What makes a law firm site successful? Most will say it’s optimization, some will say design, and a few will say usability. The answer is all three. Individuals are often shocked to learn that both design and usability play a substantial role in how a website ranks on search engines. When designing a website for your law firm, it is important to keep this in mind and not prioritize one of these aspects at the expense of the others.
Why Design and User Experience Matters
When ranking a website on search engine results pages (SERPs), search engines look at more than just the keywords. They also focus on user experience (UX), the combination of design, usability, and value. The reason why search engines rank sites based on UX is because they want to provide only the best results possible to searchers. They do not want to send users to a website that does not provide the information they’re looking for, is difficult to navigate, has poor content or is unprofessional looking.
How Google Measures User Experience
Search engines measure UX and design through bounce rate and time on site. As defined by Google, a bounce is a single-page session on your site. Bounce rate is the percentage of all sessions on your site in which visitors only viewed a single page and triggered a single request to the analytics server. Bounces have a session duration of 0 since there are no other hits that occur after the initial one that would let the analytics calculate the length of the session. For sites whose success depends on visitors viewing more than one page, a high bounce rate is a negative attribute. Search engines may rank a page with a high bounce rate as having low value.
Time on site is the duration of a user’s visit to your site once they have a click through from the search results. Generally, the more time users spend on your site the better. Google measures time on site through the average time on page. Through Google Analytics, individuals can view the average amount of time that a user spends on a particular page on the site as well as the average amount of time that users spend on any one page of the site. Google calculates the average time on page by dividing the total time page (in seconds) by the number of total page views minus the Number of Exits from the Site). It is important to keep in mind that Google is unable to account for the time on the exit page, as there is no next page after that and therefore records the time spent on the last page as 0.
What Can Be Done to Improve Design and User Experience
Both bounce rate and time on page can be improved with design and UX efforts. A few suggestions are listed below:
One means of achieving this is by making sure that your website’s content is legible and readable. Website content and blogs should be formatted in a way that is visually pleasing and not laid out in large chunks of text, as it tends to deter readers. The use of big, bold headlines, subheadings, and bullet points make content easier to read. Blogs should include images and charts related to the text, where appropriate. When selecting a font, make sure to choose one that is web-safe and easily legible on a screen such as Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Verdana, Trebuchet, Garamond, or Bookman.
In April 2015, Google updated its algorithm to penalize sites for not being responsive. A responsive website is one whose design can adjust to fit the screen of a user’s device, including desktop, mobile, and tablet views. To be clear, if a website is not mobile-friendly it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be hurt in all aspects of its SERPs. A website’s responsiveness, or lack thereof, will only affect its SERPs for mobile users, the reason being that search engines only want to show sites to mobile users that are mobile optimized. Since many people use smartphones to search for services they need, including legal services, law firms should not miss out on the opportunity to make their site tablet and mobile-friendly.
Include a Search Bar
According to a usability study by Neilsen, more than half of all users are search dominant, meaning they’ll go straight to a search button when they enter a website. These users don’t want to spend time searching around a site for specific content; they are task focused and want to get the information they’re looking for as quickly as possible.
Neilsen recommends having an easily accessible search button on every page of the website. Many businesses will include a search button in their site’s header. Search buttons’ width should be long enough to fit the terms users are typing in. Neilsen recommends a search bar width of 27 characters. Search buttons should have the ability to global search (searching through all areas on the site) and operate using a simple search.
Although Neilsen’s search button rule of thumb is for sites that have more than 200 pages, law firms with smaller sites may benefit from having a search feature on their site. For example, a user who was the victim of a workplace burn injury will want to search for information related to this matter. When the user types “workplace burn injury” into the search bar, a law firm’s testimonials, blogs, practice areas, and recent verdicts that include this search term will come up in the search results.
PR4Lawyers provides a full range of web design, development, optimization, and promotion services to Long Island and New York metro-area law firms. We work with lawyers and law firms to create sites that are visually appealing, user-friendly and have a strong search engine optimization (SEO) presence. To learn more about our comprehensive and customized web solutions, call 1-866-PR4Lawyers or fill out our contact form to request a direct call.