Over the past few days, you may have seen stories commemorating Steve Jobs’s now-legendary iPhone introduction. Not many people realized it at the time, but computing was forever changed that day. It’s estimated that nearly 70% of the American adult population owns a smartphone today, and some studies suggest that as much as 60% of online searches occur on mobile devices. Yet, many attorney websites haven’t been updated to be mobile-friendly. Of course, the goal is to make your website accessible and user-friendly for any device a prospective client might be using. But, if you had to choose, the mobile site should take priority.
Traditional Web Design on Mobile
Have you ever visited a website from your phone and found the text too small to read? You were probably annoyed by the need to zoom in and then scroll back and forth to read the text. So are your visitors. Sure it’s possible to read the text, but do you always bother? Do you think your visitors will, or that they’ll seek out a more accessible site? The goal of your website should be to make it as easy and inviting as possible for prospective clients to contact you, not to create an obstacle course and hope they’ll have the stamina to reach your contact form.
Responsive Design for Your Law Firm
Whereas in the past, companies seeking to reach the broadest audience developed one site for desktop visitors and another for mobile. Fortunately, that’s no longer necessary. The current trend now in web design is to create one site that works well on all screen sizes. This is called responsive design. With responsive design, you can create a positive experience for all visitors to your law firm website, whether they’re looking at a 27” desktop monitor, a 13” laptop monitor or a 4” smartphone.
If you’re not sure whether or not your website is responsive, please visit it now on a smartphone. Can you begin reading as soon as the page loads? Does the text display neatly within the margins of the screen? If not, your website is not responsive, and you are probably losing business because mobile visitors are abandoning your site. At the very least, you’re not making a good impression.
One way to have the same site fit all screen sizes to make each element on the page responsive to the viewing area. In plain English, that means that items on the page reorganize themselves to fit the screen. Here’s an example of how the same site might appear on two different devices:
Here’s how the site might look on a desktop monitor:
And here’s how those three elements that appeared side-by-side on the desktop stack up to make the site clean and readable on a mobile device:
Flash is Dead
The writing’s been on the wall for years, and Flash has finally reached the end of the road. Flash isn’t supported on mobile devices, and desktop web browsers are beginning to turn off Flash as the default. As a rule, attorneys are slow to change, but this is not an area in which you can afford to delay if you expect to effectively market your law firm online. Please replace any Flash content with an alternative ASAP.
Website Loading Speed
Many attorneys and other small business owners overlook website loading speed altogether. That’s a serious mistake. Google deems load time so important that it is actually one of their ranking factors when presenting search results. That means that a slow-loading site is likely to be ranked lower in search results, making it less likely that someone searching for your type of legal services will see your listing.
If that seems unreasonable, consider this: 40% of visitors will abandon a site if it takes more than three seconds to load. When Google ranks sites, its goal is to deliver the content the searcher is looking for. If visitors hit the back button because your site is taking too long to load, the message it sends to Google is “this wasn’t it.” That not only diminishes the searcher’s experience, but also his or her perception of Google. Of course, Google (and all other search engines) want their users to have positive experiences and find the content they’re looking for so they’ll continue to use the site.
Website Speed Factors
Unless you’re willing to pay hundreds of dollars a month to host your site on a private server, you’re going to be sharing a server with other websites. In order to make more money, some hosts put too many websites on a server, slowing down all of the sites. You want to use a quality host that doesn’t overload their servers with too many websites. You also want your host using powerful computers and fast hard drives, possibly even solid state drives.
If your site is built on WordPress, you need your hosting environment to be optimized for it. WordPress has many advantages over other website platforms, but one of its disadvantages is that it can be slow. That is why choosing the right host is even more important when using WordPress.
Website “size” can be a confusing concept for the non-technical. You don’t need an in-depth understanding of megabytes as they impact loading time, but you should be aware of a few basics. First, the number of images you use and the file sizes of those images will impact your loading time. When adding images to your site, you will want to compress them as much as possible without sacrificing quality. The smaller the files are, the more quickly they will load.
You may also want to pick and choose which images to display when the visitor is on a mobile device. A good web developer will take this into account and show enough content to make your site look professional and inviting without making it cumbersome for the user and significantly slowing down the site.
A poorly coded website will likely load more slowly because the web browser will be forced to download unnecessary code or make too many requests to the server. Using best practices when coding is key to making a site load quickly.
SEO for Attorney Websites
Last November, Google stated “Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.”
What Google is saying is that they believe the mobile version of your site is more important than the desktop version, because more visitors are viewing a mobile version of your site. The percentage of visitors using mobile devices for search and to seek out products and services is expected to continue to increase.
Because Google is using a single index for each site, they recommend that you build a responsive site for your visitors rather than building two different versions.
Your Law Firm Needs a Responsive Website
Each day, mobile becomes more important in our world. It’s already more likely than not that your website visitors are using a smartphone. If you care about using your website to attract or convert potential client—and, if you want to be competitive in the modern legal industry, you do—you MUST think mobile-first, take action now and redesign your site to make it responsive and mobile-friendly.
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