Is your website form over function? A few things to remember when building your website
We’re going to look at four important things often forgotten when building your new website; form over function, a sound technical platform, image optimisation and link building. Your site needs to be much more than an illusion of greatness.
So you’ve decided to commit time and money to building your new website. This is an exciting time for your firm and everybody’s got ideas on what the final product should be and how it should look. But have you done your research about how your website will perform?
Amongst the many components you have to make decisions on before building your new site, there are a few that often get overlooked. This is even more evident in “self-build” sites; for example, building your own site using the DIY platform options through Squarespace, Foursquare, Weebly and WordPress, just to name a few.
Form over function
Have you heard the term “if I had a dollar for…”? Well, if I had a dollar for every time a lawyer told me to look at a certain firm’s website because it’s really good, I’d be retired on a healthy income.
There are many fabulous looking home pages (and even internal pages) out there. It’s impact at first arrival as you’re wowed by images, movement and buzz. Some of them also perform brilliantly but with many, drill a little deeper than first glance and the problems start to gather, like:
- Complicated navigation causing users to lose their place on the site or go around in circles before ultimately giving up and moving onto the next site;
- Inconsistent navigation – some options are clickable and some are not
- Navigation options that disappear as you hover over them before you get the chance to click through
- No “breadcrumbs” – those tiny threads that let you know where you are on the site
- No flow – you have to return to main menus each time you want to visit a new section
It’s great that you want a fabulous looking site; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You just need to ensure it’s functional too.
One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to use a professional developer to build the architecture of your site for you, rather than a free and/or DIY build. A professional developer will ensure your site is functional as well as dynamic and exciting.
Pay attention to the benefits of a sound technical build
If your site is not technically sound behind the scenes, it might work but it won’t necessarily sing for you.
You want your new website to operate as effectively and efficiently as possible. If you have a professional build your site, they’ll be making sure you’re optimised for, amongst other things:
- Site speed
- Site security
- Meta-data for social media is properly coded (Facebook open graph, twitter tags etc)
- Microdata to optimise your HTML markup for search engines - schema
- Google Analytics, Search Console (previously known as Webmaster Tools), Facebook Pixel and other site performance measurement coding.
Make sure your images are optimised for digital
Images and rich media are a necessity in a modern website. There are some amazing sites with incredible images; original and stock.
But if they’re not optimised for use on your website, they’ll do more harm than good.
The most common types of images used on websites are jpg files and png files.
JPG’s (JPEG) are the most popular and are used for photographs and complex images that use a large colour pallet or have lots of activity in them.
PNG’s are a smaller file size and often used where transparency is required. These are good for logos, for example, where you want to place your logo over the top of other content without a border around it.
Once you’ve selected the file type to use, it’s important to size it appropriately. By size, we mean file size not width by height. Poorly sized images (too large) can slow your page speed by up to 80%. In today’s world of “I want it now”, this is never going to work.
Your website images should have a resolution of 72dpi.
To see how the image will look on your site, view them at 100% in a program like Photoshop.
If you want the absolute best images for your site, there are a few tips to follow:
- Set the resolution to 72dpi
- Reduce the dimensions of the image
- Save the image (assuming it’s a photo) as a jpg – in Photoshop and other similar software, you can “save for web” which optimises it perfectly. You will have an option to select file type, quality etc.
- If you want to reduce the size even more, you could also compress the image, again using programs like Photoshop.
Finally, you need to remember that search engines can’t read your images unless you’ve named them. The process of naming your images is referred to as applying an “alt attribute” or an “alt image tag”. Sometimes this could be the name of the article and other times a description of what the image is portraying.
Applying an alt image tag to all your images not only ensures that search engines can read your images (therefore having your images act like keywords/key phrases) but you’re also assisting the visually impaired to access all components of your site.
Links, links, links
Do not underestimate the value of links; internal and external. And it’s a good idea to plan for them at the beginning and then continue to build them as your website grows.
Internal links make it easier for your visitors to navigate around your site to ensure they’re absorbing as much information as possible and you’re providing the information without them having to search for it. They also keep your visitors on your site longer because you’re enticing them on to further information. All of this contributes to the authority of your site and thus your services.
External links also promote authority and provide a qualitative balance for what you’re saying. Further, external links open up opportunities for the referring site to reciprocate with a link back to your site. It’s a known fact that inbound links from credible sources can significantly improve the search results for a page.
So, when you’re drawing up the plans for building your new website, ensure you plan for all the internal and external links you’re going to incorporate across the site.
Are you considering building a new (or first) website for your law firm? We work closely with a developer and we’d be more than happy to chat with you (obligation and cost free) to see how we can assist you to achieve the best possible outcome for your new site.
Find this article interesting or useful? You may also want to read:
- 8 things to remember when creating your law firm’s online content
- What is search engine optimisation (SEO)?
- Five reasons your law firm should have a blog
Looking for assistance with any aspect of your digital marketing? We'd love to help.
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