How to Test the Usability of Your Law Firm Website
Usability testing is one of the most crucial aspects of running a top-performing legal website. It helps ensure that your design choices have been optimized for conversions—new clients.
Even the most experienced web designers and developers create websites that need improvement. So if you’ve built your law firm website in-house, there’s a good chance that the usability isn’t perfect. Even if you hired a professional to develop and manage your site, these tests will take your performance to the next level.
I’m assuming that most of you are new to the world of usability testing. I know this topic wasn’t covered on the bar examination, so I’ll explain everything you need to know about usability tests in this guide.
What is Usability Testing?
Let’s start with the basics. Usability testing is a method to evaluate user experience.
It’s commonly used to test software, mobile applications, and websites. But for our purposes here today, we’re going to focus on the website aspect of usability testing.
It’s important to understand that usability testing is NOT user testing. These two terms are often confused with each other, but they are not the same thing. User testing implies that the participant is being tested, which is not valid. Usability testing is an assessment for user interface—not users themselves.
There are lots of different methods to test usability; we’ll talk about those in greater detail shortly. But generally speaking, the process looks something like this.
The participant will perform specific tasks assigned by the test administrator. For example, the scenario could be something like, “schedule a free consultation” with your law practice. The test subject will land on your website, perform the task, and give feedback about the process.
Whoever is facilitating the test will observe and make notes about any points of friction during the process.
How to Run Usability Tests For Your Law Firm Website in 7 Simple Steps
Now that you have a basic understanding of usability testing and how it works, it’s time to implement a testing process for your specific legal website. While the term “usability testing” might sound complicated, I’ve simplified the entire procedure into seven easy steps.
Step #1: Determine What to Measure
Simply “testing your website” is far too vague for an effective usability test. You need to be as specific as possible for this experiment to work well. What aspect of your law firm website needs improvement?
Site navigation, scroll depth, design interactions, conversion page behavior, and sign-up forms are all good places to start.
This must be the first step of your usability test. Otherwise, you won’t know what to look for. Come up several ideas and assign a priority level to each one. Determine which parts of the test should get the lion’s share of the focus and figure out what to test first.
Step #2: Pick Your Testing Method
As I said before, there are lots of ways to run a usability test. These methods can typically be broken down into three distinct categories:
- In person
- Monitored remote
- Unmonitored remote
In-person testing is pretty self-explanatory. You’ll either invite test subjects to a lab, office or some neutral site. Otherwise, you can always run a “field study” test and conduct the experiment in the test subject’s own environment (such as their home or office).
A test done in-person will give you the best access to the participants in terms of two-way communication.
With monitored remote testing, you and the test subject won’t need to be in the same location. But the test will still need to take place at a specific date and time. That way, everything can be observed in real-time. Lookback LiveShare is a great option to consider for this method.
If you’re testing on a tight budget and don’t want to jump through hoops, an unmonitored remote testing session will likely be your best option. You can use tools for heatmaps, scroll maps, and session recordings for users visiting your website. Crazy Egg and Hotjar are both two popular solutions if you go this route.
Step #3: Find Test Participants
Next, you’ll need to find people to participate in your tests. It’s important to find candidates who would be potential clients for your law firm.
For example, let’s say your firm specializes in business law. The test won’t be as effective if the participants are teachers, homemakers, or short-order cooks. Instead, you’ll want to be sourcing business owners and C-level executives to participate.
Depending on the scope of your test, you should be prepared to compensate participants for their time. An in-person session at a third-party testing facility should be paid higher than a monitored remote session.
If you’re not willing to compensate your test subjects, you can’t expect them to be committed to the process. An unmonitored remote session (with session recordings and heatmaps) would be the only scenario when compensation is not required. Those users are already visiting your website and not going out of their way to anything else.
Step #4: Create Tasks and Scenarios
You need to create realistic scenarios for your testers to complete. Make sure that the tasks align with your testing goals, defined back in our first step.
The tasks can be as simple or as complex as you want. Just make sure that your test subjects have a clear understanding of what they’re supposed to do.
Here’s a great example of something that can be tested from Burns & Levinson, a Boston-based law firm.
The Burns & Levinson website has an “eBriefcase” tool. Visitors can browse the site and add different components to this digital briefcase. It’s essentially like a bookmark tab built directly into the web design.
This law firm could test the UX and site structure with a task like “add these three specific elements to your e-briefcase.”
Step #5: Run the Tests
You know what you’re testing. You’ve picked a methodology. Your test subjects are ready, and you’ve determined what tasks to administer.
Now it’s time to actually run your tests. This process is pretty straightforward, but there are a few tips and best practices to keep in mind.
- Make sure the instructions are clear (not open to interpretation).
- Look for visual cues. The tester might not vocally say, “I’m confused,” but the look on their face could convey confusion.
- Keep a neutral tone (assuming there is two-way communication). You don’t want the participant to feel encouraged or discouraged by their actions. This could alter the performance and results.
- Remain silent whenever possible.
The best usability tests mirror real-life scenarios. In real life, the user wouldn’t be fielding questions as they’re browsing through a website. So try to recreate that experience, even if the testing environment is unnatural.
Step #6: Analyze Results
Once the tests are complete, go back and analyze your experiment. Did all of the participants have similar experiences? Were there common pain points or feedback from each test?
Whether you’re testing in-person or remotely, you need to make sure that the sessions are all being recorded. This is the easiest way to analyze and quantify the results in your test. If you’re trying to frantically record and take notes in real-time during the test, you’re going to miss out on things.
Step #7: Make Adjustments Based on Your Findings
Last, but certainly not least, you need to change your website based on the tests. I’ve gone through dozens of usability tests with various law firms. Not once did the test results show a perfect site that didn’t need any improvements.
Some changes could be minor, like moving a CTA button or changing the order of certain aspects on the page.
Other adjustments could be a bit more significant, such as changing the site structure and conversion funnel of your law firm website.
Usability testing will ultimately improve the user experience of your law firm website. As a result, you’ll be able to land more clients and retain existing ones.
In most cases, you don’t need to go through some third-party usability testing facility to run an effective usability test. You can do this in-house with a remote moderating tool.
Alternatively, website session recordings and heatmaps can be just as effective. This will be much cheaper than running a full-blown experiment, and the data comes directly from actual website visitors.
Regardless of what you decide, keep this guide close. Follow my step-by-step process to usability testing for law firm websites.
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