What makes a Good Web Site?

A white, rounded square logo with an abstract S-shaped design on a gradient blue and purple background.

What makes a Good Web Site?

There are many criteria by which you can evaluate a web site. We are going to bypass actually rating web sites because that just polarizes people, although we are putting together another list of web design horrors – this time with links to the offenders.

While beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, there are always basic foundations that make up a good web site. Over the next six months, we are going to explore what makes a solid legal web site – with the basic list in this newsletter to tease you. Later on, if you enjoy my ramblings, we can explore each category in-depth.

1. Content
We write good . . . err well. Often as lawyers we think we are the next John Grisham – but more often we stink. Writing motions, orders, and even summary judgments do not prepare us for marketing our business – especially online. The best legal web sites hire content writers to prepare specific legal text for their law firm. These writers know that online text needs to be short, to the point, and different from their competitors.

2. Freshness
Last updated May 21, 2002. Often, we fail to update our own marketing materials because we are too busy, too lazy, or it has not been docketed for us. Updating your web site is critical for your success. Styles change; the law chages, and even your firm changes. If your web site is more than three years old, then it may need a face-lift. If your web site does not have any updated content or news in the past quarter, then you should add some. You can’t tell me that nothing exciting happens at your law firm or in your practice area each month. If you do not know html and can’t update your web site, then demand that your web designer produce a content management system that allows you to easily update the site online. While you probably don’t want to mess with the overall design, a competent content management system should allow you to add and delete text with ease.

3. Navigation & Organization
Home Page, Attorneys, Practice Areas, Offices, Employment, Resources, News, Publications, and Contact. There: I have outlined the basics of any legal web site. Sure, you can change any of these titles to be snazzier (i.e. “Practice Areas” becomes “Industries”, or “Employment” becomes “Careers”). However, the basic framework of any legal web site is roughly the same. Keep in mind that anyone coming to your web site is looking for information. Do not try to hide it from them. All pages should be reachable within a few clicks or an easy-to-use search feature.

4. Layout, Color, Font, Graphics & Photos
While content is King, the design of the web site is surely its Queen. Web design involves both aesthetics and mechanics. The interaction and flow of layout, color, movement, text, and graphics help create an impression on the user. This impression should be positive. Your web site should blend both art and technology to create sites that impress. The design should also try to achieve results.

5. Dynamic, Prompting & Interaction
Dynamic designs get attention. While I still do not recommend long and boring Flash introductions, you can successfully incorporate dynamic elements into a web site. Any graphic, navigation menu, photo and even text can have movement. Better yet, the dynamic elements should prompt your user to interact. Despite what your bar rules may say, your web site is an advertisement. Your web site needs to prompt visitors to interact – a “Call to Action.”

6. Bells & Whistles
Now that we have gone over the basics of a good web site, some of the better law firms incorporate all types of increased functionality. Some features that your firm may want to think about include search engine marketing, pay-per-click advertising, blogs, extranets, content management, and more. Once your firm has mastered the basics, move on the new areas and dominate your market.

Each of these topics will be discussed in-depth over the rest of this year. Stay tuned.

Feel free to contact Peter T. Boyd, Esq. at PaperStreet Web Design, or 954.523.2181.

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