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Make your website visitors feel welcome

Make your website visitors feel welcome

Many people view the prospect of hiring an attorney with some trepidation. They may fear the process or the outcome, or they may be under stress due to their situation, causing them to feel a general anxiety about the whole system.

Text filled with legalese surrounded by hackneyed attorney symbolism does not provide a warm welcome. Most people want to be in a courtroom about as much as they want to visit a doctor, so try to steer them away from that thought. Effective attorney websites anticipate the emotions of visitors and welcome them with reassuring information and answers to their questions. When people feel comfortable, they are more likely to spend time on your site, and they are more likely to contact you.

Here are some tips for making your website visitors feel at home.

1. Ditch the scary pictures

Rule one of being approachable is to stop reminding people of a process they at best find inconvenient and at worst fear. The last thing many prospective clients want to think about are the technicalities of the legal system. They do not want to see a courthouse that reminds them they may end up in one themselves. They do not want to see legal books and gavels that remind them of what they may be up against in their case. And they do not want to see gruesome pictures that remind them of their ordeal.

Get rid of gavels, courtrooms, books, scales and judges. This type of imagery is intimidating, and it turns many visitors off. It also says nothing about why your firm is any different from your competitors, and it gives no reason for your visitors to stay and learn more.

What type of photography works? Believe it or not, pictures of you.

Research has shown that people relate to pictures of other people in a more significant way than they connect to pictures of things. More specifically, viewers tend to react to photos that show faces and eyes. Pictures of people looking away or pictures of people cropped to remove the head do not provoke the same response.

Digging deeper, with respect to attorneys people tend to relate most to pictures of the professionals with whom they will be working. Clients are hiring attorneys — the people. They are not hiring a list of credentials or indecipherable legal publications. They want to know who you are. Pictures of you, acting naturally as you do within your personal and professional lives, give visitors some insight into who you are. And visitors value that insight.

When building your image collection, avoid pictures staged around stereotypical law items, like bookcases and courthouses. Consider hiring a professional to take some quality portraits and natural interaction shots. Give people a peek at who you really are.

If you need to use stock, do your research. See what your competitors are using and find other options. Look past the popular downloads on stock sites to find less commonly used images. Take into consideration your audience demographics and think about what types of people they are most likely to relate to.

2. Address visitors' fears

Avoid over the top language that reminds people of their anxieties, and focus your copy on your visitors, not your firm. People are searching to see how you can help them. They need to know that you have the tools to resolve their issue, and they must trust that you will follow through for them.

Think of the most common questions clients and prospective clients ask and answer those in your website copy. If you have representative cases or examples you can show of how others have benefited from your work, include them. Give people actionable steps they can take to work toward resolving their issue. Show visitors — by proactively addressing their fears and answering their questions — that you are the best person to call.

3. Provide easy access to information about attorneys

Good attorney bios are more than just rehashed resumes. Good bios show personality. They explain why an attorney is passionate about a certain practice area or what pushed an associate to pursue law school. They explain what attorneys do in their spare time and what civic or volunteer activities they enjoy. A good attorney bio also tries to relate to the reader. What might you have in common with your ideal clients? Would you have worked in similar areas in the past or studied similar subjects?

You never know what bit of personal information will spark a critical connection with one of your visitors — a connection that prompts the visitor to call. Maybe it is your hobby of cycling or your history of working with autistic children. Give visitors the ability to find that spark by ditching the resume and speaking to them as a fellow human.

4. Provide easy access to information about your practice

Visitors want to know who you are and what you do. Describe the types of cases you handle. If you have an exhaustive list, highlight the cases you would most like to take — either those you enjoy or those that are most profitable. Describe how you handle these prototypical cases and explain how you interact with clients during the process.

You will probably want to give visitors access to a complete list of practice areas, but do not throw everything at them at once. Provide an intuitive path to lead them through the process of learning about you.

5. Live your story, online and off

Your firm has a personality that is expressed in everything it does from blogging (is your language chatty or formal?) to your office décor to the way you answer the phone. That personality should be expressed in the story you tell clients about who you are and what experience they can expect to have when they work with you. On your website, use photos, colors, fonts and language that support your story. Provide personal details that support this story. Let visitors know they can expect consistency from your firm.

When deciding how to implement these tactics, take into consideration your audience demographics. Build profiles of your ideal visitors. Are they primarily a certain age or predominantly a certain gender? What type of job(s) do they have, and what level of access to technology? Answers to these questions will shape many of the technical and design aspects of your site, from items like font sizes and line spacing to the types of menus you choose to employ.

The interaction users have with your website may be the only chance you have to convince them to call. Use this brief time to welcome visitors and speak directly to their concerns.

Kristen Friend
Kristen Friend holds two bachelors degrees from Indiana University and an associates degreee from the International Academy of Design. As Art Director for Custom Legal Marketing, her work has been awarded Webby Honorees, WebAwards, Davey Awards, Muse Awards, W3 Awards, and many others. She is also a contributor to Entrpreneur Magazine through the Entrepreneur Leadership Network.