Procrastinating on a website project for your firm? Tips to help make the process more efficient

Each day on my commute to work, I pass by a local Crossfit. During the early morning hour, I am often stopped at a red light out front which gives me just about 30 seconds to sneak a few curious glances. Since the warehouse-style gym opened over two years ago, I remain intrigued by the stories I’ve heard of the fierce competition (tracked by a giant chalkboard on the wall) and strange addiction with knee –high socks that takes place in these gyms across the country. Earlier this week, however, my attention was drawn away from the big group of jumping, lifting and running Crossfitters to a new sign in the window prominently displaying a Karen Lamb quote,

“A year from now, you will wish you had started today.”

We often hear this same sentiment from website clients after they’ve completed a long overdue website update which brings in new business for the firm. Unfortunately, much like starting an exercise regimen, many attorneys put off developing a new website because they simply don’t have the time, money or motivation. They fear that it will be a daunting process and much like reluctant gym-goers, in many cases they had previously invested in inadequate solutions or service which yielded little return.

With most marketing campaigns, the hardest part is getting started. If you’ve been putting off developing a new site or revamping an old site for your practice, there are things you can do to make the development phase a lot easier and ensure this time next year, you don’t look back knowing you missed out on business opportunities because prospects couldn’t find you on the web or were unimpressed by your lackluster site when compared against a local competitor.

Hire a Developer with Legal Website Experience
Creating a website for a local ice cream shop is radically different from creating a website for a boutique litigation firm. When attorneys hire a website developer who does it all, there is often a steep learning curve for both the developer and the law firm. A company that specializes exclusively in legal websites likely won’t need to be educated on appropriate imagery, keywords, calls to action and ethics considerations. These companies often offer legal content which can help to avoid a website filled with “coming soon” page. Choosing the right developer can save your firm a great deal of time and frustration, and cut down on development time.

Define Your Purpose. And do it together.
In order to develop a website that helps you achieve your goals, you’re going to have to identify your goals, both short and long-term. Ask yourself, why am I building this website? Is it to attract new business or serve as a validation tool for prospective clients who are referred to your firm? Then take time to identify what your visitor is looking for when they arrive at your “virtual storefront.” In considering these questions, make sure all of the key decision makers are involved. We can’t tell you how often one partner starts on a website and is just about to launch it when the other two partners (who wanted nothing to do with the project at the onset) raise major objections, forcing the firm to start back at square one.

Do Your Research and Know What You Like
When you have your design consultation, your graphic designer will try to get a good feel for your preferences and style so they can bring your vision to life. Before this call, have a good idea of what you like and what you can’t stand. You don’t need to know the exact images and layout you want (this is after all why you’re hiring a professional) but certain things like: do you prefer a more minimalist or traditional design style? What color scheme has your firm used in the past that you might want to keep consistent with? Are there certain types of images you want to avoid (Some firms love photos of happy families; others get queasy just thinking about these types of images)? By clearly communicating these preferences early on, you can make the development period a more productive (and enjoyable) experience.

Question the Process
In selecting a developer, ask about the process that lies ahead. Do they have a structured timeline? How will they present designs and how long will changes take? In considering developers, be sure that an initial design can be presented to your firm in a matter of weeks, not months. Also, inquire as to whether unlimited revisions to the design are included; if not, you will either wind up with a website that isn’t perfect or pay an arm and a leg to get the design just right. Finally, ask whether the developer plans to present your designs to you in a wireframe. A wireframe is simply a mockup of the layout and design of the site (often in PDF form). The problem with wireframes is that when viewing them, it can be difficult to assess how your real-life website will appear (and more importantly function) once it is uploaded to the web. Insist that your developer present you with a fully functioning website on a protected server that only you can view as you fine-tune your site. This too can give you greater peace of mind and save you from launching your site based on PDF mockups only to realize this isn’t what you wanted once it is launched.

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Dolores Obrien

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