Checklist: Essential Elements of Law Firm Websites

Whether you are creating your firm website or updating it, keep this checklist of essential elements and best practices in mind to make sure that you are putting your best (digital) foot forward when someone visits your domain. There are thousands of great articles and experts on law firm website design, but make sure you have these basics:

Fast Loading – If your site does not load quickly you may lose visitors. How quickly should it load? Less than 3 seconds (which may still seem long on a mobile device). The Google PageSpeed Insights is one of many sites that test how fast your site loads and provides suggestions to make the page faster. What causes a webpage to load slowly? The usual culprits include redirects, scripts, scrolling (slide) images, or your webhost. In addition to potentially losing a potential client, slow page load speeds can also negatively affect your search result rankings.

Responsive Design – Not only should your website look good on multiple browsers (Chrome, Edge, Safari, Firefox), it should look good on any size screen from a tiny iPhone to a huge monitor. To accomplish this feat requires responsive design. For instance, a website that is responsive will automatically convert a navigation toolbar to a “hamburger” icon when the page shrinks to a certain size. Images automatically resize or disappear, font size adjusts, and content blocks automatically shrink to fit. Not sure if your website is responsive? Open it on a small screen mobile device and if you must pinch or pull to see anything on the screen you have some work to do. About half of all website traffic is from mobile devices.

Click to Call – In addition to have a clear call to action (typically “Contact Us”) on your website, with the contact information in the upper right corner on every page (usually in a header), the phone number should also be “click to call” enabled. This simply means that visitors to your website can click the phone number and it cues up the call on their mobile device or even using VoIP on their laptop. It is a simple bit of code, but without it do you think someone is going to stop to write down your phone number?

What Problem(s) Do You Solve? – While some website visitors will spend time looking at the attorney bios, your practice area pages, and reading your blog most will not. You have .05 seconds to grab their attention. Get to the point – what problem do you solve for clients? Use the language your clients use, not the description of the legal issue defined in your law school textbooks. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. You may have multiple practice areas, so you may have multiple quick descriptions of how you help. This should be the first thing a website visitor reads, not the firm’s long history or many awards. Focus on explaining how you help first.

Use Standard Placement – Do not get too creative with navigation placement on your website. Put your call to action (Call Us, Contact Us) in the upper right corner of your header. Put your address in the footer. Page navigation toolbars are in the header. Your mobile “hamburger” menu should appear in the upper right corner of your mobile site. In this case it is ok to emulate how every other website looks since website visitors’ sense where those elements will appear. While you might be tempted to put things in a different place, so your visitors stay on your site longer, do you really want them to get frustrated?

A Picture… – Visitors to your website often see your imagery well before they read any text. What do those pictures say? Try to communicate feelings or reinforce a message with your images. Sprinkle in local photography for authenticity. Avoid legal imagery – gavels, a courthouse, scales of Justice, law books, etc.

Colors Convey – Your color scheme should be high contrast and easy to read. That means not using light grey text on a black background. But also consider what the colors you use make a person feel like. Color plays into emotion and psychology. Color has meaning. Is your website all grays, browns, and neutrals? Predominantly red? Just like a room can influence people’s mental state (there is a reason kitchens are often painted yellow), give some thought about the impact color has on your website visitor.

Make It Accessible – make sure that your website is accessible to all your visitors. Lainey Feingold, a disability rights lawyer, has written here and here about why you need an accessible site, and how to work with your designer to accomplish this.

There are a lot of important decisions to make when creating or updating your law firm website. Whether you do it yourself or hire a designer make sure what you want and what you need. Look at other websitesnot just law firms – to see what you like and what you do not.  Work with your designer and follow best practices. Do not forget any applicable ethics regarding websites and social media. A website is your digital front door – throw out the welcome mat!