Solo and small firms face tough decisions before the website design process even starts, and the work is never done! We’re sharing the essentials and a roundup of recently published resources as a quick guide.
The cost of website design and maintenance is significant for solo and small firms, with DIY options continuing to get better. Still, deciding how much to handle internally or outsource can be overwhelming, and then there’s still the platform too choose before you get to design decisions.
Even if relying on a consultant’s expertise, your firm and brand are yours to communicate through your website. You’ll need to continually review its performance through metrics that matter to your goals, looking at elements of search engine optimization, visual design, accessibility, and more. As you watch your progress toward capturing new leads, delighting current and past clients, and any other goals, you’ll need to identify improvements to be made incrementally and when a more major update is needed. Websites are ongoing work, but it’s not always high maintenance, and the work can be managed.
WORKFLOW & PLATFORM
It all starts with the tough decision of doing the work yourself or outsourcing. Given the time and expertise website design and development require, it can make a lot of sense to outsource the work; but, the cost and time it takes to work with a consultant make the decision more difficult. Beyond marketing strategy overall, one of the most significant factors in the decision is how quickly and easily you or a staff member can learn to use a platform. The learning curve varies substantially from person to person. Once the platform is learned, plenty of changes are quicker to make than it is to send an email describing your request.
Even for those who take the DIY approach, it often makes sense to have support at times. Even those who work well with the platform might benefit from outsourcing work on robust features, customized elements, and anything else that might take deeper tech expertise, such as overseeing the website hosting and security.
For solo and small law firms in Massachusetts, we often recommend Social Law Library’s web services but also encourage lawyers to discuss unique concerns with one of our practice advisors — find more on scheduling a free & confidential consultation here. (Still you can contact email@example.com for our full web design & development referral list.) For those ready to start creating on your own, you can start with this comprehensive series written years ago by Heidi Alexander. (Related: The Best Do It Yourself Websites for Law Firms, Clio, 2021.)
Perhaps depending on how much you want to do yourself, you’ll need to decide what platform to use. WordPress has been the dominant option overall, but Wix has continued to get more competitive, and has been touted as the more user-friendly option for the less technologically inclined. It’s a closer call than ever with WordPress getting easier and easier to use, offering more and more themes with exceptionally intuitive and robust interfaces (e.g. Avada from Theme Fusion). WordPress continues to deliver superior organic (i.e. unpaid) search engine optimization (SEO) results, but Wix has been gaining ground recently. Since website consultants typically work with only one, you might indirectly choose your platform based on your consultant, or the other way around. One of our Mass LOMAP practice advisors can help talk through goals and options you’ll want to consider (find more on scheduling here).
DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT
Successful marketing of all kinds is client-centered. Website user experience is often the first, and sometimes a frequent, step in the client journey. Through its search engine optimization, your website design targets where your clients are before that first step on their journey with you — i.e. what keywords and terms they’re searching for. From there, good design will make engaging with your website a positive experience — bad design, bad experience — pretty straightforward.
Good web design is rooted in clarity and simplicity, no matter how robust it is. Designing for website accessibility makes for better website overall. A couple simple accessibility best practices are to add image descriptions to meta (simpler than it might sound), and to have strong color contrast and large text — and they improve both SEO (e.g. through image descriptions) and visual design (contrast and readability are key for all viewers). Apart from accessibility, we’ve previously shared five key website design best practices in a guest post on our blog from Lawyerist:
- Clear calls to action (CTAs). Make it easy for your website visitors to do what you want them to do. Place clear, compelling CTA(s) front and center on your site’s home page. And limit your CTAs to one or two.
- Client-centered value propositions. Weave your value proposition—and what it conveys—through your website design by smart use of color, layout, imagery, and copy.
- Clean design. Keep your site design clean and clutter-free to make it easier for visitors to understand your message and take action. For example, white space is good space. And your design needs to be clean everywhere — it needs to be mobile responsive.
- Bold colors and photography. The right mix of colors and imagery can leave a lasting impression in a visitor’s mind. Ensure your CTA color stands out using a complementary color.
- Eye-catching typography. Remain aware of how easy it is to read the words on your site. This requires you to consider not only type of font, but also font size and color.
And for more recent guidance on engaging design, effective SEO, and more, we’ve rounded up several resources from other practice advisors and some other experts:
Not Terribly Technical Tools for Your Law Firm Website (NCBA Center for Practice Management, August 2021) – Catherine Reach covers tools to monitor website loading speed, overall site health, keyword ranking, traffic patterns, and website accessibility, as well as content editing tools.
Does Your Law Firm’s Website Homepage Drive Business? (Legal Ease Lawyer Meltdown Blog, October 2020) – Allison Shields Johs emphasizes the importance of conveying key information clearly and quickly, making contact information easy to find, and providing a prominent call to action.
3 C’s of Strong Law Firm Websites (Legal Ease Lawyer Meltdown Blog, January 2021) – Allison Shields Johs discusses clarity, client focus, and consistency.
A Client-Focused Website Audit to Protect Your Referrals (Attorney at Work, 2021) – Mark Homer encourages exploring: (1) how current your website appears, (2) its mobile performance, (3) how quickly it conveys your fit for the potential client’s needs, (4) whether it confirms your expertise, (5) how easy it is to make contact.
Focus on Your Law Firm’s Key Website Pages to Protect Your Referrals (Attorney at Work, 2021) – Mark Homer offers notes on attorney profiles page(s), practice area pages, and contact pages. (Related: For the Most Effective Attorney Bio, Embrace Science, Attorney at Work, 2021.)
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Lawyers, law students, and judges in Massachusetts can discuss concerns with a law practice advisor, licensed therapist, or both. Find more on scheduling here.