Published: 2008-03-26

Avoid These Horrors of Bad Law Firm Website Design

1. Bad Flash

Don't you just love long Flash introductions that have swooshing text, such as "law firm," "employment law," "atlanta" and "new york"? Web research shows that 98 percent of Internet users click on the "Skip Introduction" button before the Flash presentation is through. This is because most Flash introductions are time-consuming and have no purpose other than to show off some computer geek's new skills.

In web design it is important to remember, just because you can do it doesn't mean you should. Whenever considering adding "cool new" bells and whistles to your site first ask: How is this helping my potential client? In general, we recommend the use of extensive Flash be saved for creating cartoons and online video games.

2. Letting your Nephew Design the Web Site

Everyone has a computer-whiz nephew. Of course, this is normally the same kid that wears baggy pants, underwear showing, hat on sideways, and a wrinkled T-shirt of some corporate trademark parody.

Would you let this same nephew put together your marketing brochure or let them meet clients? No, of course not. Instead, because they took a few courses in C++ or Java, you let them design your firm's web site. Solid move.

3. Use of Frames

Frames were first introduced in 1994. They should have stayed in the 20th century.

4. Text as Graphics

Sure, you can have your graphic designer create a beautiful graphic to put on the web page or to be your whole web page. However, graphics take a long time to load and graphics cannot be indexed by search engines. Thus, your web site will not be seen by any search engines and visitors will think your web site is slow, as is your firm.

5. Spelling errorz [sic]

This is rookie-league stuff. Every web design program has a feature that checks for spelling errors. This should be used often.

6. Old Templates

Microsoft Front Page comes with free templates to use on your web site. Of course, you get what you pay for. What you get is a circa 1995 design. Since you drive a Lexus or BMW 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 ladies or clients.)

7. Clueless Navigation

Ever been to a site with a bunch of pictures and no navigation text? Wait! Suddenly you scroll over the picture of a gavel and - poof! - "ABOUT US" suddenly appears. Then you scroll over the picture of a smiling woman and "OUR ATTORNEYS" suddenly appears.

This is clueless navigation. By the time you scroll over all the pictures to see what they say, you've forgotten the title of the very first picture.

8. Bad Java

No, we're not talking about McDonald's coffee. Rather, we're talking about the use of old Java to create cool images that are totally unnecessary, such as the shimmering pool of water, or letters that follow the mouse around the screen.

9. Caveats

This site can only be viewed in Internet Explorer 6.0, Flash 5.0+ enabled, on a 1024 px by 768 px monitor that has a refresh rate of 75mhz, 2.0 Pentium 4 processor, 256mb RAM, and 50GB hard drive, etc. etc.

The last time we checked, a web site was NOT a piece of software you buy at Circuit City. All web sites should be cross-platform/browser compliant.

10. Broken Links

Again, rookie-league stuff. Every web design program has a feature that checks for broken links. 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.

11. 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."

12. P o o r l y F o r m a t t e d T e x t

Would you put a 48pt title block on a pleading? No. Then why would you use fonts that are insanely large or uneven on your firm's web page? Are you trying to sell tickets to a local rock concert?

SUNDAY. . . SUNDAY. . . SUNDAY. . . live at Joe's Law Firm it's the monster truck rally featuring DOKKEN!!!!!!!!!!!

13. Colors

Rainbow colors are not meant for the web.
Black backgrounds are meant for computer geeks' web pages.
Flashing colored text is meant for used car sites.
Please, before we go blind, use colors that are professional.

14. Bad Graphics

While it may be OK for your 16-year-old son to steal music off of the latest Napster software, 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.

Also, stop with the overuse of legal metaphors, such as a picture of a gavel or a picture of the stairs of the courthouse.

15. Pop Up or Pop Under Windows

These are the most annoying factor of any web site. Not only do you have to close the window on a bad design, but you have to deal with its ugly children.

16. 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.

17. Cheesy Music

If potential clients wanted to hear Jimmy Buffet, they'd drive to Key West and listen to him play. Why do web sites love to play cheesy music to entertain us while we learn about the intricacies of a homestead exemption?

Peter Boyd and PaperStreet Web Design have extensive experience developing, redesigning and optimizing law-related web sites. Our expertise can save you time and money while increasing your firm's client base. Contact us and we can redesign your web site to impress clients and get profitable results. Peter Boyd can be contacted at PaperStreet Web Design, http://www.paperstreet.com or 954.523.2181.