Thursday, November 7, 2013
Design is about more than the aesthetics of a website; it’s also about the usability. How easy is it for a brand new site visitor to find the information that they’re looking for? Far too often firm’s focus on the graphics and the copy but they fail to look at the usability of their websites. It’s absolutely essential that your website be structured in such a way that navigating through it is intuitive to the visitor. When it comes to usability, consider the following elements of your site:
The Navigation Menu: The critical pages (discussed a bit later) must be primary pages on the menu. It’s important that you don’t include too many items on the menu as this can be more confusing to the visitor and fail to adequately highlight the key pages. If you do decide to employ drop down menus with subpages, make sure you have just one level of subpages. The navigation menu should also feature a hover effect so visitors know exactly where they’re heading.
Forms: Most attorney websites feature a number of forms. Some may just be a contact form while others may be used to request a consultation or subscribe to the firm’s e-newsletter list. Keep in mind that asking your visitors for a great deal of information may deter some from completing the form; as you create your form, be cognizant of this and only ask that visitors submit the necessary information. Make sure that all of your forms are clear in terms of the information being requested for each field and take note of what happens after the form is completed and the information submitted. Do users see a thank you note with what to expect next? Or in some cases, they may be directed to another page with more pertinent information; make sure this whole process is easy and informational for the prospective client.
In-page Links: Many websites, especially those of attorneys, are riddled with in-page links which take visitors to different pages within the site. In-page links can be wonderful when they are implemented in a logical way without overwhelming the reader.
Fonts: Few people take time to carefully consider font selection and size but it matters a great deal, especially if you are looking to appeal to a certain population. For instance, if you are an elder law attorney and work mainly with senior citizens, you might consider including all copy in a larger size and add a magnification option for those who struggle to read small print.
When designing your site, keep your prospective clients in mind. What are they looking for? Think of the questions you often get from new clients and then set out to create a site that delivers some of these answers. With your navigation menu and links, think of creating a sort of “yellow brick road” which will lead them through a guided route of information. Once you have your site completed, ask a few relatives or friends who have never looked at the site to review it. You might even ask them to find certain pages and see just how fast they can do this. If they get lost, you need to simplify a few things.