A responsive website will automatically adjust itself so it displays well on all devices, regardless of the size of the screen. This latest technology can bring you more business.
By Martha Chan, Family Lawyer Marketing Expert
A version of this article was originally published in Family Advocate, Vol. 37 :01 Summer 2014 © 2014 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission.
What is a “Responsive” Website?
Have you noticed that your own website or other websites do not display well on an iPad or a smartphone? Perhaps the pages are cut off, or they have been shrunken to fit the small screen on your mobile device so that the text is illegible? In order to view these websites you have to enlarge sections of the page and scroll left and right. This is actually quite common and frustrating to visitors. With more than 40% of visitors viewing websites on mobile devices, you need to address this issue immediately.
A responsive website is a website that is desgned to automatically adjust itself so that the web pages are optimized for all devices. In other words, they are user friendly and are likely to keep the visitors on the site. Moreover, when designed well, they can encourage visitors to call or email you immediately with just one touch.
Why Google Recommends “Responsive” Websites
Google values user experience and recommends that your website be optimized for mobile devices. There are different ways to optimize your web pages for all devices including creating customized versions of your website for specific devices (i.e. having a desktop version, a tablet version and a smartphone version), or having a “responsive” website that is optimized for all devices. No doubt the first option offers a lot more flexibility and can be made extremely user friendly. It is also more expensive to build and even more expensive to maintain multiple versions of your website. I have written an article for the Family Advocate about creating a smartphone friendly version of your website. You can find it here. This smartphone friendly website is a good bridge if you just want to optimize your website for smartphones.
If you have a responsive website you only have one website to attend to. If it is well designed, when you add or update the web pages, the new information will automatically display properly on all devices.
Key Factors to Consider when Building a “Responsive” Website
Some website designers are primarily designers who are interested in having great looking websites, in other words, form over function. A good marketing strategist/website developer will balance your business objectives and user experience when designing a website. The same applies when creating a responsive website, in fact even more so. This is because priority of information displayed becomes more important when your website is displayed on a smaller screen (i.e. what do you want the visitor to see, do or click on first, second or last). If you want them to contact you, you need to display your email address and phone number prominently and allow them to email or call you with just one touch on their smartphone or tablet.
You also need to address whether you need to show all the information on all the pages that are visible on a desktop version. Most websites are designed for desktops or laptops which have a wide screen, and most websites have a 2 or 3 column format which devotes a column to a submit form often used for prospective clients. On a smartphone or a tablet, the second and third columns are very likely going to be cut off and only visible by scrolling left and right.
Some of the pictures and videos you have on your existing website will need to be adjusted in size. While large images are impressive looking, they take up a lot of space and push other contents further down the tiny page.
How to Tell if your Firm’s Website is Responsive
You can check out your website on various devices and see if your web pages are all reduced to fit the screen size, making the text smaller or not legible. If that is the case, you do not have a responsive website. Or, you can do this simple test on your desktop: bring up your website, reduce the size of the window and watch if your website adjusts itself to display the content properly or do your web pages just get cut off. If the content is cut off, then you do not have a responsive website.
Check out the image below that shows you how a responsive site displays differently yet legibly on different devices.
Do not settle for a generic version that strips off all design, logo, pictures and your law firm’s branding. If that is how your website shows up on a smartphone, you do not have a responsive website, you have what I call a “lazy” smartphone version of your website that shows only the text from your web pages. All the money you spent on designing your website is not captured for the smartphone audience and your website will look no different from many other websites that have this “lazy” smartphone version.
Convert your Existing Website vs Building a new Responsive Website
If you love the design of your current website, you can keep the design and hire someone to make the site responsive. That can be done in a couple of weeks when you allow time to discuss your business objectives and the content priority as discussed above.
If your site is dated and it is really time to get a new one anyway, I have two pieces of good news for you:
- It does not have to cost more to get a responsive website
- You will be ahead of most family law firms because the majority of them do not have responsive websites.
I strongly recommend that you use responsive WordPress templates to build your new website. As a platform for building and maintaining websites, WordPress has proven itself to be a winner and is also Google friendly. These templates have many tried and true features that would have cost a mint for you to pay a developer to create. With thousands of templates to choose from, any good website designer can customize these templates so you can have a website to call your own. Make sure you ask for responsive WordPress website templates because I see is no reason to go with a non-responsive template. The purchase cost of a template is so minimal anyway. Don’t get me wrong, just because there is a template as a start, a good marketing strategist and website designer will make a world of difference.
Author’s note, added on April 7, 2015: Starting April 21, 2015, Google will be favoring websites that are mobile friendly by displaying them first in search results on mobile devices. If your website is not mobile friendly, you stand to lose traffic and business. Learn more and take this Google Mobile Friendly Test to see if your website meets Google’s standards.
*A version of this article was originally published in Family Advocate, Vol. 37 :01 Summer 2014 © 2014 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.
Martha Chan is a marketing expert for family lawyers. She is co-owner and Vice President of Marketing for Family Lawyer Magazine, Divorce Magazine, and Divorce Marketing Group, a marketing agency dedicated to promoting family lawyers and divorce professionals. She is co-author of The Essential Marketing Guide for Family Lawyers. She has served as a marketing consultant to many Fortune 500 companies and countless family law firms over the past 30 years. Martha can be reached a 866-803-6667 or marthac@divorcemarketing group.com. For more Marketing Tips for Intelligent Dummies, follow her column at www.divorcemarketinggroup.com/blog.