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How to Use Design in Small Business w/ Lynda Decker 366
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Today on the podcast Jim and Tyson joined Lynda Decker! As the Owner of Decker Design, Lynda Decker is a legal sector-focused brand strategist and multidisciplinary designer whose work encompasses high-level website design, interactive communications, publications and information graphics. With 26 year of experience in design, Decker comes to the table ready to transform outdated law firm websites into identities that amplify expertise through compelling visual design, resulting in attracting clients by standing out from the mediocrity of law firm web designs. Her designs have proven time and again to be a firm’s revenue driver, as the website is most often the first line of communication with a potential client.

2:08 how websites have changed
5:42 the feeling behind design
7:57 whitespace
10:45 usability
12:48 negative has a bigger impact
17:35 improvements in recruiting
20:14 testing your design
20:26 big mistakes by small firms

Jim’s Hack:  If you can’t use the businesses you’re loyal to like an airline or hotel, join the new businesses loyalty program, it often results in an upgrade or better service. 

Lynda’s Tip: Decoding Greatness: How the Best in the World Reverse Engineer Success 

Tyson’s Tip: Create consistency across your platforms. Your website, social media, etc. 

Watch the interview here.

Run your law firm the right way.

This is The Maximum Lawyer Podcast.

Your hosts, Jim Hacking and Tyson Mutrux.

Let’s partner up and maximize your firm.

Welcome to the show.

 

Jim:                 Welcome back to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. I’m Jim Hacking.

Tyson:             And I’m Tyson Mutrux. What’s up, Jimmy?

Jim:                 Oh, it’s an exciting day, Tyson. I’m going back to St. Louis a little bit later. And then, tomorrow, we leave to take my second son to college. We’ll be dropping him off at the University of Virginia on Thursday. So, I just got off the phone with his mother. She was up till 12:30 because the boy still hasn’t finished packing and she’s ready to wring his neck.

Tyson:             I’ve gotten those phone calls before. Poor Amy’s been wanting to wring my consent, so I get it.

Just so you know, eight minutes ago, I stepped out of the airplane. So, I just got out of the airplane. We flew to like the Ozarks today and I’ve had some beautiful pictures, so I can’t wait to post them so you can give me crap about it. So, pretty excited.

Jim:                 Mm-hmm. Well, let’s go ahead and introduce our guest today. Her name is Lynda Decker. And she’s the owner of Decker Design. And what they do is they make really beautiful websites for law firms. I was just looking at some of the designs that they have are very clean, very crisp, very modern, and very understated. They’re very graphically appealing but they’re also like not overwhelming, so I really liked it. And she’s been in the business for a long time. Let me go ahead and welcome her.

Lynda, welcome to the show.

Lynda:             Hey, thanks for having me.

Tyson:             What up?

Lynda:             I’m so excited to be talking about my favorite topic which is design.

Tyson:             So, I want to jump right in here. I’ll normally, you know, ask you about your background and everything, but I want to skip that because I want to get the first substantive question because I really want to know about this. It’s a longer question, I think. How have websites changed in the last– just, I’d say even five years? And then, where do you think they’re headed? Because mobile is a big thing over the last 10 years. So, like where are we going after this? Like what’s the next step?

Lynda:             Oh, gosh. You know, it’s really hard to be predictive just because– I mean, hey, look in the last year, who would’ve expected at, you know, in December of 2019 that we are all going to be working from home and experiencing a global pandemic for a year and a half plus.

But if I had to say, you know, how have they changed? Yes. You’re absolutely right about mobile. I think one of the most significant differences, over the last few years, is that there’s more consideration being taken for the usability of websites. I don’t know about you, but I know, for me, when I go onto a website and I have difficulty finding the information that I’m looking for, I get really frustrated. And I think that, over the last few years, there’s greater consideration for the visitor. You know, in my world, they call it usability. And so, I think that’s where there has been a shift.

I guess, if I were going to say anything, I think websites will become even more visual because I think that’s the way society is moving. We’re reading less. We’re like looking for people to show don’t tell.

And, you know, I think, if I had to say anything, that’s where I would say it’s going. And I think mobile is going to become ever more important. And I think it’s dependent upon who is your audience. If you are a lawyer in practice and your target audience are individual people then, I think, mobile is going to be probably the most important thing. If you are, you know, a partner at a law firm that is dealing with, you know, other corporations, more on a business‑to‑business situation, then I think the desktop experience will dominate that audience. Is that helpful, Tyson?

Tyson:             It’s absolutely helpful. Absolutely.

Jim:                 So, for people in the Guild, they can see the video that we’re shooting now. And if you can see Lynda’s office, it’s very, very visually appealing. There’s a nice green chair. There’s purple flowers. It looks like a peach and a mov lava lamp. Everything looks really nice. And there’s greenery out her back door. It’s just very visually appealing. I should have expected this, I guess. I’m sitting in a hotel room with some boring wall art.

But my question is, why is design important to you? What got you into it? Why do you think that it’s so important?

Lynda:             Well, you know, for me, I think it was in my DNA from the start, from when I was a child. But I find you know when something is well designed, it’s easy. It gives me pleasure. You know, like my office space here. You know, when you run a business the world around you is constantly in upheaval. I need a space that will always keep me grounded and keep me calm. And that’s where design comes into play.

You know, recently, there’s a book called Joyful by this woman, Ingrid Lee. And she talks, in that book, about the extraordinary power of ordinary things to bring us happiness. Think about, you know, how wonderful like an iPhone is and how great that experience is compared to, you know, just about anything else on the market. When you have something that is beautiful, it’s just– it’s like it makes– like, my– so, here’s my glass. It’s a very sort of design-y glass. And that just makes me feel like, you know, having water on my desk gives me a moment of like maybe self‑indulgence but also it makes me happy.

And I think that design, and especially as it goes to branding for organizations, when it’s clean and it makes sense, it just makes everybody that encounters it feel better. It gives you a sense of reassurance. It gives you a sense that this person knows what they’re doing.

Tyson:             So, we have Brendan Ruane, in the Guild, and he gave a presentation about color theory. And I thought it was just fascinating because he went through and he changed the colors of the landing page, and it completely changed everything. It was really fascinating to watch him do it. So, there’s colors. But other than colors, like, what are some other elements that maybe we overlook whenever we’re having our websites designed that you think we should be looking at and focusing on?

Lynda:             Well, you know what? I think, you know, the first thing to really think about is you really have to know what your design strategy is going to be. Like, what are the values that represent your organization because any decision you make off of that has to be based on an authentic representation of who you are and what your firm represents to your potential client base. So that’s, I think, the starting point. And I think that where people make a mistake, too often, is to jump immediately into color type and photography without having a sense of the roadmap of where they’re going.

So, the first thing I would say is that you really need to know, “What’s your positioning? What do you stand for? What are the values that you represent?” And then, after that, you know, yes, color comes into play because color gives you a sense of like are you, you know, offering really aggressive representation? Or are you sort of portraying yourself, as you know, a very intelligent, reassuring, comforting advisor to your clients? Like, what is that tone and manner? And that’s very much where color comes into play.

The other elements of design, and I think one that is not thought about enough is whitespace. I mean, Jim, you were talking about how clean our work is at the firm. And that’s because we think about whitespace. Whitespace gives the reader a way to take a breath and to have that sense of calm when they are coming to a website.

The other issues are typography. And there are so many choices out there now. And so, again, that goes back to your values and the type of image that you’re trying to represent on the website. Do you choose something that looks very modern because that is your approach or is it that you want to represent a much more traditional kind of image?

Photography is another thing. And I would encourage people not to go for, you know, the scales of justice, you know, the gavel and all those sort of more traditional representations of law. What we’re seeing is, more and more, is the firms that we work with are looking to really highlight how they are different and not how they are the same as everyone else.

And color comes into play with those images as well. You know, you can choose images that are very bright, or you can choose images that are more black and white. But it all comes together and it all needs to go back to “What’s your positioning? What are you trying to say? What’s that roadmap that your design vocabulary should really have?”

Jim:                 Lynda, you’ll be happy to know that, just a few years ago, I, at the very last minute, talked to Tyson out of using Comic Sans font on his [inaudible 00:09:26].

Tyson:             Oh, get out of here. No, that never happened.

Jim:                 My question is–

Lynda:             Well, you know, there’s another one called platypus that it takes just as much ribbing as Comic Sans.

Jim:                 Well, I was the editor of The Law Journal so we were into fonts big time. And I actually love looking at [inaudible 00:09:44].

Lynda:             Oh, papyrus. Yeah, it’s papyrus, I’m sorry, not platypus. Just, I think it was used on one of those– the guy that did Titanic. It was on one of his movies. I forget the name of it.

Jim:                 So, what about design and thinking about the visual aspects for people that have a young clientele? The digital kids are so savvy and so– you know, technology is such a part of their lives. When you think about design, do you have special concerns or thoughts when trying to interact with younger people?

Lynda:             You know, I can’t say that we would necessarily, you know, divide our segment into, you know, young versus old because, you know, there are certain standards in terms of readability out now, you know, that everyone is expected to adhere to in terms of usability and that has to do with contrast so that you’re not creating a website that has usability issues for visitors that are older versus visitors that are younger and have better eyesight.

Now, as far as– you know, I have to go back to ’08. It’s like, “What is your positioning?” And so, you know, where an older audience often doesn’t really use the web as often and just really wants to be able to go and find something, maybe one thing very quickly. Maybe they’re just going to a bio page and that’s it. The younger audiences will often because they’re being recruited by a law firm, they will read every single page of the website. They will go through it in more detail than anyone ever anticipates, and they will also find mistakes and they will point them out in their job interview because I’ve heard like, if there’s a misspelling on any page, they will find or a misplaced comma, they will point that out to the interviewer.

But, anyway, I think what’s important, you know, is to be relevant – to be authentic to the positioning of your firm. But also to, you know, not let your website get old and out of date. Like, there are certain firms that have– it’s called a fixed‑width website. Like you go onto it and it won’t change size. And that’s like a dead giveaway like, “uh, the firm doesn’t care.”

And, you know, I think what younger audiences are looking for is, you know, more sophisticated approaches. I mean, remember, these guys are– you know, they’re on Instagram all day. They are using TikTok. They are incredibly visual. And so, if the website is not well designed and not, you know, really up to date, that is a negative.

If the website is done, well, it’s a positive, but it’s like it’s more than negative has a greater impact than the positive. And I think that’s, you know, overall, for websites. I mean, let’s face it, no one’s going to close a piece of business because of their website, but they might lose a piece of business because someone comes on to it and they can’t find information or it’s just not appealing and they feel like, “Oh, is this firm a fly by night or is everyone there so old?” You know, I think that’s really the thing with the younger audiences, you can turn them off. And so that’s why it’s important to be relevant.

And, you know, it’s not that hard to design something well as to design it badly. I mean, you know, it’s working with the right people. You know, if you’re going to partner with a design firm, look at their work and see if it appeals to you, if this is something how you want to represent yourself because the track record a design firm has is going to represent how they will work with you in the future.

Tyson:             Okay. So, it sounds like the planning and the process is crucial. So, let’s say, hypothetically, I am launching an estate planning practice. I guess, where do I start? Like, how does the process work?

Lynda:             Well, the way that we start working with clients is we start by going through a number of workshop exercises to help you to think about the image that you want to project. There’s something called the brand archetype. And that’s an exercise that we go through in which we give you a little homework ahead of time with the workshop. And then, with your team, we start to work through what is the appropriate archetype that your firm fits within. Sometimes that archetype could be the sage which is like an all‑knowing being, sometimes it’s a hero, sometimes it’s the creator, depending upon the type of approach and personality of everyone within your firm.

Then, once we get that sort of umbrella established, we start to dig into a little bit deeper as to what’s the personality that that archetype could be expressed as? And then, we start to show you visuals that, you know, have a correlation to those particular personality types. So, that’s how we start to get a sense of where you want to go visually.

But the other thing that we do is we interview everyone in the firm and we interview clients on the outside because what we often find is that there really is a gap between how your external audience is viewing your firm and how you view your firm. Often, we find that the team within the law firm has this idea that their clients know all this information about them and that they see them in a particular way. And when we speak to the clients, they have a completely different perspective. And it’s that gap that really gives us a lot of information because then we can figure out how do we shift that perception that your clients have into the perception that you want them to have? Does that answer your question, Tyson?

Tyson:             Absolutely. I love it. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. Perfect.

 

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Jim:                 You’re listening to the maximum lawyer podcast. Our guest today is Lynda Decker of Decker Design.

Lynda, tell us, if you can, of some success stories or instances where clients have gone through the process, built out their design of their website with you, and then have received feedback from clients, or gotten a deal, or have just been able to go to a higher level because of the work that they did with you.

Lynda:             Well, I can think of one boutique firm that we worked with in New York City. You know, some of the things have been really very nice where their competitors have called them and asked them who designed their website because they wanted to get the name of whoever did it. But I would say what we found, with that particular firm, was that they had more success in terms of recruiting where the number of people who applied for their associate class increased. I think it just about doubled, actually. And they found that they were, at each one of the interviews, was even more engaged than they were in the past because there was just so much more information on the website that the recruit could actually look at and then ask questions. And then, we also found out that some of the, you know, potential associates had also looked up the case study on our website and read that as well for background which was really crazy, to me, to see how deep some of these young people will go when they’re researching. So that is really sort of one instance where I know that a recruiting class increased substantially.

A number of years ago, for a large global firm, we did a recruiting website. And that cohort that they ended up recruiting were about three times as many summer associates as they had done in years past. And they attributed it to that particular website that was up at that time.

And then, we worked with a firm in Los Angeles and they have– it’s just anecdotal evidence that we have, with more, you know, greater engagement on the website. I mean, there’s some Google Analytics but then just sort of hearing from the partners that they felt that the content on the website was being engaged with a lot more with their clients.

Tyson:             So, I wonder if is it usually consistent if design’s good, conversion’s good? Or, are there certain elements where, you know, conversion might increase but it clashes a little bit with the design? Hopefully, that question makes sense. But, I guess, the real question is, do design and conversion go hand in hand or are there times when they just they don’t necessarily go hand in hand?

Lynda:             Yeah. I don’t know if I can answer that question because I don’t think, you know, that we’ve ever designed something badly where I can say that I have that data set. But, you know, what I consider to be good design is good usability, where people can find what they’re looking for. And that’s where, you know, it moves into conversion.

You know, I think I sent something earlier. You know, there’s nothing more frustrating than going to a website and not being able to find something that you’re looking for or to be able to complete a task that you have intended to complete when you go to that website. And it’s because whomever designed it thought it was kind of cool to put something in a different place instead of thinking about how do users logically go through the website. I mean, we test all of our websites as we’re working on them to make sure that they’re usable. So, I really think of good design as good usability. And, therefore, good design increases engagement, and then increases conversion.

Jim:                 All right. So, what are the biggest mistakes? And we talked about the gavels, and the law books, and the courthouse steps? What are some other big mistakes that you see especially with smaller firms making with their website design?

Lynda:             I think mixed messages. So, first of all, not thinking about their positioning in the marketplace. And really trying to be too many things to too many people. Like, you go to the website, it’s not clear.

There’s also sometimes a tendency, on the homepage to just stick everything that they can think of on that homepage, every single logo. Yeah, just cram‑a‑jama. And, you know, it’s like, you know, maybe this may appeal to somebody. And then, you know, really, like if you have clarity in your messaging and if you sort of define your audience more crisply and more narrowly, you eliminate competition. And that’s really the rationale to do that. Like positioning is so critical.

Like if you think that you are– you know, my firm is going to appeal to everybody. Well, then, every other law firm on the planet is your competitor. Narrow your positioning down. So then, you know exactly who your competition is and then you can figure out more accurately how to compete against them.

Tyson:             I love it.

All right. We do need to wrap things up. Before I do, I want to remind everyone to go to the Facebook group and join us there. If you’re interested in more of a high‑level discussion, go to maxlawguild.com and join us in the Guild. And as a reminder, I’ve said this in the last podcast, tickets are probably going to be sold out by that time that you hear this. But, if they’re not, go to maxlawcon.com to get your tickets for our conference in October.

Jimmy, what’s your hack of the week?

Jim:                 I’m a very loyal kind of a client. I fly Southwest whenever I can. I stay at the Westin whenever I can. And my hack though is, if you can’t use the people that you’re loyal to, if you find yourself, for whatever reason, needing to stay in a different hotel or use a different airline, what I like to do is I join their loyalty program, then I order the room or the airline ticket. It oftentimes may result in a little bit of an upgrade or certainly better service when you show up. It’s so funny. They’ll say, “Thank you for being a loyal Hyatt member” even though I just joined right before I got my reservation. So, I just like to do that. And that’s my hack of the week.

Tyson:             I love it. And I’m with you. You told me about Westin and I was like– I was [inaudible 00:22:47] Westin after my first time I stayed in a Westin, so. Yeah, be part of their rewards program too, it’s going to be good.

All right. Lynda, so what we do is we– and I don’t know if you know about this yet, but we ask all of our guests to give a tip or a hack of the week. It could be a podcast. It could be a book. It could be whatever. Do you have a tip or a hack for us?

Lynda:             I do. I do. I have my new favorite book right now. It’s called Decoding Greatness. The subhead is how the best in the world reverse engineer success.

I keep going back to this book over and over. It is absolutely fantastic. And I think one of the chapters which is probably helpful to a lot of, you know, the people listening to this podcast is the one about how to talk to experts because the author, Ron Friedman, talks about how the curse of expertise is that experts often don’t know how to not know something. So, they’re often not all that great about giving you the information that you need, unlike you guys who are really very good at asking questions. But he’s got three sort of areas. He says you can use journey questions, process questions, or discovery questions. And then, he tells the reader how to go into more depth and detail to get the answers that you need. And I think it’s just a fantastic book and I keep going back to it.

Tyson:             Well, I wanted to say damn you because now I have another book to put on my list. But then, you said something nice about it so I can’t say it anymore. Now, I’ve got another dang book I’ve got to read. So, that sounds like an awesome book, so I’ve got to check that out. It’s a very good–

Lynda:             You know, I tell you, Tyson, I went through that book so quickly. And so many business books are just boring and kind of put you half to sleep and all you think about is “It should have been an article and not a book.” This is a really good book.

Tyson:             So true. I don’t remember who said this, but I stole the idea. [inaudible 00:24:37] book, I’ll read the first three chapters because they front load a lot of it. And I just stop reading after the first three. It’s like I know everything I need to know about it, so.

That’s good to hear though about this book. I’m going to check it out for sure. So, thanks for that suggestion.

Lynda:             You’re welcome.

Tyson:             My tip relates– so, basically, what you’ve been talking about today and it’s really about making sure that your design matches consistent across all of your digital platforms, whatever they might be. Because I do see a lot of inconsistencies when it comes a firm’s name. Their Facebook page looks nothing like what the website does. Or, even from websites to walking the office do not match. So, if you can have that consistency, it definitely does– that way like maybe your client [inaudible 00:25:20] they walk in or if they’re searching for other things about your firm, they’re like, “What? Like, is this the same firm?” That way, I think, that consistency really definitely does help. So, that is my tip of the week.

Lynda, thank you so much for coming on. This has been a lot of fun. You know, we have guests who come on and sometimes I’m wondering like, “Okay. Are we even going to learn anything?” But I really did learn a lot on this podcast. So, thank you so much for sharing and coming on and then share your time with us.

Lynda:             It was great. Thank you. I had a lot of fun.

Tyson:             Same here. Thanks, Lynda.

Lynda:             Okay. Take care.

Jim:                 See ya.

Lynda:             Bye.

 

Thanks for listening to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast.

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Have a great week and catch you next time.

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