Skip to content

How Great Websites for Professional Service Firms Use the Trunk Test

Imagine you’re thrown into the trunk of a car, driven around and dropped off at some website. Highly unlikely scenario, but just go with us.
This exercise is called “The Trunk Test”, and the idea is to take a look at the internal pages of the website for your professional service firm and see if you can answer: do I know where I am and what I’m looking at?
Steve Krug wrote about the trunk test in his web usability classic, Don’t Make Me Think.
As Krug points out, when someone first visits your site, you have only seconds to grab their attention and keep them from fleeing immediately.  Even after 20 seconds, the probability of someone leaving your webpage is still high. This data comes from web usability expert Jakob Nielsen.
SIDE NOTE: When people who visit your site leave immediately, they are known to “bounce”.  Your bounce rate is a metric that tells you what percentage of people do just that.
To combat this, we apply the trunk test to make sure the user knows their orientation when they visit a website and what they can accomplish immediately.  To pass the trunk test, the visitor should be able to answer:

1) What site is this?

First off, the name of your company should always be located at the top of each page, preferably in the left-hand corner; that way when you’re dropped off at the website, no matter what page you’re on, you know what website you’re visiting.

2) What page am I on?

A page name is important to let the visitor know where they are. For instance, on your “About Us” page, there should be a clear header that names the page. Every page should do this.

3) What are the major sections of this site?

Do you have clear navigation to the different areas of your site? Having sections on your site help so the customer can pick a certain place that they’d like to visit. And they need to be consistent, on every page.

4) What are my options at this level?

Within each section, subsections give the user the ability to narrow a visitor’s choices down to more specific information. This “local navigation”, as it is called, will keep the attention of the visitor to avoid losing them within the first 20 seconds.

5) Where am I in the scheme of things?

Now, lets say you’re a visitor on a law firm website. If the law firm set their website up to follow conventions most visitors prefer, this should be a typical traffic flow:
You select “practice areas” as your section. You then have a list of subsections to choose from, so let’s try “Family Law.” You’ll notice at the top of the screen it says in a header-style font “Family Law,” so you know where you are.

6) How can I search?

Lastly, you want some type of search ability in your website. For companies that are smaller, it may not be as important, but for larger companies it really is necessary.
Keeping these questions in mind is important when you are developing and designing your law firm website. It may even be a good idea to get a set of new eyes on your design as well! This way they can be the knit-pickers and let you know how to improve your website.