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Law Firm Website Design: Need-to-Know Best Practices

Law Firm Website Design: Need-to-Know Best Practices

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How do you know you’re implementing the best law firm website design you can?

How do you know your site will convert visitors to clients?

72% of people searching for a lawyer online-only contact one.

Meaning, your law firm website’s first impression is crucial.

To make that first good impression, you’ll want to be following the best practices for your law firm website design.

Law firm website design best practices include:

Best Practices of Website Design for Law Firms

A lot goes into web design, and some law firms may spend thousands of dollars on an optimized, responsive design.

Yet, even the most impressive law firm websites could miss vital pieces of web design best practices.

Best practices are guidelines based on specific clients, conversion practices, and primary content principles.

In a lot of ways, they’re like a website template. They provide the structure, and you just fill in the blanks.

The first place to start is with a domain name.

Purchasing Your Domain Name

Your exact domain isn’t as important as it used to be. 

A few years ago, algorithms considered a domain name a ranking factor (those days are long gone), which led to companies purchasing domains that matched search terms.

For instance, they might choose “personalinjurylawyer.com” or “carcrashattoryney.com.”

Today, these  factors matter more:

  • Your domain is easily remembered
  • It’s short and uncomplicated
  • It is close to your business name
  • You purchase the five-year plan for your domain

The few extra dollars for your domain pay off in search engine recognition.

Responsive Design & Starting with a Law Firm Website Template

Web design is far more accessible today than ever before, thanks to the myriad of hosting sites like WordPress that offer templates and easy-to-work-with design tools.

Sites like Envato even offer templates well beyond the basic designs of hosting sites, including industry-specific templates.

Nearly every template available is automatically responsive, meaning it will adjust your website to fit a user’s screen size.

Today, there are hundreds of varying screen sizes: phones, tablets, PCs, and even internet-capable TVs.

Don’t let “automatically responsive” convince you that there’s no additional work involved or that you don’t have to test it as thoroughly as every other piece of your website.

Because there probably is, and you do.

A few things you need to be particularly aware of when designing a responsive website:

  • Your font may not read well on smaller devices, like cellphones
  • Images don’t always adjust well to different screen sizes
  • Images may not be as responsive as your web design
  • You may have to alter the spacing of words, images, sliders, or other elements

Web hosting sites and designers often create a separate version of your website, specifically for mobile.

There are a few benefits to this. The first being that mobile users don’t interact with a website in the same way a desktop user might.

Typically, a mobile user wants something that’s more navigable and uncluttered. If they’re scrolling and all they see is a wall of text, they’re more likely to exit your site.

By creating a separate version of your website for mobile, you’re able to adjust to the different preferences and modes of viewing.

Consistent Color Scheme

Colors have been associated with different emotions and meanings for centuries, believe it or not.

Yes, much of that was flower and stone related, but entire marketing sections(and dozens of studies) focus on the relationship between color and human perception.

Green, for instance, is often associated with money, health, and the environment.

Light blue often represents peace and tranquility, while dark blue is perceived as professional and sophisticated.

It sounds pretty basic, but color theory recognizes our brain’s association with the colors we see.

Think of it this way: We all know that the colors for love are red and pink. We also know that the ocean is a mix of blue and green. The sun is always yellow and orange.

Those colors are associated with things we see and feel every day. The ocean brings a sense of calm to most people: the sun, a sense of warmth and happiness, summer days and barbecues.

Using those colors in web design applies those associations to the brand. For those colors that have multiple meanings, like red, it also provides context.

Of course, it’s not just how you apply one color to your website. It’s the coordination of color across your site and brand.

Navigation

There are impressive,well-designed themes out there, but they don’t always equate to functional websites.

Not all web designers factor inbound marketing into the design development process.

They’ll shoot for the pretty picture without taking functionality into account.

Your audience craves functionality, and so do search engines trying to categorize your site. Both will abandon you without it.

It’s more than that, though.

Visitors to your website are used to an accepted format.

They already have a set understanding of where your page menu should be. They know they can usually locate a blog in a resources tab. Or that a contact form is generally at the bottom of a page.

Some may try to shake things up, be a little unique with their web design, but this can get confusing.

Then there’s Hick’s Law to contend with.

Hick’s Law states that the more options you give people, the more time it takes them to make their choice — if they choose at all. (Ever been overwhelmed by the 12-page menu at Denny’s?)

Some may completely abandon the options if there are too many. For you, that means a potential client leaving your website frustrated and still in search of an attorney.

In other words, stick to a simple design and streamlined options. Design all of the pages to follow a simple funnel that leads users to one end goal – to contact you.

Load Speed

On the back end of attorney web design, make page load speed a top priority.

Google made page speed a ranking factor recently after noticing that the average load speed was 22 seconds, yet users abandoned the sites after waiting just 3 seconds.

53% of website visitors abandon the site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

In other words, if you’re not putting effort into optimizing your website’s loading speed, you’re losing clients, AND your page will rank lower in a Google search (leading to even more loss).

Optimizing a page’s site speed is a matter of figuring out what’s slowing it down first. These are the most common reasons for a slow website:

  • Poorly optimized Javascript
  • Too many files or lengthy site code
  • Too many site plug-ins and features
  • Server performance
  • A lot of link redirects or broken links
  • Overuse of Flash

It will do no good to try to fix each of these things one at a time. Instead, a website designer can dive into your site code and run a diagnostic to determine the slow down point before fixing it.

If you’re building a brand new website, there are a few ways to ensure faster load speeds from the start:

  • Add only the most essential plug-ins
  • Enable page caching
  • Use a dedicated server rather than a shared one
  • Don’t overuse Flash

Page caching provides a snapshot of a page to the user. Meaning, the browser doesn’t have to load the page from the ground up each time someone enters your website.

Using a dedicated server keeps you from competing with others for traffic on a shared server.

Search engines don’t see Flash, and using several graphics that require flash reduces your site speed to that of a snail. 

Minimizing Flash and adding alt tags and text to every graphic reduces the risk of a slowdown AND helps search engines to see your graphics.

These simple steps should immediately improve page speed or make it fast from the beginning.

Connect to Google Analytics

Google Analytics might not jump out at you as a crucial part of best practices, but without it, any other effort you put into creating a well-performing website is moot.

Why?

There’s no way to know if your website is working or if the content you’re creating produces any concrete results without monitoring your traffic.

Google Analytics gives you insights into:

  • Who your visitors are
  • Where your visitors are coming from
  • How your visitors interact with your site
  • Which pages they’re spending the most time on
  • Which pages have no impact at all
  • How long users stay on each page

It links to your PPC ads campaigns, landing pages, social media, and more. Google Analytics can even tell you which pages your users interact with before they become a lead.

You’ll gain immediate insights into which parts of your site work and which don’t, so you can continually improve.

Creating a Google Analytics account is simple. They’ve broken it down into just three steps, and a simple form that looks like this:

Once it’s all set up and you’ve accepted the terms of service, you’ll see an admin page with your Tracking ID. This is the usual format:

UA-000000-1

The six numbers in the center are unique to your account. Once embedded in your site code, GA will be able to monitor your site traffic in real-time.

Steps to add the code to your site will vary depending on your CMS (content management system). The easiest way to install the code on WordPress is with a plug-in called MonsterInsights.

Support.google.com/analytics offers instructions for set up across hosting sites.

Use the Right Keywords

When Google crawls web pages, it searches for indications of the page’s topic. It’s looking for keywords.

In the past, content writers took that to mean they should stuff their web pages with these key topic words — the more keywords on the page, the better that page performed.

It led to many pages that ranked well in search engines but were entirely illegible for humans.

Google quickly modified to penalize keyword stuffers, and since then, has progressively prioritized pages that sound more human.

Currently, Google assesses a page based on how well it covers a topic.

This doesn’t necessarily mean it has a lot of keywords.

Key marketing influencers like Neil Patel, whose site receives millions of visitors each month, often include very few solidly ranking keywords in his articles.

Those pages continue to sit on the first t page of Google because his content is long, detailed, and the rest of his site covers similar topics.

That last bit is essential.

Not only does Google rank your pages based on the content on that single page, but on all your website’s pages.

Google labels sites based on a topic.

It reads your pages individually, but it also classifies your content as a whole entity and aligns readers to it.

*NOTE: Keywords are still vital to your content. A focus keyword should appear in every Title Tag (The 65 character title that appears in a Google Search for each page), as well as every meta description (the 150 characters or less description under each title in a page search).

What does this mean for your site content?

It means your content should sound like a human.

Add keywords where it sounds natural.

Google picks up on keywords even if they’re not an exact phrase match.

For instance, you don’t have to write “lawyer website development” throughout your content. Instead, you can talk about developing a lawyer website, and Google will pick up on it.

That makes semantic keywords more critical than ever.

Semantic keywords are simply the words you use in everyday conversation within an industry.

None of your clients are going to approach you and say, “Hi, I’m looking for a personal injury accident attorney.” They’re more likely to say, “Hi, I got into a car accident, and I wanted to see if you’re the kind of lawyer that does that.”

The semantic keywords in that last sentence are lawyer and car accident.

Here are more semantic words you can add to your site if you practice personal injury law:

Browser extensions like Text Optimizer assess your existing page copy to see how well you cover a topic and offer suggestions for further optimizing your page for semantics.

Even without the extension, just think about how your audience speaks. Consider the words they use in everyday conversations with you.

Speak like your audience (like a human).

Good, Consistent Content

Adding keywords and semantic language to well-written, engaging content is critical for Google’s ability to read and categorize your site.

But it isn’t enough.

The way search engines work is by using web crawlers to understand your content. 57% of marketing executives say on-page content development is the most effective SEO tactic.

If a search engine crawls your site once, shortly after you’ve launched, and again two weeks later, and it sees no change, it’ll crawl your site less frequently.

Search engines, especially Google, like fresh content.

If it sees your site is active, continuously updated, and has relevant content, it’ll continue to crawl your pages regularly.

This means your pages are more likely to show up in search results because the search engine pays attention to your site.

Google connects users to relevant, fresh content.

What does this mean for you?

You don’t need to refresh your website content every month or even every year. But you should add content to your website consistently, such as:

  • Articles
  • Case studies
  • Press releases
  • Podcast episodes
  • Testimonials

Consistently posting content clues Google into when it should crawl your site, instantly boosting your likelihood of exposure.

*Make sure the content is scannable for your readers. Break up the text with smaller paragraphs, headlines, and subheaders.

Good, regular content does more than improve search rankings. It can generate leads too.

Many law firms favor PPC ads as a lead generation source because the audience is already at the edge of the hiring process. When they’re looking for a law firm, the need is immediate.

That being said, content can still generate leads when done correctly.

A good content strategy is based on your target audience’s pain points.

Law firm clients have many questions, and it’s likely you’ve even added those questions and their answers into an FAQ page or section on your homepage. (If you don’t have an FAQ section, it’s a great place to start.)

But it’s nearly impossible to answer all of their questions, in detail, in an FAQ section.

Your first step should be to speak to your clients. Read their reviews. Ask your receptionist or anyone that takes initial client phone calls and inquiries:

  • What questions are potential clients asking?
  • Why are they coming to you?
  • What have you been able to do for past clients?
  • What makes a client nervous about taking you on?
  • What past clients’ problems were exacerbated by a lack of understanding?

Start by producing content that answers these questions engagingly and understandably.

Your audience is already searching for answers and solutions. The more value you provide, the more likely they will see you as a reliable, trustworthy expert. 

*Add an RSS feed to your home page or blog page. It’s a way to build your email list and nurture leads.

FAQs

 An FAQ section is a vital piece of a law firm’s website. It helps build trust right off the bat by giving your visitors answers (for free) to the questions you know are weighing on them.

Long-form content is excellent for answering pain points, but customers will always search for immediate answers first.

The entire point of having a website is to answer questions, put their mind at ease, and draw in leads.

Nearly every potential law firm client wants to know the same few things:

  • What does it cost?
  • What additional fees can I expect?
  • What is the process?
  • What types of cases does your law firm handle?
  • Your case success rate
  • When are you available to them?
  • Do you offer a free consultation?

An FAQ section should answer some of the most commonly asked questions. It’s even better to link to more detailed articles in the FAQ section if they’re looking for more information.

But it’s just as vital that other sections of your homepage address these questions too.

For instance, you can easily answer “Do you offer a free consultation?” by adding a free consultation call to action (CTA) at the top of the webpage.

You can dedicate a section of your homepage to explaining the case process (as clearly as possible).

A law firm website should have an aim to answer questions.

You only have one shot at winning over a client. Don’t waste it by making a flashy site that doesn’t give your audience the answers they need.

Contact Form & Calls to Action

Want your audience to contact you?

You have to lead them to it.

Every home page should have a contact form, typically at the bottom. After you’ve answered their most pressing questions, lead them right to this form.

Double down on this. Link to a contact form in your call to action (CTA) at the top of the home page.

Every home page should have a compelling header.

A well-designed header can spark an immediate response to fill out a form for a free consultation or another equally compelling offer.

It should at least pique their interest enough to keep them searching through the rest of your home page or website.

Think of it as the front-page newspaper headline. That headline’s job is to grab the reader’s interest. Your website header’s sole purpose is to catch your visitor’s attention.

The header is a shout to the audience. A shout to click the button, watch the video, TAKE THE ACTION. 

A free consultation is the most compelling (and most used) CTA for law firms.

Law firm clients know advice doesn’t come cheap or easy, and who would be willing to pay for something that doesn’t work out?

Make it easy for them to determine if you’re right for their case (and their case is right for you) in any way possible.

Plaster that offer across your site. All of your content should lead them to that single action.

Most Important Pages in Attorney Website Design

Consider your homepage a table of contents. It’s the one place where the content across your website comes together.

A potential client should be able to scan your homepage, get the gist of what the rest of your website contains, and navigate to other pages for more information.

The rest of your website holds all the details.

But what details are the most important to your audience? What pages should they have access to?

Well, there’s plenty of research to prove that lawyer profiles and practice areas are the two most viewed pages on law firm websites.

A law firm’s practice areas are the first thing potential clients want to know.

It answers the fundamental question: Can this firm handle my case?

Nothing else matters until they know that one tiny detail.

Your home page should make it abundantly clear — from the very top to the very bottom — what kind of law you practice and cases you handle.

A ”Practice Areas Page” should dive into the details of what you do.

You may understand the various areas of law and its niches, but your clients likely don’t.

Explaining your areas of practice and providing examples of cases will only ensure your potential clients that you can handle their case.

*This is also a great spot to insert links to case studies or case results.

After clients have gone through their first line of elimination — your practice areas — they turn to lawyer profile pages.

While your law firm may have a good reputation and hundreds of years of collective experience, people want to know who would handle their case.

Lawyer profiles are just one more way your clients vet your firm.

No matter what business you’re in, if people look at your team and see that you have heavy hitters, they’re going to think, “Oh, they’re good!”.

Your associates have handled big-name cases, have X years of experience, have earned millions for clients.

Those profile pages allow you to show off your talent. Brag a little.

What other pages are essential for a law firm website?

  • Our firm or About Us page
  • Resource Center or Blog
  • Contact page
  • Reviews or testimonials
  • Case studies or Case Results
  • Case Process page
  • FAQs

All of these pages aim to answer your audiences’ burning questions and make it abundantly clear that you have the experience and skills to handle their case.

While social media isn’t an “essential” element of web design, connecting your webpage to your social profiles is worth it.

As of Q1 2020, 420 billion people are active on social media. And some of them are your potential clients.

Your social media profiles are a great way of attracting leads and driving them to your website. 

But this funnel works in reverse too.

By adding social sharing buttons to blog posts, practice area pages, case studies, and videos, you make it much easier (and more likely) for your audience to share these pages.

As they do, they’re exposing THEIR audience to your services, essentially marketing for you.

Depending on your CMS, adding social sharing buttons may be as simple as a drag and drop of the icons or the insert of a widget.

Consistent A/B Testing

You can read dozens of articles and guides on content creation and web design, follow every handbook, and still have a website that doesn’t convert.

Marketing is often subjective.

It’s hard to know what will work until you launch your site and monitor the traffic and engagement.

If you’ve linked Google Analytics to your website, you’ve already set up one of the best optimization tools you can employ.

With Google Analytics, you can monitor which pages users visit and how long they stay on each page.

That alone can clue you into which pages are the most impactful and which need adjustments.

You can test nearly everything on your website simply by creating multiple landing pages and testing which convert better.

Some of the most vital elements to optimize (which often make the most significant impact) include:

  • CTA offer, positioning, and color
  • Images
  • Navigation bar text and size
  • Every bit of text
  • Site layout
  • Page speed 

Optimizing your website isn’t always easy. Luckily, there are some incredible tools to use:

PageSpeed Insights – To test page speed, use a tool like PageSpeed Insights, which Google created to check page speed for both the desktop and mobile versions of your site.

Hot Jar – is another tool you should keep in your toolbox. Once the code’s on your site, you can set up a heatmap to monitor which areas of each page your audience spends the most time looking at and which parts users have abandoned.

Even better, you can record entire user sessions to see how they interact with your site.

Screaming Frog – tools like Screaming Frog send crawlers through your site and create a report of your site’s errors.

It focuses mainly on your pages’ back end, such as the metadata, page titles, and URLs. Fixing even these simple items can boost site rankings incredibly.

Google Optimize – is yet another Google product which ties into your Google Analytics account.

It’s one of the easiest ways to test and optimize your website because it allows you to create several variants of your pages AND measure how those variants perform.

Our Most Important Recommendation

Best practices are simply guidelines for designing your law firm website, and you may find that you don’t need to follow every recommendation. 

But if there’s one guideline we absolutely recommend you don’t sway from,  it’s SEO. Specifically, that you incorporate state-specific legal content on your site to clue Google into your site topic.

Start to think of yourself as a legal publisher, consistently pushing out content in your industry. 

Remember, Google understands your site as a whole, and creating industry-specific content that answers your audiences’ questions will help you rank higher and convert better. 

Chris Dreyer on EmailChris Dreyer on GoogleChris Dreyer on LinkedinChris Dreyer on Twitter
Chris Dreyer
Chris Dreyer
Chris Dreyer is the CEO and Founder of Rankings.io, an SEO agency for lawyers. Chris has been featured in numerous legal and search marketing publications such as Legal Ink Magazine, Law Marketing, Attorney At Work, Moz, and more. With over 12 years of experience in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Chris has helped hundreds of law firms get first page positions in search engines using innovative campaigns that are difficult for competitors to recreate. He is dedicated to helping lawyers get more leads and win more clients.

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