Considering a new website in 2021? If so, compiling a wish list of features and functionality is a good place to start.
Most people sensibly begin by identifying the deficiencies of their existing website, so that they aren't propagated to the new site. However, to ensure that your website passes the test of time, you also need to embrace fresh ideas and new technologies.
Below are some “must-have” law firm website features to consider.
1. BEYOND-THE-HOMEPAGE STRATEGY
Typically, less than 40% of the traffic to a law firm website enters through the homepage. For large law firms, this number is closer to just 20%. Instead, visitors are clicking links found in Google, emails, and social media that send them directly to content deep within your site.
When planning your next website, consider the user-experience of a visitor who lands on an article or alert in the middle of your site. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are all pages well-branded?
- Are content pages dead-ends?
- What calls-to-action should we include?
- How can we encourage visitors to consume related content?
- If the user’s journey ends without having visited the homepage, what kind of impression have we made?
2. "RECOMMENDED CONTENT" TEASING
The most advanced law firm websites are designed with no dead ends. Just like NYTimes.com, cutting-edge marketing websites automatically promote “related articles” as well as related events, related case studies, and related blog posts (among other content). The goal is to keep visitors on your website, consuming your content for as long as possible.
Websites with advanced content-teasing tools provide benefits that will please website visitors and your marketing team alike. Here are just a few:
- A Fresher Site – Today’s advanced content-teasing tools automatically promote the site’s newest, most relevant content. This keeps your website feeling fresh and relevant.
- Cross-selling – Your website can cross-promote content from related services such as real estate and environmental law. This can enable cross-selling by letting people know about your broad expertise.
- More Page Views – Visitors are prompted to read more of your newest and best content. This allows visitors to better understand how you can help them achieve their goals.
3. INTEGRATED BLOGS
Blogs often contain some of a law firm’s most powerful content. However, the value of that content is diminished when it resides in an ecosystem that doesn't include the firm’s website. To ensure that an attorney’s blog posts receive the attention they deserve, progressive law firms are now building blogs into their websites.
The numerous benefits to having a firm’s blogs share the name database and navigational scheme of the firm website include
- Better site-search
- Better user-tracking
- Easier maintenance
- Improved user-experience
- More effective content-teasing. This is the biggest benefit. Your website’s content-teasing system can automatically promote your blog posts on relevant sections of your website.
4. NEXT-GENERATION SITE-SEARCH
On average, law firm websites triple in size every few years. This happens because firms are creating more and more reputation-enhancing content, which is great. But more content can also make it harder for users to find what they’re looking for.
The remedy: better site-search.
The best websites now include next-generation site-search technology that includes new features such as
- Predictive Search – As the user types, results appear.
- Tools to Manipulate Results – Your top patent litigator can be set to appear first when “patent litigation” is searched.
- Intelligent Matches – “Fuzzy logic” produces accurate search results even when there isn’t a direct match. For example,
- Misspellings: “Emploment” will return results for “Employment”.
- Partial words: “Auto” will return results for “Automobile”.
- Plurals: “Books” will return results for “Book”.
- Suffixes and prefixes: “Work” will return results for “Working”.
- Accents: “Zoe” will return results for “Zoë”.
- Punctuation: “Oreilly” will return results for “O’Reilly”.
- Invisible Keywords – A particular page can appear in site-search results for a keyword that doesn’t actually appear on the page.
- Nickname Search – "Henry" might also be known by “Hank". Or “Occupational Safety and Health Administration” might be commonly referred to as “OSHA”. Nickname search makes each fully searchable.
5. BETTER ATTORNEY BIO USER-EXPERIENCE
The majority of website traffic goes to attorney bios. But most attorney bio pages are designed to push visitors to other sections of the website. For example, if you click a News item on an attorney’s bio, most law firm sites send you to the News section of the website, and thus away from the bio.
We call this the “Ping-pong Effect,” and it makes for a sub-par user-experience.
The most advanced law firm websites are now designed to avoid the ping-pong effect, by allowing visitors to read an attorney’s articles, news items, blog posts, and events, without having to leave the bio.
The elimination of the Ping-pong Effect is an absolute must-have because it encourages visitors to further explore an attorney’s offerings.
6. CUSTOM TABS
This feature allows you to add free-form tabs to an attorney’s bio (or a practice area section). These custom tabs can be deployed as needed, to highlight notable aspects of an attorney’s life or practice.
Custom tabs can be used for any topic, including
- A profile of an attorney’s community-service work
- In-depth information about specialized expertise
- Information about a book authored by an attorney
- Information and photos about the attorney’s life “Beyond the Office”
- Video of an attorney’s television appearance
Events like the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the value of custom tabs. Firms whose websites have this functionality were able to quickly customize bios and practices with information that made clear how an attorney or practice would help clients respond to the crisis.
Every few years, a new website technology emerges that is so transformative that it makes earlier websites—those built without the benefit of that technology—look old and clunky. React.js is such a technology.
React.js is a front-end website technology that allows for the creation of websites that load instantaneously and feel remarkably fluid to the user. When React.js is implemented properly, advantages of the technology include
- More flexible designs
- Nearly absolute security
- The potential for no downtime, ever
- Fluid page transitions and animations
- Remarkable page load speed
The technology, originally developed by Facebook to increase engagement on its websites, has become the number-one front-end framework worldwide. Its widespread adoption has made the technology a must-have.
Read our most recent whitepaper where we discuss how React.js will usher in a new generation of law firm websites that are faster, more dynamic, and more secure than ever.
If you’d like more information about any of the features or techniques mentioned in this piece, we’re happy to discuss. Just reach out to Robert Algeri at [email protected].
Robert, I have a question! Why don’t you include a link to a website that exemplifies your point at the bottom of each of the 7 Must-Haves? I’m OK with each of those examples being a GreatJakes site. I want to experience what you mean!