The top legal websites focus on a user experience that is not only painless but enjoyable; achieving this requires you to communicate your brand identity and follow best practices for website design.
Things change quickly on the Internet. If you ever want to feel old, listen to millennials reminisce about MySpace, when your Internet nostalgia belongs to the Geocities era. The principles of user experience change, too. It is no longer enough merely to have a website that is free of glitches and therefore not annoying. “Cool law firm websites” is no longer an oxymoron; law firms with money to spend on a luxurious website experience are doing just that, which means that you should aspire to do the same in order to compete with them. Fortunately, you do not need a huge marketing budget to abide by the same principles of user experience as the top legal websites around the world.
The golden rule of search engine optimization (SEO) used to be “content is king,” but if everything else on the Internet goes out of date quickly, why shouldn’t the content monarchy? Today, the truth is closer to this: Content is king, but user experience is prime minister. Google does a lot more than just count keywords and measure keyword density to determine how relevant your website is to a user’s search. Other factors, such as time on page, are just as important.
If a visitor to your website spends more than a few minutes on your site, it means that the content on the site has value to them and that the design of the site has not annoyed them to the point that they gave up on your site and clicked on the website of one of your competitors, even if it appeared lower on the list of search results. In other words, a good user experience translates directly into increased time on page, which in turn boosts the SEO rankings of your site.
At the bare minimum, your site should be free from annoying design flaws. 10 years ago, a streamlined design was a luxury that only the most expensive websites had, but today it is a must. If your law firm’s website does not meet these minimum standards, it is time for a redesign:
You have seen law offices that looked professional, and then you have seen law offices that were truly stunning. The ones with the indoor planters, waterfalls, fish ponds, and floor-to-ceiling aquariums really stay on your mind. Likewise, the top legal websites are not merely attractive; they are drop-dead gorgeous. Their home pages look more like movie posters or travel magazine spreads than how the previous generation expected law firm websites to look. They make you think about everything except your legal problems. In short, they are aspirational.
Divorce is ugly, but your homepage can feature images of people living their best lives. Business disputes are ugly, too, but your website can feature a landmark that has drawn people to your city for decades. Simply visiting such a posh website will make your prospective audience feel empowered. Of course, “posh,” “empowered,” and “aspirational” are subjective terms. Making a cool website requires finding out what your audience thinks is cool. This is why user personas are so important. Who is the target audience of your divorce blog? Is it 35-year-old Lindsay, who spends hours every week researching grocery coupons? Is it 45-year-old Tricia, who spares no expense in leaving as small a carbon footprint as possible? The more detail you include in your user personas, the more clearly you can think about designing a user experience that will appeal to them and a brand identity that aligns with their values and aspirations.
Why focus so much on the first image your audience sees when they visit your site? The user will form their first impression based on that first screen, before they click or scroll. Your content could be positively majestic, but users might not bother to navigate to it if the first thing they see is a boring image or a website that looks unprofessional. A world-class user experience should begin with an eye-catching image.