Jun 072012

Whether from old friends, from law school or opposing counsel, I often get bombarded with questions when attorneys find out that I am also a legal internet marketer. One of the things they ask is whether a website should be designed for search engines or for users. My answer is always both.

When you design only for search engines, website viewers are not going to want to stay on your website. When you design only for users, your website is not going rank well with the search engines.

I see lawyers make the following 5 mistakes when designing websites:

1. Designing for personal preference:

Website owners often inject too much of their own preferences which translates into a website that doesn’t have mass appeal. It leads to lower site traffic and lower conversion rates. Though we all have our personal preferences as to color, layout, etc., it is important to keep in mind that you are not the customer. You need a design that attracts viewers across all sorts of different demographics with the broadest variety of client preferences.

2. Ignoring SEO principles:

I often see websites that use fancy flash images or splash pages that look pretty but don’t rank well with search engines. The reason is search engines cannot read videos or images. I am not saying you shouldn’t put videos or images on the website, you should, but you need to put the proper “alt tags/text”, which is a text label describing the picture or video.

3. Poor content:

Another mistake often made by lawyer websites is that there is poor, generic content on the website. The content needs to contain the information the viewer is seeking and must answer a potential client’s questions about their case. A lawyer’s content must demonstrate expertise and trust, otherwise, potential clients won’t contact you, they’ll contact your competitor.

4. Poor navigation:

Websites must be designed so that users can navigate sites with ease. Logical placement of navigation bars and use of breadcrumb navigation are all important ways to help viewers navigate your website. Contact information must be visible on each page, not buried somewhere on the website. The important information viewers are looking for is not visible due to poor page layout such as contact information. Rather than being on the top of the page, it is at the bottom of the page

5. Overloading bells and whistles or information:

Users want clean, clear navigation. Cluttered websites will turn viewers away. Many law firm websites “stuff” everything on each page. Multiple flash images and call to actions confuse the viewers and can cause the viewer to leave the site.

In order to have a good website, it must be designed with both search engines and users in mind. If you only cater to one, your website is not going to attract viewers and convert them into potential clients.

If you have questions about optimized website design, fell free to email or contact me with your questions!