10 Tips for Law Firms When Building or Re-designing Their Website
Since you are visiting this page you probably already understand or are beginning to understand that in the age of the World-wide Web your law firm's online presence is an important factor in the future of your firms success . A recent survey about the perceptions and useage of law firm websites by Thomson Reuters found that 85% of participants used the web for research of law firms and legal advice. Participants also indicated that they do not seriously consider a firm"if the firm’s Web site is unimpressive or unhelpful." An intuitive, well designed and strategic website is a must have for the success of any large or small law firm.
The following are 10 time proven tips for law firm decision makers when building or re-designing their law firm website:
- The obvious choice isn't always the best choice when choosing who to build your website. Many small law firms do what seems to be the easy thing to do, using an online legal directory service to build their website. This isn't always the best choice for your money however. Adding your website to a legal directory may be a great idea but often these online services charge top dollar with minimal value. Many of these legal directories simply use local freelancers to build the website and then charge a large markup. Look for a good web design agency that has experience in building small law firm websites. Usually the cost will be as much as half and you will get a better website in the end.
- Take a good look at the web design agency's website. Does it show quality workmanship? Too often we look at a portfolio of work by the web design agency and ignore their own website. Looking at the agency's portfolio is useful but the portfolio will only tell you so much because often the design of the website is more the influence of the client than the website design agency. Most often the web design agencies' website will be the most representative part of their work because there shouldn't be any other outside influences.
- Visit some of the other websites that the web design agency your are considering has built and contact the business owner to see what their experience has been with the agency. References are great but a few emails to former clients might be more revealing.
- Try to avoid using freelancers to build your website. Many freelancers are very talented and inexpensive but they tend to come and go. Your law firm will be around 10, 20 or even 50 years from now and whoever builds your website should be with you for the long haul. Don't think of building a website as a one time thing. The internet is far to dynamic and the expectations of potential clients are always growing to you need to plan to make upgrades and enhancements to your website at least once per year to be competitive.
- Make sure that included with your website you are given easy to use administrative tools to update the basic content of your website. Don't get nickled and dimed each month with basic updates to your site. Make sure that with your website you have a way to added, edit and delete content with tools that are as easy to use as Microsoft Word®. You should want to keep at least some of your website content fresh. Online admin tools will be a must to make this happen without being charged an arm and a leg.
- When you get into the design of your website make sure it has focus. Too often law firms and lawyer websites present to much information on the homepage or information that is just fluff. Strip everything down to the basics of why a customer would want to use your services and make sure there is an obvious way for potential clients to get more information about your services (i.e. a big button). Consider doing video lawyer bios so that potential clients can see the lawyers demeanor and presence.
- Depending on the number of pages your website has and the type of tools that you have on your website your shouldn't have to pay more than $2,200 for a very good small law firm website to be setup. Monthly hosting for the website shouldn't be more than $15 per month on average.
- Strongly consider getting a monthly search engine optimization (SEO) service for your website. It is a challenge to get your website on the first page of the Google search results for a keyword search like 'Denver law firm.' A good search engine optimization company will take their time to make sure your website shows up high in all of the search engines. Thousands of potential clients are searching for legal advice and services and online and you need to make sure you are well positioned to take advantage of those potential clients. A good search engine optimization service will charge about $350 for the initial setup and about $200 per month for the service. One good client from the search engines will more than pay for the service and then some. Without SEO your website is like a tree falling in the forest that is never heard.
- Find a web design agency that can speak your language. A good agency will come in and ask about your firm, the type of clients you are after, your long term goals, your competition, your unique challenges and opportunities. They should then come to you with online options that meet your specific needs. You shouldn't spend most of your time trying to understand technical mumbo jumbo. Although you shouldn't expect to understand everything that is presented at first with time you should feel comfortable that you are being understood and feel comfortable that solutions that are offered meet all of your needs. Make sure training is part of what your website design agency is offering you. By the time your site goes live you should have a basic understanding of how your website works, why it was designed the way it was, what has been done to drive traffic to the website and what has been done to make potential clients go deeper into the website.
- If you are paying for ongoing services after the site's launch (i.e. website hosting, search engine optimization, search engine marketing) make sure there is an agreement to achievable goals or expectations. An example of this might be traffic numbers, web hosting guaranteed up-time, number of potential clients filling out online forms or calling a track-able phone number. These types of things are important because it will require accountability on the part of your agency which will get you better service or at least let you know when your current service is failing.