When Designing Law Firm Websites, The Devil Is In The Details
We’ve all heard it before: The devil is in the details. It could have been a college professor explaining why you received a B- and not the A you were expecting. Or it was your boss at the summer restaurant job you had in high school explaining why the pots weren’t clean enough.
Wherever you heard it first, you’ve probably heard the saying plenty of times. And for good reason. When you have all the details, say of a case, and all the information is at your fingertips, you are fully prepared for success. You may not say the same when you’re walking into a situation without everything you need to know.
“The devil is in the details” applies to just about every profession. I certainly see it in legal marketing. It’s FindLaw’s goal to make websites that communicate an attorney’s brand and their message with a unique approach that includes design, copy and optimization. We do this best when our clients know what they want and give us as much detail as they can on who they are and what differentiates them from the competitor down the street.
That’s why the more we know, the better served you’ll be.
In my previous position here at FindLaw, I led a team of web designers. We always had a list of items we wanted to know to help us deliver a website that lived up to our clients’ expectations. Specifically, we wanted to know:
- What’s your style?
Chances are your firm already has a logo or a masthead. (Don’t sweat it if you don’t, they’re not everything.) Design elements like these can be helpful when choosing your website’s color scheme and typeface. But your style might also be reflected in the type of images you use on your site. Photos of architecture have a very different feel from images of happy families, for example. Likewise, your style should be reflected in how you present yourself. Make a long-term, conscious decision about whether you wear a tie in your headshot or whether you use casual language on your web copy and calls-to-action. Details like these make it easier to create a dynamic feel that defines your firm on your own terms. After all, the last thing you want is a boring site that gets lost in the crowd.
- What’s your “message?”
Your message is very closely related to your style, but it’s a bit more concrete. When you’re planning your digital marketing you should brainstorm your message and what makes you unique and human. Your message should be authentic to who your firm is both professionally and personally. Remember, consumers are looking for an attorney who understands their legal situation, but they also want someone they can relate to, someone who will see them as more than just a case. Carry that message throughout your website in both the content and the aesthetic, making sure that every paragraph, every image, every detail aligns to that message.
- What makes you different?
Do you have an outstanding client intake process? Does your firm serve a unique type of client? Knowing these things will help us position your law firm in a way that distinguishes you from every other firm in your town. This doesn’t have to be a big thing. Some major metro areas have a lot of attorneys practicing the same type of law. But if your firm is the one that has a cappuccino machine in the waiting room, let’s show it in photos and mention it on your site. That little difference will be easy to remember when prospective clients are choosing and evaluating your law firm.
- What are your expectations?
It’s both fun and productive to meet with law firms who know what they want and don’t want out of their site. Many firms have a unique desire that aligns with their brand practice; sometimes they simply know what they hate, which is as good a starting point as any. The trick, as a designer, is being able to prioritize the details of the job. Giving our clients something that matches their expectations is a whole lot easier when we know what they’re expecting to see. If you’re preparing to build or rebuild your web presence, spend some time thinking about what you want – and what you truly need – before you lift the hood. You’ll have an easier time working with your vendor, and you’ll be more satisfied with the results.
Now, you might think broad questions like, “What’s your style?” don’t belong in a post about details. But these big ideas turn into little devils when you ignore them. So talk with your designer – better yet, talk with us – about the small stuff. Our business is a lot like yours. When we know more about our clients, we deliver better results.