By Geri L. Dreiling, Esq.
I once participated in a focus group whose members were asked to share their opinions about a legal publication. We were to comment on the content as well as the overall look and feel of the paper.
I remember one lawyer in particular indicating that he preferred dense text, very little white space and a lot of legalese. In law school he had become comfortable with treatises and works that most find off-putting. He felt that photos, white space and the “plain English” approach to writing watered down the reading experience.
Having written for both mainstream and legal publications where the mandate was to make it as easy as possible for people in a hurry to absorb information quickly, I hadn’t considered the reader who actually enjoys settling in with a hornbook.
It was an “aha” moment for me.
Working with lawyers on website and blog content, I have noticed that some tend to prefer a screen filled with long paragraphs of dense text, devoid of images, white space or video because that is what they encounter day in and out, whether it is case law or statutes.
But prospective clients are often not so eager or patient when it comes to gathering information online. White space, images, headings and bold text make information more accessible.
A dense wall of words can be so intimidating that the would-be reader flees the page. (By checking your site statistics you can tell how long someone lingers on a page.)
I’ve found on my own site that the time spent on the page goes up and the bounce rate goes down when I incorporate images. Here are three ways in which you can liven up your legal blog, break up pages of dense text and increase the number of people who remain on your site for longer periods.
1. Incorporate video.
Short video clips interspersed with your text can be an effective tool with which to make your point. They’re also a good way to keep a reader on your blog — and remember it.
Here I’ll paraphrase Pee Wee Herman’s famous “Why don’t you take a picture? It’ll last longer!” Add video, and your visitor will linger longer.
2. Add photos and clip art that are free of royalty restrictions.
A number of free sites offer downloads of photos and clip art that aren’t bound by royalty restrictions.
One site that I often use is a free site from Microsoft’s Office.
3. Add a screenshot of a Web page.
As anyone who regularly reads my posts knows, I love to incorporate screen shots of Web pages. It’s a convenient way to illustrate a point or walk a reader through a particular task.
For lawyers, the ability to take screenshots can be useful indeed. For example, divorce filings typically require the parties to fill out a variety of income and expense, property and child support calculation forms, and many states provide these forms online. A blog post explaining how to fill out the forms or addressing common questions about various aspects of the form could include screenshots of the relevant sections. Just below or above each screenshot, the attorney can provide a more detailed description or explanation of the information the form is trying to elicit.
I use a free web page capture plug-in called FireShot. It allows me to not only save screens with common photo extensions such as .png but also to edit what I save. Typically when I upload the screen shot to my blog I embed a link back to the original site.
Do you have a favorite tool for livening up your legal blog? If so, let me know.
At Legal Media Matters, we provide legal public relations, law firm marketing and attorney website content writing services.