Originally published in the National Law Review.
It is said that you should never judge a book by its cover, but to do so is human nature and your potential clients’ first impressions of your law firm will likely come from your website. A crisp, fast-loading website with a design that aligns with your brand values and goals will impress and inspire confidence in your law firm’s legal services. A website with broken plug-ins, no mobile-friendly option, and out-of-date information will detract from what you are trying to do as a brand.
Attorneys know a lot of things, but it is not impossible to know everything especially when it comes to website design. If you can afford it, this is a part of your marketing that should be done by a pro. Hiring a professional web designer for your law firm is the easiest way to save time on your end and get the results you want.Before you choose a website designer for your law firm, keep these tips and ideas in mind.
1. Know What You Want
The more information you have about what you want from your website, the easier it will be for your designer to exceed your expectations. Going into a meeting with vague ideas of colors and themes is likely to yield frustration and wasted time. Look at other firms’ websites and get a solid understanding of what you like and do not like in each website. Also, be sure to keep in mind your website’s goals as a marketing tool for your law firm. For example, if your immigration practice is focused on representing people from Latin America, you should probably have a language translation option on your website. Having goals that are related to selling your legal services and examples of other websites that a designer can use as inspiration are helpful in streamlining the design process.
2. Explore Different Types of Websites
There are many ways to develop a website. If you want a site built from the ground up, you will need to choose a design firm that also does programming. This tends to be considerably more expensive than using a pre-existing content management system such as WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace.
While there are benefits of choosing a pre-existing system including quick turnaround time on a project, affordability, ease of use—there are drawbacks to consider as well.Security weaknesses are prone to exploitation, which could put confidential information on your site at risk. Note, though, that most content management systems actively work to identify and repair security issues promptly.
Another issue to think about is using a pre-made template or having a custom one created. A pre-made template is obviously the less expensive option, and there are usually many different styles and options to choose from. Still, there is always the risk of using the same template as competitors. Custom templates are more expensive, but going this route offers more flexibility and individualization that ensures you have the exact features you need.
3. Develop a Practical and Transparent Time Frame
The process of creating a website takes time. From initial design concepts to edits and trial runs, a lot of work goes into getting a site ready to launch. Know your target date for launch and communicate that clearly to all prospective designers.However, you should also be open to possible changes in timeframe if it turns out that your initial launch date is unreasonable or impractical for the scope of the work you want done.
In your timeline, allow time for compliance with state and federal regulations regarding disclaimers and privacy policies. You should work with a designer who understands disclaimer requirements in the legal industry and based on which states you are licensed in, but you must also have enough time to double-check everything yourself. If you are not in compliance, it falls on you as a lawyer, not the designer.
4. Be Absolutely Firm in Your Brand Image
Going in with a crystal clear image of your brand and refusing to deviate from it ensures consistency throughout the process. You should know who your target audience is, what they are looking for in a website, and what features detract from their user experience. Without a clear, overarching brand plan, you risk being swayed by ambitious designers who have bold ideas but do not know your law firm’s audience well enough to understand how those ideas may play out.
Read the full article at the National Law Review.