Before you even press your fingers against your keyboard to design your website understand what the end intent may be and the appropriate steps to get there. The goals may be to attract clients. Maybe you want to provide information to current clients or colleagues. You probably want to do both. Whatever you decide, let the strategic plan be your roadmap to create your site.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Rely on the experience and research of those who have been in the business long enough to know what to do and not to do. There are many elements that go into constructing a website that is informative, intuitive, and user-friendly. Of course, there are also unfortunate choices that make for a poor website. Read on and learn a few do’s and don’ts that others have discovered about building a superb site that achieves your goals.
Overall Design and Content
Do use conventional website design. This doesn’t mean that your website can’t be unique. But you don’t want your users to have to figure out where they are and where they need to be to find the information they seek. Shorten the learning curve as much as possible.
Do create a navigation system that is simple, clear and consistent throughout your website. Allow the user to get to his or her destination with a minimum of clicks. Limit the number of items on your top-level navigation system to the magic number of seven, which refers to the number of items that a person can hold in his or her short-term memory.
Do test your site. Through A/B testing, you can gather comparison data on any number of elements on your web pages. A/B testing allows you to figure out which option or options work best.
Do always consider your website as a work in progress. Regularly update it and strive to improve your site. Include a blog and update it on a regular schedule. A blog will increase your search engine optimization rankings in addition to giving your website an air of authority.
Do use UX and UI design standards. UX, or user experience, focus on how a user feels as he goes through your site. UI, or user interface, focus on the look and feel of a website. The differences are explained below, according to Emil Lamprecht, writing on CareerFoundry.
- User Experience Design is the process of development and improvement of quality interaction between a user and all facets of a company.
- User Experience Design is responsible for being hands-on with the process of research, testing, development, content, and prototyping to test for quality results.
- User Experience Design is, in theory, a non-digital (cognitive science) practice, but used and defined predominantly by digital industries.
- User Interface Design is responsible for the transference of a brand’s strengths and visual assets to a product’s interface as to best enhance the user’s experience.
- User Interface Design is a process of visually guiding the user through a product’s interface via interactive elements and across all sizes/platforms.
- User Interface Design is a digital field, which includes responsibility for cooperation and works with developers or code.
Don’t keep your users waiting. Make sure your site doesn’t dally in its loading time. Fully 47 percent of people expect a web page to load in two seconds or less. Your average user also has a pretty short attention span when it comes to reading content. You only have about eight seconds to grab a web user’s attention, so get to the point quickly.
Don’t commit pop-up assault. Be kind and give your users a few minutes to settle in before you hit them with these types of user interfaces.
Don’t use other people’s artwork or photography unless you have permission to do so.
Don’t use auto-play sound. It’s surprising, unnerving and potentially embarrassing.
Don’t overwhelm your prospects with paragraphs worth of information on your site.
Don’t EVER go for pretty over usability. If your site isn’t designed and written well, users will quickly leave your site, which is a phenomenon known as bouncing.
Do change the color of visited links. This lets a user know where he or she has been and prevents revisiting the same pages.
Don’t let dead links creep into your website. Be sure your links work. Encountering a 404 page leads to an unprofessional impression and frustration.
Don’t cause your links to open a new tab or window (unless it’s redirecting to an outsourced page). Doing so interrupts a user’s ability to use the back button, which is an essential function of navigation.
High-Quality Content Rules
Do write content that is focused and concise. Avoid rambling wordiness, only including material that is relevant to the point of the webpage.
Do use a rich content hierarchy, prioritizing information in order of importance. The result is a logical, user-friendly arrangement where users can quickly scan for the information they are seeking.
Do chunk it up. This means breaking large blocks of text or information into smaller, easier to digest bits.
Don’t write weak headlines. The good news is that 80 percent of users will read your headlines. The sad news is that only 20 percent of those users read the story. Write robust, exciting headlines that compel your user to dive into the story.
General Web Design
Do use visual hierarchy, placing the most critical items in the user’s visual path of either the F or Z pattern. Readers read a webpage as much as they scan it. They want information as quickly as possible. Using the Z and F patterns enable you to organize the most critical material in the most prominent positions.
Do use a grid layout when designing your web pages. Using a grid-based layout brings order, efficiency, economy, and harmony to a design.
Do design for a similar experience across platforms (i.e., desktop, smartphone, tablet), so that the entire website will act as a cohesive, unified system.
Do use responsive design so that your plan is flexible in its ability to respond and change along with various screen sizes.
Do use white space. White space guides a user’s eye through the page, bringing a feeling of clutter-free order and harmony to a webpage. It also gives a user’s eyes a place to rest.
Don’t let design take the stage over content. Design should support content, not overwhelm the content.
Don’t make items look like buttons or links if they’re not.
Don’t use long pages. Your user is apt to simply abandon the site rather than scroll endlessly down a long, long, long webpage.
Don’t use horizontal scrolling. It may feel like you’re unique, but sometimes being unique isn’t a good thing. The user probably isn’t expecting additional information to the sides of the webpage.
Do employ the psychology of font design. Different types of fonts evoke different feelings, depending on serif versus sans serif, weight, script or color.
Do pick a font that has lots of embedded variations, such as italics, light, bold, heavy and so forth.
Don’t use more than three typefaces. Otherwise, your website will feel cluttered and disorganized.
Don’t use inappropriately sized fonts.
Do be aware of how colors affect emotions and perceptions. For example, yellow evokes a feeling of happiness and optimism. Blue brings an impression of trustworthiness, dependability, and commitment. Red is stimulating and energetic, and this color evokes a feeling of excitement.
Do use a color scheme, bringing harmonic order to your page. Use Google to find many color scheme generators to help you discover an appropriate and pleasing color palette.
Don’t place text atop a similar colored background no matter how groovy it may look. Legibility and content rule over prettiness. Maintain a healthy contrast.
Don’t stuff your website with an overwhelming number of colors. You don’t want your website looking as though it collided with an untidy paint store. Choose three or four colors at most.
Do use high quality, professionally shot images. Images do speak a thousand words, and you want your words to be professional and credible. In addition to hiring a photographer, there are a number of stock image companies from which to choose.
Do optimize images. Optimized images will load faster, reducing wait time. It will also give pictures the highest quality possible without pixilation.
Do use sincere looking people shots, preferably with eyes pointing to where you want your user’s eyes to lead. Cheesy, tired images will make your entire site look cheesy and stale.
Don’t use massive images that overwhelm the web page and lengthen load time. Make sure your pictures are under one MB.
Don’t use images that are irrelevant to the content.
Don’t allow backgrounds to compete with content. In addition to using a tinted image as a background, you can try using color blocks or gradations.
Designing or overseeing the creation of a website can be intimidating, challenging and fun. Avoiding pitfalls, taking advantage of the experience of others, and following your website strategic plan will go a long way to creating an outstanding website that works for you and your law practice.