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 A website with broken plug-ins, no mobile-friendly option, and out-of-date information will detract from what you are trying to do as a brand.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.
5. Know What to Expect in Terms of Budget
Your website is responsible for creating a strong first impression, and your budget should reflect that. Depending on what services you need, how much customization you want, and which platforms and interfaces you opt to use, you could spend between $1,000 and $50,000 on a website upfront. When you meet with designers, learn about what they can do at each price point. If multiple meetings indicate that you are looking for a $10,000 website on a $1,000 budget, you may need to go back to the drawing board, scale back in certain areas, and find a way to get what you want in a way that accommodates your budget.
6. Review and Implement Vital Integrations
Consider the services you need your website to offer and which integrations your website must have. If you want your clients to be able to pay online, you will need a secure online payment portal. If you want to accommodate virtual meetings and consultations, you will need an interface that guides clients through the process. Think about whether or not you need your website to store important documents, share posts to social media, or share information with a marketing platform that measures your results. Discuss these items with your designer.
Do not forget the importance of cyber safety. Your website absolutely must have built-in protection against cyberattacks and information harvesting.
7. Clarify Your Designer’s Process
Each designer has their own creative process they follow. Some prefer to check in with clients on a daily or weekly basis to offer updates and get feedback. Others provide an initial mock-up, an update at the halfway point, and the final product before they begin revisions. The right choice for you depends on how involved you want to be in the process and how particular you are about design choices.
Discuss their fee structure as well. Most designers require an upfront deposit, so clarify the amount due at the beginning of the project and how the remaining payments are structured. Find out what happens if you are not happy with the project after the permitted number of revisions and how much it will cost you to request further revisions. Finally, request that they provide you with a manual or training on how to manage and update your law firm website.
With these tips, you can hire the best designer for the job and develop a law firm website that puts your brand’s best foot forward.