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Effective law firm website design is part art, part science, and crucial to making the right impression on your potential clients. The design elements on your law firm’s website need to have a function and a purpose that benefits your potential clients.

The basic elements that make for effective law firm website designs are often overlooked by attorneys in favor of flashy designs that distract or discourage potential clients. These designs might be novel or interesting to you, but they end up lacking the substance needed by potential clients to make emotional and intellectual decisions about your law firm as they learn more about their case or matter.

Here are three ways to make sure that your law firm’s website is designed with your potential clients in mind.

Start by understanding what your potential clients need from your law firm’s website design.

Potential clients generally have different needs when they visit your law firm’s website than when they visit most other kinds of websites. When they visit your law firm’s website, they’re generally thinking about their legal issue and their own needs — they want to know whether your firm cares about people like them, whether you understand their problem, and whether you’re capable of helping them.

As a result, there are certain things they expect to find when they visit your law firm’s website.

Think about the position that many of your potential clients are in: They may be worried or embarrassed about their situation and they likely have questions about what happens next. They’re likely concerned about choosing the right attorney. They may be unsure if they need an attorney or they might be unhappy about needing to seek counsel in the first place.

The last thing they want to do is deal with a website that’s more about the attorney’s wants and needs than it is about theirs.

The best law firm website designs consider — and meet — the needs of your potential clients. Flashy designs — as well as bells and whistles — tend to distract and confuse potential clients and keep them from finding the information that they need about you and your firm.

It’s rare, if ever, that a potential client makes a decision about hiring an attorney based on a flashy design. What tends to make an impression on potential clients is the information your website and how it’s presented to them.

Consider your potential clients’ first impression of your law firm’s website.

When a potential client visits your law firm’s website, they’ll likely be getting their first impression of your law firm. What does your website say about you?

If your website loads slowly, distracts visitors with unnecessary design elements or has an unclear navigational structure, for example, you may be giving the wrong impression to potential clients before they’ve even had a chance to get to know you.

Be sure that anything you place on your law firm’s website has a specific benefit for your potential clients. For each design element that you plan to place on your website, ask yourself if it:

  • Provides a better experience for the user
  • Makes your website easier to use
  • Keeps visitors engaged with your content
  • Makes it easier for a potential client to contact your firm

If the answer to these questions is no, or if you’re not sure, you may want to reconsider the design element you have in mind.

Your potential clients need to know that you’re competent, but first, they need to make an emotional conclusion that you’re a human being who cares about their needs, and who they can feel comfortable with.

By including bells and whistles like animations, hover effects, fancy/huge fonts, and other flashy elements, your potential clients may:

  • Subconsciously associate motion and flashiness with advertisements, which most web users are trained to ignore
  • Work harder to consume the information that they need
  • Conclude that you’re covering up a lack of substance with style
  • Feel uneasy or anxious

Any one of these issues can cause an otherwise viable potential client to leave your website in search of something that meets their needs.

Novel website designs may seem fun or interesting to you as the attorney, but they can often deter potential clients from contacting your firm.

Use visual cues to guide your potential clients through your website’s content.

Your website’s design should respect your potential clients. But even the most professional-looking site is unlikely to do much for your business without high-quality website content to accompany it.

Part of your website’s design is the way that your content is formatted. The best law firm websites are able to balance aesthetics and usability. It is part art, but to a greater degree, it’s a science of anticipating the needs of your potential client. You can have both a beautiful website and a functional website without having video backgrounds or novel navigations, for example. And that’s generally the best way to do it, because there are certain conventions that web users, are used to —  if a potential client comes across something that’s new or confusing to them, they’re not so dazzled by it that they’re going to spend the time to figure it out. They’ve got a problem that needs solving, and they’re likely going to get frustrated and go elsewhere.

Part of the science of law firm websites that work is anticipating what a potential client is looking for in the written word. 

A beautiful website without content is basically useless. Potential clients are conducting searches related to their case or problem, and if you’re writing high-quality content that’s addressing those queries, that’s one of the best ways to attract potential clients to your site. 

Whether or not a potential client realizes they need an attorney yet, they’re likely going to do research about their issue. When they get to your site, are you providing them with content that’s easily readable? Are you breaking things up into short, readable paragraphs? Are you using headers to help them scan for the information that they want to read first? 

Are you providing them with intuitive navigation and links? For example, if you’re a DUI attorney and you’ve got a webpage on DUI tests that a potential client may have been subjected to, do you have subpages about things like blood, breath, and urine tests, or the horizontal gaze nystagmus test? Consider creating navigation organized by subject and that moves from broad to increasingly specific topics — that way, a potential client can decide how deep they want to dive before coming to the conclusion that you’re someone who is the right fit for them.

Learn what every attorney should know about law firm website design.

If you want to attract more quality traffic to your law firm’s website and convert more website visitors into paying clients, knowing what works (and what doesn’t) in law firm website designs is a great place to start. See our webinar “What Every Attorney Need to Know About Law Firm Website Design” to learn about law firm website design basics, as well as design considerations that can influence the growth and effectiveness of your website.