Your website's header is the first thing visitors see on your site and is often the most memorable component. We've compiled some tips on how to make the biggest and most lasting impact with the header image of your law firm website.
Approximate Read Time: 8 Minutes
As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The same applies to your online presence. Your website header is what often produces the first impression of your site on a visitor because it is the first thing anyone will see before scrolling down the page. In web layout, the header is the top part of a web page. Headers usually include important design elements such as your law firm’s logo, a call to action, a navigation bar, and a large image with meaningful text (such as a slogan or a tagline). Therefore, the header receives a great deal of attention on the website, and it is quite likely that visitors and potential clients will remember this part of your site well.
The header image plays a key role in grabbing a person’s attention and establishing a connection with the website’s visitors. Also, a compelling image in the header can give your website the personality to make it stand out among competitors and help prospects to recognize it easily. Images play a crucial role in your web design, so keep in mind that a poor image could ruin your website. It is important to remember that all of your website’s components (colors, layout, fonts, and images) should come together to form a cohesive and effective design. However, when one element is chosen without taking into consideration how the other elements combine and interact with it, the final result might not look quite right. On occasions, the selection of the definitive header image is neglected until the end of the design process, and that could be a mistake. Quality web design practices dictate that all of the elements on a page should appear to belong together visually. In consequence, it is best to ensure that the image you choose helps enhance your website’s design.
For law firm websites, we recommend a high-quality photo of yourself or your team as a header image that will help instill a sense of trust and encourage visitors to take that next step and contact you. To learn more about how a high-quality personal photo can improve your website’s conversion, you can read this blog post. Other popular themes for the header image in law firm websites are the city’s skyline, a photo of the offices, or an image related to the firm’s main practice (e.g., a personal injury scene). A valid, and widely used, practice is to superimpose your headshot over a solid background or a background image of one of the themes mentioned previously. It is important to clarify that in some jurisdictions, attorneys are prohibited from using, or required to include certain disclaimers when using, photos of actors for advertising purposes.
We are now going to discuss several of the key design aspects to keep in mind when choosing the right header image for your website.
The ideal orientation of the header image should be landscape (in other words, the image is wider than it is tall). This orientation works best especially if you would like to use the fully extended image as in modern looking websites. Also, it is recommendable that you make sure to leave a good-sized, clear space where you can place your tagline and/or call to action. It is important not to hide your headshot behind those elements. Although we have a natural tendency to center everything in a photo, the recommendation is to place your headshot a bit off to one side, rather than in the middle (the exception is when you are using group photos). This will leave enough open space for the text, leaving your face visible at all times, and keeping the image uncluttered. This type of layout is also helpful when you would like to highlight an interesting background. These guidelines will make your header image more visually appealing.
If you plan on placing text over the header image, the most important thing you need to consider is its readability. Readability depends on a combination of factors (font size, spacing, typeface, etc.), but color contrast has the highest impact. You need to find the most favorable contrast between the image and the text. If the image does not have enough contrast with the text, it won’t be easy to read, decreasing user experience that in turn can frustrate visitors. The general recommendation is to use an image with sections where the text can contrast without problem: a solid background, a repetitive pattern or color (the sky, the ocean, the wall of a building, etc.) This will ensure that the text stands out and that it is legible.
The header image takes up a lot of space on your web page. Therefore, it needs to work seamlessly with the rest of the elements. The predominant colors in the image should preferably match your color scheme or complement it. An excellent piece of advice is to try to incorporate colors from your brand into the header image. For example, if you are planning to use your headshot in the header image, wear business attire that matches the colors of your brand. An accessory such as a tie or scarf with your brand’s colors is visually appealing and blends in well with the image. By using your color scheme consistently on your law firm website, you can create a strong and cohesive visual identity that will set you apart from your competitors.
Keeping your audience in mind can help you make the appropriate decision about what image to include in your header. You can connect with your target audience by choosing a picture that is in context with your service areas. For example, your image can include elements that people find familiar from their surroundings (such as a famous landmark of their town or city). If they get to feel a personal connection to your law firm, it is more likely that they will contact you. Also, the header image can reflect the seasons of the year, as well as other related aspects that you may want to highlight from your location. This is the reason why many websites of law firms located in beach cities usually have a header image with warm colors. A last piece of advice: if you are unsure about the image for your header, a picture of your city’s skyline is always a safe bet.
Your header image may look great on desktop, but it is crucial to see how it looks on mobile devices. Header images may experience cropping or distortion issues on narrower mobile screens. You might only see a tiny part of your picture, or the elements in the image could be barely recognizable due to the lower resolution of mobile screens. Although many modern websites use responsive images that will automatically adjust to fit the size of the screen, you may need to create a smaller and “simplified” version of your header image for your website’s mobile view. Furthermore, images with portrait orientation (vertical) usually fit better in the screens of mobile devices. Thus, it is important to test your header image in a variety of devices (mobile phones and tablets) to choose the right one. We need to keep in mind that large images take a toll on performance. They can slow down your website if they are not optimized for the mobile experience. This is another reason why it is not recommendable to use large images on mobile.
As we’ve discussed in a previous blog post, images often account for a significant portion of a website’s load time. Therefore, image optimization is essential to ensuring a positive overall user experience and effective SEO. There are several technical concepts that you should familiarize yourself with regarding the optimal display of your header image:
- Resolution. The resolution of an image is the number of pixels in it. For practical purposes, resolution refers to an image’s quality. As the resolution increases, the image becomes more clear. The lower the resolution, the less information there will be in the image to display. A high-resolution picture is always recommended for the header image. However, it is important that the image should always be optimized for the Web.
- Format. There are several types of files that you can use for images on your website. The following file formats are suitable for the Web: JPG, GIF, PNG, and SVG. WebP is a new image format for the Web, but it is still not universally supported by all browsers. The ideal format will depend on how you plan to use the images in your website.
- File size. An image’s file size is determined by several elements: resolution, format, and file compression. Images with a large file size take longer to load and will slow down your website. Therefore, a primary web design objective should always be to find the right balance between the lowest file size and the optimal image quality. When it comes to image size, bigger isn’t always better.
- Metadata. Metadata is additional text that you can add to your images (for example, the ALT text), so search engines can know what they are about. Search engines rely on this text to display images in their search results. Also, screen readers for the visually impaired will read out this text. Ensure that the ALT text of all images is sufficiently descriptive.
The first impression a website’s design creates is crucial in capturing the visitor’s interest. That first impression depends on many factors, but the website header plays a key factor because it is the first thing that the person will see when landing on your homepage. It is quite likely that it might be the only thing that the person will look at to determine if your website can meet their needs. Therefore, your header’s focal point should be a beautiful and professional image that will instantly capture their attention. Skipping the step of choosing the correct header image may result in visitors not bothering to read your content or worse, not returning. It is important to keep in mind that we are very visual creatures. On many occasions, we will form an opinion about a website in seconds just because of its visual appeal.
Unfortunately, choosing the appropriate header image is something that often gets lost in the process of building a website. We let the designer work with a placeholder image (i.e., a stock photo), and when we finally replace it with the final image, the result might not quite be what we are looking for. You must remember that your header image is going to be one of the first things anyone will see when they visit your law firm website. It is the first impression and, although the first may not always be the most important, you should keep in mind that you are competing with hundreds, or even thousands, of law firms like yours. The header image is also one of the parts of your website that people will most likely remember for a long time. So, make that first impression a positive one.
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