Once someone lands on your website, you have eight seconds to convince them to stay there.
Potential clients arrive at your website either because they've looked specifically for you, or because they've been referred to you through social media, word of mouth, search engine results or communication campaigns.
Law firms are businesses like any other and your website needs to display your services in ways that attract your visitors to buy. We explore five ways that the content on your website can appeal in that crucial eight-second window.
1) Control your first impressions
Right this moment, consider what your website says about your law firm. Answer this: if your law firm was a person, how would he/she dress or talk?
If that image doesn’t align with what you want to be sharing with your potential clients, what can you change to make your values clearer? It could be as simple as clarifying your tone of voice, shining the spotlight on your unique position in your market or getting rid of irrelevant pages.
Now, think about your target audience(s) and how they present themselves. Is your law firm persona coming across as approachable or helpful? Would your audience trust you to help them?
Pin-point the reasons why visitors might come to your website to get an idea of what they'd be after. For example, it could be to find out more about your partners' experience, your careers section or to solve a legal problem.
Finally, ask yourself 'can we actually help them?' - if you can, then great, read on to unleash the most from your content. In life, you appreciate the clothing shopkeeper that admits they can't help you find the perfect pair of shoes, value them when they recommend another and then trust them to help you find the best socks afterwards.
2) Make your website mobile friendly
New figures show over half of the time people spend on the internet is spent while using a mobile device. Responsive web design is more important than ever because it helps to create websites that respond to the device they are displayed on. This means that your website that looks great on your desktop will also look just as good on a smart phone.
In print, 'above the fold' content is given more importance as it's the first news stories that people see on a news rack. Big headlines summarise the stories into attention-grabbing short sentences, and a good quality image can appeal to those who process information visually.
It's the same for websites - put your most interesting and important content on the first page that people land on when using a mobile device. This could be the most important news or publications. If you emphasise communication through social media, then place these buttons here too.
If you're not sure about how to arrange your information, read about the inverted pyramid style of writing, where the most important information - often the conclusion or 'big idea' - is contained in the first few lines as a hook for visitors.
3) Make your content easier to read
According to Jakob Neilsen, a website usability expert, 79 per cent of website users skim content, so your content should take this into account.
In print, text is read left to right, going from top to bottom. When skimmed, your eyes' journey resembles a 'Z' shape across the paragraphs of a page. For websites, content is skimmed in an 'F' shape, with more focus on the left-hand side of the page and the headings that break up the content.
If you have eight seconds to convince a visitor that you can help them, give them clear keywords that they can latch onto when they skim. This will reinforce that they are receiving usefulness from the content and is more likely to keep them reading.
This also applies to the way you format the content. Here are some key rules to use on your webpage:
- Include keywords in titles in a meaningful way
- Bullet-points and lists will make skimming easier
- Use keywords at the beginning of sentences to add immediate context
- Avoid jargon terminology as visitors
- Use the principle of 'less is more' - keep content short, paragraphs to the point and ensure your text is concise
4) Create accessible content for everyone
Your audience may consist of people of varying ages, backgrounds and abilities. Your content should acknowledge that some visitors may have hearing or visual impairments, motor skills difficulties, learning difficulties, or be older and not confident using computers. Some of these health issues will make the sensory experience of your content more difficult to access, so be aware of this.
Screen-readers interpret a website in HTML and verbally read out the content. Because of this, your code should be clean and alt-text should be included with each image in the meta data, so that a screen-reader can understand what the image represents. This alt-text should be a clear description of what the element is ('a photograph'), what it describes ('of a sunny day at the beach') and give relevance ('in London, 1984').
For less severe visual impairments, the website should cater for these viewers by adjusting the colour and overall contrast used on the website. You can use the web aim website to check whether your colour choice is suitable.
When posting video, include a transcript below, or consider adding in sub-titles, so that hearing impaired viewers can still understand your key messages.
You should also break down text into readable chunks through headings and hyperlinking words that convey meaning or purpose to help them stand out, though use these sparingly for greater effect. Keep sentences and paragraphs short for maximum readability.
5) Do three final checks
Have you ever read an article and found your concentration jarred by a typo? It can look sloppy and disrupts the flow of your message. Do three checks before publishing to prevent it happening to you.
Read over your content once and consider 'what value did I get from this?'. If you can't recall three to five key messages, then it's unlikely that your visitors will take away any of your key messages either.
On the second read-through, look out for spelling errors, broken hyperlinks (which are hyperlinks that don't go where they're supposed to go) and bad grammar.
For your last check, read it through and consider whether it 'flows' easily - do the text and images link together in a logical manner? A good tip is to get a colleague to give it a once-over - a second pair of eyes reading it for the first time will provide fresh feedback.