Many attorneys think that building a beautiful, engaging, user-friendly website is too expensive. So, they take a few dollars out of the petty cash, cobble together a series of cluttered and poorly-written webpages, and call it a day.
“It’s better than nothing!” they say — but they’re wrong. It’s not. It’s worse than nothing. A poor website that is difficult to look at, understand, and navigate can severely damage your firm’s reputation, leading to poor performance and a declining client base.
Luckily, creating a website that provides a meaningful and informative user experience (or UX, as we fancy-pants marketers love to call it) is relatively easy and affordable these days. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, nor is there any need to overspend. Simply gather an experienced copywriter, a skilled designer, and a competent web developer, and you’ll be off to a great start. From there, just follow these four basic steps, and your firm will have a quality, user-friendly site in no time.
Step 1: Develop Personas
Many attorneys think that anybody could be a great client, which I suppose is technically true, but it’s also not a great approach when looking for potential clients to cast a wide net, cross your fingers, and hold your breath. Instead, you need to know exactly what you’re fishing for so you can then begin to understand your potential clients’ behavior, including where they like to hang out online and how likely they are to bite on a specific line. This is where developing personas comes into play.
We’ve talked about personas before, but we can’t stress their importance enough. When you define your personas, you define your ideal audience. It’s an exercise in gathering objective and experiential data to create fictional representations of the perfect client. By cross-referencing the hard data (i.e., the demographics and success rate of previous clients) with empirical wisdom (the average age of a divorce client is 30 — kind of a bummer, I know), you can zero in on the clients you want. And when you know the kind of clients you want, you can start building the type of site those clients need.
All this might sound difficult or time-consuming, but developing detailed personas isn’t as complicated as it might seem. If you ask the right questions, the right answers should be readily available, and then you can organize those answers into tangible narratives that align with your firm’s goals and mission.
Here are a few things to consider when creating your personas:
- How do your clients view themselves? People want to see their own identity and values reflected in the environments they occupy, including the websites they visit. Understanding these values and creating a site that matches up with them will provide your potential clients a sense of comfort that can help build trust and make them more comfortable confiding in you and your associates.
- Where do they live? Where your potential clients reside, work, study, worship, and play are vital aspects of their personality, and it will also affect their odds of running into certain legal issues.
- What’s their typical age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.? This might seem intrusive or politically incorrect, but depending on the practice areas your firm specializes in, the demographics of your ideal client base will likely be the most important element of your persona(s).
- What sort of career does your ideal client have? Again, it’s imperative to understand every aspect of the individuals and families you’ll be working with. For instance, a firm specializing in workers’ compensation probably shouldn’t be targeting retired individuals or those working in white-collar professions.
Step 2: Evaluate User Behavior
The second component of optimizing user experience on your firm’s website involves evaluating previous and current user behavior on the site, which should be much easier now that you have a clear picture of your ideal clients. Once we have the necessary information, we can put it in context relative to the personas you’ve created.
Examining user behavior will provide a quantitative baseline for you to better understand what is and isn’t working on the site as it currently stands. Of course, the difficult part of this step is actually gathering the data in the first place.
However, if you’ve already set up the proper web tools, it’s simply a matter of extraction. Make sure that you’ve created a Google Analytics account and that is it properly synced with your existing website. Once you’ve confirmed or established an account and connected it to your site, you can begin to review the data.
The most relevant metrics, for purposes of user experience, include:
- Bounce rate
- Time on page
- PPC keyword clicks
Don’t just take these numbers at face value; look deeper to determine the cause and effect. Based on what you know about the user, why did they choose to convert (great offer, useful information)? What does a conversion on your site look like (form fill, chat)? What did the conversion mean for the end user (free ebook, email subscription)? And what does the conversion mean for you and your firm (email campaign, free consultation request)?
These questions matter, because they sculpt and define your UX as well as your overall marketing strategy. And if you don’t have accurate answers to them, you need to re-examine the types of users visiting your website, how they are interacting with it, and how those interactions inform your business model and bottom line.
Step 3: CTAs and Forms
Calls-to-action (CTAs) are the elements of your website that direct users to take a specific action (call us now, fill out this form, etc.). When you’re building (or optimizing) a legal website, it’s best to keep your CTAs succinct, specific, and direct. Depending on what field of law you work in, your potential clients may be in a situation that is confusing at best and scary at worst. They’re not in the mood for games or jokes. Let them know exactly what they need to do in order to get help.
Here are a few good examples:
- Download Your Free Ebook
- Schedule Your Free Consultation
- Subscribe to Our Monthly Newsletter
Notice that all the above CTAs follow a simple and distinct pattern: verb/pronoun/noun phrase. It’s a simple, universal sentence structure at a common reading level that invites people to participate.
Your approach to creating online forms should also be simple and direct. Consider the information you actually need and weigh your business needs against the information your potential clients actually want to provide. For each of the above CTAs, that information should come down to just a few basic fields:
In general, more form fields will result in fewer form fills. For instance, studies have found that adding a phone number field to a form decreases conversions by up to 47%. However, since attorneys are in the business of regularly following up with phone calls, there’s no way you could feasibly eliminate this field from your free consultation form. So, keep your fields to a minimum, but use your judgment.
Your visitors want the easiest route to solutions that will alleviate their problems, and it’s your job to pave that route smoothly. Is it necessary to get their address? What about their age? Probably not, right? So why even ask? If you feel a description of their legal dilemma would be helpful, feel free to add that field, but make sure there is an asterisk and a disclaimer that clearly explains the field is not necessary for submission.
Overall, when in doubt, give your users a choice, but leave the decision-making up to them.
Step 4: Testing. Testing. 1… 2…!
There’s no real sense in executing any of the previous three steps if you’re not going to perform this one. Every aspect of your website needs to be tested for functionality and efficiency.
Testing usability and user experience with individuals who match the personas we created earlier allows us to verify or disprove our assumptions by figuring out whether real users can successfully navigate and use the optimized website. The goal is to determine which components of the site work well and make sense for our users, which ones do not, and whether the site is meeting or exceeding users’ expectations overall.
There are several ways to conduct such testing, but the most common and effective include:
- Moderated usability test: A test in which a moderator interacts in-person with participants to guide them through relevant tasks, answer pertinent questions, and engage in real-time. Moderated testing is especially advantageous because it allows the tester and participants to update the testing plan on the fly and tackle tasks or procedures that weren’t on the schedule originally.
Since moderated usability testing usually results in a great deal of feedback, it’s best to conduct this type of examination early and often throughout the UX optimization process.
- Unmoderated usability test: A test in which the participants are asked to guide themselves through a prepared set of tasks without any help from a moderator. There’s no real-time interaction with the host or examiner, but most unmoderated tests are followed by a “debrief” with follow-up questions.
This form of testing usually works best at or near the end of your optimization project, as it’s more a sink-or-swim affair for the user that will give you raw information about the UX on your website.
- Five–second test: The five-second test is a great test for your calls-to-action and online form fills. It’s simple: a participant is given a five-second glimpse of a specific page or section of your website and then asked what they can remember about the layout, design, functionality, copy, etc. Most people begin making judgments within the first few seconds of laying eyes on something, so this test helps you evaluate the immediate impact your website has on users.
- First-click test: As the name implies, first-click testing examines which component of a website’s interface the participant is most likely to click on first. This test helps determine how intuitive and effective a site’s navigation is.
According to Jeff Sauro of Measuring Usability, participants who click the correct navigation path on their first try successfully complete a desired task 87% of the time. Conversely, participants who click the incorrect path on the first try only complete their task 46% of the time.
The wonderful thing about testing your work is that it provides definitive answers to your original theories. In some cases, these answers might lead to more work, but if you take them to heart and act accordingly, they could also lead to more clients.
LaFleur Has the Digital Marketing Experience Your Law Firm Needs
Great websites lead to great clients, and at LaFleur, we believe in providing the best possible user experience for your website visitors. We have built dozens of websites for attorneys across the country practicing different types of law, and we’ve learned plenty along the way about optimizing users’ experience. Our designers, developers, and copywriters are fully confident that they can deliver the engaging, intuitive website and content your potential clients have been searching for.
If you would like to speak with us directly about your firm’s website or any other legal marketing components or strategies, we would love to speak with you. Please call us today at (888) 222-1512 or complete this brief online form to schedule a free, no-pressure appointment.
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Tomlin, C. (2016, November 14). Four big UX optimization steps. Useful Usability. Retrieved from http://www.usefulusability.com/4-big-ux-optimization-steps/
Zarella, D. (2017). 3 form fields that kill landing page conversion rates. HubSpot. Retrieved from https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/6748/3-form-fields-that-kill-landing-page-conversion-rates.aspx