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2021 Guide to

Attorney Website Design

The best law firm website designs are practical and functional.  When your site design is based on objective best practices, rather than subjective taste, it will perform reliably. The first part of this guide explains the five factors of lawyer website design success. The second part explains the three options attorneys have for their websites: 1) agencies; 2) general website software; and 3) LawLytics.

The Five Practical Aspects of Attorney Website Design

Law Firm Website Design Success Factor 1:

A Client-Friendly Experience

The best law firm website designs put the needs of clients and potential clients first. High-performing legal websites educate, create trust, and facilitate contact. Your website design will either help or hurt this process.

Your law firm’s website should eliminate the need for your potential clients to think about anything other than their problem and your solution. They should instantly understand how your website works, how to find the information they need, and how to contact you.

There’s a way to do this that’s:

  1. Objective. It’s based on objective data, so there’s no need to guess. 
  2. Cost-effective. It costs less than a novel website design.
  3. Reliable. It performs more predictably because it’s based on science, not novelty.
  4. Flexible. It’s easy and safe to make design changes without risking performance.
  5. Transparent. It’s easy to identify performance problems and opportunities because the website is based on an extensively tested and monitored framework.

Is your goal is to attract and convert new clients? If so, there is a law firm website design best practice for each of the following:

  • Layout. There is an optimal place on your law firm’s website for your logo, phone number(s), address(es), contact forms, buttons, images, videos, and text.
  • Mobile compatibility. Your law firm’s website should use responsive design so your site automatically adapts to every device and screen size. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) and other mobile technologies have not proven to be as effective, adaptable, and as universally effective as responsive design.
  • Colors. The colors on your website influence your potential clients’ emotions and help determine the readability of your website. Some colors work together. However, others clash and create problematic contrast, eye strain, and negative feelings about the website and firm.
  • Typography. The style, size, and weight of fonts on your website will directly impact its performance. If your font is hard to read on any device, or if it’s too big or small, it will cause eye strain or doubt. For example, very large fonts turn off educated visitors, and typography that lacks sufficient line and letter spacing makes it difficult for people with eye-tracking issues and dyslexia.
  • Image types and placement. The images on your website create both emotional and intellectual responses in your potential clients. Images should be easy on the eye, easy to understand, and consistent with your firm’s branding.
  • Videos. Videos should never play automatically and should not be used as backgrounds. Regardless of production quality, educational and informative videos typically do better than highly produced videos that lack substance. The simple, authentic webcam video of you talking directly to your potential clients will, in most cases, perform better than a $10,000 professionally produced video. The key is authenticity.
  • Menus. Menus should provide visitors with intuitive guidance to navigate to other pages on the law firm’s website by making it clear what information will be found there.
  • Animations. Animations and scroll effects should be avoided unless they are necessary to illustrate a point. Avoid moving objects as design features because they distract your potential clients. They can also send the subliminal message that your firm plays tricks, lacks substance, or otherwise can’t be trusted.

All of these elements work together. There is an optimal arrangement for each element both absolutely, and as they relate to every other element, for every device and screen size. Every deviation from optimal will throw the site out of balance and decrease the efficacy of your website.

Law Firm Website Design Success Factor 2:

Clearly Positioned Brand

Your potential clients need to understand how your law firm differs from your competitors. They won’t try to figure it out, so your website needs to make it obvious. This is called “positioning.” Positioning is defined by:

  • What problems do you solve or prevent?
  • Who you do it for?
  • Where you do it?
  • What differentiates you from your competitors?

When your law firm’s positioning is clear, it’s easy to make the best website design choices. Your average client’s visual perception of your firm is influenced by three website design variables:

  • Your logo
  • Your website colors
  • Your images

Most lawyers want their website to reflect the unique personality and brand of their law firm. This natural inclination leads them to “custom” website design, where objectivity is subordinate to taste. This is a mistake. For law firms, website design is not a prime driver of positioning (which happens in your clients’ brains).

That said, your logo, your colors, and images will give your website a unique look and feel. These help your potential clients visually distinguish you from your competitors, but without sabotaging the important business objectives of attracting website visitors and converting them into clients.

Law Firm Website Design Success Factor 3:

A Compelling Emotional Connection

When viable potential clients visit your law firm’s website, they decide whether to contact you at a subconscious level. Most are unaware of the emotional drivers of their behavior. In fact, when asked, they will often cite an intellectual justification (see Success Factor 4 below). There are three primary emotional drivers your website should always address:

  1. Self-esteem. Does your website make them feel better or worse about themselves? If your website makes potential clients feel good about themselves, it’s more likely that they will contact you.
  2. Security. Does your website make them feel vulnerable or secure? If your website makes a potential client feel secure, it’s more likely that they will contact you.
  3. Trust. Does your website help them feel that you care about them or their matter? Does it help them feel that you want to help them for the right reasons? If your website makes them trust you, it’s more likely that they will contact you.

The design of your website works with your content to strategically influence your potential clients’ emotions.

Website design elements that influence emotion in your favor: 

  • Local images.
  • Inviting office images.
  • Strategically placed, humble images of you and your team that are not overwhelming or make the website visually focused on you.
  • Images of real or example fictional clients. (If you choose stock images, they should be images of people your potential clients can identify with.)

Website design elements that negatively influence your potential clients’ emotions:

  • Video backgrounds.
  • Complex or disorienting images.
  • Images that aggrandize the attorney.
  • Intimidating office images.
  • Pictures of animals.
  • Cartoons or illustrations.
  • Fancy hover effects.
  • Fancy menu animations.

Law Firm Website Design Success Factor 4:

A Justifiable Intellectual Connection

Your website visitors decide to contact you at a subconscious emotional level and justify that decision cognitively. Your website must logically support conclusions that:

  • You are competent.
  • You are successful.
  • You are understandable.

The content on your website will do the heavy lifting in this area. But your website design will either assist or hinder the process.

Your website design should help your potential clients make the needed intellectual connection by making it easy to find and consume information. Anything that gets in the way of this should be removed.

Your potential clients come to your law firm’s website seeking information and help. They want to understand or solve legal problems. They want to know if you’re competent, if you can help them, and if you care. They want certainty or a path forward. They don’t want to be entertained or sold.

Law Firm Website Design Success Factor 5:

Clear Conversion Paths

Your law firm’s website design must make it easy for viable potential clients to contact you and compel them to take action. There is a science to this because your potential clients consume information and make decisions online in a predictable way. There is a right and wrong place to put phone numbers, addresses, contact buttons, and forms. The positioning, shape, colors, contrasts, and consistency of these website elements — combined with the content and other website design choices — will make the difference between a website that occasionally converts visitors and one that does so regularly and consistently.

The best law firm website designs visually guide your potential clients. No matter where they enter your site, they will understand that you have anticipated their needs. They will be guided to the information that brings them to a level of emotional and cognitive certainty sufficient to contact you. They will feel invited — but not pressured — to do so. The science behind the following conversion path design principles optimizes that process: 

  • Visual patterns: Your potential clients scan the pages of law firm websites in a predictable pattern. As long as colors, images, and distracting moving visual elements don’t short-circuit that process, there is an optimal place to put each conversion opportunity (forms, buttons, and phone numbers).
  • Consistency: Your contact opportunities should be consistently placed on every page of your website. This means that your phone number, contact form, address(es), and contact buttons should be in the same location. There are three exceptions to this rule: The home page, office location pages, and a general contact page may have alternative (and more prominent) contact form locations.
  • Redundancy: Your potential clients should see your contact invitations and methods on every page, and sometimes in multiple places. For example, your phone number should appear “above the fold” and also be available in the footer of your website. When they are ready, they shouldn’t have to hunt for how to get in touch with you, and they shouldn’t have to seek out their preferred method of contacting you. It should be obvious.
  • Clearly identifiable: Your potential clients should find your contact methods visually distinguishable. This means that they are clear and easy to identify.
  • Unobtrusive: Many law firm website designers overemphasize the design of contact methods. This is a mistake because it prevents your potential clients from consuming the information needed to form the emotional and cognitive prerequisites to contacting you. It can make your firm appear desperate.
  • Clear outcome: Your potential clients should know exactly what will happen when they execute on a particular contact method. With phone numbers, it’s obvious because they either dial or touch the number and then press dial on their mobile phone. With forms, buttons, and chat features, it can be less clear. For that reason, clearly labeling what will happen is important. For example, forms that specify how long the potential client should expect to wait for a response are more likely to be filled out than firms that are silent on the issue.

Law firm website design should start with a scientific approach to conversion paths, and work backward from there. While conversion paths will look visually different depending on the device and screen size each potential client uses, the above guidelines apply to all visitors.

Here are some specifics to keep in mind:

  1. Addresses: If you have one office location, it should be featured prominently in the footer.
  2. Phone numbers: Fewer phone numbers are better than many. One is better than two. The exception is if you don’t have the phone technology to get the caller to the right person or office.
  3. Contact forms: As a practical matter, the fewer fields a visitor has to complete in a form, the more likely they are to complete the form. This must be balanced with your firm’s desire to prequalify potential clients through the forms.
  4. Chat boxes: Chat boxes can be disruptive in a good or bad way. It’s important to be clear on the objective of having a chat feature on your website.
  5. Popup forms: For most law firms, popup forms are too aggressive and tend to get in the way of forming a relationship with the firm or attorney.

The best law firm website designs follow the above conversion path conventions and don’t try to get creative with how they turn visitors into leads.  

Choosing the Best Law Firm Website Design Option For You

There are three models for law firm website design commonly used in the legal community. Here’s a chart of how they compare, followed by a more detailed explanation.

The LawLytics Model of Law Firm Website Design

LawLytics makes it easy for lawyers to succeed with the content-based approach favored by Google. The platform is designed exclusively for lawyers. It automatically produces the most effective UX and complies with the latest standards and best practices. It removes the technical labor and guesswork so the only thing you’ll need to do is log in and write content (or have a third-party write it for you).

We’ll design, set up, launch, host, maintain, and update your firm’s website design for you. We’ll teach you how to use the platform to publish content that attracts and converts new clients and give you ongoing strategy and support. You won’t need to learn or do anything technical, so you can participate and make a difference in your firm’s future from day one. You can also can engage third-party vendors to help you with your LawLytics website without giving them control over your website (and over your firm’s present and future revenue).

The Agency Model of Law Firm Website Design

When lawyers hire marketing agencies to design law firm websites, there is a wide range of potential prices and outcomes. A very small number of agencies do true, from-scratch custom website design, while others make modifications to cheap or free templates for general-purpose website software including WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace and call it “custom website design.”

There is a wide range of pricing with or little or no correlation to the amount or quality of design work. Some website design agencies charge lawyers more than $15,000 for what amounts to a couple of hours of light WordPress template modification. Other website design agencies charge under $1,000 for from-scratch websites that, while certainly original, deviate wildly from law firm website design best practices (and cause the law firm to miss a significant number of opportunities). When it comes to law firm website design, paying more does not mean that you’ll get more, and getting a bargain often does not result in good ROI.

Due to the disparate nature of law firm website design services provided by agencies, it’s difficult to know what you are going to get or how it’s going to work. Designs that work for products and non-legal services don’t work optimally for lawyers. There is a right way (and many wrong ways) to design a legal website. Agencies are often oblivious to this. As a result, they either apply the same playbook that they use for non-legal clients, or guess. Neither path is likely to create the best-performing law firm website design.

Some agencies offer website design as a stand-alone option. Attorneys pay a one-time design fee and then must purchase and maintain hosting for their website elsewhere. Nearly every attorney who has a website designed under this model becomes disappointed when they realize that they still have significant ongoing website maintenance expenses.

Other agencies “bundle” their website design service with a range of other services under one ongoing price. Bundled services may include design, content creation, so-called SEO, pay-per-click (PPC), directory listings, social media management, intake management, and live chat management. While this may appear to spread the cost of website design out over time (and may appear to be an inclusive bundle), it often results in poor long-term performance:

  1. There is no way for lawyers to tell what their monthly spend goes towards; so
  2. There is no way for lawyers to be sure what they are spending for each service; and
  3. There is no way for lawyers to know which included services are working and which are not; and, therefore
  4. There is no way for lawyers to make intelligent budget and marketing investment decisions.

When agencies offer attorneys website design services as part of an ongoing marketing services agreement, it tends to take power and control away from the law firm in favor of the agency.

Many attorneys are drawn to the agency website design model because they want to have a unique-looking website. This perception creates predictable inefficiency because:

  1. The goal of a novel-looking website is self-defeating. By virtue of being unique, it will not adhere to the established science of effective law firm website design; and
  2. Novel website design tends to be expensive; and
  3. Novel website design tends to take a long time and require substantial subjective input from the law firm;
  4. Novel website design usually requires customized upkeep, so it is harder to make changes; and
  5. Novel website design is unpredictable, so it’s hard to determine what is good and bad for business when it comes time to make changes.

There are plenty of website design agencies competing for your law firm’s money. But the reality is that, unless your firm caters to a very niche and unique clientele like professional athletes, musicians, or actors, there is a substantial chance that you will overspend on website design and miss opportunities if you use a marketing agency.

Law Firm Design Models

The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Model

The DIY model involves using a general-purpose website builder. It’s a viable starting point for lawyers who can’t otherwise afford a website, or who are tech-savvy and want to spend time on technical and design details. This is the lowest-priced option. However, the cost savings will be offset by extra work, and you may miss opportunities. Using website software that’s not designed for lawyers can be frustrating. Lawyers frequently report spending significant time figuring out the design, user experience, and technical settings but still end up with a website that looks “homemade” and doesn’t generate enough business.

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