Don’t Leave Them Wondering: Following a Few Website Design Standards Shows Your Users That You Care

When creating a website, you need to keep your visitors foremost in your mind.

Remember: You are not your user.

You are more familiar with your business than any visitor ever will be. To ensure you don’t confuse your website visitors, you need to conform to standards of website design. This ensures that people know what to do when they visit your site for the first time and during subsequent visits. Users should never have to ask the following questions:

  • Where do I start?
  • Why did they call it that?
  • Can I click on that?
  • Where is the navigation?

If they are confused or lost, the “back” button is their gateway to thousands (if not millions) of other sites that can provide them with the answers they are looking for.

Navigating Your Website Should Be Easy & Intuitive

During a recent website usability study we performed on webuildyourtrust.com, our team found that the navigation bar is crucial to the usability of a website. If there are issues with the navigation bar, users quickly become confused, unwilling and unable to continue using the site.

It doesn't matter how well-built the site is or how sturdy the construction of the content. If it's hard to use, people won't use it. Your ship will stay at the dock, while your competitor sails into the sunset with your potential patients, clients, or customers on board.

Below you will find the most important lessons we learned during the case study. We hope that this list will help you take a critical look at your navigation bar and make changes that will improve the usability of your law firm's website.    

  • Navigation/menu bar clarity. Users need to be able to instantly recognize the items in a navigation bar. For example, "Free Offers" is an easily recognizable item, where "Qtrly News" is not.
  • Location of the navigation bar in relation to the logo. “Banner blindness” is the phenomenon that occurs when people scan the top of the page and then quickly move down the page to the content. If your navigation bar is above your logo, people may not see it and be lost as to where to go next.
  • Overcrowded navigation. As a general rule, there should be no more than seven tabs on your navigation bar. If you have more than seven, the items in the bar will seem crowded and unimportant.
  • An indication of drop-down menus. If a tab in your navigation bar contains a drop-down menu—a list of your service areas, for example—be sure to indicate it with an arrow. Also, make sure this drop-down menu isn't too long. You don't want a list of service areas that takes up the entire page—it's overwhelming.

Website Design Standards

Web standards are not meant to be confining. You can still express your individuality within these guidelines. Standard items include:

  • Easy-to-read content
  • Your logo linked to your home page in the upper left corner
  • A phone number that is easy to find
  • Visited links that show as a different color

What Makes Content Easy to Read?

First, your content needs to be readable. You need high contrast between your text color and your background color. The best option is having black text on a white background. For example:

This is easy to read.

This is much more difficult to read.

Next, keep in mind that reading on the web is 25% slower than reading on paper, and most people are scanning content. They very rarely read each word. To make it as easy as possible for your visitors to consume the information they want, break up the content into small chunks. Use signposts—headlines, enumerated lists, etc.—which are signals that the content is important. Other signposts might include links and bolded words. 

Your Logo

Keep your logo small and in the upper left corner of your site. Your logo is a visual indicator to users that they are in the right place. By keeping it small, you can focus attention on what you want your users to do instead of who you are. Web conventions dictate that your logo link back to your homepage. This provides your visitors an easy way to “start over.”

When you talk to your current clients and soon-to-be clients, listen to how they talk, what questions they ask you, and the words they use. This is the point-of-view you need to have when creating content.

Phone Number

This may seem obvious, but your phone number needs to be easy to find and easy to read. Users expect to find your number in the upper right-hand corner. Keep it high contrast. A red phone number may be easy to find for many people, but the contrast is lost if your visitor is color blind.

Link Colors

Do link colors needs to be blue?  Not necessarily.  Users have become accustomed to seeing links in many different colors, underlined and not underlined, and highlighted in yellow. However, links on your site need to be consistent. They need to have the same look and feel on ALL of your pages. Don’t frustrate your visitors by changing conventions based on a whim. 

Previously visited links need to be a different color.  If a link looked of value one time, it will most likely look of value the second and third time a visitor sees it.  By indicating a link has been visited, your user will know they’ve already consumed the content on that page.

For more guidelines, please review our “Usability and Design” checklist, or reach out to our friendly law firm website design team today at 888-886-0939.

Gretchen Upright
Director, Project Managment
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