User experience is an essential part of your law firm website’s design and digital best practices. Search engines prioritize websites that are user-friendly, easy to navigate, and meet specific user experience (UX) standards.
If your law firm’s website doesn’t meet these standards, you’re increasingly going to have a hard time appearing on the first page of Google’s search results. Here, our digital marketing experts outline some can’t-miss best practices and suggest ways to optimize your website’s user experience.
What Is User Experience (UX)?
UX is the process of creating a website that’s beautiful, intuitive, and easy to use. Good UX empowers users to find answers to their questions, engage with your brand, and build loyalty. UX includes technical elements, design, content development, and many other factors.
If you’ve ever been frustrated by glacially slow loading times, jumbled site organization, or headache-inducing color choices, bad UX was to blame. While you might be able to identify a horrible user experience when you see it, fixing your website’s subtle derailers can be tricker.
Now, let’s explore five user experience best practices.
1. Understand Your Audience and Evaluate Your Users’ Behavior Using Personas
The latest UX research suggests your website only has 50 milliseconds—a blink of an eye—to make a good impression on your visitors. Since time is of the essence, you need to target your ideal clients and speak directly to them. Everything, from your website’s structure, design, color palette, fonts, and wording, should resonate with the people you want to represent.
However, in a competitive industry like law, casting a wide net, crossing your fingers, and holding your breath won’t be enough. Instead, you need to know exactly who you’re fishing for. This is where developing client personas come into play.
Client personas are a representation of your ideal audience. Developing client personas is an exercise in gathering objective and experiential data to create fictional representations of the perfect client. By cross-referencing the hard data (i.e., previous clients’ demographics and success rate) with empirical wisdom (the average age of a divorce client is 30).
When you know the clients you want, you can start building the type of site those clients need. We begin this process by asking questions and examining the data.
When you know the clients you want, you can start building the type of site those clients need.
Ask These Questions to Build Client Personas
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 with answers in-hand, you can organize that information into tangible narratives that align with your firm’s goals and mission.
When creating your client personas, ask yourself:
- How do your clients view themselves? People want to see their own identity and values reflected in their environments, 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 builds confidence and trust.
- Where do your clients live? Where your potential clients reside, work, study, worship, and play vital aspects of their personality, values, and perspective. Location also affects their odds of running into certain legal issues—something to keep in mind when developing your site and its content.
- What’s your clients’ typical age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.? This might seem intrusive, but depending on the practice areas your firm specializes in, the demographics of your ideal client base will likely be an important element of your personas.
- 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.
Once you have a clear picture of your ideal client or clients, the second component of optimizing user experience on your firm’s website involves evaluating previous and current user behavior on your site.
Put Personal Information in Context Using Website Data
Examining user behavior provides a quantitative baseline for you to better understand what is and isn’t working on your website. The good news is that the difficult part of this step is actually gathering the data itself. 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 UX metrics 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.
RELATED: Big, Smart, Profitable: How to Leverage Data for Your Law Firm
2. Prioritize User Experience on Mobile Devices
Today, most websites are responsive. This means that they adjust to fit a visitor’s screen size, making your website easy to navigate whether the user is on laptops, mobile phones, tablets, or other devices. However, some older websites still aren’t responsive or mobile-friendly—and they’re getting penalized in Google’s search results.
If your law firm has an outdated website that’s not mobile responsive, it’s time to redesign it.
However, there’s more to the mobile experience than usability across devices. You also need to consider your personas’ needs when they’re using a mobile device. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it easy to click on important icons, like calls to action and your practice pages, on a touchscreen—or are they too small?
- Are high-priority CTAs, like “Call Now” or “Schedule an Appointment” easy to find?
- If your website is design-heavy, does it translate well on a smaller screen?
If your law firm has an outdated website that’s not mobile responsive, it’s time to redesign it.
While these issues might seem minor, consider this: more people are searching your law firm on mobile devices than on desktops. If your legal website is hard to use or slow to load on mobile devices, you’re likely losing out on clients.
3. Make Your Website Accessible to All
While you might worry about your office’s accessibility, ensuring that there are ramps, accessible bathrooms, and other necessities, have you ever considered how people with disabilities interact with your website? If you answered in the negative, it’s time to get started.
In Domino’s Pizza v. Robles, the Ninth Circuit found that if your business has a physical location, your website and digital platforms are likely covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. (The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in Robles in 2019.) Therefore, you could face legal challenges if your law firm’s website is inaccessible to people with vision impairments and other disabilities who use screen readers to navigate the web.
However, the threat of liability shouldn’t be the only reason to make your website accessible. First, you want to reach as many of your ideal clients as possible—and many of them live with disabilities.
Second, many of the elements that make your website accessible, like using bulleted lists, adding alt text to images, clearly articulated CTAs, and well-defined headers, will improve your usability and SEO metrics.
RELATED: Digital Accessibility: Why It Matters and How to Build an Accessible Website
Comply With Page Speed and Core Web Vitals Guidelines
Starting in 2021, Google’s algorithm will consider your user experience in its ranking factors.
This means a hard-to-navigate, visually confusing website will rarely rank on the first page for a competitive keyword. So, if you want to land on the top 10 for a keyword like “texas personal injury lawyer,” you had better have a fast website that’s easy to navigate.
Google refers to many of these UX-focused metrics as Core Web Vitals, and you need to check your current website’s performance now. There are three primary Core Web Vital elements:
- Largest Contentful Paint: how long it takes a page to load its major content (sometimes called page speed)
- First Input Delay: how long it takes a page to respond to a user interaction (such as clicking a link or tapping a button)
- Cumulative Layout Shift: the amount a page layout shifts while it’s loading, since shifting elements and content can make a part hard to navigate and read
You can check your law firm’s Core Web Vitals using Google’s Search Console. Sometimes, easily correctable issues can impact your site’s performance. However, if you’re limping along with an older website, it might be easier and cost-effective to build a new website that is specifically designed to meet these new usability metrics.
RELATED: Google’s New Ranking Factors and Why You Should Rebuild Your Website
Focus on Your Readers, Not SEO
We love search engine optimization. Keyword research makes us happy. But, if you’re prioritizing the search engines over your clients, you’re going to lose business.
When it comes to content marketing, always start with a client-first, not algorithm-first, approach. After all, if you rank #1 for a bunch of keywords that your clients aren’t using, you can’t connect with them.
Homepages are a great example of this. In fact, some marketing experts argue that you shouldn’t obsess about your homepage’s keyword rankings. They argue that, as long as it performs well for your law firm’s name, you’re good to go. Here’s why.
If you want your homepage to rank for a highly competitive keyword, like “personal injury lawyer,” you’re going to need a content-rich page that comprehensively explores personal injury law and all of its nuances. After all, “personal injury lawyer” has a higher-than-average keyword difficulty rating of 76% and is dominated by high-authority websites like Wikipedia. It’s going to be a dry, content-heavy page.
While the search engines tend to like lots of dense content, that doesn’t align with your clients’ needs. Readers want a homepage that introduces them to your law firm, culture, client experience, and expertise. Your homepage should include testimonials, videos, and calls to action that encourage interaction. Typically, your homepage should be keyword-conscious, but it doesn’t have to rank for hundreds of keywords—especially if you have a strong backlink strategy and high-performing long-form content (like blogs).
RELATED: Legal Website Fundamentals: Improve Your Search Engine Optimization Today
UX Doesn’t Have to Be a Mystery
UX is constantly evolving. However, you don’t have to add “become UX expert” to your list of things to do to build a successful law firm website, as long as you:
- Understand who your clients are
- Create a site that resonates with their life experience
- Build your website that is accessible across devices, including cell phones and screen readers
- Follow Google’s Core Web Vitals best practices
- Put real people’s needs first
At the end of the day, search engine algorithms’ goal is to make sure searchers connect with the content that meets their needs. If you’re building and writing a website with your ideal clients’ needs in mind, you’ll succeed.
LaFleur: Law Firm Website Design That Really Works
Great website design and content 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.
Gitte Lindgaard, Gary Fernandes, Cathy Dudek & J. Brown (2006) Attention web designers: You have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression!, Behaviour & Information Technology, 25:2, 115-126, DOI: 10.1080/01449290500330448