Laws of UX Series: Aesthetic Usability Effect, Doherty Threshold and Fitts’s Law

Laws of UX are a collection of design heuristics created by Jon Yablonski to help designers leverage psychology to create more human-centered experiences. You can find explanations for each law on the website lawsofux.com, as well as an in-depth case study regarding his thought process on his website, jonyablonski.com

This will be a series of blog posts briefly covering the many laws and how they can help designers create better experiences for law firms.

 

UX Law Poster1) Aesthetic Usability Effect

“Users often perceive aesthetically pleasing design as design that’s more usable.”

Users tend to assume that things that look better will work better, even if they aren’t actually more productive. Users who visit your website may have a positive emotional response to the visual design of your website, making them more tolerant of minor usability issues while using your site. When I say “minor usability issues” I mean text with low contrast, spelling errors, or typography that isn’t consistent. The Aesthetic Usability Effect does have its limits and when the design puts aesthetics over usability, users will lose patience and leave your site.

For example, I have seen law firm websites that include huge hero images on practice area pages that cover the entire screen without including any information until moving down the page. The page may look appealing at first with a large, beautiful image at the top, however, the image that is taking up the entire screen may be seen as an annoyance once they are trying to complete specific tasks.

 

 

2) Doherty Threshold

“Productivity soars when a computer and its users interact at a pace (<400ms) that ensures that neither has to wait on the other.”

Fast websites are fun to use. Laggy, slow response websites suck. The longer it takes for your website to respond to a request, the longer your user is taking to think of what they want to do next. If you keep your users waiting, they will find what they are looking for on another law firm’s site. As a general rule, you want to provide feedback to a user’s request within 400ms in order to keep their attention.

If your website has any loading screens that aren’t imperative to the functionality of the site, fancy page transitions, or anything else that may slow down their experience with your site, you are doing more harm than good with those “cool” features.

 

 

2) Fitts’s Law

“The time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to and size of the target.”

A touch target is an area that responds to user input. Make sure that all touch targets are large enough for users to understand their functionality and easily accessible for users to interact with.

Many law firm websites (and websites in general) have touch targets that aren’t clearly visible or are located in hard to reach places from where a users finger can reach(looking at you hamburger menus located at the top left or right on mobile screens). Make sure any touch target on your website is easily recognizable and accessible to avoid confusing your users.

 

 
Stay tuned for the next post in this series where I go over Hick’s Law, Jakob’s Law and the Law of Common Region.

In Defense of Location-Based Hero Images

We’ve all been there: you want to build your website, you have a homepage, and you don’t know what to put as the hero image. Should you go for your team, arms crossed and determined, all standing in front of your office? Maybe a picture of you chatting with a client? What about a photo of your infinite bookshelf full of leatherbound, embossed texts? Or maybe even a custom-shot video that includes all of these things and more?

I’m here to argue for the simple location image. If you really want it, a location image with the firm partners in it. Here’re four reasons why:

 

1. Easy to Acquire

A professional photographer should have no problem taking stunning photos of your local scenery, all without the time commitment of a full in-house photo or video shoot. 

 

2. Improves Local Credentials

Local is everything in digital marketing. Consumers make decisions based on what is close and what benefits their communities. A reminder that you are a part of that community as soon as they get to the homepage doesn’t hurt. Local landmarks, scenic views, and sunrises rarely go wrong. 

 

3. Adaptable

So let’s go through some of the other options. That picture of your team? Inspirational now, a weird reminder in a few years after one or more of your team members have moved away. Isolating if someone new joins the team. 

Chatting with a client? Looks good now, kind of confusing if you ever look any different than you did when you took the photo. None can escape the hands of time, holding onto a photo won’t save you.

That custom-shot video? The same issues as the other options arise here: changing team members, changing images. You might even change offices. Not to mention how much an embedded video can slow your site down.

You know what’s reliably beautiful and consistent? A gosh dang sunrise behind a local landmark. 

 

4. Send a Message Without Overthinking It or Underthinking It

You’re here to look like a lawyer and lawyer things are your priority, not spending hours deciding which image should grace your homepage. That being said, a simple stock image won’t cut it. We’ve all seen law firm websites that look like they were tossed together; out of proportion stock images, outdated fonts, just plain weird color schemes. Be different. Be better. Show the world that you’re willing to make an effort, but won’t spend all of your time making an effort on things that aren’t your clients.

 

Obtaining Your Hero Image

So now you know what you want. How do you get it? Through a stock photo site like how we got the hero image for this blog post? Probably not. The homepage to your website is a bit more important than the top of one of our blog posts. 

Hire a photographer. They can help provide you with options while ensuring no one else has the exact photos you’re using. It also gives you the option of having photos of you and your team alongside your scenic locale. You will have more control and will likely get better results.

Find a photographer with good reviews or through someone you trust and schedule your shoot.

Structuring Your Page for SEO

Whether you’re building a page for an article, a blog, a product review, or a practice area, the way you structure your page is vital for Search Engine Optimization. From the design to the programming to the writing, you should always keep the big picture in mind before publishing.

 

Design

Your webpage should also be user-friendly first. This means the visuals are pleasing and the color scheme is easy to read. If the website looks good enough for the consumer to stay and read its contents, you’re on the right track. For improved reading and improved SEO, make sure you use headings in your text. These allow readers to easily scroll through your text to find the section they’re looking for, and it lets Google know the contents of the website. Don’t be afraid of having multiple “Heading 1’s,” as Google has ensured webmasters that despite certain less than honest tactics, the search engine can look past them.

 

Programming

The success of your site should rest on a foundation of solid programming, with special consideration taken to page speed and crawler accessibility. I’ll be honest, I know nothing about programming or coding, but if you’re building a website you or someone on your team should. 

 

Writing

As mentioned before, make sure your content is properly labeled with headings. As for the actual writing, try not to be Hemmingway or James Joyce. You want your writing to be comprehensive, but not rambling. If possible, work links into your writing as naturally. This will help Google connect your page to other pages on your website, as well as other websites. 

Your website is your company’s connection to the largest human network in history, and if you don’t set it up for people to visit you are wasting time and money. If you need help setting up a website for your law firm contact us here at Mockingbird Marketing. Optimizing web pages is what we do!

You Should Care About Accessibility

Recently I had a client cut me off mid-sentence with, “I’m going to stop you right there, I don’t care about that”.

I was in the middle of telling him why his current website did not meet WCAG guidelines and how we would fix this during redesign. We moved onto the next line item and I couldn’t stop thinking about why he should care. Everyone should care about making their site accessible.

Let’s say you are building your own store from the ground up.  There are specific requirements that you need to meet so that your building is up to code. You want as many people to be able to enter your store as possible, right? The same thing goes for your website. Your website is your digital storefront and should want to make sure that everyone can interact with it.

According to W3.org, web accessibility is defined as:

Web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. More specifically, people can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web and contribute to the Web.

Here are some quick numbers for you. According to interactiveaccessibility.com with data from 2012:

• 56.7 Million Americans (18% of the population) have some type of disability

• An estimated 38.3 Million (12.6% of the population) have a severe disability

• 19.9 Million people (8.2% of the population) have difficulty lifting or grasping, making it difficult for them to use a mouse or keyboard.

• 15.2 Million people (6.3% of the population) have a cognitive, mental or emotional impairment

• 8.1 Million people (3.3% of the population) have a vision impairment and may need to rely on screen magnifiers or screen readers. They might also have some form of color blindness

• 7.6 Million (3.1% of the population) have a hearing impairment. Do the videos on your site have transcripts or captions?

There is a possibility that potential clients can’t utilize your site in some aspect, resulting in them leaving your site. Making your site accessible doesn’t only benefit users with disabilities either but making your site accessible to everyone no matter their situation. It means making your site accessible to users on mobile devices with smaller screens, elderly users with changing abilities, users who are impacted by “temporary disabilities” like a broken hand or people with “situational limitations” like being outside in bright light or in a waiting room where they can’t listen to audio.

Accessibility on the web is important and as a business owner, you should care about if your site is accessible or not.

Webinar: ADA Compliance – From a Lawyer and Designer

Listen to Mockingbird’s Design Lead, Ryan Sprouse and Taft Stettinius & Hollister’s IP, IT and Data Security Partner, Jeff Kosc to get down and dirty about ADA Compliance for websites. This webinar showcases what it’s actually like to interact with the web while disabled, reviews Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and discuss the most current legal thinking and precedent regarding ADA Compliance lawsuits related to websites.

 

Taking a Content First Approach to Website Design

The main goal of a law firm’s website is to create a solution that meets their target audience’s needs and encourages conversions by getting visitors to contact the firm. Understanding your target audience and your firm’s business goals is the driving factor behind website content. We want to convey your firm’s narrative in a way that’s clear, concise, and emotionally appealing to potential clients. Below are key reasons why your firm should start every website project with a content first approach.

Tackling content first helps shape design and saves time.

Agreeing on content structure helps eliminate two major obstacles: creating new content to fit the design AND needing to edit old content to fit an updated design. Both of those events are avoidable if you create a design with content in mind. This can cut down on rounds of revisions where you may end up making small content changes and allows the designer to present your content visually in a way that appeals to the user’s emotions and conveys your firm’s story.

A solid content plan speeds up the workflow of the project.

Frequently, the biggest road block when creating a new website for a client is waiting for content. Establishing the structure and content needed before the design eliminates this obstacle so you don’t end up waiting on content decisions when the site is almost ready for launch. Developing a plan for content at the start of the project will help clarify who will be creating new content, when it needs to be created, and how that content is going to be structured before anything is designed. Instead of waiting in the middle of a project, we establish this up front for an optimal workflow.

A content first approach makes for a better user experience.

When the design is built around the content, the user has a consistent experience across the website. All practice areas look uniform and aren’t structured differently, location pages have all the necessary content for Google My Business and are displayed the same. We want the user to know they are on a location page or a contact page, not guess because one office’s content is displayed differently than another. Uniformity not only helps speed up the website because there’s less code, but when users navigate the site everything reinforces one uniform message about your firm. With a content first approach, we know what to display from mobile to desktop and how the content will scale in different views and sizes.

Content planning provides scalability and structure moving forward.

Often, content will be managed post launch by someone in your firm. Having the content structured and following an outline helps scale the website in consistency and design. Someone who wasn’t present during the design process can manage the content afterwards without missing a beat.

In short, a lot of the difficulties that pop up during the design and development process can be mitigated if you spend some time planning out what you want to convey with your website, and more specifically, what type of content you’re going to use to communicate that message.

Jeffrey Zeldman Quote on Content in web design

Quote from Jeffrey Zeldman, a legend in the web design world.

How to Assess the Success of a Website Redesign

Not all website redesigns are created equal. In many cases, updating a website is the obvious starting point for addressing technical issues, modernizing design and usability, or updating your brand. Done correctly, a new website should offer a boost to your overall business.

Key metrics to look at when assessing whether a new website is successful:

  • Site speed
  • Organic traffic
  • Usability
  • Conversions

Each of these metrics can be tackled by answering the questions below.

How do technical benchmarks compare against your previous site?

By analyzing site speed, on page scripts, image optimization, outdated plugins, and even the platform the site is hosted on, you can get a pretty accurate picture of whether the new website offers an improvement over what you had before.

Unless you’re adding massive new functionality or downsizing your firm, there shouldn’t be any reason to take a step backwards in terms of site speed or hosting. Moving your hosting platform can potentially tank your site, and developers with no understanding of how search engines actually work can build a nice looking site on a terrible foundation.

Ideally, your new website should only show improvements or equivalencies when it comes to technical benchmarks.

Site Speed Before and After
The dramatic improvement in site speed between old (above) and new (below) is one key indicator a recent redesign was a success.

Are more people finding the site organically?

Although it’s not uncommon to see a dip in traffic following the launch of a new website, one of the best indicators that things are going well in the search engines is an increase in organic traffic.

All pages you’re trying to drive traffic to should be indexed in Google (and the search engine also rans) and getting visitors. Post launch increases in organic traffic are a great indicator that smart decisions were made during the website redesign process.

Do potential clients find it easier to navigate?

You want your new site to be as easy to use as possible. Prospects shouldn’t be struggling to find information or get to the appropriate internal pages. Without using tools like Hotjar to monitor user sessions, the best way to gauge the performance of your new website is by comparing bounce rate, average page views, and time spent on site against the previous iteration.

If people are less likely to leave, looking at more of your content, and spending longer on your new website, that’s a great indicator that things are going well.

How do your conversion rates compare with the old site?

Even if traffic is up and people are spending more time interacting with your new site, it’s not a true win if they’re not requesting your services. By comparing the old site’s conversion rates against the new one you’ll get an accurate picture of the incremental improvement between the two.

Regardless of traffic, if a higher percentage of visitors are reaching out to learn more about whether your firm can help them, it’s a strong signal that your redesign improved your ability to generate new business.

Is it helping you achieve your business goals?

The ultimate goal of your redesign is to get more business. This can mean more clients, higher value clients, or even a shift in which portion of your practice you’re trying to prioritize. Although it’s not always directly tied to driving revenue, that’s definitely the most common goal.

Very few firms are effectively tracking marketing on a cost per client level, but even if it’s only being looked at on a cost-per-inquiry basis, reducing the cost you pay for each qualified lead shows the money you spend on a website redesign was an investment rather than an expense.

Summary

Website redesigns can be extremely expensive and failing to take a data driven approach is a great way to burn money and create massive frustration. Projects of this scope should be approached as an investment in your business and any good agency will work with you to measure the results of their work, continue to refine and improve post-launch, and push for decisions during the redesign process that will not just “look nice” but actually help your firm be more successful.