The Biggest Mistake Law Firms Make in Thinking about Designing Their New Website

Growing law firms in Australia and the USA since 2009.

The redesign of your law firm’s primary marketing touchpoint (the website) should be a big job. If you’re engaging with a design agency and they say it’s not, run!

In 2018, websites aren’t online brochures that make you feel good about your firm. They have a multi-dimensional purpose, all of which derive from a comprehensive marketing strategy of which brand, positioning, design and marketing all interrelate. Don’t treat your website design in isolation.

The biggest mistake law firms make is point to another law firm’s website they like and ask their design agency to do something similar. Why is this such a problem?

Well, quite apart from missing the point that effective design emanates or derives from a strategy, with measurable objectives, law firm websites by and large are the last category of websites to consider for design inspiration. That might sound a little odd from an agency that does plenty of this work just for law firms, but broadly speaking when we’re scoping out new work, apart from competitor research, we’re not looking to be inspired by other law firm’s websites.

If you’re blissfully unaware, you would be oblivious to the fact that our industry is undergoing massive change, of which not only is technology influencing, but also consumer habits as well. Consequently, by and large, most law firms aren’t on the front-foot in positioning their firm, let alone addressing what brand, design and marketing strategy they’re going to adopt to meet the new “norm.” Thus, if you’re checking at other law firm websites to be a guiding light, you’re missing the picture.

One of the last industries to be disrupted is the legal industry. So, if you’re wanting to be close to the park, then consider what is happening and has happened in other industries and how the stand-outs have met and leveraged the challenge, in particular, the banking, insurance and fintech sectors. The former of course is grappling with a multitude of issues, not only transitioning from antiquated models to becoming consumer-centric and deploying technology and physical customer interfaces that the market now expects but adopting practices that were once only being leveraged by e-commerce businesses. Try walking into a bank and not confuse the experience with walking into Telstra or an equivalent telecommunications outfit. In Australia, CUA has taken the whole experience to another level where its very difficult to identify any once indelible feature of a bank.

PWC’s research in their very good, “Report on the Future of Banking” stressed the importance of banks becoming simpler, smaller and deeply connected, all of which drive brand, positioning, design and marketing. If your firm has no deeper sense of why you’re embarking on a major piece of work like a website build, don’t do it until you do.

At the moment, there are plenty of firms worried about the mobile iterations of their websites and whether they have an SSL certificate, all of which are fundamentally important, but by simply re-designing your online presence just to fulfil those parameters is short-sighted.

Great websites are an intrinsic part of the 4 pillars: brand, positioning, design and marketing. The latter of course, when we consider law firms, requires consideration of chatbots, AI and smart forms and these aren’t an afterthought. Similarly the case, neither is content. It’s a fundamental and important piece of design that has the heavy work of significantly assisting in the conversion of traffic to file opens. It also needs to be considered in the context of SEO, or alternatively, if the content is going to be used for Adwords, is the copy written for it, will it be A/B tested and is there a second stage to this content that leads the potential client to the next conversion point.

These things aside, remember, your firm’s website isn’t a set and forget proposition, because, despite this work deriving from a well-worked strategy that incorporates those 4 pillars, design is and always will be an assumption. By way of example, pass a new website to everyone in your firm and their responses will be as diverse as what there are people. The real intelligence comes from running a suite of analytics and tracking that informs your web design team of what’s working, what’s not and what possibly will need to change. For example, not only do we run heatmaps under all the websites we do for law firms, but we record live testing of which we watch how users are maneuvering through the website and where they may be getting stuck. We commonly re-design major design elements within the first 3 months because we have a better knowledge once the rubber hits the road. Read this article on measuring ROI on your law firm marketing spend.

These are just some of the things you’re likely to miss when you simply point to another law firm’s website and want one just like them. Your law firm’s website is one of the most important touchpoints. It’s going to be a big job, that ultimately will fall within an exhaustive process that is going to take plenty of time. It will be as painful as 300 pages of Interrogatories, but if you get it right, as important as a Statement of Claim.

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