10 Tips to Make Your Law Firm’s Website Better, From an Expert in Law Firm Website Development

Present the impression that you want to hear from your visitors. Most websites do a decent job of expressing who they are and what they do, but the most important aspect of business is to get the lead, so providing an easy way to contact you on every single page of your website should be a website’s essential goal and its primary function. Some websites do this by trying to get people to fill out a form on the side or bottom of every page, and while this is a good idea in theory, in practice it’s a terrible one. NO ONE likes filling out forms, even when you pay them to do it! The ease of initiating communication, even if you have a quick form, is lost. Instead, if you insist on a form, provide one box for their name and another for their email or phone (never both) and then a large box where they can paste whatever message they choose. In addition, on every page, make sure a phone number is available in TEXT form so mobile users can click on it and contact you easily. Same with email; every page should have a general email address to provide an easy method of contact with a single click. Why make it hard for people to reach you?

Select appropriate images for your firm’s website. Just like a bad reputation, a bad image can be eternal in the minds of potential clients, so it’s important that any imagery used to represent you on your website is not only professionally photographed, but is suitable to your particular practice. An image should not cliché, overly playful to the point of distraction, or ambiguous in its meaning. It should not allow even the most uncreative person in the world the slightest doubt as to why that image symbolizes your firms’ personality, the work your firm does, or represents where your firm is located. If possible, attach a slogan or phrase to each photo to more accurately convey your message.

Use a little social media, if not a lot. Maybe you don’t have a Twitter account (good idea!), and perhaps your Facebook page is embarrassing, but what about Linkedin? If you don’t at least have a page there, create one, add a link there that directs visitors back to your attorney bio page, and then link back to Linkedin from your firm’s bio page by placing their logo on it. Bingo, you’re now utilizing social media, go tell your friends! This simple exercise will increase awareness of your firm and its website, especially if all attorneys at your firm do it. If you create your own blog and link to your bio page from it, that’s even better.

Make navigation as easy as walking into a well-organized store. If you have a choice between “beautiful and cool” and “functional and standardized”, go with the latter every time. It takes people about 1.5 seconds for “beautiful and cool” to wear off, quickly replaced by “frustrated and I’m outta here.” Navigation should be the same on every page. Flash should never be used. Fancy drops downs with elaborate choices and embedded photos can appear to be advertisements to some eyes and should be minimized. Add a search box on every page and make sure the darn search actually WORKS. If people find your site but then they can’t find what they’re looking for, you’ve wasted their time, and lost an opportunity.

Pay particular attention to your firm’s biography pages. This is your website’s most popular page, and the one that will sell a potential client on your firm’s services more than any other, so it makes sense to spend the most time on improving this page, right?

Optimize your site for mobile (smart phones and tablets) viewing. While this may seem like a foregone conclusion, most law firm websites are still difficult to view on smart phones and tablets. Many firms are creating an entirely new version of their website for mobile viewers, which can get expensive and time consuming to update unless you’re using a CMS which populates both the regular site and the mobile site with the same content. If you have the budget to create a second site for mobile users (cost for this can be 5K and up), that’s great and definitely the best option, but making sure your main site is already optimized for mobile viewing can be a relatively simple job if your website developer has a decent content management system that allows this kind of optimization based on the type of device your visitor is using. While this topic requires its own 10-tip list, decreasing the imagery on sub-pages and removing redundant Javascript-based navigation if a smart phone is detected are good ideas for starters.

Clearly delineate and define all practice-specific information. After attorney biographies, the practice pages are the second most important page on your site because it answers the all-important question, “Does this firm have the requisite experience to solve my problem?” Often your firm WILL have the experience, but the visitor will never know this because your description of a particular practice area is summarized too generally, or watered down with so much legal-speak the average layman won’t understand that yes, this firm can definitely handle my problem. Sometimes it’s best to merely use bullet lists to show either a) what types of businesses can be helped, b) what types of problems can be solved, or c) what kind of legal terms fall under this category of practice. Oftentimes using c) as the only option will not allow potential clients to understand that listing, for instance, Business Litigation means that you indeed do have someone who can help them file a claim against an unfair competitor.

Your firm says they understand their clients’ business. Make sure your website demonstrates this. While many law firms are not comfortable with listing clients (many are, though, and the ones that do this have a distinct advantage over ones that do not), there is nothing wrong with listing the types of industries your firm typically represents. But why not take this to the next level, and, next to each industry you list, show a short paragraph or two that describes the legal challenges that companies in that industry generally face from year to year. You can also list testimonials or case studies (with or without the client name mentioned) that will further enhance your reputation in that particular field. The most you show of your expertise in that industry, the more people will look at you as a legal expert and call on you when needed.

Make it easy for everyone at your firm to contribute content. While some law firm websites suffer from bad design or disingenuous navigation, many more suffer from a lack of content. This is amazing to me; most lawyers, even if they don’t enjoy writing, generally do it very well, even if what they write is prone to excessive legal terminology. But in today’s content-rich world, beggars can’t be choosers; the best websites are the one with the most content, and even better than that are the ones with the most up-to-date content. So with that said, why don’t we try to get ALL our lawyers involved in the writing? Easier said than done of course, but if your firm allows each lawyer to have their own blog, and that blog is connected to the main site and therefore will encourage visitors, isn’t that a nice way to let everyone play? Having a content management system that empowers your entire firm is better than giving the rein to one or two thought leaders!

Keep your site’s design modernized. Even if you like your law firm’s current website, it may be out of date with today’s standards. Here is a scenario that is perhaps not as uncommon as you would think: a large company and potential new client is going to hire a new law firm and they have narrowed their selection down to two firms with equally positive reputations. One firm has an awesome website and the other (yours) has an out-of-date one. Do you think this small difference in image will sway their business decision one way or the other? If you’re not sure, then it’s time to update your website!