Lawyer Web Design
High quality law firm website development requires in-depth planning and professional execution. In this section you will find precise information on best lawyer website development practices. We have broken down the information starting from planning cycles, all the way to design and programming steps. In addition, our lawyer website guide provides site launch checklist with 25 points that every web developer who is working on lawyer web page should keep in their pockets and utilize.
Website Development ProcessesWebsite development process usually consist of four stages. Stage breakdown is following, (1) Website Planning, (2) Design, (3) Development, (4) Deployment. Within each step development teams work closely with the lawyer to ensure effective production collaboration.
Step 1: Website Planning
Before starting website development it is crucial to plan out the site informational architecture. In more simple terms, law firm management needs to decide on what information will be presented on the website.
Easiest way to start the law website planning is by creating simple website sitemap. Sitemap can be treated as the site content table. Open an excel sheet and write down all the site page you imagine it should have. Starting with offered practice areas, then team pages, location page and any other piece information that you can think would be useful for the site visitors.
Practice Area OrganizationNow that we have a breakdown of website pages, let's dive little deeper in sub-sections of these pages. Most importantly, lets focus on practice areas because there is wealth of information to provide for your site visitors. If you're a family law lawyer break down the family law practice area in all sub-sections you focus on. Those would be divorce law, family law, adoption laws and so goes on the list. Not to mention, all information needs to be associated with your geographic location. Same applies to other practice areas, you can build this list as indepth as you wish, but remember organization is key so in the next steps you would be able to effectively execute necessary content creation or site organization steps.
Content MappingWebsite page structure and practice area depth is clear, next step is identifying page content needs. We like to call it content mapping. In this step you simply associate each page with anticipated content needs. If it's information page you probably wont have to write more than five hundred words, however for criminal law page you will want to break down full page concept ellaborating on multiple aspects of the law. Such pages can go as far as two thousand or even more words.
Website WireframeAlright, didn't think it was going to be this much work? Well, proper planning leads to high functioning and ranking websites. Think of a website as an information file that contains public materials about your law firm. In website wireframing step you need to focus on informational material categorization. In most simple form you take pen and paper and draw out site home page and inner pages listing the elements you want to see. Once rough sketch is ready work with a web designer to conceptualize in digital wireframe that will afterwards serve as blueprint for website design phase.
Content Management Systems (CMS) for LawyersQuite a bit work is completed now strictly from planning perspectives, but there is one more step to go. You need to decide on what type of website framework you will be using. Lawyer websites particulary have multitude of systems that provide site management processes. Let's take a look what providers are out there and what pros / cons you can expect from each.
WordPressWordPress accounts for 18.9% of all websites. If you think any lawyer specified CMS can beat this, think again. If you're serious about your internet marketing, you will be using WordPress framework. Intergrations with all possible lead management systems, not to mention ultra fexible content upload systems for advanced marketing campaigns. Want to learn more about wordpress, here are 14 super shocking facts, like 17 million websites are managed on WordPress platform.
JoomlaJoomla! is part of the top 3 CMS platforms in the Web Design Industry. While it is on that top tier, it has its shortcomings when compared to WordPress. Although Joomla! is open-source just like WordPress, the complexity of use is unmatched. Joomla! is much more complex to use. Joomla! is also very limited when it comes to the availability of “modules” or “plugins” available to customize your website. This makes scalability of a website project much more tedious and lengthy. While they offer free video tutorials on how to use the platform, we find that when it comes to ease of use for developers, Joomla! Is middle of the road. Although Joomla! is a great CMS and website option, it cannot be ranked higher than Drupal or WordPress.
Website BuildersWebsite Builders are another very common CMS used in Website Development. While Website Builders are great drag and drop option for individuals looking to get a site up on the web quickly, they come with a lot more cons then pros. For starters, most website builders are very limited in terms of being able to customize your site. Customers are asked to pick from a set of website themes to design their sight.These themes determine the look of the rest of the site and the rest of the site needs to be built within the restrictions of that particular chosen theme. This limits your ability to customize your website as you would like to. Another con of website builders is that they are "non-transferrable". That means that if you build your site with a builder like Squarespace or WIX, you cannot just copy the source code and move it to another platform. You will need to start all over from scratch.
Step 2: Website DesignMoment for creativity, really chance to connect your brand in digital networks. Depending on your budgets and aesthetic ambitions, website design work can take from 2-weeks till even six or more months.
Good Design VS Bad DesignVery common misconsepction is that good looking webiste is also performing well. In reality, good website is one that presents information effectively and gives clear direction to site visitors. From lawyer perspectice, the key elements to evaluate your site design effectiveness should be conversion rates. Are prospects calling you, are they filling out forms? Good web design ensures user experience that is reciproacting information exchange.
Design Mockup Evaluation ProcessAfter getting the planning stage of the ground design mockup evaluation phase is the first moment of evaluating tangible website work in progress elements. In most cases you will be working with web designer that will provide you with image file that will include your law firms website design layout. In this step it is important to evaluate the presented web page aesthetics, brand consistency and call-to-action elements. We encourage our clients to get through this stage with main focus on core layout elements. Content changes and smaller tweaks can be always made at later phases. This is the initial point that requires web designers’ and lawyers’ agreement on design that fits law firm’s identity and marketing objectives. Once design mockup is approved project is moved to the stage that is test link programming.
Design Preparation for ProgrammingPrior to beginning website programming, created design mockup needs to be properly setup for programming work. In most cases web designers will be working directly with the developer, however if that is not the case and you have hired a freelancer or web agency to only create the design make sure to ask web developer on their design preparation requirements and have the two parties workout necessary file setups.
Step 3: Website ProgrammingWhen design stage is closed web development project enters programming phase. At this point you should be fully satisfied with design mockups that were presented and you’re informed that site is in programming stage. This stage is usually the longest in the full site development cycle. Your law firms design is now converted in fully functioning website and your feedback will be needed to sign off on website launch.
Front-End ProgrammingInitial stage of the website development phase is site design conversion in HTML, CSS code. This process is also known as “slicing”. When front-end code is fully developed web developer connects the code with the selected site content management system. During stage design conversion should be based on responsive designs to ensure website is functional within mobile platforms.
Back-End ProgrammingFront-end code connection within CMS is usually the biggest task for standard lawyer websites. Back-end development is mostly associated with feature development. For example, websites forms or email newsletter collection boxes. In addition, back-end programming ensures proper page migration in case you are redesigning and existing law firm website. Once all back-end coding work is done site test link is prepared for your evaluation.
Test Link Evaluation ProcessSimilar as mock-up evaluation stage in this step you are required to provide feedback on a presented website test link. You should receive fully functional site test link. Test link is site demonstration on private website link. Why private? In many cases test links can be pending imagery, additional content or other elements that can make test link look unfinished. For that reason test links are created private for feedback collection purpose. When working with web developer make sure the test link is not indexed on search engines. Such mistake can severely impact your SEO performance.
Step 4: Website DeploymentCongratulations, you are in the final steps of the website launch. In this phase you will need to gather site technical information and you will be conducting final quality assurance tasks.
Website Hosting & Domain NameYou are in the final steps of the website launch. Your web developer will need to identify what website domain you have selected and what website hosting will you be using. Both elements are necessary to launch your new law firms site. In addition, let your web developer know if you have domain name associated email address. Such email addresses are usually hosted and if your web developer is planning to change the hosts its detrimental for him / her to know that otherwise by improper configuration you can experience email interruptions.
Website Launch ChecklistBefore we launch your site, we have to verify everything on your law firm’s website is running perfectly. Our process of quality testing includes:
- HTML Validation
- Checking all images have the correct licenses
- 301 redirect old URL's
- Verifying all pages have content
- Confirming every page of your site is optimized for SEO