Websites for Attorneys
According to a study by Pew Research in 2009, 74% of all Americans use the Internet. Of those, 81% use the internet to research products or services. Here in the 21st century, being without a website is akin to not having a business card. If a potential client can't instantly find you, they'll move on to someone else as fast as it takes to click a button.
The reality is that in this day and age, nothing is more crucial to your business than your web presence. How does this directly affect you, as an attorney? Consider the other professional services that are accessible online. Banks send out alerts regarding overdrafts or unusual usage. Doctors use email lists to inform their patients if they are going out of town. Appointments and meetings of all sorts are scheduled through automated request forms. There is virtually no aspect of our lives that has not been adapted to the online world. Not only is having a web presence a matter of convenience for your clients, but it is swiftly becoming the hallmark by which a business is judged. A business that cannot be found on the Internet is often considered by a potential client to be unprofessional.
Attorney Website Basics
Let's start with the basics. A good business website will have your credentials, a concise sales pitch, and your contact information (only use your business email and phone number – never give out your personal info). Listing your office address and hours is a good idea too, and will further impress upon the reader the legitimacy of your business.
Now start thinking outside the box. What else can you provide your clients with? You could have an online form to request consultation appointments. You could have a downloadable set of free legal resources or pamphlets, available in PDF format. If you work in a specialized area, you could set up a news feed informing your clients of changes in law or policy that may affect them (immigration law, for example, or insurance regulations). The possibilities are endless.
To a new or casual Internet user, setting up this sort of web presence may seem daunting. With a little time and research, however, you'll find that there are all sorts of tools available online to make establishing yourself online easy. You will need three basic things to get started:
- A registered domain name (http://www.yourname.com)
- A webhost (this is where the data from your webpage is stored – think of it like the Documents folder for your webpage)
- Content (both written and visual)
Hiring a Professional Web Designer vs. Building Your Own Website
Once you've made the commitment to build a website, you have an important decision to make. Do you want to hire a professional web designer, or do you want to do it yourself? There are pros and cons to either option.
If you have the budget to hire a professional, it's well worth the expense. A professional web designer can tailor your website to represent your own personal brand, as well as implement any tools or resources you'd like to provide your clients with. Though the free web creation services out there are great, they do lack a certain amount of individuality. Building your own website instead of hiring a designer is like the difference between printing business cards yourself at home, and having them designed and printed by a professional print shop.
Using a Professional Web Designer:
A designer should also be able to recommend a good web host and domain name registry, saving you the time of finding a suitable service on your own. For those who are new or casual Internet users, hiring a web designer is just as much about peace of mind as it is about having a good looking webpage. Additionally, if the written word is not your strong suit, you may want to look into hiring a content writer. Professionally written content gives your site an extra coat of polish, and is yet another way to impress a potential client.
So how do you find a designer? The same way they'll eventually find you: search online. The vast array of designer portfolios available can seem overwhelming, so here are a few tips to narrow it down:
- Look at your favorite sites, regardless of whether or not they fall into your line of business. If you like the look of them, find out who designed them.
- Search local. While the web is great for fostering professional relationships that aren't restricted by location, if this is your first webpage, you may feel more comfortable meeting with someone in person. See who's in your area. Set up a meeting.
- Ask your friends. Word of mouth is still the most reliable source of advertising.
The drawbacks to hiring designers or content writers are, of course, the expense, and the time involved. The designer will undoubtedly have other clients to look after, so don't expect them to drop everything for your project. If getting a website out quickly is your priority, then there are a variety of tools you can use to get it set up on your own time.
Building Your Own Website:
You don't need to have any understanding of code or programming to set up a basic webpage. There are some fantastic free services out there that make building a webpage as easy as filling out a form and clicking a button.
For a fast, simple way to create a professional looking blog-style webpage, try services such as Wordpress or Blogger. Both are free, extremely user-friendly, and have a wealth of design templates to choose from. You can be up and running in the span of an afternoon. Additionally, both of these services act as their own web hosts, so you would only need to purchase a domain name. Wordpress and Blogger will give you a default web address that includes their name; a personalized domain name is yet another way of confirming to the potential client that you are an established business. If you're just interested in the basics, using free services such as these might be the way to go.
Does Your Business Need a Mobile Website?This seems to be a popular question this year and after reading this, you can’t deny that a mobile version of your website is imperative to your business success. Without a doubt, mobile phone users have an increasingly high demand for mobile-friendly websites that provide a streamlined user experience.
Today there are millions of mobile phone users searching the web for local businesses and services. Gartner recently predicted more people will be accessing the Internet on a mobile than a computer by 2013. Next year is just a few months away!
Lightspeed Research found that almost 50% of all mobile phone users have made a purchase on their mobile phones. 65% of mobile users are reading reviews, while 80% use their phones to find a local store. Even Google has presented data showing that mobile searches have quadrupled since 2010.
There is no doubt Americans are on the go and their mobile search expectations are steadily increasing. Mobile users expect sites to load quickly and navigate smoothly and they don’t hesitate to move to the next competitor’s site. A 2011 study by Compuware found that almost three quarters of mobile searchers are not willing to wait more than 5 seconds for a website to load on their mobile phones.
Mobile users expect immediate gratification. They want simple “click-to-call” and “click-to-map” functionality when they are looking for a business or service. They don’t want to be delayed by slow-loading websites that don’t cater to the mobile experience. The proof is everywhere.
Keeping Your Website Current
If you already have a webpage, take some time to see what your competitors' sites look like. If you haven't changed the look of your site since 2000, it's probably time for an overhaul. To the savvy internet user, a website using an outdated design is just as bad (if not worse) than not having one at all. It's always wise for you to shop around and see what the rest of the web looks like.
Even if you've got the best looking webpage in the world, nobody's going to visit it if they don't know about it. You need to spread the word and there are many ways to accomplish this:
- Get your domain name printed on your business cards;
- Put the address in your email signature;
- Submit your business listing to free services like Google Places or Bing Local Listings;
- Ask your affiliates to provide a link to you on their own pages; and
- Hire a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialist to maximize your web traffic.