Law Firm Website Design
Today’s Website Is Yesterday’s Business Card
Hand a prospect the web equivalent of something you whipped up at Walgreens, and you better believe they’ll find themselves another lawyer.
Stunning web design gives you the chance to make your case—to showcase your firm and convince potential clients why you should be the one to make their case in court.
But let’s be honest. Web design for lawyers can be expensive.
If you want it done right, you’ll need a custom design with a slate of industry-specific widgets. At the end of the day, a firm can easily drop over $10,000 on a new site.
Online marketers know that. There are agencies that have made it their life’s work to crank out “reasonably priced” boiler-plate designs for lawyer clients. The problem is, those sites may look nice at first, but so do the 1,500 others based on the same template!
What you need is a website that’ll set you apart from your competition, capture the attention of prospective clients, and compel visitors to reach out to your firm.
With over 50 years of combined experience, our team of marketing professionals has seen the best and the worst. We know the difference between a superficially pretty website and one that actually does what it’s supposed to do: attract new clients.
In what follows, we’re going to share a slew of critical information for law firms to know when building a website. If you don’t feel comfortable implementing any of this on your own, then please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’ll be glad to help you get started.
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Law Firm Logo Design
The Basics of Website Design for Lawyers
A strong website for lawyers should accomplish at least 5 things:
- Identify You – Again like a business card, a site needs to communicate the basics: your name, the specific services you provide, where you’re located, how best to get in touch. These elements should be clear and easy to find, not obscured by overly creative or clever design and copywriting.
- Tell Your Story – Beyond mere information, visitors need to get a sense of who you are as a firm. This is reflected in the site’s design (color scheme, font choice, layout, etc.) and content (About Us page, Lawyer bios, etc.). Your site should use both written and visual elements to share your background, vision, and mission. These are the “soft” elements that will set you apart from the competition.
- Establish Your Credibility – Vision and values are crucial, but what prospective clients ultimately want to know before they call is whether you’ve got the skill and expertise to serve their best interests. Prominently displayed case studies and testimonials accomplish this well.
- Connect with Visitors/Answer Questions – Some visitors will land on your site as a result of a navigational/transactional search—a direct search for the name of your firm or a particular keyword phrase (e.g., “Toronto divorce lawyer”). If you’re doing your SEO right, however, visitors will also show up for informational reasons—i.e., they want answers to legal questions. An effective lawyers’ website will develop content that answers those questions as well. In answering those questions clearly, the firm will establish credibility (#3), develop relationships with its visitors, and move them closer to conversion.
- Compel Action – At the end of the day, websites can’t just be pretty. They need to work. They have to get visitors to do something with the information with which they’ve been presented: fill out a contact form, pick up a phone, drive down to your office, etc. This is where strategic search optimization/targeting, brilliant design, and professional copywriting all come together.
You might consider these the external elements of a high-performing website for lawyers. But just as a Corvette depends on more than its good looks to jump off the starting line, a truly effective site will need quite a bit going underneath the hood:
- Speed – Everyone is in a hurry—especially on the web. If your page takes too long to load, users will bail on it quickly. Moreover, Google factors in page loading speed as a significant factor in determining search rankings.
- Mobile-Friendliness – More than half of your visitors will access the site from a mobile device. That means your site must be designed to show up well in any This is where responsive web design figures in (see below).
- Local Relevance – What law firm wouldn’t want to show up in a search for ‘personal injury lawyer near me’? The best way to make that happen is to (1) generate content relevant to local issues, and (2) use schema markup language to tell Google who you are, where you’re located, and how people can contact you.
- Conversion Optimization – As mentioned above, websites must be designed to compel potential clients to take action. While much of that is a function of the quality of your content and the credibility established by case studies and testimonials, another part has to do with user interface design. Without the right structural elements in place (visible calls-to-action, easily navigable menus, etc.), even the most compelling lawyers will fail to convert as well as they should.
- Analytics Tracking – Marketing is measuring. If you don’t methodically track what you’re doing and how it’s working, then you can never hope to improve your performance.
Why do we Need to Care About Responsive Web Design?
The majority of web traffic today comes from mobile devices.
There’s nothing more frustrating than visiting a site on your phone only to discover it wasn’t designed to work on mobile. Misplaced images, broken menus, disappearing text—these are enough drive your visitors straight into the arms of your competition.
Responsive web design adapts the page’s layout to the user’s viewing environment through the use of fluid, proportional grids and flexible imagery. In short, it responds to the visitor’s device to serve up the best individual experience for that user.
This isn’t just about keeping your users happy. Responsive web design is a significant factor in search ranking. If Google crawls your site and learns that it isn’t mobile-ready, you can expect to take a severe plunge in their rankings.
Themes, Templates, or Custom Design?
One of the first questions lawyers ask when getting ready to build a new site is whether they can get away with a simple template-based design. That question is a good one, especially considering the cost difference between template work and custom design.
On top of that, template sites are usually much quicker to deploy than custom designs. They’re designed to be plug-and-play, and they require virtually no knowledge of HTML or CSS coding. This makes template-based sites a good option for do-it-yourself firms.
But of course, where there’s an up, there’s a down. As we alluded to above, a template design is the digital equivalent of an off-the-rack suit. It may look good on you, but it certainly won’t set you apart from the other 9 guys wearing the same threads.
This is what makes custom design an attractive choice for the vast majority of law firms. The advantages offered in aesthetic customization and technical optimization make a huge difference in website performance. Still, the added cost here can be prohibitive.
Enter theme-based design. Customizing a pre-developed theme allows you to navigate between the extremes of boilerplate design (template) and expensive hand-crafting (custom). Here’s an easy way to think of a relationship between the 3 options:
- Template – This is like buying a new car from a dealership. You can change the color or add a few bells and whistles. At the end of the day, however, you’ve got the same Ford Focus as every other Focus-driver on the road.
- Theme – This is like buying just a car’s frame and powertrain. On top of that, you’re free to construct a unique body, interior, etc. of your own choosing. Heads will turn as you drive down the road, but not one of them will know (or care) what’s under the hood.
- Custom – Forget buying the car from a dealer; you can just build whatever you want from scratch. Your only constraint is your own creativity.
Each of those options exceeds the previous in time and expense. From our perspective, cheap boiler-plate designs simply won’t get the job done. However, custom design swings too hard in the other direction. For that reason, we use pre-developed themes to keep costs down while still turning out unique and professional sites for lawyers.
No matter which route you go, ownership is of paramount concern. In many cases, an agency will want to retain ownership of the site and/or its contents. If you opt to change agencies later on, you’ll be forced to re-invent your site from the ground up.
When it comes to websites, you should never lease. At a minimum, make sure your agency contract lets you “rent-to-own” so that you’ll be the full owner of your design and content when the agreement runs its course.
At GLM, we’re not afraid to hand ownership over to our clients. To learn more about what else makes us different from other legal marketers, drop us a line today.
What is WordPress and Should I Use It?
WordPress is one of the most common website solutions for professionals in all industries. This open-source blogging platform started in 2003 and has since grown to become one of the world’s largest and most robust content management systems. Although WordPress is still associated mainly with blogging, its framework provides a comprehensive all-in-one package for creating professional-looking websites.
For lawyers, the advantages of a WordPress site focus primarily on time, affordability, and flexibility. Once you install the platform, choose a theme, and implement the appropriate plugins, your website is essentially good to go.
What you gain in way of user-friendliness, however, you lose in terms of control. To make full use of the platform—especially for SEO—you’ll need to hire a developer who’s experienced with HTML, CSS, and PHP. Without professional help, you’ll inevitably end up with a bland site that doesn’t perform well in search rankings.
The trouble there, of course, is whether that developer knows what they’re doing. WordPress developers are a dime a dozen, and the results they churn out vary. Worse, building your site on WordPress inevitable yokes you not only to the platform itself but every third-party provider whose widgets you decide to use. It’s not unheard of for a lawyer to use as many as 20 different plugins on their WordPress site. That means the functionality of your website depends on the good fortunes of 20 different companies.
If they go down, your site does too.
From where we sit, professional theme-based or custom design are better ways to go. That’s not because we want you to hire us to do your design (of course, we do). No, we’ve seen way too many law firms burn through way too much of their cash trying to make a WordPress site do what it just wasn’t designed to do.
Save yourself the hassle; hire a professional to build a site you can count on.
Content is the lifeblood of any website. You should keep two primary goals in mind when you develop your content: visitor engagement and search engine optimization.
First, content needs to be high-quality, informative, and compelling. Visitors are looking for something, whether that’s information about your firm or answers to legal questions. If you can answer those questions in words they understand and are actually willing to read—no small feat in our over-communicated world—you’ll be on the right track.
Second, that content needs to be optimized to play nice with Google. Writing high-quality content that engages visitors (goal #1) is half the battle. Beyond that, you need to be sure that content emphasizes the appropriate keyword phrases and that the underlying code structure organizes the page in a way Google can easily understand.
Should we use video in our law firm marketing?
85% of web users in the U.S. watch video online, making it an important element in any marketing campaign. Especially in the legal industry, where arguments are made in person, there’s no better way to convince potential clients to work with you than through a personal appeal via video.
Strategically, video is a no-brainer. On landing pages, videos can increase conversion rates by more than 80%. Off-site, video should play a vital part in any social media campaign. Why? Because video on social media generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined. On top of all that, video helps with SEO. In some instances, video has been shown to more than double the SEO value of a page.
Long story short, if you want to get a personable message out there, do it in video.
One tiny caveat: if the firm’s online marketing is lagging in other areas, then it may be best to hold off on video. While video is a great tool, no one’s going to see it if the firm doesn’t have a well-honed SEO or PPC campaign in play.
Bounce Rates and The Importance of First Impressions
Your bounce rate is the percentage of users who land on a given page and leave without clicking any of your links. Each of these visitors represents a lost opportunity—someone who failed to engage with your firm and, instead, chose to move on to another site.
The key to conversion is engagement. Bounce rates are the proverbial canary in the coal mine; they tell you when your website is failing to hold the attention of its visitors.
There are multiple reasons why a visitor might bounce:
- The site is too slow.
- You’re attracting the wrong traffic.
- The individual pages don’t answer visitors’ specific questions.
- Your content is sub-par.
- Your site shows up poorly on their mobile.
As you can see, bounce rate is an inadequate measurement in itself. In addition to measuring your bounce rate against industry benchmarks, focus on specifics:
- Which pages have the highest bounce rates?
- How do these pages compare to others on your site?
- What can you do to tweak each page for a better response?
- How have your bounce rates shifted historically?
The key to optimization is close analysis and incremental adjustment. Look at your numbers, adjust your site accordingly, and watch carefully. Over time, this sort of iterative process will help you optimize each of page for maximum impact.
What You Need to Know About Hosting
A hosting provider is a service who houses all of a website’s code, media, and other data. Common web hosting providers include GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, Media Temple, WPMuze (for WordPress sites), and RackSpace. We use WPEngine.
There are several factors to consider when choosing a provider:
- Speed – User experience is key. If your site takes too long to load, visitors will move on. Worse, Google will ding you in the search rankings. Use a service like Bitcatcha to check hosts’ response time.
- Uptime – Reliability is crucial. If your server goes down, so does your website. And, for however long it takes to rectify the issue, your site will be dead to the world. Choose a hosting provider who can prove at least a 99% uptime score.
- Bandwidth – This refers to the amount of data shared between users and your site at one time. Many providers offer “unlimited” bandwidth, but they often throttle sites which exceed their expectations. Make sure to pick a host with scalable bandwidth solutions that guarantee maximum speed at all times.
- Data Security – The internet is filled with malicious actors. It’s only a matter of time before one of them finds your site. You need to ensure your host uses the latest in protection software. Also, you’ll want a provider that regularly backs up content. That way, if you are the victim of an attack, you won’t lose everything.
- Technical Support – Things are going to break from time to time. You need a hosting provider who’s willing to be on call for you 24/7.
These are the most important factors to keep in mind when choosing a web hosting provider. A professional web designer/developer can offer specific recommendations to connect you with the appropriate web hosting solution for your needs.
Website Design for Lawyers at GLM: Beyond Pretty
Like you, Gladiator Law Marketing invests significant time in discovery. We get to know you, your strategic goals, and all that makes your firm unique. We invite you to join us in the creative process as we design a site that beautifully reflects your practice.
Still, websites need more than pretty aesthetics. They need to work—to attract visitors and drive conversion. That’s where research comes in. We pore over community trends, audience demographics, and usability data to learn exactly what’s working.
When your creative feedback syncs up with our expert analysis and professional web design, what we’re left with is a gorgeous website custom-tuned to maximize conversions and increase the quality of the individual cases your firm signs.
Don’t settle for a subpar copy of what everybody else is doing.
Call us up today and let’s talk about how we can build you a site that captures attention, engages visitors, and does exactly what it’s supposed to do: attract new clients.