Managing your law firm’s website these days can be a challenge. At Fast Firms, we’re surprised at how often things can go wrong very quickly!
Like all technology, things go wrong! In the case of law firm websites, it’s no different. Regardless of how big or small your law firm’s design and marketing budget, expect some issues, but the real issue is, how quickly you can respond.
The purpose of this article is to focus just on technology. Why your law firm’s website isn’t generating leads or isn’t well-ranked in search engines are completely different topics. We discuss law firm website redesign here first here and SEO for law firms here.
What is the Best Platform for Your Law Firm’s Website?
The first question needing to be asked is what platform your law firm’s website is built upon? For example, we build everything on WordPress. When we say everything, that’s typically most websites, unless there are peculiar requirements of which we may build on Laravel. We choose to build on WordPress because it’s a ubiquitous platform and it has great agility in allowing us to design and develop the most basic to the most complex websites and, in keeping with the topic of this article, when things go wrong, because we know the platform back to front, a fix will take us minutes rather than hours.
There are of course plenty of other software platforms out there that law firms may choose to build upon. Usually, which platform is dictated to by the preference of the agency. For example, there are agencies that only will build on Drupal. There are also law firms, even dare I say it, “law firm marketing consultants” who will build on DIY website builders like Wix or Squarespace. These platforms in our experience are inherently flawed, providing little or no agility, with often bloated code and when things go wrong, being at the peril of the platform’s support service which can take days to action, not to mention the back and forward trying to identify and resolve the issue. Moreover, increasingly effective law firm website’s require additional functionality requiring, in the case of these platforms, a problematic and/or inability to join ancillary software to them. Notwithstanding this, at Fast Firms, we talk a lot about the importance of your law firm considering UX design, of which these platforms just cannot achieve, given that you’re seriously restricted in how far you can manipulate the software.
What Are the Common Problems?
Disregarding DIY platforms, and focusing on WordPress, the most common issue derives from an update by WordPress and the functionality of the website not being updated to cater for the new release. This can cause all sorts of issues from the most trivial to the most complex. The latter usually stems from a law firm building its website on a purchased WordPress theme that is no longer supported by the developer or it may be that a core function of the website relies on additional third-party software or a plugin that is out of date with the latest release.
Other issues can stem from the website not being properly maintained technologically and being penetrated by bugs or hacks.
How Does Your Law Firm Minimise the Risks of Things Going Wrong?
At the outset, choose your platform wisely! We get it that if you’re a sole practitioner starting out, the temptation is to elect for a DIY website, but in many respects, it’s the worst thing you can do when introducing a new legal brand into an already crowded market. That said, there are those rare occasions in which a new practice may have a lead funnel, be it through a strong referral network that doesn’t necessitate the website to be great initially.
The next recommendation is to work with an agency that understands law firms (shameless plug, which we obviously do). The reason for this is two-fold, it will save significant time in educating an agency and secondly and most importantly, an agency that specialises in law firm marketing will bring the knowledge and experience of what is working for existing clients and what isn’t. This is vitally important.
You also should work with the agency on an ongoing basis. For example, at Fast Firms, we work with all of our clients day in and day out across multiple facets of brand, design, marketing and technology and for this reason, in the context of this article, when things go wrong we’re able to respond instantaneously. However, in the event that you choose to work with another agency, in the very least make sure that enshrined in the agreement is a maintenance condition. In other words, when the site goes down, or some functionality doesn’t work, they’re immediately onto it. Never, ever disregard, particularly if your law firm has a good volume of traffic, the negative impact of having your site down temporarily.
Practically speaking, if your law firm’s website is already on a WordPress platform, then it’s important that your law firm is aware of any WordPress update release. This is important for a couple of reasons. The first is that if your website does not automatically do WordPress core updates, that you’re alerted of the new release so you can update accordingly. Though if you’re going to update yourself, we recommend delaying the update by 2 weeks. This will afford other third party software and/or plugins to have time to update their code to ensure compliance with the new WordPress core. The second reason to get alerts, in the case when your website automatically updates WordPress is to give your firm notice that you should now test all facets of the website to ensure all functionality is operational. In circumstances where it isn’t, you may need to update the third party software or plugins and if that doesn’t resolve the issue, then its a matter of troubleshooting. It may be the plugins aren’t ready for the new core update and you may need to reverse it. This point also emphasizes the importance of choosing third-party software and/or plugins very carefully.
How Can Fast Firms Help?
As discussed, we work shoulder to shoulder with our clients. If your law firm is considering a new website, whether it be because you’ve outgrown a DIY solution or are wanting a much more sophisticated approach to marketing your firm, then we’d love to tell you how we work with law firms across Australia and internationally. Reach out to us!