UPDATE: I heard a few of you prefer Google Docs so I added a Google Docs version to the bottom of this post. If you haven’t told me which one you prefer, feel free to send an e-mail or leave a comment.
Recently, I’ve been scoping out law firm websites. From big law firms to solo practitioners, I’ve decided to showcase some of my favorites, with an explanation of what makes them standout.
The short reason: This is not a law firm website. It’s a beautiful website that happens to be for a law firm.
Discussion: Black and white with a touch of gray and a flair of color, Townsend’s website is straightforward, intelligent, and user-friendly. As a reflection of the firm’s ethos or brand, the website also communicates Townsend’s approach to the practice of law. Based on my first impression of the firm’s website, I gather that Townsend aims to be straightforward, intelligent, and user-friendly when serving its clients.
Exactly how does Townsend’s website convey this message? Well, it’s not through the website’s copy. Truth be told, I didn’t even read the copy. This is the age of the savvy consumer. What trust lies in a firm’s marketing materials?
Again, the brilliance of Townsend’s website is how effectively it conveys the firm’s message through its design. I should note that when I speak about design, I’m also speaking about the website’s structure and layout.
To repeat my original question, how does the site’s design convey the message that Townsend aims to be straightforward, intelligent, and user-friendly when servicing its clients? Let’s analyze each quality in turn.
Straightforward: The website’s layout and structure leave no room for questions or findability issues. The collapsible sidebar navigation is intuitive and, I might add, an efficient use of webpage real estate. The top navigation includes easy access to the essentials (search and contact) while the bottom navigation is limited to components that make sense as footnotes (languages, privacy, disclaimer, and site credits). (Here’s where I’ll insert the well-deserved shout-out to Cahan & Associates and Tenrec Inc.)
Intelligent: For me, the genius driving the website is its impeccable balance between whimsical and professional. A name in Garamond font says one thing. A name in Garamond font printed in all lower case letters with a period at the end, well, that says something else entirely. It’s almost as if the firm is sharing a joke with its audience, making users smile while breaking the ice. For example, I enjoyed perusing the firm’s publication archives with the assistance of dancing pencils. Why? Well, they were easy to use! Which brings us to the last characteristic….
User-Friendly: The little things that made me enjoy browsing the site? Friendly URLs, a quick intro to RSS with the firm’s feeds, and easy-to-use forms for a general site search, attorney search, or searching the firm’s resources.
While I’d give the site an overall A+, I saw a few opportunities for improvement. (I’m almost hesitant to point them out so I won’t dwell on them too much.)
- I’d love to see a favicon (a lowercase T in Garamond?)
- From what I could tell, the firm did not include description or keyword attributes as meta elements. While I’m also skeptical of how meta elements affect SEO, the effort to include them is minimal so… why not?
- I find that intro pages – pages with flash video or something similar that you click through to enter the site – are a little pointless. I chose to overlook Townsend’s.