You are a lawyer. You are not a website designer, nor do you desire to be one. And, using your sister-in-law's son who knows "everything" about computers, is just not working. It's time for professional help.
How do you select the best designer for you?
Define the goals for your website.
Are you trying to increase brand awareness, or are you looking for new leads for your practice? If you're a criminal defense attorney, your website should focus on conversion of site visitors, a return on your investment, and building a client base. If, however, you're an insurance defense practice, you may be more focused on brand awareness rather than getting new leads. Know your goals before you begin the search process.
Check out the competition.
Visit the websites of competitors and leaders in your area of practice. Look at the features, navigation, and overall layout of their site. How would they convert a visitor into a prospect by getting them to click on the contact us button?
After finding some examples you like, look at the last line of the site to find their web designer. Go to the designer's site and share some of their designs with members of your firm and support staff. Get their opinions on sites they find appealing and are easy to use.
Compare the cost with long-term value.
You want a website that will last a few years, will be easy for you and prospective clients to use, and will fit within your budget. Saving money by going with the lowest bidder may not be beneficial if visitors quickly leave the site without seeking contact.
Choose a website developer that works with lawyers.
Lawyers sell a service, a solution to a legal problem. A design company that sells widgets will not understand marketing legal services. First, the services you're marketing are "needs based." The prospective client needs a lawyer to draft a will, handle a divorce, or register a patent. Second, your web designer should also be aware of the ethical rules that place constraints on how you can market your practice.
The website that offers high quality content and makes it easy for consumers to contact you will hold their attention and lead to a new client. General information, written in plain English, will keep consumers coming back and referring others to your site.
Select a designer who looks at your complete marketing plan.
Your website is but one part of your marketing plan. Your designer should examine all of your marketing, both online and offline, to insure the message is consistent, the brand holds constant, and that your marketing approach is paying off.
Your website designer should educate. Just as you educate your clients about the law, your designer should explain the strengths and weaknesses of the strategies being suggested. If your designer is not listening to you or is not educating you on the process, it's time to move to the next name on your list.
Finding the right web designer, much like finding the right lawyer, may take time, but will pay off with more contacts, more business, and more peace of mind.
Roberta Gubbins has served as the editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides services as a ghostwriter editing articles, blogs, and e-blasts for lawyers and law firms. She is the editor of Briefs, the Ingham County Bar Association e-newsletter, and The Mentor, SBM Master Lawyers Section newsletter.
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