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Do not let outdated advice stand in the way of good website design

Old web design advice is everywhere. You can tell a lot about the age of a list of website design tips is by what is being recommended. This, of course, is not the fault of the original author; screen resolution and browser usage statistics, along with programming languages, are constantly changing. At some point down the road, this post, like others before it, will be obsolete. When sifting through the plethora of articles about website design, it is important to recognize the good, the bad and the dated. Some advice is just no longer relevant. Here is a quick look at how the conventional wisdom is changing.

Images: Think optimized. With images, you no longer have to think small. A quick search on any topic will reveal designs that show big pictures are in. Bigger images, as well as large format background images that stretch to fill the whole page, are trends that have impact and staying power. Good search marketing no longer requires word-laden home pages, allowing larger images and clean design to flourish. However, when using big graphics, be sure to keep your file size under control by optimizing them for web viewing. Load times are still an important consideration, but they are not the design limitation they have been in the past.

Fonts: Now with options! The growing number of web fonts available either free (through Google web fonts) or with a small licensing fee has forever freed websites from the constraints of Times, Verdana and Arial. Finding a font that is unique, appropriate for your firm’s image and will render correctly on everyone’s screen is no longer a challenge. Readability and simplicity, however, are still important concerns. Limit the number of fonts you use – two is plenty, three is a maximum. For some time, the rule has been that serif fonts are better for headlines and sans serif fonts, which are easier to read at smaller sizes, are better for body copy. But rules are meant to be broken. The trend with fonts, as with images, is larger. The days of pages stuffed with paragraph after paragraph of ten point text are over, and using larger fonts opens up more options. Try some new combinations. Forbes.com is a good example of how a larger, serif font can work well for body content.

Layout: Any column goes. Three columns are good for featured elements, like the blog posts and back issues on biggerlawfirm.com, but not the whole page design. Increasingly, websites are employing only a single column for landing page layout and one or two columns for secondary pages. Of course, content must be organized, but it does not have to be constrained within a long, three column layout. Mixing one, two or three columns within a layout is much more common and creates a modern look and feel.

Scrolling: Users get it. Longer pages that force users to scroll are no longer the enemy. People are used to scrolling, they encounter it everyday on blogs, social media and even news related websites. Try to create a website that uses scrolling as a design feature. While keeping the most important information above the scroll, content can be split into screen sized blocks that are easy to scan and read. This is a trend that has been catching on over the past several years, making the scroll even less onerous. Websites like squarespace.com blend large images, text and content blocks into an easily digestible, scrolling layout. It is possible for attorneys to do the same.

Simplicity: Still and always important. Website visitors are notoriously impatient. If someone has made it to your website, chances are he or she is not there just to explore or look for new trends in attorney web design. People are on your website because they are looking for something. Make it easy to find. Navigation must be intuitive, and information should be presented in a way that requires as few clicks as possible. Simple, obvious calls to action are also critical – you must make it clear to visitors what you want them to do.

Whitespace: Use it. Negative space creates emphasis. It is also soothing, giving people’s eyes a chance to rest and making it more likely that they will spend more time on a site. You do not have to force every conceivable button, image and fact about your firm on to every page. A better strategy is to pick the most important things, simple statements about how you can help clients and how they can contact you, and use white space to make those items stand out. Too much visual clutter is confusing and can drive prospects away.

Content: Write for your audience. When writing content for your website or articles for your blog, make sure it reads like it is intended for people, not search engines. There is no magic keyword density that will win you optimal search result placement. Instead, the most effective content will read like it was written for clients and prospects. Speaking directly to people and addressing their needs is good for building trust and conversion rates, while writing content that makes sense is good for search marketing. Awkward, keyword laden sentences are not good for any audience.

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