With thousands of legal websites on the internet, simply having a site is not enough to distinguish one firm from its competitors. Success in enhancing a firm’s brand and generating leads demands a well-designed site that reflects a professional image, clearly communicates expertise and offers a stellar user experience capable of inspiring each visitor to take the next step toward becoming a client.
Every time prospective clients visit a firm’s site, they subconsciously judge the firm based on its aesthetics and user experience, usually within seconds. If a firm’s website is not delivering quality leads and promoting the brand, it might be time to consider a redesign.
According to one recent survey, more than a third of legal consumers said they rely on online research to find an attorney, and nearly half said that they had checked out a law firm’s website following a personal referral from friends, family or colleagues. By contrast, just 9 percent reported using print ads as a resource, and even fewer, 5 percent, cited TV or radio ads.
Clearly, a law firm’s website is an important, if not its most important, digital marketing asset. Unfortunately, far too many firms view website design as a one-and-done proposition. But like any other essential asset, a site needs continuous maintenance and the occasional overhaul to ensure it continues to meet the firm’s needs and the needs of potential clients.
Fail to keep up, and a firm is bound to be saddled with an outdated website that leaves it looking unprofessional, incompetent and quickly disregarded in favor of the competition.
A 10-point evaluation checklist
Answers to the following questions can help determine whether it’s time to invest in a redesign of the firm’s website.
- Does the design grab attention? Open the firm’s website and take a few seconds to honestly analyze a first impression from the client’s perspective. Does the site draw you in and compel you to learn more? If it’s not projecting the message the firm wants to convey, at the very least, it’s probably time for a homepage redo.
- Does the site meet prospective clients’ needs? No matter how great it looks or how well it performs, a firm’s website won’t bring in leads if it’s not offering visitors value. Think about prospective clients. What questions might they have, and what information might they be searching for? Does the site provide that information? Can visitors find it quickly? Is the information presented in a straightforward and easily consumable manner?
- How has the firm changed since the website was launched? A law firm website needs to give visitors an accurate impression of the firm’s practice and the expertise of its attorneys. If a logo or other aspect of branding has changed since its launch, the website needs to reflect those changes. Has the firm taken on important initiatives or expanded its practice areas since the site went live? The site should communicate those changes as well.
- How does It stack up against the competition? Take a look at the competition’s websites. Does the quality of your firm’s site match or surpass theirs in terms of layout, imagery or video, functionality and voice? How can the site be improved to put it on equal footing?
- Is the site optimized for mobile? It’s impossible to overstate how important it is for a law firm to have a mobile-friendly website. Today’s consumers are far more likely to use a smartphone as their primary search tool than a desktop or laptop. If the firm’s site was designed before the advent of mobile, the layout and functionality probably don’t lend themselves to a phone. And since Google also prefers a mobile-friendly site, failing to optimize for mobile will most definitely hurt the firm’s search rankings.
- Is the website slow to load? Prospective clients are like everyone else, they don’t like to wait for a site to load. If the site takes too long to load, visitors will click away and navigate to the competition. How important is page speed to today’s web users? Important enough for Google to list it as a significant ranking factor in a recent algorithm update.
- How are the web metrics trending? Metrics reveal quite a bit about how visitors respond to a firm’s site. If KPIs – time on page, bounce rate, keyword rankings, traffic and conversion rank – have been heading in the wrong direction, it’s time to think about a refresh.
- Does the site maximize conversions? A website built 10 or so years ago wasn’t designed with today’s internet-savvy consumer in mind. On the other hand, modern web design aims to provide visitors with a satisfying user experience by incorporating visually pleasing elements that can help maximize conversions, such as accessible (yet non-intrusive) contact forms and click-to-call buttons that facilitate easy connection.
- Is the information out of date? The law changes rapidly, and so do law firms. Clients want to know a firm is staying up to date. If the site’s practice pages haven’t been updated to reflect the current state of the law or if it includes outdated attorney bios and years-old case studies, clients won’t get a feel for the firm’s expertise or competency.
- Does the firm’s website make you proud? A law firm should want everyone to see its site and feel confident that it accurately represents the firm’s values and expertise. If that’s not happening, the site is probably due for a website redesign.
It’s essential for a law firm’s website to evolve as its practice evolves.
If a site’s performance falls short of expectations, even a light refresh could breathe new life into lead-generating efforts. A visually pleasing website, a fantastic user experience and content relevant to a potential client’s needs will lend the firm credibility and encourage each visitor to take the next step towards becoming a valued client.
Kevin J. Vermeulen is a partner in Good2BSocial LLC, a digital marketing agency that focuses on law firms and companies in the legal industry. He can be reached at [email protected]