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The Five Commandments of Effective Website Design

Legal Marketing That Stands Out

Quick quiz: How long does it take the average website visitor to form a first impression of a site?

A) 3 seconds
B) 5 seconds
C) 200 milliseconds

According to recent research by the Missouri University of Science and Technology, the answer is C: 200 milliseconds.

One upshot: If your site’s design and functionality fall flat, a visitor will move on in the blink of an eye (which takes about 300 milliseconds, by the way). That’s particularly true for law firms — which must instantly convey a sense of well-organized, user-friendly professionalism and expertise.

How can you ensure your site passes the first impression test? Make sure it follows the five commandments of effective lawyer website design.

Commandment #1: Build it with users in mind

A user-friendly site will:

  • feature an intuitive navigation structure with logically named pages (e.g., “Practice Areas,” “Contact Us,” etc.)
  • have a search function and site map that allows users to quickly find what they need
  • be written in plain, easy-to-understand language
  • feature the proper amount of text — enough to communicate your main marketing messages without overwhelming visitors with long-winded paragraphs (which visitors probably won’t read anyway)
  • look and work the same in different Web browsers and on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets
  • load quickly and smoothly.

Commandment #2: Make it memorable

Memorable websites include:

  • compelling design elements — sharp photos, a well-coordinated color palette and typography that sets the appropriate tone
  • a fresh, unique appearance — one that doesn’t look like it came from a cookie-cutter site template
  • an effective balance between white space, text and images.

Commandment #3: Differentiate yourself from the competition

What do your competitors’ sites look like? What kind of functionality do they offer? What sort of content and imagery do they have? Is there anything you can do differently or better?

While the answers to those questions shouldn’t direct your site’s design and content, they are important to keep in mind. Your site should tell your law firm’s unique story: who you are, what you do, where you are located and all of the other elements that make up your unique brand. Balancing that against your competitors and will help you appropriately position your firm.

Commandment #4: Make it visible

Even the best-designed sites are worthless if they’re hidden in some corner of the Web. Make sure your site is optimized so search engines — and prospective clients — can find it. But take note: While search engine optimization (SEO) has tremendous upsides, it needs to be done correctly. Check out our SEO Fundamentals page for more information.

Commandment #5: Make it work for you

Form follows function when it comes to Web design. Hard-working sites:

  • offer clear calls to action at every opportunity
  • make it easy for users to contact you
  • allow potential clients to get to know you through photos, videos, concise biographical information, blog posts and more
  • seamlessly integrate with your firm’s identity and business goals.

Yes, it’s a lot to keep in mind, but if you follow these five commandments, you’ll make a powerful, durable first impression — and greatly boost your odds of converting visitors into clients.

If you would like to learn more about how FindLaw can help with website design solutions, please contact us for a free legal marketing consultation.


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