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Responsive design is the right fit for law blogs

law blog responsive design

Per the 2014 State of Digital and Content Marketing Survey, 42% of in-house counsel are accessing general business media on tablets. 35% on smart phones. 29% are accessing law blogs on tablets, 23% on smartphones.

However, Joe Dysart, reporting for the ABA Journal, believes responsive websites may not be the way forward for law firms.

A well-promoted solution for the wide variety of screen sizes law firm websites must accommodate can end up being more trouble than it’s worth.

Responsive websites, which automatically sense a device’s screen size and respond by reconfiguring text and graphics to fit, can render desktop PCs with ridiculously large text and other overblown features that are tedious to wade through.

Scorpion’s Rustin Kretz tells Dysart:

The trouble with responsive is I haven’t seen enough thought go into the user experience. It’s more ‘technical’ and less ‘design.’

Admittedly these guys are referencing websites, not blogs. But they’re painting with way too broad a brush. Responsive is development and design working hand in hand to provide all users (mobile and desktop) an eloquent and effective experience.

Look at The Boston Globe designed by Ethan Marcotte. There’s no problem with the site rendering wide swaths of blank space you must scroll through when using a desktop that Dysart says is the problem with responsive.

Look at Dashboard Insights, an auto industry law blog published by Foley & Lardner. It’s an eloquent reading experience for users, whether on an iPhone, iPad, or desktop.

Robert Algeri (@robertalgeri) of Great Jakes Marketing responds to Dysart and Kretz with a little common sense.

If you’re doing bad design work, you get a bad user experience. If the photos are too big and the pages require too much scrolling, it’s just bad design.

I’m in in agreement with Web designer and author, Paul Boag that responsive websites are good for:

  • Information rich websites
  • Users that are looking to gather information

Sounds like law blogs and, yes, law firm websites.

I’d advise going with a mobile first mind set, as explained by web designer and writer, Brad Frost (@brad_frost).

Starting with mobile and designing with progressive enhancement covers all bases (even if just at a rudimentary level). Any web-enabled device will be able to access the website and have a functional experience. Period. Then using feature detection, conditional script loading, media queries and plenty of other delicious techniques allow the experience to be enhanced and optimized for the device’s context.

Law firms really don’t have a choice. 30% of people on mobile will leave a blog or site that’s not optimized for mobile.

Your clients, prospective clients, referral sources, and their influencers (bloggers and reporters) are seamlessly browsing across the Internet viewing sites such as Mashable and SB Nation, both with responsive designs.

Nearly half (46%) of in-house counsel are accessing social media on mobile. What’s being shared on social? Your blog posts and articles.

Admittedly, responsive is just one way to present a mobile experience, but right now it’s the optimum one for law blogs. Native apps and Web applications are generally more task focused than content intensive.

I’m not alone. Law firm website designer, Brendan Chard (@brandan_chard), told Dysart “A mobile app for the firm is usually overkill and requires too many steps for the user to obtain and use.”

Custom responsive design by professionals may cost you a few dollars more. It’s worth it when you take into account the time you put into blogging, your desire to build subscribers, and the impression you want to leave with users.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Per Axbom