Usability is a hot-button topic in the world of website design. For good reason: If your law firm’s website has a poor user experience (UX), you risk losing business before even getting a chance to make your case.
The question is, how deeply do you need to invest in UX when it comes time to redesign your firm’s website? Do you really need to hire a UX agency and engage in multiple rounds of user testing?
Working with a UX partner can add up to a six-figure investment. The good news? With the right web design partner, you can create a user-friendly website without the added expense.
The Function and Purpose of Your Law Firm’s Website
Before explaining why you likely don’t need to hire a UX agency, let’s take a closer look at what purpose your law firm’s website really serves in the first place.
Your law firm’s website is incredibly important. It acts as your primary and most important marketing touchpoint in an increasingly digital-first world. You can now expect that the majority of your potential clients and hires will navigate to your website before picking up the phone or making contact with your firm in any other way. In that sense, your website (and its design) is your prospects’ first impression.
In every respect, your website forms the central hub of your marketing efforts (digital and otherwise). That’s true whether or not it successfully elevates your unique positioning and creates a seamless user experience. In that sense, your website is either working for you or against you.
When your website boasts a smart strategy and a seamless UX, you can count on it to draw in new prospects and potential hires. It will quickly showcase your firm’s point of differentiation, enable visitors to find the information they need, and convince them your firm is right for the job. On the other hand, if your website is difficult to navigate or does a poor job of communicating your firm’s expertise, you can be sure that the result is lost opportunity.
Straightforward Websites Create Straightforward User Experiences
It’s clear that your firm’s website has a big job to do. But that job is actually pretty straightforward. That’s especially true as compared with a complex ecommerce site or a member portal for a health insurance company.
Law firm websites primarily serve to validate information and impressions. In short, it’s all about marketing. And unlike Amazon, your website isn’t responsible for closing the sale.
Specifically, your website must communicate:
- Your firm’s unique positioning
- The practice areas in which you specialize
- Information about individual partners that demonstrates their experience and expertise
- Proof of impact (usually in the form of media coverage or case studies)
- Information for potential hires
- Where your firm is located and how to get in touch
Each of these requirements can be satisfied with a simple and straightforward website structure — one that practically defaults to a clear user experience. Of course, you must still adhere to basic UX best practices. But these can be implemented by an experienced web designer, no UX agency necessary.
Embracing UX Conventions Doesn’t Mean Settling for Cookie-Cutter Design
The fact that most law firms’ websites must perform the same tasks accounts for why they are so often structured in the same way with similar top-level menu items. (You know the drill: About, Lawyers, Practice Areas, Case Studies, Careers, and Contact.) For the most part, these conventions are in place for a reason — because they work.
In general, “keep it simple” is the rule. Don’t create overly complex search fields or structure your website to include multiple, hidden layers of information. Consider what your site visitors want to learn or do, and make it easy for them to accomplish those objectives.
However, it’s important to note that while law firm website UX best practices do account for certain conventions, they still leave plenty of room for creativity. You shouldn’t settle for an off-the-shelf, cookie-cutter design. And you also shouldn’t abandon tried-and-true conventions just for the sake of looking different.
A skilled and strategic design partner can make your website stand out in all the right ways without resorting to UX-damaging design tricks.
The Right Design Agency Can Nail Your Law Firm’s Website’s User Experience
The truth is that most law firms don’t need to spend six figures on a UX agency. Their websites simply aren’t complicated enough to merit the expense. What they need instead is a seasoned design partner with a clear understanding of UX principles.
At Decker Design, we pride ourselves on our strategy-driven design process — a process that leverages UX fundamentals and results in a seamless user experience.
In particular, we help clients achieve excellent UX by doing two things.
First, we work with you to flesh out your intended audiences and define each audience’s basic user journeys — or the various reasons they are visiting your website. For example, a corporation’s in-house legal counsel might seek information about a specific partner or practice area. Meanwhile, a recent law school graduate might want information about your firm’s workplace culture. Those user journeys inform and shape the way we structure and design your website.
Secondly, we take a content-first approach to structuring your website. We connect you with the right partner to craft your website copy and allow that copy to lead our structural decisions. By evaluating all of the content together as a whole, we can make informed decisions about how best to present it. For example, we might recommend structuring your attorney profile pages differently depending on whether or not your attorneys regularly publish journal articles.
Top-notch UX is a must-have for your law firm’s website. But unless your website is unusually complicated, you don’t need a UX agency to make it happen.