After spending many hours reviewing submissions for this year’s Best Law Firm Websites competition, sometimes I was not impressed. That’s not to say there weren’t diamonds hidden in the rough, because there were. But I was astounded at how many websites—specifically how many home pages—made a lackluster (if not terrible) first impression on me. Here are the items I look for immediately upon landing on a new Home page.
- Quick load time. If your law firm website takes more than 5–7 seconds to load, you have lost your reader. According to research, you have about 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression on visitors to your website. If your site won’t load within that timeframe, you have lost them—perhaps for good.
- Responsive design. Websites should alter and scale their content to display on any device. According to a 2016 report, adults consume digital media via a mobile device 50 percent of the time. Additionally, the PEW Research Center says that just over 10 percent of adults solely use their smartphones to access the internet. Any site that does not automatically adjust to the type of device accessing it is an unsuccessful site.
- Phone number. Your phone number should be highly visible on your website. Never make your visitors work to find your contact information. Because your visitors won’t do that work. They will go elsewhere. The current practice is for phone numbers to appear in the upper right-hand corner of a website. For an even better user experience, code your phone number as click-to-call for mobile users.
- Services. If it isn’t clear to me right away that the website is for a lawyer or law firm, I’m gone, and I am not alone. The more focused you get, the more immediate a connection you will make with your visitors.
- Location. The rule for your phone number also holds true for your location. Make it exceedingly clear where you are located and which geographic areas you serve. This helps a prospective client know right away whether your law firm is a viable option for them.
- Clients served. State clearly who you serve through your law firm. Entrepreneurs? Fortune 500 companies? High-income families? Defendants charged with DWIs? Make it blatantly obvious who you want to represent.
- Client-focused copy. Your content should talk about your prospective client—not you. To show how amazing you are, focus on statements that speak to the benefits gained by working with you. If your content is full of sentences that start with “we” and “our,” you will lose the attention of prospective clients.
- Contact form. Your home page should include an incredibly easy method of contact—not just your phone number. Put a short contact form on there. Higher up on the page is better, but having one in the footer is better than not having one at all. If you refuse to add a contact form, at least include well-thought-out, obvious links to your contact page.
- Relevant imagery. No matter which images you choose, ensure those images tie back to the message you want to send to prospective clients. These can be anything from photos of the city in which you work to more abstract pictures that correlate to key taglines or strategy statements. If you use images of people, please use your own photos. Do not use stock photography of people who look like they could be you or your clients, but aren’t. This is misleading and confusing.
- Modern design. Is your website more than three years old? If yes, then I can guarantee you it looks outdated. And outdated websites show a law firm’s lack of care. This correlates to the following unspoken message: If you cannot put ongoing effort into your own firm’s website, you likely are not going to provide the ongoing care and attention clients need throughout their legal matters. Make sure you are paying attention to your website.
It Is On You to Make a Great First Impression. You have mere milliseconds to make an impact on a prospective client. Do not waste them. As Oscar Wilde said (or was it Will Rogers?),