Top 10 Horrors of Web Design – Revisted

A white, rounded square logo with an abstract S-shaped design on a gradient blue and purple background.

1. Not SEO’ing your Site

Top search rankings equal more clients. Every firm can use more business. It’s quizzical why a firm would not want to be ranked at the top of Google listings for their search phrase, such as “Fort Lauderdale Corporate Attorney.” The rewards of landing a new client always outweigh any investment of time and money. Failing to optimize the site can reduce it to the netherworld of the Internet.

2. Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

Too many competing interests end up killing any project. With web design you need a clear leader who has vision for the web site and hopefully the firm. Yes, everyone’s ideas should be considered, but not every idea is solid, let alone good enough to appear on your web site. If you are the project leader, have the fortitude to stand up to a senior partner who wants flashing scrollers on the home page.

3. Boring Content

Readers scan on the web, rather than read. Content should not be legal opinion. Content should be short, to the point, and contain headings, lists, graphics, and charts that can quickly convey your information visually.

4. Not Mobile, Printer or Browser Friendly

To get nerdy for a second, table based designs are out and CSS based designs are in. If your designers are any good, they are using CSS techniques that will automatically convert your site to mobile and printer friendly web pages. Your site will even load faster and be cross-browser compliant.

5. No Contact Information

It’s already hard enough to get a potential client to your web site, don’t make it any harder for them to find your law firm. Put your phone numbers, address, and other contact information on every page. In addition, you should seriously consider placing a brief contact form on every page if you want more business.

6. Stealing Content

While it may be OK for your 16-year-old son to “borrow” a game off of Pirate Bay, it is not OK for your law firm to “borrow” content from other web sites. We all went to law school and we all know that it is a copyright violation to simply cut and paste images from the web.

7. Spelling errorz [sic] & Broken Links

This is rookie-league stuff. Every web design program has a feature that checks for broken links and spelling. This should be used often. Otherwise, you’ll annoy potential clients. It’s the computer equivalent of having someone call your business only to find out the line has been disconnected.

8. Old Templates

WordPress, Blogger and other services have free templates to use on your web site. Of course, you get what you pay for. Since you drive a Mercedes to impress, why would you let your firm be represented by a 1989 Honda Accord? (Editors note: I drove a 1989 Honda Accord until February 2002. Damn fine car, but it certainly did not attract any clients.)

9. Coming Soon

The only thing worse than the broken link pages is the Coming Soon page. The problem with the Coming Soon page is that you get your hopes up that your answer will be found on the next page, only to have them dashed with the fatal words “Coming Soon.” At least a broken link can be easily fixed. However, with the Coming Soon page, it is most likely that the page will not be updated anytime “soon.”

10. Poor Flash, Poor Graphics, Poor Colors & Poorly Formatted Text

Finally, the catchall of bad design. Don’t you just love long Flash introductions that have swooshing text, such as “law firm,” “employment law,” “Atlanta” and “New York”? Most users click on the “Skip Introduction” button before the Flash presentation is through. The overuse of legal metaphors, such as a picture of a gavel or a picture of the stairs of the courthouse, is hurting the image of countless firms. Choose color palettes that are inviting, rather than looking like a Goth birthday party invite. Finally, use correct fonts for the web and correct sizes. Whenever considering adding “cool new” bells and whistles to your site first ask: How is this helping my potential client? In general, less is more.

Peter T. Boyd, Esq
aka General Guru

Peter is a Florida attorney who practiced in the area of intellectual property law. Mr. Boyd has worked on over 350 web site projects since 1996. He founded PaperStreet during law school when he realized that many firms did not have a web site, or had a poorly designed site. Mr. Boyd is a jack-of-all-trades and can design the initial web sites concepts, incorporate database technology, write custom code, and of course manage projects.

This article is an update to the March 2004 Horrors of Web Design. Removed from the list are “Frames”, “Text as Menus”, “Bad Java”, “Caveats”, “Letting your Nephew Design the Site”, “Cheesy Music”, “Pop-Up Windows”, and “Clueless Navigation.” Most firms avoid those errors now, so it’s probably safe to take them off the list. At PaperStreet we always strive to correct any errors we see in law firms web sites.

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