Today's post originally appeared on the LexisNexis Law Firm Marketing Blog by Donald Rohan, a Law Firm Marketing Specialist.
Bad website design is like a bad tattoo. You went into the process wanting something that highlighted your uniqueness and attracted positive attention. Unfortunately, you got something indistinguishable from thousands of others — or worse, something that stands out for the wrong reasons.
Traditional limits on legal advertising and inexperience with design often lead law firms to overspend on websites that don't deliver maximum impact. Some firms may think they don't need to invest much in their site. But even if your firm maintains a conservative approach to a practice area like estate planning, you can present and promote yourself in a unique, attractive way.
You don't need to be a design expert. Just keep a few basic tips in mind, and check out these examples of firms that are doing design well:
Tell a story with one dominant image.
Before viewers read a word, they should get the message you're trying to transmit. Don't distract from this message by clouding the viewer's perception with different images. Find one dominant image that works. On this homepage, you would immediately understand the firm's international focus.
Resist visual clichés.
A picture of courthouse steps does not send a message of trial brilliance. Instead, it leaves viewers with the inability to distinguish your firm from the thousands of others with similar imagery. The first people to put a pink flamingo on their lawn might have evoked curious questions as to whether exotic waterfowl lived there, but now those plastic birds are so common, people don't even "see" them anymore. Here's a website that uses symbolism to get away from the typical images of personal injury firms.
Think like a newspaper editor.
Without reading any of the text, a newspaper reader knows which stories merit the most attention. Those appear on top with the largest headlines and graphics. Other important stories are presented lower on the page. Interesting items that don't merit front-page treatment receive a brief mention in the table of contents with their page number. On this site, the main headline is large, clear, and well promoted, even as the images behind it shift. As you move down and outward from the headline, the secondary items appear and are easy to access.
At each stage of your website process, you should be able to identify your firm's headline, the dominant image that will accompany it and why it is uniquely matched to your firm.