What makes a good law firm website?
We had originally planned to list law firm websites among this year’s Web 100. But we didn’t get enough viable candidates this first time around.
But what should law firms consider if they’re contemplating a site revamp? Two people who were going to judge that category, Monica Bay, a fellow at CodeX—the Stanford Center for Legal Informatics at Stanford Law School, and Sam Glover, founder and editor-in-chief at Lawyerist, had constructive feedback.
Bay and Glover agree each firm has to decide the right course of action regarding website design based on its services and the type of client it wants to attract. The website “is an opportunity to tell people what you can do for them,” Bay says.
She says many law firm websites “aren’t focusing on potential clients.” Instead, they are vehicles to showcase images of sleek conference rooms and highlight industry accolades.
To avoid this trap, a successful website should start “with a well-defined goal” that highlights a “call to action,” Glover writes in the Lawyerist publication 10 Things the Best Website Designs Have in Common. Lawyerist has run a law firm websites contest since 2010.
In other words, “don’t make your visitor think,” Glover says.
This starts with building a website that appeases search engine algorithms, which favor mobile-friendly sites. Google’s search algorithm, for example, prioritizes sites with a responsive design—those that can fit any mobile screen.
A website not favored by Google can struggle. Data from Advanced Web Ranking shows that 21 percent of mobile users will click through the first result of a search, while 4 percent will click through the fifth result.
Beyond being client-focused, Glover says a website has to have a personality. Still, a creative design without purpose does not “tick all the boxes,” Glover says. Pulling back to his report’s first point, he says a firm’s website must have a goal for its creativity and “a strategy with that goal in mind.”
This strategy should get into the weeds. “Just like drafting a brief, you’d try to advocate with your font choices and headings,” he says.
For example, a personal injury attorney might want to use a red color scheme with blocky fonts because these design choices reinforce a client’s anger and frustration.
Conversely, a divorce attorney should consider rounded, serif fonts with a higher “x-height” (the height of the main body of a lowercase letter), warm colors and pictures of people smiling because it is friendlier and helps alleviate a potential client’s heightened stress.
Regardless of the design and layout a firm chooses today, “it has to be evolving,” Glover says. He recommends, at a minimum, an audit every six to 12 months.
During that audit, firms should track click-thru and conversion rates to see whether their design and messaging create the intended effect. Glover says the stereotypical personal injury firm sites that play videos automatically, feature pop-up chat boxes and have other clutter make him cringe.
However, he muses, if that design is getting the desired result, “then go with it.”