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Avoid these five frightful web design mistakes to maximize usability

Tricks or treats, which is your website handing out to you? While you are gathering your costume or procuring your candy, your website is still out there, speaking on your behalf and functioning as a brand ambassador twenty-four hours a day. Do you know what it is doing when you are not watching? What it says about you behind your back?

Simply throwing up a static brochure site and leaving it to float about in the online ether is not an effective stragegy. Your website must be consistenly updated with current, useful and exclusive content. The code must be up to date and in line with current standards. It is also important to monitor traffic, stats and conversion so you know if your firm is on track to achieve the desired results. If you are not paying attention, your website could be doing scary things. In this Halloween tribute to frightful faux pas that hinder your website’s performance, here are five mistakes your firm should avoid:

Ghost in the Machine: Is your website haunted? Do strange things happen on it that you cannot explain? If your site is taking a long time to load, displaying items in a strange way or acting buggy on some browsers, there is likely a logical explination. As programming languages and browsers evolve, some code inevitably becomes depreciated and will eventually cause functionality issues. Have developers review your site at regular intervals to ensure it stays compliant. If you are utilizing a content management system, makes sure it stays up to date and do not use plugins that are old or unsupported. Having a slow or non-functional website is a sure way to turn prospects away.

The Bad Bounce: A user is considered to have bounced off your site if they visit one page and then leave. This does not have to be the home page, a bounce is merely a single page visit to any page of your site. Your bounce rate is the percentage of bounces among overall visits.

A high bounce rate is generally considered to be a bad thing. However, if people are visiting your site and contacting you from the first page they see, then your bounce rate may be deceptive. What you want to avoid is the bad bounce – the bounce from users who visit your site and either do not find a way to contact you or do not see the information they need and immediately leave. Simply getting people to your site is not enough. Users must be directed to take a desired action.

The Invisible Man: One of the best ways to distinguish yourself from your competition is to be memorable. If you take “inspiration” from other lawyers’ websites, use common stock photography or write in a keyword laden generic tone, you give people no reason to remember you. Your website may be a potential client’s first impression of your firm. Everything on your website, including colors, images and language, must be targeted to make an emotional connection with the user. When you connect with prospects and establish trust, your firm is not only more memorable, it is also more likely to benefit from word of mouth referrals.

Land of Confusion: When people visit your website, they usually have a general idea of what they are looking for when they arrive. If they cannot find it, or at least a way to get to it within a few seconds then you have lost them.

People spend more time on other websites than they spend on yours. Their understanding of how websites are sturctured, how links are distinguished and what type of language is used for navigation is molded by what they see all over the Internet. It is best to accept these conventions and not try to reinvent the web design wheel. Make your navigation intuitive and your calls to action obvious. Break up text so that it is easily scannable. Direct users down an obvious path to a desired goal. Do not make people search – users simply do not have the attention span to dig for information.

Communication Breakdown: You are not paying for marketing and design just to look pretty. You want people to contact your firm. Make sure your phone number is in a prominent place at the top of every page in text. It should be clickable from mobile devices. Place a short contact form on every page. You may have a more thorough contact form on your contact page, but a user should be able to submit basic information from any page. There is no guarantee they will land on your home page or navigate to your contact page. Make calling or emailing you as easy as possible.

Everyone wants a treat, of course, no one really wants to be tricked. In the world of law firm marketing, this means you must beware of common web design mistakes and make sure your firm is avoiding them. It is important that your website is not tricking you.

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