Breaking down the process: Designing LegalRiver.com
Mindy Wagner, Former Design Director
One of my favorite things about working at Viget is the opportunity to work with promising startups. Our recent engagement with Legal River is a great example of how a unique working relationship can make the most of small startup budgets. Viget helped establish a look and feel for their website, https://www.legalriver.com, a marketplace that helps connect small business owners with attorneys.
The guys at LegalRiver didn't have the budget for a blue-sky solution, but they did have the smarts to invest in the basics. What made this project unique is that I only designed one page. The Legal River team is using that design as a roadmap for the rest of the site. They also did all of the development in-house. While it would have been great to design more of the site, we were able to give them a solid foundation to work with.
A STARTING POINT
Startup clients like Legal River often come to us without a well-defined visual brand. Creating a brand identity can be both time-consuming and expensive, so it's understandable. Logos and Pantone colors aren't a top priority when you're trying to get the next big web app built and launched. But good design can make a huge difference in a product's success or failure, so it shouldn't be ignored forever
A project without branding guidelines is fun, but it can also be intimidating. A blank slate usually leaves me wondering where to begin. That's why Kevin kicked the project off by sending over some branding questions. Talking through the answers with the client lets us dig a little deeper, gain additional insight and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Sample Question: If your brand was an automobile, what would it be?
Legal River's Answer: "Volkswagen Passat. It is dependable and reliable, easy to use and looks clean and neat without showing off."
The Legal River team members were engaged in the process from the get-go and answered our questions thoughtfully. There was some debate about whether the celebrity most fit to represent them was Sam Waterson or Matt Damon (I stepped in as the tiebreaker) but overall their direction was clear. Descriptors they all agreed on included professional, trustworthy, and focused.
Next, I created two mood boards. We use mood boards for most of our projects, but they are especially useful for one like this where so much of the look and feel has yet to be figured out.
The mood boards explored some of the things the team did not agree on such as color palette (neutral vs. bright) and style (traditional vs. illustrative/modern). The clients again took an active role and gave me good feedback.
With a tight timeframe and budget, we decided that our design hours were best spent breathing life into the homepage. It was an easy choice. The current homepage was extremely bare-bones but needed to communicate a lot of information effectively. The secondary pages would be more straightforward.
The primary goal was clear - attract businesses to the site and get them using it right away. Kevin and I sat down and took a look at the current homepage, then hashed out some additional goals and a content outline. The homepage needed to:
- Attract small business owners (lawyers are a secondary audience) and explain how they could benefit from using it. Give them easy access to post a case.
- Give a quick overview of how the marketplace works.
- Highlight what makes Legal River great. It's free, non-binding, confidential, and more efficient than the traditional approach.
The new design meets these goals and gives Legal River a strong identity. Take a look below for a before and after comparison.
The product name inspired the background of soft blue waves. Their weaving texture is meant to represent attorneys and business owners coming together. The font used for the logo treatment and headlines helps the site feel modern and friendly but still professional.
A bold action button invites business owners to post a legal issue as soon as they arrive. The feature banner and a "how it works" breakdown help bring attention to Legal River's main selling points and icons reinforce the message. I surfaced up recent blog posts to make use of content they were already writing but not effectively sharing.
I had a great time working on this project, and I hope the Legal River team gets a lot of mileage out of the various design elements I established. They've already done a fantastic job building out the homepage. You can find the site here: https://www.legalriver.com/