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A Better Firm Website: 8 Critical Website Components

websiteYour website is how you’re found, it’s as simple as that. There are no attorneys anymore who are both looking to bring in new clients and in a position that they don’t need an effective website. Even if recommended by a close friend, family member or business associate, you’d be foolish to assume that anyone who walks into your office didn’t look you up first.

They did.

So what did they find? I’ve discussed a number of different content-based issues on this blog, but today I want to address something a little bit different. The reason for that is quite simple – no matter how beautiful or expensive your website is, it’s worthless if it doesn’t convert visitors into clients.

There are a lot of variables, for sure. However, without certain elements, you’re wasting important opportunities to grow your client base. Here are the 8 critical components of your law firm website:

1) Client-focused… everything

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Your website isn’t about YOU! It’s about how you will SOLVE your potential clients’ problems. Guess what, nothing that you did on the moot court board in law school is going to do a damn thing about your prospective clients’ problems. Period.

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No, really, tell me again about your law review experience. I think it’ll be important in my company’s lawsuit.

Everything from your home page, to your practice areas, to your attorney bio pages, to your contact form, should be about how your law firm can solve your visitors’ problems. Believe me, very few people visit a law firm website for the hell of it. They’re on your site because they need, or will soon need, a lawyer. Make sure your content always lets them know why YOU are great for THEM.

2) Professional Website Design with Easy Navigation

I suppose I could talk to you about first impressions. But there are proverbs and metaphors that take care of that.

Your website is how your prospective clients find information about you long before you’ll have the opportunity to meet them. You’re a professional, your website should be professional as well. However, you’re a lawyer, and your website is a website. Just because your website might seem professional to you doesn’t mean that it is (see #1, above).

Hire a freaking website designer. If necessary, hire one who works for an actual brand company like Satellite Six Studios. Having your website designed by a professional website engineer means you’ll have a website with a clean design, and a modern layout that your visitors will be able to follow.

Moreover, a professional website engineer will be able to provide a navigation system that doesn’t take your prospective clients on a tour of the Dublin catacombs just to get where they need to go. These people specialize in making efficient websites. You don’t. Listen to the experts!

3) Responsive Design

What is “responsive design” you ask? Well, I thought more law firm’s would have known, but despite all of the dire warnings (mine included) about making websites mobile friendly, I’m amazed how many law firm websites are not responsive.

A responsive design adjusts your website based on the size of the screen your visitors are using. The most significant adjustment allows for visitors on a smartphone to visit your website and still get essentially the same experience, despite having a much different screen resolution.

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But it’s more than just designing for smartphones. There are any number of different screen resolutions that people might be using when they visit your site – from tablets to huge monitors. A responsive design ensures that whatever screen size your visitors are using, their experience is the same.

4) Contact Information on Every Page

“You need to have your contact information on every page.”

“But what if I have a link to my ‘Contact Us’ section on every page?”

“Did I stutter?”

We live in a society of relatively instant gratification. More importantly, we live in a society where a search engine is likely to be the primary means by which someone gets to your website. So you have included a whole section allowing prospective clients to contact you? What are the odds they get there?

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Good luck with that!

As I’ve discussed, it’s unlikely that your prospective clients will even visit your home page when looking you up. They’re more likely to be directed straight to your attorney bio page. What happens if they like what they see? Are you going to leave it to them to find the right sequence of links that gets them in touch with your office?

Why risk it? Make sure your contact information (in more than one form – if you have a phone number, include an email as well!) is posted – clearly – on every page.

5) Fast Load Times

Remember that discussion about first impressions we had earlier? How would you feel if you were never allowed to make a first impression because it took too long for your first word to reach your prospective clients’ ears? Well, if your website takes 10 seconds to load, that’s exactly what’ll happen.

There are a lot of things that can slow your website down, from graphics that are too large to poorly implemented code in your page design. So make sure that your website designer knows that speed is hugely important to you.

But don’t just leave it to your website engineer, test it yourself. One of my favorite legal sites on the internet is Above the Law. However, on both desktop and mobile sites, their load times are terrible (and their desktop sites have a bad habit of reloading right when you’re in the middle of an article). For most websites, those kind of flaws could be fatal, because people aren’t going to sit around and wait for your information to reload.

Speed kills. Lack of speed kills faster.

6) Scheduling Forms or Appointment-Scheduling Tools

If your website doesn’t turn visitors into clients, I really hope you didn’t pay anything for it. The goal of marketing is to create leads – contact information and opportunities that help you turn a visitor into an actual client. The best way to accomplish this – usually called “lead conversion” – is to have lead capture forms on every page.

What does that mean? Each page should have a spot with a “name” and “email” box that visitors can enter to receive additional information from your law firm. Whether they’re signing up for a call back from your office, or simply to download your most recent update for small business regulatory compliance, make sure they leave their contact information in exchange.

If you’re even more enterprising, use tools on your site that allow visitors to schedule appointments with one of your legal professionals to discuss a potential matter.

Whatever you do, don’t force your visitors to have to navigate to find these forms. Put them on every page. That way, the majority of users who will only see one page on your site before leaving may still leave their contact info!

7) Low Interaction Cost

Interaction cost is “the sum of efforts – mental and physical – that site visitors must deploy in interacting with a site in order to reach their goals.”

What does that mean to you and me? The harder you make people work to get the information they need from your website, the fewer visitors will actually get that information. What do I mean by that? Well, do your visitors have to scroll down your webpage in order to understand how your firm can help them? If so, you’ve increased the interaction cost.

How many clicks does it take to get to your law firm practice areas? How many steps and portals do visitors have to go through before getting a list of your local office’s attorneys? The more steps, the more visitors you’re going to lose before they get to the information they’re looking for.

8) Clear Calls to Action

Quick hypothetical:

If you go to a website that asks you a simple question, and in order to answer that simple question you can do one of two things – click on a button or close your web browser, how likely are you to click the button? Sure, it’ll depend on what that button does, but the real goal is to get your visitors to click on the button, right? Then make sure they know to do it, and there aren’t any other options!

First, you need to decide what specific action you want your website visitors to take. Then, you have to emphasize how they can take that action, to the point it’s ridiculously obvious. As obvious as the strip club in Beetlejuice:

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NOT subtle

Once you’ve decided what you want your visitors to do (hint: it’s probably to either contact your office or make an appointment), you need to direct them to a spot to do it. At this point, you’re going to need to decide if you want it to be different from your contact info (on every page, remember), but I would suggest that you have a prominent button that brings them to a whole form page.

There’s no such thing as being too obvious.

Photo credits:

Photo by David Castillo Dominici.