Today’s learners have a virtual arsenal of multimedia learning platforms merely a click away—in fact some consider the internet the greatest contributor to the learning process since the printing press was invented. Well, that’s certainly the theory and the potential of the web in any case. The reality tends to be a bit less spectacular. While most web owners and web creators spend hours and hours creating fabulous, flashy, imminently usable and always-accessible interfaces to host their hopefully high-quality content, the goals of the learner can be largely forgotten. In other words we have become so focused on keywords and headlines that reach out and grab the reader’s attention that we’ve let the content-rich website which actively encourages learning and exploration fall by the wayside.
Now as a legal professional, you may well wonder why you should care whether your firm’s website it learner-friendly—after all, your primary goal is to get conversions, right? Well, yes and no. Of course the overall goal of your website will be to reach those you might not otherwise reach, promote your specific services and end with lots of happy, satisfied clients. While this is certainly a worthy goal, it can benefit your business to take a closer look at what your users really want. Most people who seek out a legal website have a specific problem that they need information about. To provide this information in the most succinct manner possible, there are several things to keep in mind.
Narrative—Essential to Learning
All human communications essentially revolve around storytelling—we use storytelling both to create an emotional connection with one another and to convey information. Writers use narrative to connect what they know about the world with what their readers already know and want to know about the world. A story is exchanged and a personal connection is made. Through the information presented the reader is able to actually build their own narrative as they work their way through your legal website. Bits and pieces of information are soon converted into real knowledge. Your web users come to your website in an attempt to find information germane to their specific situation and to their lives. Those who spend their precious and limited time immersed in a content-rich website have the hope of being changed, having their outlook altered or gaining something they did not have before. In order for these hopes to be realized, your website must offer context to your readers in addition to narrative. Context helps your reader get the entire picture, facilitates understanding and, in the end, changes our way of thinking.
Remembering the Different Learner-Styles
Just as children learn in different ways, adults also have different styles of learning. While some prefer very structured, organized methods of learning—others will prefer a learning path which requires a bit of exploration. Therefore while the traditional navigational layout may appeal to many users, others may prefer a path of discoverability. If you are unsure what discoverability really means, think about Wikipedia which allows the reader to skip from one type of content to another, providing links which facilitate the ability to change topics easily without stopping the flow. Those who have used Wikipedia know that while they may have begun reading about a nuclear site in New Mexico they may have ended up reading about a horse farm in Maine. A stretch, but you get the idea! You can satisfy both types of learners by keeping your logical, well-laid out navigational tools while adding hyperlinking and visual representations of your message. In the end, you want to remember that your legal website should be a meaningful participant in a much greater story and should seek to create content that is truly worth discovering.