Should you care about the legal stuff?

Every website has them – or at least should do. Terms & Conditions of trade, website policies, disclaimers, “impressum” …there are all sorts of legal requirements that have to go somewhere. The normal attitude towards them are that they’re dull, they get in the way, and that they need to be presented in as unfriendly a way as possible to avoid visitors getting distracted by them.

This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the way websites work, nearly 30 years after hyperlinking was invented. If you were publishing a book, it would make sense to present the legalities in a way that readers could skip over easily. On a website, someone visits a page because they want to – and the pages with legally-required content should reflect the same image as the rest of the website.

I’m not suggesting that any of us rewrite anything – indeed, it’s almost certainly a good idea not to, as lawyers are expensive. But how would we present the legal information if it was a product page? If it’s differently to what we’ve got at the moment, we should think about a quick redesign.

We can go further without changing the text. Look at what LinkedIn does. The approved text is presented alongside a plain English summary. I really love this. However, even just an improved layout for what we’ve already got, with some subheadings and bullet points, will say to the very few website visitors who get that far: “This is a business that has nothing to hide”.