**Special Update posted on March 24, 2015: Starting April 21, 2015 Google will be favoring mobile-friendly websites. If your website is not mobile-friendly by then you stand to lose traffic and business. Learn more, take this test by Google to see if your website meets Google’s mobile standard.**
The number of Americans accessing the internet using smartphones is on the rise. In 2014, more smartphone manufacturers started offering larger screens (up to 6.5” tall) to make surfing on the go easier. One report forecasts that in 2015, 182.6 million Americans will have smartphones, and that number will increase to 220 million by 2018.
Your Prospective Clients are Smartphone Users
A 2014 study shows that smartphone users are educated and affluent:
- 71% of smartphone owners have more than a college education, and 67% have some college education.
- 81% of smartphone owners’ annual household income falls into the highest bracket of the survey: $75,000+.
- 58% of American adults have a smartphone; 74% of those aged 30–49, 49% of those aged 50–64, and 19% of people 65 and over own a smartphone.
You likely have a smartphone and keep it within reach so you can receive email and search online wherever you are. Chances are your prospective clients – including those referred to you by their friends and families – are using their smartphones to check out your firm’s website. It stands to reason that you and your law firm will be judged based on what they see. Yet most family lawyers we have talked to have never visited their own websites on smartphones, nor have they ensured their websites are really optimized for smartphones.
Three Not-So-User-Friendly Smartphone Websites
When we ask family lawyers to check their own websites using their smartphones, the majority of them are surprised and dissatisfied by what they see; this is because most of them do not have websites that are specifically designed for smartphones. Instead, what they have are modified versions of their websites that generally fall into one of these three categories:
1. An illegible website that is frustrating to use (Exhibit 1).
This website has been shrunk to fit the small screen of a smartphone, and as a result, it is totally illegible. To be able to read the content, a visitor has to enlarge the text and scroll from left to right as well as top to bottom. Navigating through the site and finding that all-important “Contact Us” page is difficult – and should a visitor manage to find the phone number, they have to write it down and call you later! Clicking on the wrong tab/link is inevitable when they are so small. This frustrating experience is an invitation for visitors to leave your website instead of calling or emailing your law firm to set up a consultation while they have their smartphones in their hands.
2. A bland looking website that bears little resemblance to the desktop version (Exhibit 2).
This is a generic-looking smartphone version that is stripped of all the branding, pictures, logos, colors, and design the law firm has spent time and thousands of dollars on. All you see is an unmemorable website with pages of text in a small-but-legible font size. Also, it is not clear to a visitor that there are other pages or how to find the other pages on the website. Companies that provide this kind of website may claim the website is smartphone-friendly because the text is legible, but this is dated technology. A website that is really smartphone-friendly has a lot more to offer than this.
3. A smartphone version of a “responsive” website (Exhibit 3).
A “responsive” website adjusts itself to display all the content of a web page according to the device the visitor is using – be it desktop, tablet, or smartphone. (Very few family law websites have taken advantage of this new technology. If you have, congratulations!) The text is legible and most of the design elements are retained, but this smartphone version has a downside: it neither encourages nor makes it easy for a visitor to call or email you with just one touch. It also does not direct visitors to the most important pages they need to visit while they are “content snacking” on the go.
What is a True Smartphone-Friendly Website?
If you look at Exhibit 4, you will see a website that is specifically designed for smartphones.
This website has distinct advantages over the three options above:
1. It is action-oriented and clearly invites visitors to contact your law firm.
This well-designed smartphone-friendly website makes it really easy to call, email, or text you, or find your office with just one touch. Visitors do not need to guess where they have to click and what they have to do; they do not need to find the navigation bar or the Contact Us page before they can contact you. This design helps your website generate more clients for your law firm.
At a glance, visitors can see tabs that invite them to click and read the “Firm Overview”, “Partners”, “Practice Areas” pages, etc. With this design, you can drive traffic to select pages you deem most important to convert visitors into clients. Smartphone users are “content snacking” and you need to be strategic with your offering of information to make your first impression count.
3. It retains your branding and design.
This smartphone-friendly web-site shows the attorneys’ icture, the firm’s logo, and their tagline. It also retains the colors and design elements from the desktop version of the website. This way, should the visitor go to your website on another device, they will have familiarity and know they have come to the right place. Don’t settle for a generic version (as seen in Exhibit 2)!
4. It is thumb-friendly.
With big tabs like the ones in Exhibit 4, there is no chance of hitting the neighboring tab by mistake and ending up on the wrong page – a small but crucially-important detail for delivering a satisfying experience to your visitors.
5. It is legible.
You can get a Smartphone-Friendly Website in a Week
Even if you don’t like your current website, or you are tied up by a multi-year contract that does not allow you to change your website and/or provider without a penalty, you can still get a smartphone-friendly website now. It only takes days to build one – and for a nominal price. So why hinder the success of your law firm by settling for outdated technology that does not keep pace with today’s smartphone users?
 www.statista.com/statistics/201182/forecast-of-smartphone-users-in-the-us  www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/mobile-technology-fact-sheet
Dan Couvrette and Martha Chan are marketing experts to family lawyers and other divorce-industry professionals. Dan is the CEO of Divorce Marketing Group – a marketing agency dedicated to promoting family lawyers and divorce professionals – and the founder and publisher of Family Lawyer Magazine and Divorce Magazine. Martha is a co-owner and vice president of marketing for Family Lawyer Magazine, Divorce Magazine, and Divorce Marketing Group. www.divorcemarketinggroup.com