Law Firm Website Design Companies: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
• Legal Marketing updated  2012/01/17 12:12
• Legal Marketing updated  2012/01/17 12:12
At our law firm's most recent staff meeting, I was assigned the task of finding a law firm website design company for creation of a website for our firm. I've had previous experience researching companies online and I thought it would be simple to turn to Google and find the right website design company in a flash. As simple as it sounded, the task was not as easy as I thought it would be. In fact, I felt defeated after a few hours searching online.
While conducting an extensive research on law firm website design companies, it was brought to my attention that all website vendors will try to claim the title of being the "best". What exactly does that mean? I searched, I called, and I spoke with a wide variety of the "best" website design companies, only to have them set me back one step. For one, I was extremely confused when I asked one of the more important questions: PRICING. Many companies provided me a quote varying in range with monthly service fees and charges for unnecessary features. In my opinion, a website design should be a one time contract work. This means you own the website and the website development is paid for at once, not over a year or longer.
I found some law firm website design companies willing to charge you a whopping $10,000 in addition to a one year website contract that required a monthly fee. This fee covered their client's access to using their website's unnecessary bells and whistles. Cool? Sure! Well, that's if your boss doesn't have a problem with burning through your firm's budget. Some other law firm website design companies I ran into offered a "cheap" and more budget-friendly price around a few hundred dollars to develop a website. The only problem was that, well, we get what we pay for-- a cheap looking website. Their portfolio showed their client's website and immediately turned me away. Their design and development skills were far from something worth showcasing and reflected a mediocre and unprofessional look.To my disappointment, finding a good and reputable law firm website design company proved to be more than a few clicks away. I knew it would take a lot more time to find something that would appease my boss' standards. Initially, I was too shy to ask for a longer time period to finish this seemingly easy task. But after two weeks, I had sufficient time (just barely!) to gather all the information I needed to determine what features a good law firm website design company should possess.To save some of you in the same position a little time and grief, I would like to share some important components I felt were necessary in finding a good law firm website design agency.
All good law firm website design companies should:
- Have specialized and skilled website designers in house. Experience is key in understanding the professional look needed for attorneys and their law firms.
- Have a user-friendly and reliable content management system (CMS) to update the website.
- Be familiar with all the latest Search Engine Optimization techniques in order to gain maximum potential for your website to rank at the top of search results.
- Offer a robust web-hosting and maintenance plan. Law firms are busy as it is and having the website design company not only host, but maintain the website is an absolute plus.
- Not charge for any unnecessary bells and whistles.
- Have reliable testimonials that can prove real client satisfaction.
- Provide good customer support service. Exceptional customer service should be all about the customer satisfaction. They should be able to answer all inquiries in a swift and thorough manner and reduce the technical website design jargon to a level anyone could understand.
- Charge you by project base (a straight forward, one time website design cost instead of monthly payments).
I know the pressing question on every one's mind is, well, how do you know? Spending extra money doesn't necessarily mean better. There were quite a few law firm website design agencies in this category, asking for a pricier sum and delivering decent products, however; there are reasonably priced website design companies who deliver even better websites. Of course, my opinion is mine. But if you want your investment in a website design company to be worthwhile, just heed my advice. Remember, I had to ask for an extension on my task in order to really understand what separates the good from the bad.
Just like there is yin to yang, black to white, and hot to cold, there unfortunately has to be the good law firm website design companies to the bad law firm website design companies. I don't know about you, but doing the research alone to complete my task took a lot of time. You know how that saying goes, "Time is money and money is time"? Well sure, this is one of the big differences from the good website design companies versus the bad website design companies.The bad law firm website design company:- Includes a contract that obligates you to pay an overpriced rate for a law firm website design or a technology license fee on a monthly basis. I personally don't like contracts. I mean, it binds me and limits my flexibility if I'm unhappy with a company's services. This can pose a problem later if you decide your business and law firm needs a change and want to part ways.
- Has many over-priced service fees. They will milk you with all kinds of unnecessary website features that you weren’t even aware of.
- Is able to deliver a decent website design layout but seem to get lost in their cookie cutter design elements. Every client's website may look clean and professional but lacks the uniqueness and branding of why clients should choose THEIR law firm instead of the firm across the street (whose website looks and repeats the exact same information as yours by the way).
- Shows poor SEO track records that give you a slim to none chance to rank at the highest position on top search engines like Google, Yahoo!, AOL and Bing.
Let's get down to the nitty-gritty and do a little math here:For the purposes of this article, we will be purchasing a website for a small firm with 20 attorneys and 2 offices. And if we break down the website design costs from the good and the bad, you can immediately see the major downfalls of the bad.The Good Law Firm Web Design Company: 1-time website design cost averaging $5,000 - from a reputable GOOD law firm website design company. And you get to own it!
The Bad Law Firm Web Design Company: An annual 1-year license cost averaging well over $6,000 that you must continuously keep paying on a year to year basis. If you do the math here, you can say you're wasting an incredible amount of money that can go to other marketing resources to help further your business. Since your website will end up costing you too much, you will have a limited budget for marketing campaigns through organic SEM or PPC.With that said, generally "bad" website design companies are hard to distinguish because they will deliver a decent product but in turn try to take advantage of prices. In this case, everyone should be cautious and careful. This especially may be a slippery slope for new start-up firms who believe that only the best law firm websites will be delivered by paying a huge amount of money. The Bad more than likely will result in a poor return on investment. To prevent getting stuck with the bad law firm website design company there is a golden rule to remember: just because it's out there, doesn't mean it's the best! Don't get sucked into paying for overpriced fees for a law firm website design that may not even be the best.
And (finally!) we get to talk about the law firm website design company that has every aspect of just plain ugly. No matter how much you end up paying for it - or even if it's completely free - don't be a victim of building a law firm website that will make your firm look "unsophisticated", "inexperienced", and "out-dated". Yes, these words usually do a good job of scaring off potential clients who come to visit your website. Many potential clients will walk away and go to other law firms that they see as better competitors. However, it's surprising to see how many law firms still go along with ugly law firm website design companies. Some think having any website would benefit their business, but little do they know... it is doing quite the opposite.Business is all about status and if you have a law firm website that costs your business because it's ugly?...well, that is literally just UGLY.
Most people are always on the go, have minimal time to fit everything in their schedule and are not patient. Web users form first impressions of web pages in a matter of 50 milliseconds, according to researchers. Human beings are very visual creatures, so in a blink of an eye, we will make an instantaneous judgment of a websites "visual appeal". We like things that are aesthetically appealing and through the "halo effect", first impressions can color subsequent judgments of perceived credibility, usability, and professionalism. Ultimately these factors influence a web user's purchasing decisions and whether we want to use your law firm to represent our needs.First impressions count immensely in the legal industry and should be considered in law firm website design. If the website design is difficult to read, intrusive, or poorly signposted, your visitors will go elsewhere. We've all experienced trying to navigate through a less-than-friendly website and reading a screen that strains your eyes versus printed paper. We get impatient quick- it's because we're only human!Remember, law firm websites are all about providing information and services, not for over-the-top advertisement!
Below are what some typical ugly website designs for law firm websites would consist of:
- Excess usage of generic graphics; basically this constitutes anything you can find in clip art like Lady Justice, the gavel or scales of justice.
- Text that is too small to read
- Multiple items that blink or animate - this causes too much distraction!
- Text crowding against the left edge
- Text that is stretched all the way across the page
- Multiple frame scroll bars in the middle of a page
- Unclear and overly complex navigation
- Poor color combination of text and background that make the text hard to read
- Orphan pages - where given links do not link back to where they came from and give no identification
- Any website design look that is extremely out-dated and looks as if it were dug up from a late nineties time capsule
A clean, professional look is a MUST for law firm websites - don't get sucked into the ugly website category that will cost your business (even if it's FREE!), I like to view ugly websites comparable to that of a parasite, where the website design company benefits at the expense of your law firm and business. In this case, your law firm is being harmed. Some elements make a law firm website design good, some make them bad, and some make them ugly.
The great line between these elements can determine whether your website is:
- Interesting or boring
- A good design or bad design
- Has good color or bad color
- Has a good layout or bad layout
- Is imaginative or unimaginative
Though my research was fairly time-consuming, I did my due diligence and have found one particular law firm website design company that stood out from the competitors. “Law Promo" impressed me with their eye-pleasing design skills, SEO capabilities, customer service and overall pricing, and was the agency that I recommended to my firm.
I urge you to do your own research and wish you the best of luck on your law firm website design company search and here I leave you with my two cents on what separates The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in the world of law firm website design.
Business Development Manager
Jessica S. Murray