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Hick’s Law says that the more choices a user faces, the less likely they are to take action. This means you should streamline your website design to reduce cognitive overload and create a user experience that empowers rather than overwhelms.

Here are four ways to apply Hick’s Law to simplify your website design, helping you retain attention and book more clients online. 

What is Hick’s Law?

Hick’s Law posits that the more choices a user is presented with, the longer it takes for them to make a decision. 

Background: This has to do with working memory. A user must exert a massive cognitive effort to process and evaluate each option on your site. This can lead to decision paralysis and frustration.

Impact: If you give a user too many choices, they may end up quitting the process altogether. You might lose that potential client.

So, attorneys, and their marketing teams, should keep Hick’s Law in mind in every decision related to online marketing and design. Simplifying the list of options is the absolute best way to mitigate the risk of information overload, create happier users and ultimately get a higher conversion rate.

Lesson #1: Opt for simple navigation menus.

A prime example of Hick’s Law in action on lawyer websites is navigation menu design

Rather than inundating visitors with a plethora of options, opt for simplicity and clarity. Limit menu items, and categorize similar items if they absolutely must be included in the menu.

For instance, you could use “Personal Injury Services” as the title of a page in the nav, which would include your specific practice areas as subpages like Medical Malpractice and Car Accidents.

This streamlined approach not only enhances user satisfaction but also reduces bounce rates.

Lesson #2: Use clear and compelling action buttons.

Concise and compelling text on a button is absolutely critical to increasing the number of clicks. Remember, it’s all about minimizing the cognitive load for your busy user. 

For instance, “Click Here” is concise—but it’s not clear or compelling. Where will that button take them? What will happen when they click it? “Submit” is a good phrase for a contact form. “Schedule” is appropriate for an appointment-booking mechanism. 

You can apply Hick’s Law to newsletter subscription forms, too. Request minimal information to reduce form abandonment, concisely state 1-2 benefits to reduce cognitive overload, and use “Subscribe” on the button to clearly explain what will happen after they click.

To sum up, don’t over-explain with lengthy phrases on your button text, but don’t be ambiguous either. If you’re feeling stuck, hire a copywriter or UX designer who can work with you on microcopy.

Lesson #3: Make it easy to book an appointment.

Attorneys understand the importance of a consultation—but it can be a challenge to get people to sign up for an appointment.

Applying Hick’s Law to form design can help attorneys book more consultations.

Simplify the appointment booking process by presenting users with a limited number of available time slots. 

Your goal is to expedite the user’s decision-making and reduce friction. We promise, your prospective client is not interested in knowing your entire calendar availability. They just need a few options to choose from. 

Lesson #4: Reduce categories on all areas of your site.

Review your entire website with your Hick’s-colored glasses on, and be on the lookout for any areas with clutter.

Start with your practice areas. Can you streamline this list? Are there any areas you could combine in the nav menu? Make a note, and then book a consultation to confirm that it’s appropriate and helpful to combine your target pages.

Now review your FAQs. You probably have too many. Try to sort them into categories, like “Legal Services,” “Process and Procedures,” “Client Support,” and “Payment and Billing.” Extensive browsing should be optional, not required. 

Finally, look at your blog and resource library. You can easily sort this content into categories, either by content type or content topic. For instance, you could group your free downloadables. Organize your case studies within the same practice area together.

Clear categories empower your users to act fast—and good design makes you look good, increasing their confidence in your firm.

Exceptions to the law

Hick’s Law is a valuable guiding principle in website design, but there are a few exceptions and strategic considerations. 

Pre-existing intent: Some users are arriving at your site with a specific goal in mind. When a user already knows what they want, you simply have to help them find it with as few barriers as possible. A search bar is a great help here.

Distinct categories: For some lawyers, it doesn’t make sense to combine practice area categories. Overly condensing or grouping unrelated practice areas together may confuse users who are looking for specialized legal services. Instead, specifically call out your practice areas so your prospective clients can find them. 

Law is complex: Some legal matters require in-depth explanation and nuanced considerations. If you’re writing a blog post, oversimplifying a complex legal concept could potentially lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretations.

Choice to expand: You can limit a person’s initial view while still providing them with the choice to expand and explore with more information. For example, you could highlight three testimonials with a very short and impactful quote, but also include an option to click and reveal the entire testimonial. User empowerment and simplification can work hand-in-hand. 

Contact options: Your clients have diverse backgrounds, needs, and preferences. It’s essential to offer a range of communication options (e.g., phone, email, live chat) to accommodate different communication preferences. Limiting communication channels may alienate potential clients who prefer alternative methods of contact—just make sure you can actually track and follow up with all these methods.

Review and next steps

Look, you don’t have to be a cognitive psychologist to benefit from principles like Hick’s Law. You just have to try to improve, within your means. Hick’s Law recommends that you sculpt a user experience that is simple, straightforward and usable. Streamlined menus and purposeful action buttons are a great start. 

In truth, every design element on your site plays a pivotal role in shaping a user’s behavior and driving conversions. The fastest solution for law firms is a turnkey website solution, which lets you enjoy the benefit of a design-tested layout without paying for a fancy behemoth of a site you can’t afford.
Book a consultation with the experts at OneFirst if you’re ready to optimize your online presence.

About the Author
The team at OneFirst Legal has built websites for thousands of law firms across the United States. Fueled by data and whole lot of creativity, OneFirst helps law firms make a powerful first impression online with websites that convert visitors into clients.