Most people start with the visual design when building their law firm’s website, but that approach is all backwards.
First, you need to think about your customers: what they are looking for, what you want them to see, and how they should interact with the site. Then set a plan of action and create a funnel to convert.
Your website is the catch-all platform to advertise everything you do and everything your firm stands for. Most of the time it’s also the first thing that valuable target customers will see: 76% of consumers in the U.S. search the Web before hiring an attorney, according to a 2012 study by LexisNexis.
In the planning stage, it’s most crucial to define the website’s purpose and plan your customers’ sequence of actions.
Define Your Website’s Purpose
All good attorney and law firm sites serve a clearly-defined purpose. Law firm websites can serve a variety of functions:
- Prove credibility and position you as an expert. Use your website to display your credentials and how much you value transparency. This can come in the form of employee bios, accreditation from the State Bar and other associations, client testimonials, example settlements and spotlight cases, and awards won. Design also plays a big part in professional trust.
- Educate. Not all visitors to your site will reach out right away. Make your website familiar to them by hosting educational materials such as how-to documents, industry news, and other informative resources that your target audience can use right away. Later, when those people are ready to contact a lawyer, they’ll remember you and start the conversation. Sometimes it’s useful to present this information in the form of lead hooks, such as downloadable white papers, to show authority and experience.
- Build leads and gain a following. Contact forms are great lead generation tools. To get the most out of them, email a monthly newsletter to each contact you collect. Sending targeted, useful information will have potential clients coming to you instead of you reaching out blindly. Don’t forget to include stats that matter to your audience!
Create a Plan of Action for Your Visitors
What do you want visitors to do when they get to your website? Each step should serve your goals and your client’s needs. Keep the main navigation as clean and clear as possible by understanding what your clients are looking for.
Here is an activity to exercise intuitive navigation. Try narrowing down this list to match the needs of your customers, or reordering it from the most important to the least important information they seek:
- Home Page
- Bios/About the Firm
- Practice Areas
- Contact Page
- Free Consultation
- Why Our Firm
Design Influences Action
People are more inclined to stay on a website that looks good, so invest in quality design site-wide. Templates are a great place to start if you are upgrading a legacy website, just getting started, or working on a budget. They can be inexpensive and customizable. If you want a website to really stand out, the design should reflect what is unique about your firm. And don't forget to make it as easy as possible for people to get in touch with you.
Quality design helps keep people interested and on your website longer. Clean design is also a vehicle for clean copy. It invites concise language that speaks to your potential customers on their comfort level and respects their time.
Great attorney websites are not just collections of pages. They are thoughtful and useful paths for people starting as strangers and ending as clients. If you take the time to help guide them onto the right path, your website will become one of your most valuable assets—so plan it well from the beginning!
Rahul Alim is the founder and CEO of Custom Creatives, a digital marketing agency in Agoura Hills that specializes in attorney marketing and website design.