By: Jamie Adams
Great law firm websites answer the same essential questions a great reporter answers – the five w’s, or who, what, where, when and why. Who are you? Where do you practice? Whatare your specific legal specialties and accolades? When can I contact you? Why should I choose your firm over another practice and why do you care about my legal problem? Great websites answer these questions immediately, without overwhelming the visitor, in a professional, inviting manner. If accomplishing this sounds difficult, that is because quality website design is difficult. Let’s explore the ways a premium site elevates the user experience and gains clients.
What makes a great law firm website?
Great website design is like great art: It’s difficult to quantify yet easy to recognize. Certain elements of Web design are essential, no matter the subject matter or specialty. With law firms, answering those five w’s requires a deft touch and a quick delivery. Below, you’ll find a list of what are often considered the most important aspects of top-quality Web design. Consider this your legal website cheat sheet.
- Design elements and responsive design. Your firm’s website is the image you present to the world. It’s your first impression and your first — and potentially last — opportunity to impress a client. Creating a positive first impression is a tough task, and qualified Web designers who can produce simple, clean, user-friendly websites are in demand for a reason. As Steve Jobs put it, “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” Simple also means that additional mobile-friendly versions of your site are a thing of the past. Your firm’s site should seamlessly adapt to any screen a client could possibly use, from smartphones to tablets to desktops. The ability of online content to automatically adapt to the device’s screen is called responsive design. If your website isn’t responsive, you’re presenting your firm as a business that uses yesterday’s technology. This April, Google began using mobile-friendly design, or responsive design, as a ranking tool in search results to penalize non-responsive sites and reward responsive sites with higher rankings. And Google’s approach makes sense; research indicates that over 55 percent of searches for local businesses occur on mobile devices.
- Client-focused content. In publishing and on the Web, content is king. Once a potential client decides he requires legal representation, chances are he’s a bit scared of the situation, intimidated by the complicated legal system and terms, and possibly embarrassed of his legal problems. Website content that’s focused on the client, rather than solely on the firm, helps answer the question, “Why do you care about my legal problem?” Even in the cutthroat world of law, compassion is your No. 1 ally when selling services to a client. If you focus your Web content on acknowledging client problems, answering client questions and welcoming the client into the family that is your law firm, you’ll have a winning website. Client-focused content includes the following: blogs that are regularly updated with relevant news and winning case results, client testimonialsfrom successful cases, a list of your firm’s specialties, and sections that invite the visitor to explore specific legal issues and solutions to legal problems. Client-centric content places visitors at the center of the site and makes them feel like your firm is intimately familiar with their specific problems. If it seems like you aren’t touting your achievements enough, focus your Web content on meeting the client’s needs first; you’ll then be able to present the solutions your firm possesses.
- Landing pages. A landing page is nothing more than a unique Web page a visitor arrives upon after clicking an ad or link to your site. Landing pages are your first means of contact with potential clients, and, as we all know, you only get one shot at making a first impression. When thinking of landing pages, remember that you want site visitors to land and stay. Generally speaking, two types of landing pages exist. The first is a click-through page, which e-commerce websites use to register customers or tell them more about a product. The second is a lead-generation landing page. Generating client leads is the name of the law website game, so this type of page will typically use a form — usually one that says something like “Contact us now for a free consultation” — to help your firm collect the minimum amount of client data required to generate a solid lead. I say minimum amount of data because potential leads do not want to reveal their life story just to receive more information from you. For more on this, see the contact forms section below. A lead generation landing page should be styled similarly to your homepage, with attractive style elements, links to further information about the law firm and attorneys, as well as phone numbers and contact information.
- Tracked numbers. Take hope out of your marketing equation whenever possible. You want to know where and how your marketing dollars are spent, so we recommend loading tracking numbers into your marketing arsenal. Virtual ring-to phone numbers – numbers that are generated without a directly assigned landline – are an incredible advantage for businesses. Virtual numbers provide two vital functions. First, they allow businesses to post local area code numbers on their websites in areas that would otherwise create long-distance calls. Second, virtual numbers can be easily tracked and recorded. Like web analytics, which provides important information about website visitors, tracked numbers provide equally important information about callers, as well as about which advertising methods or campaigns generated phone calls. Information is the name of the game, so consider untracked office numbers the outdated phone technology of today, while tracked virtual numbers represent smart technology that produces trackable data about each and every call.
- Contact forms and chat. Your website should have call to actions, or CTAs, everywhere in the form of toll-free or local phone numbers, email addresses and contact forms. Forms should not simply be a way to collect information in an impersonal, mechanical way. Good contact forms welcome visitors, invite them to connect with you, and collect as little information as necessary to produce a conversion. Keep contact forms simple and short. As we’ve mentioned, clients visiting your legal website are often intimidated, embarrassed or timid about their legal issues. A friendly contact form tells visitors exactly why they are giving you their personal information. It creates trust, positioning you as an authority or expert who can help solve problems. It should also set clear expectations about time-frames and services. For example, the form might say, “Free consultation, return call within one hour or less.” Live chats also drive conversions by allowing your visitor to chat with a real person. Naturally, your firm must have an employee available to answer chats, but doing so builds the client-firm trust relationship and helps collect valuable client information without prying. Contact forms should always be simple, welcoming and easy to use. Never require special formatting for emails or phone numbers. You’re collecting personal data, so don’t make the experience demanding, frustrating or daunting. Bring clients into the law firm as though they are family; after all, clients are the breadwinners for your family.