pop visually?
  • Are you being too clever for your own good? Creativity helps make a site memorable, but too much inventiveness can produce a product that is confusing and unsuccessful.

Content is the most important thing on your site. People come to read it, and it should not appear to be less important than other elements. Give content its due – it is the foundation, not an afterthought.