Updated for 2023
If you’re in the market for a new or used car, some of the ‘must-have’ features will likely include aesthetics, reliability and performance, a good navigation system, safety, and after-sales service. A good law firm website should have similar attributes – a great look, reliable and functional, easy navigation, secure, and good maintenance systems to ensure optimum performance.
If you’re building or upgrading a website, you might think it’s a good idea to enlist the services of a friend of a friend’s uncle, but if your website is missing key ingredients and the design and mechanics aren’t functional, then it’s not working optimally and you’re missing out on potential clients.
Why is a ‘good’ website so important?
Good law firms need good websites. Your website is your ‘24/7 online shop’ and therefore must have essential features to help drive customers to your site.
With consumers increasingly looking for products and services online, you need more than a tokenistic or ‘set and forget’ approach to your law firm website. Unlike the days when would-be clients had to speak to somebody or visit face-to-face to consider doing business, your online visitors can opt out in a matter of seconds if they don’t like what they see. If website visitors can’t find what they’re looking for quickly, or think your firm is unable to provide the legal services they need, then visiting your competitor is just a click away.
Here, we drill down into some of the key features of a good law firm website. Whether you already have a website, are upgrading one, or about to have a website built for the first time, ask yourself these questions.
Is your website using modern, cutting-edge designs?
It takes about 50 milliseconds (or 0.05 seconds) to make a good first impression!
(source: Taylor & Francis Online)
First impressions count, even more so in a digital world. You only have seconds to make an impression, so your website needs to be professional, informative, and inviting. Think about how your visitors will feel when they land on your home page. Will they feel welcomed, confused, or frustrated?
Professional web design that is aesthetically pleasing and optimised for mobile usage helps foster trust and brand awareness and creates the right first impression. Your site should have a crisp clean look and use consistent branding, style, and colour. Your firm’s practice areas and values should be front and centre without excessive pretence or accolades.
The language should have the right balance for your potential audience and be free of legal jargon. Don’t mistake professional with pretentious – too much waffle about how good you are and how many awards you have won can be intimidating for some would-be clients or plain annoying for others.
Have you ever visited a website, read through a well-crafted pitch, and thought ‘hmm, but what do they actually do?’ Your home page should make it abundantly clear to your visitors who you are, what you do, how you can help them, and how they can get in touch.
Is your header and main menu optimised for user experience?
The header of a website is the top section across the page and is a snapshot of who you are and the goods and services you offer. It usually contains your law firm logo, navigation menu, brief contact details, and sometimes a call to action. It should be easy to read, uncluttered, and span across the full width of the screen. The header remains consistent on each page of your website, so users know they are still on your site no matter which page they visit.
Having a fixed header or top navigation bar enables your website visitors to scroll through content without losing sight of your law firm. A non-fixed main menu will disappear as your visitors scroll through content making it difficult for them to find their way back to the navigation bar and your contact details.
Is your website easy to navigate?
Even if your website looks great, a positive first impression can be short lived if visitors cannot easily find their way around. Poor or clumsy navigation can turn a prospective client into a frustrated guest who leaves quickly to find a more hospitable host – your competitor’s website!
Navigation needs to be accessible and intuitive. Labelling should be clear and practical – think about how your visitors might search for information and use every-day language that will help them find what they are looking for. Save quirky and creative copy for other areas.
Your website should also have a button linking to the contact form on most pages so that wherever your visitors go or wherever a link takes them, they can get in touch quickly by clicking on your contact details.
How reliable is your website?
Website reliability encompasses security, performance, and speed.
Your law firm website is your number one marketing asset, so it makes sense to protect it from online threats. Law firms have recently been the target of fraud, theft of confidential information, and cyber vandalism. A hacked website can have a devastating impact on your law firm in terms of downtime, financial loss and compromised user safety which affects your reputation. Search engine rankings will also be adversely impacted which can negate past marketing efforts.
Adding security logging, installing software only from trusted sources, and performing regular website maintenance form part of an essential website security strategy.
Our recent article discusses the adverse impacts if your law firm website is hacked and the steps you can take to protect your website.
The fact that 40% of visitors wait no longer than 2 seconds before exiting your site is testament to the importance of having a fast-loading website. Further, Google now includes speed as part of its overall score of the quality of a site, meaning a slow-loading website can hinder your marketing and SEO efforts.
Professionally managed hosting services provide extra layers of security and can enhance your website’s overall performance.
Does your website have a dedicated page for blogs, newsletters, or resources?
A dedicated blog or newsletter page containing quality content is an essential part of your website. Content is information and resources that you make available to your website visitors whether they be existing clients, potential clients, or referrers. Content should be useful, timely and relevant. It should answer questions and educate your audience about the services you provide and your areas of expertise.
Creating regular quality content and publishing it on your blog page can help convert visitors to leads, and then clients. It can also help drive traffic to your website and increase your SEO ranking by giving Google and other search engines content to crawl and index that can be served up in search results.
Is your website content rich?
Do your visitors know what you do and how you can help them? There’s no point telling an audience how great you are at getting interim orders in the Family Court, negotiating family provision claims or, settling and serving statutory demands if they don’t know a little bit about these things, and why they might need these services.
Having a content rich website particularly around the service pages, is crucial to SEO and providing reliable and relevant information to your audience.
Take time to prepare informative and useful content on the areas of law in which you practice with plenty of general information on each topic. Use quality, meaningful images to accompany your content, so visitors can tell at a glance, what the information is about.
Is your website SEO friendly?
If you want your website to have a chance of being found by potential clients, you must consider Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Although SEO can be complex, and the technology behind it is constantly evolving, there are some small steps you can take to start improving your SEO right away.
Google is constantly changing their algorithms, so having a law firm SEO agency that knows how to optimise websites for it to rank is key to the success. A well optimised website can drive hundreds of new visitors to your website.
In the long term however, professional site design and well-structured websites can improve SEO considerably, to ensure consumers can find your law firm when using search engines such as Google.
Do you review your website regularly?
Like a motor vehicle, your website needs regular maintenance and the occasional repair to fix broken or worn parts. You should visit your own website frequently to identify and fix broken or missing links. If you’ve had a page that displays ‘under construction’ or ‘coming soon’ for more than a few months, it’s probably time to do something about that. Content on your blog pages should be updated regularly, re-purposed or removed if it is stale or no longer relevant.
The right law firm website for more work.
Like a new or used motor vehicle, if you buy (or build) a lemon, your website will not perform like it should, costing you more in downtime and lost potential clients. Having a good website doesn’t necessarily mean building the most extravagant one, but it does mean understanding the necessary features you need to make it perform as it should – promoting your law firm 24/7, 365 days a year.
Law firm marketing is all we do, providing busy lawyers with effective content, marketing and communication strategies. We build, host and manage secure law firm websites for optimum performance and conversion with the visitor and user in mind. If you would like to see how your current website stacks up, you can request a free website audit by emailing [email protected].