In the U.S., the average person consumes over 16 hours of digital media every day, according to a study described byThe Wall Street Journal. (For some context: that counts overlapping usage. If you listen to a podcast for an hour while you shop online, that qualifies as 2 hours as consumption.)
For lawyers, this means a powerful online presence isn’t optional. A lackluster website will drive potential clients away. But the right design will communicate strength, expertise, and care, and bring more clients your way.
As you look ahead to growing your practice in the year ahead, here are 9 steps to make your website a client magnet.
Keep it fresh
Websites have a shelf life. Beautiful sites from 2015 already look dated. Communicate to your clients that you aren’t falling behind by regularly refreshing your look every 2-5 years.
In addition to full site revamps, put in regular updates. Are your hours accurate? Are your bios up to date? Have you posted a new article on your blog? Potential clients want to see that you’re active, up to date, and ready to accept their business.
Design for mobile first
Half of all online traffic is through mobile phones. If someone brings up your site on one of these tiny screens, are they squinting and trying to zoom in? Is the entire screen blocked by a pesky pop-up chat window?
Make sure you’ve got a clear, simplified presence on the small screen. Then you can move from there to add in additional features on your desktop version.
Don’t make it about you
Only your mother looks at your website to celebrate how well you did in moot court as a student or how lovely you look in that new suit.
Everyone else clicked on your site because they have a problem and are searching for a solution. Cater your website to them. Get into their mindset, and give them what they want as quickly as possible.
This could include:
- Your phone number and other contact methods.
- Answers to the questions you’re most frequently asked.
- Information that addresses their biggest stressors and worries.
- And, yes: information that shows you are intelligent, competent, and personable. By all means talk up your accomplishments (and maybe even show off the suit). But do it in the service of giving potential clients the sense of security and hope they’re looking for.
Make sure whoever is designing your website understands the user’s journey, from the moment someone needs an attorney through the complexities of a lawsuit and onward through the resolution.
Embrace brevity and white space
French philosopher Blaise Pascal famously said “if I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”
Take the time to make your website writing short. Take the original content and edit it ruthlessly. Try to cut half the sentences. Cut half the words in the remaining sentences.
Big blocks of text feel overwhelming and confusing. So does a clutter of images. Short sentences and paragraphs with ample white space gives a sense of clarity and professionalism.
Prioritize loading speed
You might be excited to include big images, videos, and animations on your site. But it’s more important to have a fast loading speed.
In the time it takes to load a complicated site, potential clients will click away. Additionally, Google considers loading speed in its rankings, putting fast sites higher up on the page.
Make it accessible
One-fourth of all adults in the U.S. have a disability. Make sure your website is designed with that in mind, with Alt Text for images, high contrast, a clear font (that can be enlarged), video captioning, and keyboard navigation.
But accessibility goes deeper than that. Make sure your language is clear to those who haven’t gone to law school. Keep in mind that the average U.S. adult has an 8th grade reading level. Aim toward a 6th grade reading level for greater accessibility, especially if your clientele consists of ordinary people.
This doesn’t mean talking down to your audience. It means cutting out jargon, using simple sentence structures, and replacing impressive words with simple ones. Test the readability of your site with tools like WriteClearly.
For additional help, the National Association for Court Management has put together a great Plain Language Guide for lawyers.
Risk being memorable
When someone is looking for a lawyer, they will often open several tabs on their computer and look through them. Your site needs to be the one that stands out.
There are millions of ways to do this. The right ones for you will be highly tailored to the interests of your clientele. But here are a few places to start:
- Avoid cliches in your landing page image. That means: no gavels, scales, granite columns, legal books, or city skylines. Make a more memorable first impression.
- The standard lawyer headshot shows someone in a dark suit, with arms crossed, in front of a shelf of books. But you’re a more interesting person than that. Get a professional photographer to help your team craft more visually arresting images.
- Put some variety in your bio. Reveal some parts of yourself that aren’t directly related to the practice of law.
How far can you take originality? That’s up to your audience. I’m personally turned off by the whole campy, over-the-top personal injury attorney aesthetic. But it probably works for some lawyers.
For inspiration, check out the Lawyerist’s list of best law firm websites.
Give them something for free
Many people first begin their online research looking for answers, not a lawyer. If you give them clear, useful information, they’re more likely to choose to become your client.
Show your expertise through blogs, webinars, infographics, and videos. Provide answers to questions you’re often asked. Update your content frequently to match new issues and trends.
These aren’t advertisements in the traditional sense, but they showcase your ability and build trust.
Useful content is also the best way to improve your ranking on search engines. You can no longer ‘hack’ your way onto the first page. The technology has improved to the point that it actually rewards content that users want. To get your site seen, you need to give potential clients what they want.
Depending on your practice area, you could also choose to give them more in exchange for their contact information. ‘Gated content’ might include useful templates, worksheets, spreadsheets and tutorials to help potential clients with their situation.
And once you have those leads, be sure to follow up with them. Tools like Lead Docket will help you track and convert more leads into clients.
Include a contact form
Make it easy for people to contact you. Don’t make them copy and paste your address into their own email provider. Don’t put your phone number in a tiny font at the bottom. Provide the easiest possible path from the landing page to direct contact.
Make a contact button a brighter color than other links. Including a contact form directly on your website can help you begin to gather information immediately. Make sure you’ve got the right security systems in place to protect this information. And again, follow up on those leads right away or they’ll hire a lawyer who does.
Websites have changed dramatically over the years. But across all the trends and developments, one core principle remains: if you are helpful, informative, and memorable, clients will be drawn your way.