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Focus on simplicity to boost lead generation

Focus on simplicity to boost lead generation

Lead generating attorney websites have several features in common. A lead generating website will make it easy for visitors to contact the firm by prominently featuring a phone number and giving visitors the option to fill out a simplified form on every page. Many such websites also incorporate a live chat feature.

Lead generating websites will also contain some form of social proof, from industry and peer review seals to client testimonials, all of which show prospective clients they can expect a good experience when working with the firm.

These are the basics. Once you have the basics down, how do you stand out?

One method is to use the power of direct, clean design to showcase your firm and push visitors toward a desired action. Here are six things websites that go beyond the basics to drive conversions have in common.

1. Minimal navigation

A notable trend in website design for 2017 is a reduction in top-level navigation items. Top menus are being stripped to an essential three or four links, giving users fewer initial choices and helping them quickly reach a website's most important pages. A parallel trend is a reduction in drop-down menus.

This trend is an extension of the inevitable, widespread move toward responsive design. Big menus and drop-down menus are hard to scale. Menus that contain too many links display awkwardly on smaller screens. These menus are also more difficult for people to operate on tablets and mobile devices, since no mouse is present to trigger the drop-down.

Lead-generation based landing pages, for example those that offer free downloads or ask users to sign up for free trials, have been experimenting with minimal to no top navigation for some time. This style of page gives the user only one option: follow the call to action. In 2014, Hubspot published the results of A/B testing that showed removing the navigation from some of its landing pages boosted conversion rates by up to 28 percent.

Mega menus, which are most commonly seen on large e-commerce sites, can be a good, responsive-friendly alternative to link-heavy top navigation bars.

2. Big type

Typography is making a name for itself as a powerful website design element. Large, bold type and creative type patterns have long been tools of print designers, and the availability of high-quality web fonts is helping bring great typography to the internet as well.

Bold type treatments limit the total amount of text that can be placed in any given section of a website. When you use type as art, you must focus on your message and distill it to its simplest iteration. You have to know what motivates your visitors and how to hook them quickly.

Using type as a design element also reduces the need for large, potentially weighty photos that slow load times and frustrate mobile users.

3. Static images

Home page image carousels were a big trend in web design for a long time. They are attractive enough if well-designed and seem like a good way to get a number of messages across to users above the scroll.

There are, however, several problems with header carousels:

a. They muddle your message. Carousels are good for telling every department they have a place in your website's header but bad for telling visitors why they should do business with you. They are often a symptom of uncertainty — if you can't decide on one message, you can feature four or five.

b. They don't work. Multiple studies have shown that visitors ignore header carousels and that static images with a single message receive more clicks. Carousels are distracting and rarely contain the information people are searching for. Users have gotten used to seeing them and dismiss them as big advertisements. Marketers have coined a term for this phenomenon: banner blindness.

c. They take control away from the user. Carousels usually scroll at intervals controlled by the website's code. Different users may find the timing to be too fast, too slow or too unexpected, all of which are frustrating.

4. Predictive search

You are probably very familiar with predictive search. You see it every time you start to enter a query into Google's search bar and receive suggested searches based on what you are typing. Large e-commerce sites like also use this feature.

However, predictive search is less common on attorney websites, where it could be very helpful to visitors who are not be familiar with legal terminology. Law firms are publishing more and more content. Users can benefit from a tool that offers suggestions about what information is on the site and how it relates to terms they may be researching. If you can help visitors find what they need quickly and easily, you will build their trust in your firm.

5. Prioritized calls to action

Some attorney websites suffer from call to action overload. This is understandable. Firms often offer an array of services and employ diverse attorneys and staff. Different departments want to make sure they have a voice. The firm may have won awards or been featured on national media outlets. On top of that, firms may have case studies, results, blog entries and informational downloads they want to feature.

However, when you throw everything you have at a visitor at one time, it all becomes noise. There is no differentiation between the most important information and the least. Visitors cannot easily distinguish what you most want them to do.

If you want your website to generate valuable leads, you must prioritize your calls to action. Pick one user action you feel is most important and feature it prominently. You may have a secondary call to action, but it should be noticeably less conspicuous. You may use different calls to action on different pages, but each must be clearly featured within its context.

Your calls to action may come in the form of a slide up message, recommended content or chat box. These can be very effective as long as they are not intrusive. Our experience has shown us that visitors do not react well to chat boxes that cover the whole screen, and in fact click away from a website as often as they close them. This is perhaps because they are at too early a stage in their research to be committed to contact.

Slide-up bars and small chat tabs are more effective. They allow the visitor to stay in control while making the suggestion obvious.

6. An emphasis on speed

Google announced in 2010 that site speed is one of the factors it considers when ranking websites. Site speed is a measure of the page speed for a sample of page views. If site speed matters, then by extension page speed, or the load time for a single page, matters, too.

Page speed affects both rankings and conversion rates, especially on mobile websites. People begin abandoning web pages after one second, and the rate of abandonment increases considerably after three seconds.

Because page speed is important, every element you choose to put on a webpage is important. Every image, paragraph, animation and script that you add to a page make that page heavier and therefore slower. Focusing on speed means you must focus on quality and simplicity — on choosing to include only the most essential information on every page.

Once you have thoughtfully designed your pages, there are technical methods for reducing page load time. Moz has written an excellent post about how to reduce your time to first byte, or the time between an HTTP request and the receipt of the first byte of data by the browser. Time to first byte measures the responsiveness of a server, and it is one of the easiest page speed metrics for Google to measure.

In addition to ensuring you have a solid server and optimized software configuration, take steps to decrease the time it takes for visitors to see your pages. Compress everything, including your CSS, HTML, JavaScript and image files. Minify your code, which involves removing unnecessary spaces, characters or comments. And enable browser caching so that the whole page does not need to load every time a visitor returns to it.

Of course, you can and should bring your own style into the equation to help develop a website that reflects your firm's personality. However, as you develop that style, incorporating simple design principles will help bring your website to the next level.

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.