‘Big Feet’ Are Good in Law Firm Web Design

When I hear “big feet” I think about not being able to fit into Jimmy Choos. And that makes me sad. But when it comes to Web design, big feet, or footers, are actually a good thing. A modern footer, which is like a mini site map at the bottom of each web page, has become increasingly popular to improve site navigation and provide for a better overall user experience. So let me ask you this: How big are your feet?

BACK WHEN EVERYBODY STAYED ABOVE THE FOLD

Footers used to be small so viewers could avoid scrolling. Remember having to click on the scroll bar and drag it downward to see the rest of a page? What a hassle. No wonder we tried to cram everything onto a single visible screen, calling it “above the fold”—a leftover from newspaper days. Changes in hardware, particularly swiping features on trackpads and tablets, and tapping the spacebar on computers, loosened the physical limits of longer pages. As a result, we are no longer as constrained on page length.

CONVENIENCE IS KEY

This is great news for usability. One of the major benefits of a big footer is always having a convenient site map at your fingertips. Since a law firm website has many audiences—clients, prospects, potential new hires, the media and alumni—you can’t expect them all to be looking for the same information. The big footer is just one way to make it easier. Those who prefer can still use top-level navigation and drop-down menus to find what they want, but they can also just look to the bottom of the page. This means visitors are more likely to stay on your site longer and visit more pages.

MEGA-BIG FOOTERS?

As with most things in life, moderation is key when it comes to building big footers. If they are too big, perhaps mega-big, they can actually thwart navigation. Too many layers and lists of links make all the information start to blend together into a confusing mass. There are a few ways to avoid this pitfall, such as editing down the amount of links to display. For law firms, this could mean only displaying top-level pages rather than drilling all the way down to subpages in the footer. Some megafooter pitfalls can also be managed with clever designs. For example, it is important to show a hierarchy of links with the headings differentiated from the rest of the list. These headings will grab the eye and quickly draw attention to the desired pages.

DON’T FORGET SOCIAL MEDIA

Finally, especially if your firm is active on social media sites, consider adding social media links and even feeds to your footer. This will encourage visitors to engage and connect with your firm. After all, 67 percent of general counsel checked LinkedIn in the past week, according to a recent new media engagement survey. Take a look at your firm’s website and ask yourself how easy it is to locate your firm’s LinkedIn page from your homepage. If the answer is “not so easy,” consider dropping a link into the footer.
Since your firm’s website is often the first way a prospect learns about your firm and the best tool for your clients to tap into your thought leadership, making your key information easy to find and access is one of the best ways to make a good impression.

Read more: http://www.lawtechnologynews.com/id=1395146540494/%27Big-Feet%27-Are-Good-in-Law-Firm-Web-Design#ixzz2xZ2MouHU

Reprinted with permission from the MARCH 18, 2014 edition of the Law Technology News © 2013 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited, contact 877-257-3382 or reprints@alm.com.

The Digital Marketing Race: Using Verndale’s Latest Digital Marketing Survey Results to Get Ahead of the Pack

Company website? Check. Twitter account? Check. Blogging engine? Obviously, check. Email marketing campaign, mobile app, high level SEO and a Pinterest page? Hmmm…maybe keeping up in the digital marketing race is not as easy as it seems. With so many possible platforms, devices, and strategies, how can you put time and energy into all of them? And, more importantly, is this even worth it?

Verndale’s latest survey on digital marketing—given to mostly B2B companies —set the course for this year’s race to implement the most effective and comprehensive digital marketing strategies. Based on the findings, they declared a “digital marketing revolution,” as even those lagging behind are planning great strides for the coming year. Luckily, the results indicate that implementing every strategy is not necessarily worth it. Instead, it points out which strategies the top performers—which Verndale defines as the top 10% of their respondent pool—tout, and thus where you should focus your energy to see the greatest ROI for your digital marketing efforts.

The survey looked at the platforms most commonly used, forgotten, and in game plan for the near future for B2B companies. Everyone started the digital marketing race on the same basic footing, having at least a website—thank goodness—but from there the engagement and activity levels varied. The most common platforms were social media (75% of respondents have a Facebook page), email marketing, digital marketing analytics, and a blogging engine. Less common were microsites, mobile sites and mobile apps. With mobile set to become the most predominant access platform in 2014, according to Verndale, this is soon to change. 33% of digital marketers are planning to add a mobile site in the near future. Blogging is also a high priority—for those who do not already have an engine in place—and 22% plan to add one. As for social media, Pinterest, although rarely used now, is the most likely social site to be added in the next twelve months.

This brings us back to the age-old question—just because everyone else is doing it, does that mean you should, too? As we all look to improve and better strategize, the critical skill becomes getting the most bang for your digital marketing buck. Unless you have unlimited time and resources for digital marketing—and more power to you if that is the case—you just can’t do it all. Especially with greater importance being put on generating regular, high quality content, some major hurtles start to appear—namely a tight budget and limited staff. So instead of spreading yourself too thin, think quality over quantity.

The top performers are in a few secrets. The survey shows that there are strategies these digital marketing frontrunners have in common. Since these strategies obviously work (or they wouldn’t be top performers, would they?) they are great place to consider investing your limited resources.

According to Verndale, the top performers all have a blogging engine, a modern CMS and CRM in place. If you can swing it, these areas may be a good place to focus your efforts. These are certainly larger scale projects, so luckily there is another area the top performers share, which takes a lot less sweat—digital marketing analytics. They are all keeping track of how effective each of their digital strategies are, and in turn finding ways to improve them. Luckily, Google Analytics makes this easy and free. We have a recent post about Making the Most of Google Analytics, and it is worth reading if you are not already an expert.

Another way to get ahead of the pack is to sneak up from behind by focusing on the strategies others most often let slip. SEO, for example, is commonly forgotten and not high on the priority list. However, it is a critically important tactic (read Not Your Chemistry Professor’s Periodic Table) and earmarking some dollars for this area may give you a boost.

In developing your plan for this next year’s digital marketing race, remember the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady always wins the race. Well, let me rephrase that—STRATEGIC and steady always wins the race. Focus your efforts on creating high quality content on the platforms that will have the most overall impact, and leave the others for another time. You can find more about Verndale’s survey on their website.

Not Your Chemistry Professor’s Periodic Table: Understanding and Implementing the Periodic Table of SEO Success

If the idea of a periodic table turns your stomach—as it does mine—be not afraid. This table has little to do with noble gasses and pre-chemistry exam nightmares, and much to do with finding a successful strategy for search engine optimization. Search Engine Land recently released an updated version of their Periodic Table of SEO Success, which includes the fundamentals for both on and off page SEO. The latest version expands their 2011 table by accounting for the importance of social media, impact of ad heavy pages, and removal of blocking factors.

Periodic Table of SEO Success

The elements…

Whether you can barely define SEO or are a seasoned pro, the chart is handy introduction or refresher course to the most important elements. Search Engine Land was able to make sense of Google’s 200 signals, all leading to over 10,000 sub-signals, and organize the most important aspects into an easy to read table. Each SEO element is represented by two letters: the first for a category and the second for a particular aspect of that category (i.e. Cq for Content Quality). Each element is then given a “weight” for how effective it is on overall SEO. The weight can be positive, improving SEO, or negative, degrading it.

This is getting heavy… 

Although the table is not designed to be a comprehensive tool, it is certainly a valuable resource for defining some basic SEO strategies. Just reading through the table’s key sparks ideas about often forgotten or overlooked factors. The association of weights with each element is also particularly valuable, as it helps indicate which strategies will have the greatest overall effect and should be given the most attention. Off-page SEO elements are often overlooked, and the table is a great reminder of their importance.

Quality over quantity…

This updated table is especially important as Google recently revised their ranking advice to place more emphasis on high quality content. Their new policy touts the importance of creating high quality site content—which visitors actually want—over the importance of having external sites link to your page.

With social media and mobile optimization such hot topics, SEO sometimes gets overlooked. If this important web strategy has not been on your radar for awhile, consider browsing the table over at Search Engine Land.

Brain Food: The Business Case for a New Website

Updating an old website is an attractive idea, and not just for public facing purposes. If your CMS (Content Management System) is outdated or non-existent, then you are missing out on a lot of opportunities. A modern CMS functions as the central brain of your website allowing publishing, editing and modifying content as well as maintenance from a central interface.

How smart is your brain?

However, not every CMS is created equal. The technology has come a long way, and the capabilities of an outdated CMS compared to those of a contemporary one are very different. A good CMS can empower marketing communications, direct business development activities, proposals, and much more. If you are not yet convinced that a CMS update is a good idea, check out the following list of modern CMS capabilities.

Business development

A modern CMS can power a firm’s business development program and house all the content and information you rely on. When you update this information on a capable CMS, it will allow you to control and push the appropriate content to your various channels. For example—if you update a biography you can publish a shorter version online, a longer version on your intranet, and a third version can be exported to a Word document for a proposal. Having one centralized CMS ensures the right biography is always used and maintained.

Experience module

Most firms opt to have this in place as you can capture professional experience in a format that can be customized for internal and external audiences. By allowing you to designate fields that are only visible to internal audiences, a modern CMS enables you to tailor search results for each visitor.

Customizability

Simo Ahava’s “Modern CMS: Top 5 Features” explains that a good CMS will adjust to accommodate your needs. You should be able to hide or show features in the software, set areas of your content as restricted, make mass edits and redesign easily. If you reach a tough spot, extensions, plug-ins and widgets are constantly being created and updated to help tackle any challenges you may face.

Social media integration

Social media can also be integrated with the CMS allowing visitors to follow the firm on appropriate platforms and connect through LinkedIn. 67% of buyers of legal services, for example, use LinkedIn daily or weekly. Once the numbers come in for CFOs, they will likely be just as high. Not to mention that a site with a well functioning social media connection will rank higher on search engine results.

A modern CMS can also:

  • power a proposal generator;
  • allow for easy posting of virtually any type of content (video, PDF, photos, text);
  • pull quotes to draw visitors to the site;
  • allow changing and adapting content through a password protected and secure web interface;
  • and significantly reduce yearly developer costs.

It’s not brain surgery

The bottom line is that a modern CMS allows maximum control over your content and how it gets published. In addition to just making your life easier, upgrading to a contemporary CMS centralizes the intellectual capital that is needed for quick and efficient business development. It’s a no-brainer, if your current system does not measure up, you should strongly consider updating.

Responsive Web Design Considerations

What is Responsive Web Design?

Responsive Web design is a new set of Web processes and design sensibilities developed by Ethan Marcotte in May, 2010.  Marcotte put forth the concept that companies shouldn’t design, build and maintain multiple versions of their websites, such as one for desktop, another for smartphones and possibly a third for tablets.

Particularly at the beginning of the 2007 mobile boom, when some believed apps would deliver virtually all mobile activities, businesses rushed to create apps. But we discovered that people use their mobile browsers too — and emphasis shifted toward creating dedicated mobile websites.

Responsive web design eradicates this need by taking one set of very detailed development code and rendering websites “on the fly” to be targeted for each different device platform. It is accomplished by a combination of pre-existing web languages including HTML, HTML5, CSS and JavaScript to create websites with fluid layouts that change dynamically. 

Therefore, the key benefit to having a responsive website is that it is only necessary to create and maintain one site, not two or three.

How Should You Plan for the Responsive Web?

Before even committing to a responsive website, it is important to consider the challenges that are intertwined with going responsive:

Budget: In the past, firms spent considerable sums developing a fulsome, gorgeous desktop website. Once completed, clients would catch their breath and do it all over again by designing / coding a mobile version of their site.  With responsive Web design (“RWD”), it is all done just once. Dollars do need to be earmarked for content editors, project managers, the longer design process, prototyping, production artists and the actual web build itself — and most importantly, testing, testing, testing.

• Time: Due to expanded considerations at every phase, responsive websites take longer to create, test and build.  While there are no hard and fast rules of thumb, project timelines should be realistic in nature and agreed upon early.

Resources: Marcotte says tosolve the parts not the problem.” Responsive Web design, by its very nature, is a process of a million small decisions happening on a daily and even hourly basis. The  nature of RWD is the process of placing relative values on what is shown as the device canvas (technically referred to as the device VIEWPORT) shrinks and grows. This requires the responsible parties to work together to agree upon and prioritize what is presented at each device viewport level. Early in the process, marketing managers, stakeholders, designers, copywriters and web developers will want to prioritize and seek consensus on what is displayed and what “falls away,” or changes display order at different viewport sizes. This content prioritizing happens not just at the grand level but also at the granular macro level.

Design and Imagery:  No one wants to simply read text these days. The responsive Web design process aims to give enough visual “sizzle” at every device level to satisfy the goals of all stakeholders, managers and visitors. Photographers, illustrators and infographic designers must be cognizant of different image croppings as the layout changes from viewport to viewport. Production artists need to sensitively crop, sharpen and optimize virtually every significant image for all targeted viewport sizes.

• Grids and Layout:  In responsive Web design, emphasis must be placed on easy-to-use interfaces that help visitors find what they want quickly. The practice is to consider smartphone users first and scale up from there. This helps ensure that the site satisfies users on any device and loads quickly on any Internet connection.

• Test, Test, Test: The web coding and back-end build process must permit enough time and budget for prototyping, device wireframing, alpha building, complex JavaScript and CSS development and debugging. Only after all this does the testing across platforms begin — a careful, painstaking job. What do we then design and test for?

Desktop Browsers — on both Mac and PC including IE7 – IE10, Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

Tablets — including iPad 2, 3, 4, and Mini; Android tablets such as the Google Nexus 7, Samsung Galaxy 7, Amazon Kindle Fire, and Microsoft Surface RT.

Smartphones — such as iPhone 4 and later, Android 3.0 phones and later, Windows Phone 7.5 and later, and BlackBerry Curve and later. It is important to note that there are now enough smartphones with Web browsers to fill a small universe and it’s impossible to test them all.

Are You a Candidate for Responsive Web?

Responsive Web Design is still in its infancy. However, high profile sites like Mashable have declared 2013 the “Year for Responsive Design.” Should you take the plunge? There is little doubt that the explosion of the mobile web is real and rapidly eclipsing desktop users. Responsive design fits well into emerging technologies, like HTML5, that make it possible.

Perhaps a starting point is to examine your immediate needs. If you’re undertaking a whole new brand, collateral, logo, naming and the like, it’s a good time to consider going responsive.

If, however, you recently created a new desktop site and are happy with it (and your brand) a dedicated mobile site will be far less expensive, easier to wireframe, design and code than going responsive.

In many ways, the responsive discussion reminds us of those early 1995-96 days of the web when we met many clients who questioned whether they really needed a website. A review of 644 million sites in 2012 might seem to favor considering Responsive Design.