You’ve done your homework on websites the same way you do your homework for a legal case. You’ve done your reading, read widely, and learned the essentials of search engine optimization and online marketing.
You know that your site could be a year-round marketing powerhouse. You just don’t know how to get it there.
What you may not realize is that web design layout plays a huge role in how your site performs. But it’s hard to know how to make your layout work for your firm or even where to start.
That’s where we come in. Keep reading for 11 tips to choose the best web layout for your firm’s site, and how to create a layout that works for your customers and your Google ranking.
1. Think Simple
It might seem counterintuitive, but the first step of good web design is to think simple.
This is because of Hick’s Law, a psychological principle which states that the more options available to a person, the longer it will take them to choose.
That might not seem like a big deal, but in web design, it’s the difference between a successful visit and a one-off click.
You see, users usually leave web pages within the first 10-20 seconds. The average web visit is a little less than a minute. That doesn’t sound like very long until you realize that the average person’s attention span is about eight to twelve seconds (less than the common goldfish).
How can users read that fast?
They don’t. Instead, they skim for relevant information. So when you fill a webpage with information crammed into every possible space, your user just isn’t going to read it.
Keep your layouts simple and you’re already off to a great start.
2. Use Negative Space
One of the easiest ways to do this is to consciously use your negative space. Negative space, in simple terms, is the white space in your layout or the empty spaces that aren’t full of information.
If you’re keeping it simple, your layout should be an aesthetically-appealing balance of content and negative space.
This isn’t just for aesthetics, though. Negative space allows our brains to process information. That’s why there’s space between words and lines in paragraphs. As such, the best web design uses negative space to direct the user toward something you want them to do.
Perhaps the best example on the web is our old friend Google. Their homepage is extremely clean cut. The first thing you see when you log in is the Google logo and the search bar. That’s a crystal-clear psychological message about what you’re supposed to do here: type something into the search bar and start digging.
3. Keep Load Speed in Mind
Another benefit of simplicity is that it helps you to be mindful of page speed.
To the uninitiated, page speed sounds more like a convenience than a necessity. Here’s the thing, 47 percent of web users expect pages to load in less than two seconds, and 40 percent of those users will leave a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
What would turn your page into a tortoise? Big, complicated graphics, video, and lots of text are all culprits.
The good news is that there’s an easy way to check your need for speed using Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool.
4. Have a Clear Value Proposition
Your unique value proposition is what sets you apart from other law firms.
Maybe you specialize in car accident cases. Maybe you specialize in medical suits. Either way, you have something specific to offer your clients. You know what it is, and you want your client to know what it is.
Because of this, your value proposition should be central to your web design. The way you communicate that value proposition should also be in harmony with your industry.
5. Design Each Page with a Goal in Mind
Your legal website isn’t like a teenager’s personal blog. You created this website with a specific goal in mind, to promote your law firm and bring in more business.
When you keep that in mind, designing a website is actually rather simple. You’re not designing pages at random. Instead, you’re crafting each page with the intention of furthering your website’s overall goal.
E-commerce sites like Amazon are a great example of this. Their goal is simple, to make you click the “Buy” button. So, their design is centered around that goal.
6. Maintain a Consistent Style
Regardless of how many different web pages you have, it’s important that you maintain a consistent style.
Specifically, you want to make sure that three things remain consistent throughout:
For example, if you use one layout style on one page and a totally different layout on another, your visitors will feel disjointed. The same thing goes for inconsistent fonts, colors, image styles, and media types.
7. Reduce User Clicks
Reducing user clicks might seem counterintuitive, after all, don’t you want a user to stay on your website for as long as possible?
You do, but excessive clicks aren’t the way to do it.
Think of it this way, let’s say you’re trying to find a recipe. You open the page with the recipe, read the recipe, and carry on with your life.
Now imagine a different scenario where you had to close a pop-up, click an embedded link, and jump through two more additional hoops before you could find your recipe.
Which experience leaves you happier? The first one.
The psychology for this is simple. We’re lazy, especially when it comes to the internet. We want what we want, when we want it, with the least amount of effort possible.
The Cape Ann Business Law Site includes their contact information at the top of the homepage so site visitors don’t have to click through multiple pages to find it.
8. Think Mobile First
It’s official, you need to think about mobile first, thanks to Google’s Mobile-First Index.
In this Index, Google prioritizes sites that optimize for mobile. It makes sense, considering that over 50 percent of web traffic now comes from mobile search.
Think of it this way. If your site layout has to be constantly resized in order to be read, it’s not going to work that well for mobile. And if it takes too long to load graphics, your visitors will lose patience.
9. Color Matters
Colors have a surprisingly significant effect on our mood. They also have cultural connotations, and different demographics perceive colors differently.
So if you want your site layout to succeed, you have to realize that color matters.
To find colors that work, break out a color wheel and look for complementary colors (colors that are opposite each other on the wheel) and analogous colors (those that are right next to each other on the wheel).
Besides making your site aesthetically appealing, it makes your site visually interesting, encouraging visitors to stay on longer.
10. Minimize User Input
We said earlier that users shouldn’t have to click more than necessary in order to achieve the desired result. The further the goal, the longer it will take them to make a decision, and the more likely they are to lose interest.
To this end, you should strive to minimize user input forms as much as possible.
Even if you need your visitors to fill out a ten-page form, no one is going to want to fill it out on your website.
In addition, you should try to apply simplicity of design to your forms. They should be plain spoken and direct, without any excessive text or unnecessary directions.
11. Make It Accessible
Not all of your users interact with the web in the same way. You know this. What you may not know is that you can help various users interact with your website effectively.
After all, if your website is accessible to people with various disabilities, that broadens your client base and endears you to an underserved population.
That said, not everyone knows how to design a website accessible for people with various disabilities. Luckily, the Web Accessibility Initiative outlined a number of accessibility principles for web designers to honor when designing sites with disabled people in mind.