The Do's and Don'ts of Website Design

DISCLAIMER: I write blogs for an advertising company for lawyers, which is why this post is directed toward the law field.

As we all know, the days of using the yellow pages to search for a business are long gone. The internet, search engines, and websites are the new yellow pages! Having a well-designed website is crucial for a firm to continue growing their client base. To stay current, most experts recommend updating your website design every two to three years. Whether firms plan on using a website builder program or hiring a website design company, below are some helpful do’s and don’ts of web design.

Before jumping into website design 101, you should understand all of your options. Creating a website can be a fun process and we have done the research to determine the most popular website building programs. Following is a list of the top 4 choices:

Though Squarespace can be difficult to understand at first, it has sleek design capabilities and templates that really make your website stand out. If you already use WordPress to manage your content, you can easily migrate your site to Squarespace. The Squarespace website builder also offers the option to create landing pages or single-page websites. Squarespace is growing in popularity and has become one of the best website builders on the market. These features come at a decent price, ranging from $12 to $36 a month.

WordPress is an open source platform that can be both easy and hard to use, depending on if you decide to purchase a template or create your own website. You may download and install the WordPress on your own server or pay WordPress.com to host your site for you.  WordPress has downfalls such as a lack of drag and drop creation, as well as lacking a preview format of what you are posting. You will also have to pay for your own hosting, and if you decide to buy a theme and plugins, you could end up spending $300-$500. However, because of its flexibility, integrations and customizations, WordPress is the best option if you have a web designer building your site for you.

Weebly is easy to use and is available on any platform to open and edit on the go. It has most of the same features as Squarespace but focuses more on blogging. They trump Squarespace by having thousands of templates, as well as the capability to download other templates that people have created. Plus, who can get upset at a price model that ranges from free up to $25 a month?

Wix is the website builder we suggest you try last if you don’t like any other option. It has limited templates, all which you can’t switch if you want to update. If you ever decide to hire a designer, they won’t be able to adjust your site because it does not offer HTML or CSS editing features. The upside? This website is purely drag and drop capable and is one of the easiest to work on if you have little to no design skills. Its pricing is from $7 up to $30 per month.

Now that we have discussed options for website building, it is now time to get into the details of what should and shouldn’t be done when designing a website.

 

Do: 

  • Use a Clean Layout

A website should be easily navigated and lack clutter. Choosing a layout design that works with content is the most important part of website design. The design should also always be responsive to effectively show on any device. Responsive design is so important that in 2015, Google began ranking websites higher if they were mobile friendly. So, choosing a layout that follows their guidelines will benefit in more ways than one. Starting from scratch, instead of manipulating an existing website, is the best route to go if a website isn’t currently clean and responsive.

  • Use Non-Stock, Copyright Free Images

Nobody enjoys looking at stock photos, especially when they are overused. They look staged, make no sense and can really clutter a website. Instead of settling for something overused, try out these alternative photo options:

If you don’t like any of these options, try hiring a professional photographer to take photos around the office that feature your employees. This will give a personal feel to the website and puts relatable faces to the brand.

  • Ensure High-Speed Page Performance

Did you know that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less? By having a website that loads quickly, losing consumers is less likely to happen. Want to know some ways to increase website performance? Try optimizing images by using the WordPress plugin called WP Smushor downloading programs like RIOT.  Having too many advertisements can also slow down a web page, as well as make it appear to be more cluttered. Just adjusting these two things alone can significantly increase a website’s performance speed. Want to know where a website stands? Try out a speed optimizer like Pingdom and find out your score!

  • Test The Website Often

Just because one person finds a website easy to navigate doesn’t mean that another person will. Doing extensive website usability testing is crucial before fully launching a new website. Whether someone uses people around the office to check out a website, or uses websites like UserTesting, you can’t afford to skip this step. Usability testing will catch any issues with forms, links, speed, browser compatibility, and more. Try going down this list of 25 things to test before your site goes live.

 

Don’t:

  • Having Confusing Page Navigation

A users’ experience is very important when creating a website’s navigation. When mobile users visit a website, it is best to make sure that all buttons and navigation are easy to touch. If text links or a navigation toolbar is too small, mobile users will not be able to click effectively, leading to frustration and lost clients. A good rule of thumb is to literally measure with a thumb. Try making most links or buttons at least 44 pixels apart, brightly colored, and large enough to touch with a finger.

  • Hide Page Content

When switching to a responsive website, it is tempting to hide page content to fit a smaller screen. But, if all content is shown without a responsive website, it is seen as being too cluttered. Just because someone is viewing a website on a mobile device doesn’t mean that they should get a dumbed-down version of the content. Therefore, it is very important to design for mobile first and then scale up for desktop and tablet versions.

  • Worry About “The Fold”

Before mobile optimization, websites were normally created around “the fold”, or the point on a page where you have to scroll to see the rest of the content. It was in best practice to place a call to action or important information above the fold for better conversions. Now, the fold no longer exists due to the natural scrolling action mobile users have. This is why single page layouts are becoming increasingly more popular in the design community. Learn more about “the fold” here and why it’s not necessary to stress over.

  • Use Too Much Copy

Though a company website should be informative, it should also be able to get the point across quickly. The more copy that is on a page, the less likely it is that someone will read it. Try using bullet points and limit repeating the same information as much as possible. There’s nothing wrong with hiring a copywriter to revamp a website’s wording. And no matter what people might think, it is never good to use too many keywords in copy. Just write naturally, and remember, storytelling is a great way to humanize a firm.

2015 Dallas Digital Summit Takeaways

This past December, the LeadRival team attended the 2015 Dallas Digital Summit (DDSUM15) for marketers and SEO specialists.

 

We  were  able  to  listen  to  fantastic  speakers  like  Jason  Miller   from  LinkedIn  and  Mark  Cuban  and  gain  their  insight  of  how  any   business  can  improve  their  online  marketing  tactics.   The  overall  tone  of  the  conference  was  tied  to  2016  being   about  developing  content  around  consumers  and  designing   with  technology  in  mind.  Below  are  key  takeaways  from  the   event  and  how  they  can  be  implemented.

Keynote Speaker: Jason Miller

Jason  Miller  is  the  global  content   marketing   leader   at  LinkedIn.  One  of   his  books,  The  Sophisticated   Marketer’s  Checklist  for  LinkedIn,  can   be  found  on  the  amazon  best  seller   list.  His  presentation   started   #DDSUM15  by  speaking   about   creating  the  right  type  of  content  as   your  company’s  “Big  Rock”.  He  also   talked  about  and  believes  heavily  in   Ann  Handley’s   formula  of  useful  x   enjoyable   x  inspired   =  innovative   content.

“Own  the  conversation  that  drives  your  market.”

All  businesses  should  strive  to  anticipate  their  clients’  needs  and  answer   questions  before   they  are  asked.  Knowing  your  market  and  becoming  a   trusted  “go-­to”  resource,  can  easily  catapult  you  above  your  competitors.   By  creating  strategic  and  relevant  content,  any  business  can  succeed   with  online  marketing.  Using  a  globalized  vision  that  all  clients  can   understand  and  share  with  others,  makes  your  product  easier  to  refer.

Keynote Speaker: Mark Cuban

Mark  Cuban  is  the  owner  of  the  Dallas   Mavericks,  a  Shark  Tank  cast  member,   and  successful  entrepreneur  that  got  his   start  by  co-­founding  Broadcast.com.   Though  Cuban’s  presentation  was  short,   his  Q&A  that  followed  provided  useful   information  that  any  business  owner   can  apply.  His  biggest  suggestion  was  to   “step  away  from  the  algorithm”  that   many  business  seems  to  follow.  Even   though  the  world  is  becoming  more   technologically  savvy,  we  as  marketers   have  to  find  a  way  to  make  the  “digital   [extend]  to  experiential”.

“You  don’t  want  to  try  to  recreate,  you  want  to  innovate.”

There  are  very  few  new  ideas  anymore,  but  that  doesn’t  mean  that  you   should  give  up.  Instead  of  copying  someone  else’s  work  or  simply   recreating  it,  try  making  it  better  fit  your  brand  or  industry  by  applying   your  own  authentic  approach.

“If  you’re  outperforming  me,  I’m  going  to  find  out  why.”

This  philosophy  shows  the  motivation  to  always  improve  yourself.    If   your  competitors  start  doing  better  than  you,  find  out  why  and  fix  what   you’re  doing. Try  to  make  things  as  personal  as  possible  without  getting  trapped  in   the  digital  world.  Try  taking  out  clients  to  determine  what  they  think  of   you  and  your  business.  Use  this  information  to  better  yourself  and   become  more  innovative  with  your  actions.  During  the  process,  ask   yourself  “How  would  I  kick  my  own  ass?”

Keynote Speaker: Chris Brogan

Chris  Brogan  is  a  best  selling   author   and  CEO  of  Owner  Media  Group,  and   regularly   speaks   about  how  to  make   your  business   thrive.  His  proven   methods  for  creating  content  help   with  making   an  impact  on  your   audience.   Based  on  his  book  The   Impact  Equation,  Brogan  goes  over   how  Impact  =  Create,  and  how  this   acronym  has  brought  both  himself   and  millions   of  others  success  in  the   business   world.

CREATE  stands  for:

Contrast  – Do  you  stand  out?

Reach  – How  far  does  your  message   travel?

Exposure  – How  often  do  people  see  your  message? Articulation  – How  clear  is  your  message?

Trust  – Do  people  believe  you?

Echo  – Do  people  see  themselves  in  you?

“Help  people  continue  their  story.”

Be  beneficial  for  other  people’s  lives  in  some  way  or  another.  Having  a   next  step  and  planning  out  what  people  can  do  if  they  have  a  set  feeling   about  your  business,  is  an  easy  way  to  accomplish  this.

Many  businesses  provide  answers  to  the  following  questions  in  their   content:  Where  do  I  go  if  I  have  questions?  How  should  I  proceed  or  who   do  I  contact  if  I  want  your  product  or  service?  Go  ahead  and  provide  the   next  or  multiple  steps  in  the  process.  Leading  potential  clients  in  the   right  direction  is  a  key  component  to  seeing  increased  conversions  from   your  content.

There were many other speakers at the Dallas Digital Summit that had some great insight. We have some of the best written out for you.

Other Speakers’ Takeaways

“If you improve the initial sales journey, you improve retention and satisfaction.”

“Be the best answer on the end of someone’s search.”

“Making the user experience slightly longer but more pleasant can leave people with a better overall experience.”

“Segment your clients and understand the customer journey.”

 

Please check out my SlideShare at: http://www.slideshare.net/LeadRival/leadrivals-dallas-digital-summit-takeaways?ref=http://www.leadrival.com/2015-dallas-digital-summit-takeaways/

Hiring A Graphic Designer

DISCLAIMER: I write blogs for an advertising company for lawyers, which is why this post is directed toward the law field.

Reasons for a Graphic Designer

Hiring a creative expert is one of the best decisions a law firm can make. Tying a brand together with graphic elements can make any business more appealing to prospective clients. Not only does hiring a graphic designer save time, but it can also bring in more revenue in the long run.

 

Project/Role Definition

If creating your own logo isn’t an option or there’s no time to spend on creating graphics, determining how to utilize a graphic designer is key. If a firm has a strong online presence, an in-house graphic designer could be the approach for efficient content creation. If a firm is simply looking for a refresh of their brand, a freelance artist is a more cost effective route.

 

Budget & Expectations

The old saying goes “you get what you pay for” and that’s generally true here as well. Outlining a design budget can help in determining whether to hire a contractor or bring someone on board as your in-house designer. The one-time contract option (where a firm agrees to a turn- key project cost) usually includes a new logo, stationary, a presentation, and a website. If you’re going down the employee path, receiving all those elements along with blog headers and social media graphics, should be an expectation.

Copyrights on images are also important to consider. If you’d like to protect your brand, there is a small amount of additional work and cost involved. Be certain to get an expert’s opinion before making a final decision here. Regardless of the path you take, make sure to scrutinize your budget before taking the leap.

 

Finding a Graphic Designer

Once you’ve decided which route to take, it’s time to find a graphic designer that can bring your firm’s ideas to life. The most promising way to locate a great designer with a reasonable budget would be to ask around and get referrals. A designer that is spoken highly of is more likely to be responsible for a high ROI.

If referrals are not available and Google searches aren’t going well, try browsing websites like Behanceor Upwork. Behance is an online portfolio website that can open doors to some of the best designers available. If you’re not seeing what you need there, we’ve found Upwork provides affordable designs with great portfolios.

We understand finding a graphic designer can be a timely process and can take patience. Stay resolute in your exploration as a great graphic designer is an extremely profitable piece to the puzzle (if done correctly).

 

Portfolio Review

A graphic designer’s portfolio is one of the best ways to determine if someone is the right fit for a firm. It will show the artist’s capabilities along with work they have done in the past. Reviewing this is extremely helpful to understand the artist’s style. A good rule of thumb is to pick a style that you already like in lieu of having a designer create a style you haven’t seen. Though nothing will be exact when work is produced for a new client, an overall aesthetic appeal is generally maintained in an artist’s work. If possible, find someone with a wide variety of design examples. This shows an artist’s diversity and the likelihood they’ll be able to create something you love.

 

Planning

Once a decision has been made on who to hire, it’s best to start brainstorming with regards to future projects. Formulate a few ideas you have so there’s direction when meeting with your designer. If you have an objective for a project, let the designer know as soon as possible so their creativity can begin.

Last, put together strong copy to go with the designs. This will ensure nothing has to be rewritten later. It will also provide clarity for the designer on your vision for the project.

To create a quick marketing plan for your designer, answer the following:

  • Who is your firm? What do you specialize in?
  • How would you describe your firm?
  • What is your firm’s message?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is your firm’s style?

 

Deadlines

When dealing with designers, it’s best to schedule weekly meetings (at a minimum) with a final deadline in place. This ensures timely communication and allows you to see work as it’s unfolding (to prevent going in the wrong direction).

Another important element to consider is asking for appropriate file delivery. A designer that won’t give you the raw files should not be hired. Ask for a .jpg for Microsoft Office documents, an .eps (or .ai) to send to printers for high-quality vectors and a .png for transparent backgrounds (this can be used almost anywhere). Be sure to have them include multiple sizes as smaller versions will become pixelated when dimensions are increased. Last, have them provide a square icon for use on social media and black/white images to use when colors aren’t an option.

5 Ways To Revamp Your Website

DISCLAIMER: I write blogs for an advertising company for lawyers, which is why this post is directed toward the law field.

With the internet growing in popularity by the day, it is likely that your website is the face of your law firm. Website trends change every year and have been evolving in a more interactive and user-friendly direction. How far behind in time is your firm’s website?
There are many possibilities available for site designs that your firm could be utilizing to appeal to all demographics. Below are some of the best ways to drive traffic to your firm:


1. Multimedia Graphics
Whether it’s a picture or a video, some of the most aesthetically pleasing websites have large pictures that capture the brand. Graphics are most effective when you use photos of people from your business instead of poorly shot stock photos. Would you rather a client know you as the face of your business or the face of a complete stranger? Adding graphics to your website humanizes your company, allowing for your clients to see your firm as someone who is relatable.


2. One Page Scrolling Design
With more clients using phones and tablets to browse websites, making sure your website is easy to navigate can set you apart from other law firms. Having your information on a single page allows for easy scrolling, and also can appeal to clients who quickly look over your website. If you choose to stick with a website that has multiple pages, make sure to pull it up on your phone to see how other people view it. If you can’t read it, nobody else can either.


3. Live Chat
Response time is a large factor to gaining new clients from the online market. Live chats are becoming increasingly popular to outsource because they can help you save time and money. Why spend time talking to every person, when you could only speak to the ones that have a great case. Don’t lose business to someone else because you fail to answer a question in time.


4. Cutting Down on Content
Sometimes less is more when it comes to your firm’s website. If you have too much text sectioned into large paragraphs, potential clients might not take the time to read it. An “about us” page can be the right place for some extra information, but the home page of your website should be direct and to the point. Make sure to touch on who you are, what you do and your practice areas.


5. Quick Load Time
One of the most important thing about your website is that it should load in a quick manner. Did you know that if a website loads in 4 minutes or more, a person is most likely going to go to another website. Testing your website speed is essential for keeping the attention of new clients. Going on a website like developers.google.com and entering your site link could help you find out your website is slow before it’s too late. If you’re not up to date on how to fix this, just bring it to the attention of your website host and get it fixed!

Elements of a Great Logo

DISCLAIMER: I write blogs for an advertising company for lawyers, which is why this post is directed toward the law field.

As I look around my desk I ask myself, “how many different logos stand out? Do I recognize the logo on my Bic pen? What about the logo on my Logitech mouse or keyboard?” Everywhere we look, brands are boldly displaying their logo for better brand awareness. A law firm should be no different with how it views and uses a logo. The question for all businesses should be, “Is my logo memorable, timeless and does it capture my company’s message?” If not, it might be time to spruce it up or get a new logo that stands out in the crowd. 

Practicing law is your 9 to 5 career (we know, more like 9 to 9), not graphic design. But who says you shouldn’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to a clean logo appearance? When breaking down designing a good logo, there are 3 critical steps to make a design great. If we can find a font that sets a brand’s tone, create a memorable symbol, and ensure the design is functional, we are set up for logo success. A good starting point would be to download a trial of Adobe Illustrator and begin creating your next timeless logo!

When selecting an appropriate fitting font for your logo, pick one that matches your firm’s tone. There are two different font types to choose from, serif and sans serif fonts. Sans serif fonts are geometric letters with no end strokes. These fonts have a modern flair and look fantastic on screens. Serif fonts have little accents, or serifs, on the ends of the letters. These fonts are seen as a bit dated but still look great in print. Though both are great on their own, they work better when mixed together. A great visibility trick that many graphic designers use is to choose a serif font for the larger text and a sans serif for the smaller text. Check out free, commercial-use fonts on FontSquirrel for great fonts to download and use for your logo. Whether a company is going for a clean and professional logo or a bold and impactful logo, font choice is the first place to set the tone for the remainder of a logo.

Symbols in logos, when used correctly, can become the most memorable feature. If a firm currently has a symbol in use, it’s wise to make certain it meets the following criteria:

Is the symbol?

-       Clean and Simple

-       Original

-       Using design rules

-       Not using clip art

If the logo’s symbol can check all of those off, then skip to the next paragraph with confidence. If it lacks in a few of the categories, let’s see what can be improved? Logos should always be clean and simple. For example, Apple went from having an intricate, rainbow apple as their logo, to a more sophisticated chrome apple. Simplifying can tie a logo together for a more professional look. Would you consider your logo to be original? This question could be directed to all law firms that are still using legal scales or columns in their logos. What else could represent your company without using “typical legal icons”? This is where utilizing design principles can bring new ideas to the table. Using balance, contrast, and other similar elements to spice up your ideas can create something more abstract. If you get to a point where you’re stuck and need a fresh approach, check out Behance for additional artwork inspiration. Always remember, when using a symbol, choose a design with a memorable purpose.

Last, let’s be clear the design is functional on all media. This means it should be simplified by eliminating drop shadows or gradients. If you decide to keep these elements in your logo, make sure it’s a vectorized version that can be used in standard printing and may be printed on products. Also try printing your logo out extremely small and very large to ensure that it’s visible in all sizes. One of the most important elements to remember is a logo should always be vectorized, not rasterized. A vector is a mathematical formula that can be rescaled over and over again and never lose resolution. Rasterized images are measured in colored pixels and will lose quality when resized. When a logo is vectorized, the best way to save it with transparency is to save in a .png format. This will ensure the image can be saved without a white box around it, which is what happens when a transparent image is saved as a .jpg file.