Most lawyers aren’t web design experts. So if you’re managing your website on your own, there’s a good chance that it could use some improvement.
Even if you have a paralegal, intern, or someone else in your office running the site for you, those people probably don’t have much more experience than you do when it comes to web design.
In today’s digital era, the design of your legal website can make or break the success of your practice. In fact, 75% of people judge the credibility of a business based on the looks of its website. 94% of first impressions are related to the design of a website.
The numbers don’t lie—if your law firm website design has flaws, it will change the way people perceive your practice.
As a legal marketing expert, I know what it takes to have a killer web design. Over the years, I’ve seen dozens of law firms making similar mistakes on their websites. This guide highlights the top ten most common website design errors made by lawyers.
Trying to cram as much information as possible on your home page and landing pages is a mistake.
Not only do cluttered websites appear untrustworthy, but they also confuse your website visitors. Too many images, CTAs, text, and other visual elements are overwhelming. People won’t know where to start looking, which typically causes one of two reactions:
- They leave your website.
- They overlook your most important information.
Anyone landing on your website should know exactly what you’re offering within seconds. Here’s an example of a simple law firm website without any clutter:
The homepage has one image and minimal text at the top. But the text clearly indicates what this law firm specializes in. In less than 30 words, you know that this is a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis.
If this initial headline and text was buried behind other images or crammed into a bunch of stuff all together, it wouldn’t be as impactful.
For SEO on the other hand, you need to figure out how many words are on the pages of the top 5 sites ranked for your top keywords so you can compete.
Use a tool like wordcounter.net to analyze the word count of home pages, practice area pages and blog posts and then find a way to add deeper text when ranking calls for it. Just be sure to make the text scan and skim friendly by using short sentences, bullet points and a clean layout.
2. Too Plain
On the flip side, some law firm websites are far too plain. There’s a big difference between reducing clutter and removing so much information that the site appears unfinished.
The example I used above is about as simple as I’d recommend going. Anything less than that would be considered far too bare.
For example, imagine that home page without the text on the left side of the screen. Or what if that text was centered, but the image was removed? The site would immediately lose credibility.
If your website looks like an unfinished PowerPoint slide, it’s probably too plain. Law firm designs should be sharp, professional, and modern.
3. Poor Call To Action Placement
What action do you want website visitors to take when they land on your website?
In most cases, legal websites are used as a way for lawyers to get new clients. Depending on your preferences, you might want potential clients to call your office, send an email, schedule an appointment, or fill out a form online.
Whatever the answer might be, that needs to be clearly displayed with a call-to-action button.
The CTA should be prominent and consider having it be visible at all times. Some firm’s use a “sticky” navigation bar, so the CTA remains in place at the top of the page while people scroll. Here’s an example of a great CTA button on another simple legal website.
The CTA actually appears twice on this home page. Both buttons are above the fold, and in plain view at all times. These call-to-actions aren’t buried or lost in the clutter, either. This design is simple, which makes it easy for people to know how to proceed.
4. Confusing Navigation
This relates back to our common theme of simplicity. Anyone landing on your website should be able to find what they’re looking for within a few seconds.
Use the interior landing pages of your legal website to provide more information about your practice. You can showcase specific lawyers in your firm and talk about your practice areas of expertise.
Let’s say you have a large firm with dozens of practice areas. Every single area of expertise shouldn’t be crammed into your navigation menu. This will make it difficult for people to find what they need.
Instead, segment your service offerings into different categories.
For example, instead of listing too many different law sub categories in your menu, you can have a separate landing page for each.
Homepage > Practice Areas > Category A > Explanation of Category A Services
This is a logical hierarchy of pages that will simplify your navigation. It makes much more sense than trying to explain all of your services on the same page.
It also helps for SEO to have a page for each main area of service with sub pages for niches within each practice area. It just has to be laid out in a way that lets users drill down without trying to display everything at once.
5. Unclear Branding
Whether you realize it or not, your law firm is a brand. Think about the way you represent yourself in-person. From the suits you wear to the car you drive, you’re portraying a certain level of professionalism based on how you want to be perceived.
Let’s go back to the car analogy since I’m sure it’s something you can relate to.
Three different lawyers show up to the courthouse in their own vehicles—the first drives a Toyota Camry, the second drives a Mercedes Benz, and the third drives a Rolls-Royce.
Each of these lawyers has a different branding strategy. This same analogy can be applied to your website and the design that you choose. It all depends on the audience that you’re trying to appeal to.
You will want the feeling of your website to match your business strategy and be obvious to the people you want to target. Small statements that reinforce your message throughout the site can help reinforce a consistent brand tone.
6. Missing Contact Information
How are people supposed to get in touch with you?
Believe it or not, I’ve seen some law firm websites that don’t have any contact information. For those that do, sometimes it’s buried or difficult to find, which can be just as bad as not having it at all.
Here’s an example of contact information that’s easy to find and in plain sight:
The phone numbers for each office are all at the top of the page. Since the layout is simple, it’s easy to find them. Given they are fairly small, they’ve also included the email address for the firm in the same location.
This law firm website has a “Contact Us” page that’s in the main navigation header. This relates back to our earlier point about having simple navigation.
When you click that contact page, you’ll find even more detailed information about each office, including the address on a map.
Don’t just bury your contact information at the footer of your pages. Website visitors should be able to find it quickly without having to look too hard.
7. No Mobile Optimization
52.2% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices. So there’s a good chance that people are landing on your website from a smartphone.
If your site hasn’t been optimized for mobile devices, it’s going to crush your site’s credibility and reputation.
61% of website visitors will leave a site that is not mobile-friendly. Something so simple could be costing you six out of ten potential new clients.
Use Google’s mobile-friendly test to see if your site has been optimized properly. If your site fails, then you’ll need to switch to a mobile-friendly template. Most website builders and CMS platforms make this easy for you.
8. Slow Loading Times
Most slow websites can be traced back to design flaws.
In most cases, a law firm website won’t be getting so much traffic that it can’t be handled by the servers. Even an entry-level shared web hosting plan should be able to accommodate 10k monthly visitors without any issues.
So if your site traffic isn’t affecting your page speed, your design is the likely culprit. If you have a complex design with too many images, videos, or other large files, it will dramatically slow down your website.
With each additional second it takes for your site to load, your bounce rate will increase.
Simplify your design. Remove extra and unnecessary files or heavy code that could be weighing down your website.
Choose a responsive theme, and optimize all of your images with an image compressor before uploading them to your site.
9. Unclear Text
Unclear text is another detrimental design flaw. If people can’t read your content, it’s unlikely that they’ll book an appointment or become a client.
I’ll give you an extreme example. You wouldn’t put yellow text on an orange background, right? But sometimes light grey text on an off-white background can have the same effect—it’s tough to read.
Text size that’s too small to read is another common problem that I see on law firm websites.
Eliminate large blocks of text. Keep paragraphs to 3-4 lines at a maximum. Use short sentences and bullet lists to break up the content. This will make your text much easier to read.
10. Not Following Generally Accepted Best Practices
I’ve seen some law firm websites that fail because they try to get too creative with the design.
Here’s an analogy. Most of us follow generally accepted social guidelines. We shake hands using our right hand – well at least we used to – and we place the napkin on our lap when we go out to dinner.
Imagine meeting someone for a meal, and they stick out their left hand to shake yours and put the napkin on their head when they sit down. Are either of these wrong? Technically, I guess not. But I’m sure it would change your perception of this person.
Now think of this in terms of web design. People have a certain expectation when they land on a website. They expect the menu bar to be at the top of the page. When they click the logo, they expect to return to the home screen.
So stick to a conventional web design without trying to get too creative.
Use this guide and tools like usertesting.com to identify potential design errors with your law firm website.
You can follow the tips and best practices that I’ve described above to correct those mistakes. Most of these errors can be rectified with a simple fix. But if your website currently has most of these problems, it might be time to seek professional assistance.