In an era dominated by monster conglomerate web experiences (Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, etc.), the humble branded website might feel like a dinosau...
Law Firm Web Design: How to Create a Website That Makes Your Practice Thrive
Law firms build their reputations on expertise and results. For law firms that have spent years building this kind of reputation, a law firm website may feel like an afterthought.
Rest assured, though—every business needs a website to prosper. Nearly every marketplace has gone digital in a major way. It isn’t just limited tech companies or eCommerce stores—every industry can turn a website into a profit center, often its largest profit center.
The attorney profession is no different. In fact, attorneys who neglect their websites are passing up golden opportunities to grow. Here are just a few ways a commitment to law firm web design can help your practice ...
Why Law Firm Web Design Is Vital for the Success of Your Practice
You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. According to three studies, the average viewer only takes 0.05 seconds to form an impression of your site and decide whether they will stay or leave. The stakes of web design are high.
When properly executed, a website does the lion’s share of the work that traditional marketing avenues did … and often does them better. Crucial tasks accomplished by good web design for law firms include …
Establish Your Brand
Even if a potential client hears about your law firm by word of mouth or a referral from a friend, chances are their first move will be to check out your website. Ditto if they grab a business card, hear you give a talk, even if they see a TV commercial or billboard. If they check you out on reputation sites like Yelp or Avvo, they will probably follow the link to your website to find out what you are about.
What will they find? A unified message? Soothing colors? A comforting tone of confidence? Design that doesn’t draw attention to itself, but rather to the value you offer? Or will they find something slapdash and hastily assembled, something that makes it look like you don’t really care?
Law firm web design is an opportunity to revisit your brand—the message you communicate to the world about who you are, what you stand for, what you have to offer to clients. A brand is about more than your name and the services you offer—it’s an identity to which potential clients can form an emotional connection.
Foundational for your SEO
Some people will find your website because they are looking for you specifically … but wouldn’t it be great if people also found you when they weren’t looking for you?
Or to be more specific, people who have never heard of you but are looking for a lawyer in your specialty and practice area… wouldn’t it be great if they found your website and not a competitor’s website?
That’s what SEO (search engine optimization) is all about—making sure your warm prospects find your website and not a competitor’s. SEO is the process of improving your website’s standing with the major search engines—Google especially, but also Bing, Yahoo, and others—so that they return your website and other web assets higher in relevant searches.
For example, if you practice family law in Chicago, you want your website to appear as the top search result for the search terms “family lawyer Chicago” and the like. Not only does it make prospective clients more likely to find you, but high search ranking also communicates authority and expertise.
A great website is the foundation of an SEO effort. Poor web design makes it almost impossible to improve a website’s search ranking. But excellent web design for law firms sets the stage for your website to coast right to the top.
A great website is like a power suit. It communicates competence and professionalism; it projects an image of success, the kind of success that trickles down from cases won and favorable outcomes achieved. Whatever image you want the world to have of you and your practice, law firm web design is one of the best ways to project it.
Building trust is about more than just a good-looking website, though. Knowledge is power, and consumers trust brands that arm them with information. That’s why web design for law firms goes hand-in-hand with an excellent content strategy.
Providing informative, layman-friendly content not only gives your potential clients a sense of ownership over their fate—but it also triggers them to associate that confidence with you and your law firm, making them much more likely to hire you and not a competitor. The website acts as a hub for that content strategy.
Finally, trust is built through social signaling in the form of testimonials. When structured properly, law firm web design is an ideal focal point for testimonials from past clients.
Stand Out From The Competition
You’re probably not the only firm that practices your specialty in your practice area. Someone will neglect their website. Do you want it to be you, or a competitor?
Putting effort into your law firm’s web design is an easy way to stand out and stand above your competitors. Proper law firm web design doesn’t ask clients to take your expertise on faith—it makes it obvious, almost obnoxiously so.
As an attorney, you understand the value of making the better argument. Your website is your chance to make the argument that you are the best choice for your prospective clients’ legal needs. Don’t neglect it!
The Strategy Behind Law Firm Web Design
No good lawyer walks into court and wings it. You have to have a strategy. Cases are won and lost based on which side has the best strategy and executes it most efficiently.
Web design for law firms is no different. Your website is there to make the case for your services to prospects who may know nothing about you and your firm. To build a website that wins clients, you have to have a strategy.
So what’s involved in a winning strategy for law firm web design companies?
Research Your Audience
Even if their goal is to spread the word far and wide, no attorney has “everyone in the world” as their target client. Depending on your location and specialization, only certain people with specialized needs may be looking for your services. Those people often have an identifiable set of traits. Consider:
- People of a certain age are more likely to need a divorce attorney.
- People with a certain income, values, and marital status are more likely to need estate planning services.
- People with certain interests are more likely to need the help of a real estate lawyer.
- People with specific behaviors are more likely to need DWI defense.
These traits can be grouped into a “buyer persona,” a kind of avatar of your ideal customer. You might have multiple buyer personas and assign them names. They can be assigned representative traits like age, sex, education, employment status, marital status, household size, income, mobility … even beliefs, attitudes, and values.
Audience research can be done by interviewing past clients, interviewing prospective clients, or using Big Data research tools.
Establish Your Brand Vision
Remember, a brand isn’t just about company identity, it’s about forging an emotional connection with your clients—most importantly trust and loyalty. Both trust and loyalty are future-facing. They presume staying power, a long-term presence. This is where brand vision comes in.
Elements of your brand vision include your …
- Brand Values
- Brand Future
- Brand Purpose
Brand vision projects your values and mission into the future. It’s a vision of what your law firm will look like and where it will be five, ten, even twenty or more years in the future. It’s also a vision of the impact you intend to have on your client’s lives, the legal fraternity, maybe even your community, your country, and the law in general. Why not think big?
Yoru brand vision informs every aspect of your law firm web design project. Stuck on design elements? Messaging? Content? Refer back to your brand vision and align your design decisions with it.
Get Internal Stakeholders Aligned
Managing partners are key players in the vision of web design for law firms, but they aren’t the only players who need to be involved. Every business has stakeholders, players that have a vested interest in the success of the law firm.
Stakeholders can be external or internal. External stakeholders include partner firms and your clients themselves. They benefit from your prosperity, but they don’t belong in the conversation about your law firm web design … unless you count the buyer personas you create in the research phase.
This step, however, is about getting the internal stakeholders on the same page. This means aligning associates, paralegals, support staff, even entry-level staff aligned around your brand vision. They will all benefit from leveling up your website if their opinions and pain points are addressed. Ultimately, though, everyone needs to be pulling their oars in the same direction for the project to result in a successful web design.
Identify Must-Have Functions and Features
Once the internal stakeholders are united around your brand vision, it’s time to start mapping out the features and functions your website must have. Some of the basics include:
- A clear statement of your value proposition, right upfront.
- Easy-to-find contact info that prospects don’t have to go searching for—phone number, email address, contact form, chat support … anything and everything you want to offer.
- Social proof and client testimonials.
- Calls to action to guide prospects to the next steps.
- Detailed sub-pages about practice areas.
- Partner and associate bios.
- A blog to be used for content marketing.
What about more advanced features and functions? Perhaps you want to consider:
- A confidential client portal with login credentials for your clients.
- API for accepting online payments.
- Automated booking for initial consultations.
- Chatbots for easy prospect qualification.
Determining the Content of Your Website
To become a revenue driver for your law firm, your website has to be more than just an online resume. As many people discover you looking specifically for your legal services, even more people will discover you because of your content. The simplest way to think about content is to think of a blog.
A blog may seem extraneous to your practice, but to your clients, your blog is like a newspaper or encyclopedia where they can seek specialized, specific answers to their questions. What kind of questions? The kind that someone who might need your firm’s legal services might ask …
- Do I need a trust or a will?
- What’s the best entity to hold real estate in?
- How do I prove wrongful termination?
- What do I do if my child is arrested?
If these questions relate to your specialty, you want the people Google-searching the web for the answers to these questions to find your site. In this sense, content marketing is an essential part of SEO. You want to become their go-to source of credible information. This is how you start building trust between clients and your brand before your clients ever reach out to you. With good law firm web design, your blog can look just as authoritative as the website of a newspaper or legal journal.
Digital marketing professionals view content marketing as the single best long-term marketing strategy, especially for reputation-centric professions like law. Formulating a content strategy includes some or all of the following steps:
Conduct a Content Audit
A content audit is an assessment of what content you already have.
You may actually have more content on hand than you think. It’s not just about what is already on your blog (if you even have a blog).
Content may include videos you recorded, interviews you gave, podcasts you appeared on, all of which can be transcribed. It might include social media posts, informational fliers, anything meaty that could be informative to your potential clients.
Law firm web design companies will take note of any content that might contain legalese. While speaking the proper language matters in court, it will turn off potential clients if they don’t understand it. Content containing legalese may still be useful; it just has to be rewritten in lay terms.
Content Gap Analysis
A gap analysis is an assessment of where you are, compared to where you want to be. In the case of a content gap analysis, we’re looking at what content you already have, and what content your target audience is looking for that you don’t have.
Of course, this means finding out what your potential clients are looking for. Usually, this means using keyword analysis to find out the search terms clients are entering into Google—terms relevant to your practice area. Once you know what they are asking, you can craft content to answer it.
We should come out of the content gap analysis with a “to do” list of content assets to create. Don’t worry, you don’t have to write it all yourself! Non-lawyer writers may be more qualified to render the content into lay terms.
Establish a Style Guide
One of the key components of producing credible content is making sure all the content sounds like it was written by the same person, even if multiple writers contribute the content.
You don’t want one person writing with a sober professional tone, another one straight from the writer’s room of SNL. You don’t want one writer to use the Oxford comma, another one to eschew it; one person to write in the first person, another in the third.
A style guide is your law firm’s standard operating procedure for the creation of content. If it is comprehensive, any writer can pick up your style guide and learn your standard for tone and tense, punctuation and header capitalization. In short, they can look at the style guide and produce a piece of content that is aligned with your brand.
The goal of content marketing is not just to inform and educate your clients (although if you do it right, that’s a pleasant ancillary benefit). The point of content marketing is to convert readers into clients. Every content marketing strategy needs a plan for “calls to action,” guiding the reader to take next steps now that they are armed with information.
Whatever those steps may be, the goal is to gather the reader as a lead—get them to call your law firm, get them to book a consultation, get them to enter their email address, and join your mailing list. Different pieces of content may merit different calls to action or conversion strategies.
Even if they aren’t pulling out their credit card yet, by accepting the call to action they have indicated their interest … and now you have contact information you can use to nurture their interest and close the deal.
Executing Your Law Firm Web Design
Once you have your law firm web design strategy in place, it’s time to turn that vision into reality. The crucial executed by law firm web design companies include:
Just like companies build prototypes of physical products, so too do brands build prototypes of websites. A website prototype is a working model of the website. It may not have all the polish, flair, and function of the final website, but it’s something tangible to test your assumptions and model the user journey.
A website prototype isn’t just about appeasing the stakeholders’ expectations—it’s also about getting it into the hands of users, seeing if they navigate it in the way you intended, or if they get lost.
Remember the style guide for your content strategy? Design systems are like a style guide for the visual aspects of your law firm web design. This is what will give your site not only polish, but unity and elegance—the colors, the fonts, the image selections, and color correction of those images.
Like style guides, design systems give your website longevity. If your site needs to be updated, any coder or web designer can look at your design systems and create updates and additional pages that match the rest of the website.
UX is short for “user experience.” Web designers spend a lot of time thinking about UX, because how the user interacts with the website makes all the difference between its success and failure. If users are able to navigate the website and use it as intended, your site is successful. If users get lost, bottlenecked, or distracted from the “user journey,” the UX needs improvement.
A user journey is a designated series of specific steps that take your users from discovery to conversion (that is, calling, entering their email address, or otherwise becoming a lead). The user journey might involve stepping the client from the discovery of informative content to discovering your testimonials, to discovering your partner bios, to discovering a call to action to schedule a consult. Good UX makes the next step in the journey crystal clear at every stage.
Animation, Video, & Visuals
I picture is worth a thousand words; an animated video is worth millions. Attorneys use words and their meanings as stock and trade, but lay people rely more on visuals. If you want your average web browser to absorb a message, deliver it to them in images, not words.
Good law firm web design makes liberal use not only of professional images, but also informational videos and “explainer videos.” Popular explainer video formats include live-action, whiteboard artistry, and 2D animation.
Bringing Your Design to Life: Development & Testing
Once you have the basics in place—your content style guide, design systems, your prototype—it’s time to make your law firm website a working reality. Considerations for law firm web design companies to take with the final product include:
Good Technical SEO
Technical SEO refers to the on-page aspects of the web code that make it easier to achieve domain authority and a high page rank—in other words, making your site easier to find with search engines.
Technical SEO involves use of the right keywords in high-impact places, proper use of alt tags and metatext, proper header nesting, interlinking of pages, image optimization, and site loading speed.
More than half of all web browsing takes place on mobile devices. Your website has to look good on mobile devices; otherwise, you are turning your back on a huge potential client base. Not only does it have to look good, but the user journey has to be just as intuitive in the way it walks users through the steps to conversion.
Mobile responsiveness means site elements reorient themselves to the screen size of the device loading it. Mobile responsiveness is convenient because it preserves your content and function across all devices. Search engines also rank mobile-responsive websites higher.
Since 2019, companies are liable for the accessibility of their websites under the Americans With Disabilities Act. This often overlooked aspect of web design has resulted in large settlements for plaintiffs. Even Beyoncé isn’t immune.
What makes a website “accessible?” Proper color contrast and font size, the ability to navigate the site with a keyboard, video subtitles, optimized for screen readers—anything that makes the site more navigable for people who are visual, hearing, or motor-impaired. ADA compliance is a must-have for law firm web design.
Cybercrime is a threat to everyone. Breaches in cybersecurity cost small businesses like law firms $200,000 on average, with 60% of them folding within six months of a successful attack.
All websites must be designed with minimal attentiveness to web security, or the owners of the site (you) may be held liable.
Depending on the functions of the site, you may need different levels of security, but some of the basics include:
- Encrypted design using HTTPS or HSTS scripting.
- Implementation of vulnerability scanning tools.
- Encouraging complicated passwords, hashing stored passwords, and enabling two-factor authentication.
- Only displaying the minimum needed information in user accounts, like the last four digits of a SSN or credit card number.
User Acceptance Testing
The final hurdle to clear before going live is user acceptance testing, a final validation of the site in the hands of prospective users. It’s a working trial that puts the website in the hands of people who have never seen the site and watch how they interact with it. If the site performs as expected, it’s ready to launch!
After Your Law Firm Web Design Is Live
Launching the new site is a major milestone, but the work of law firm web design companies continues even after launch. Once you’re live, it’s time to pay attention to:
Every company’s website needs analytics configured to measure its performance. Metrics that point to a site’s success or failure are called key performance indicators (KPI).
KPI that analytics software might monitor include:
- Number of visitors.
- Time on page.
- Bounce-back rate.
- Pages visited.
- Links clicked.
Analytics may reveal aspects of the site that are not working, giving you the opportunity to fix them.
Marketing & Growth
Once you have a tested website that guides your visitors through an effective user journey, it’s time to get more visitors—to put the site in front of the eyes of interested prospects. If the journey is strong enough and your marketing targeted enough, it should yield predictable results—for example, converting 10% of visitors. Now it’s just a matter of getting more visitors.
How do we do that? The best approach is a comprehensive marketing campaign to funnel warm traffic to your landing and content pages. Pieces of the marketing puzzle include:
- Content SEO
- Paid search ads
- Social media
- Email marketing
Effective law firm web design is a major undertaking—but it is worth it. An effective website isn’t just for show—it’s an asset that automates some of the most critical aspects of converting clients and scaling a law firm—building trust, communicating brand values, nurturing prospects, and converting them to leads. With a proven strategy and the right audience, for an ambitious law firm, the sky's the limit.
Looking to create a law firm web design that stands out? Contact DAP today.