New York immigration and family law attorney Amanda Shaffer recently finished building a new website for her firm. Follow along as she shares how she created a website with no prior experience and without having to spend a single dollar.
Marketing and advertising are expensive! A quick Google search will show that hiring a good website developer will cost you big bucks, and site costs don’t end there. Websites need to be maintained and updated frequently to stay visible.
As a small 2-person law firm, we did not have the budget to compete with the big guys. So with little or no design or coding experience, I set out to build a new site on my own and Redefine the Expectations of a Law Firm Website.™
The advent of the internet and social media puts a twist on traditional marketing campaigns. Your offline credibility and reputation will not transfer online simply because you create a website. Building an online following takes time and presents new challenges that are irrelevant in traditional marketing methods.
To get you started, here are the top five tips I wish I knew before I started building my firm’s new website:
1. Act like a lawyer and do your research!
Today, DIY website creation tools (and there are a lot!), enable users with no coding experience to make dynamic websites. Do your research and pick an option suited for your computer abilities. Make sure you explore both lawyer-specific and general business options and the time commitment required for each.
My example: My website took me about nine months to complete. Thanks to the free website development tool Wix, I avoided coding, while still creating 90% of the content and 100% of the website design myself. So why did it take SO long? As a full-time lawyer, it was tough finding time to work on the website, but if you want a quality website with original content and design, there are no shortcuts.
2. Original content is king; show what you know.
Competition is fierce, set your firm apart from the rest by creating quality and engaging content for your website. Start by learning about what makes your firm successful. Why do clients hire you and not your competitor? Do you have a niche? Point that out on your website.
My example: My firm started off practicing immigration law and expanded into other areas of law when our client’s issues created the need for it. Areas of immigration and criminal law repeatedly cross paths and we have become quite adept at handling the intricacies of the intersecting fields. Accordingly, on the new website I dedicated a section of the criminal page to the immigration consequences of guilty pleas.
3. Stay organized.
Title and tag every element you use. This goes for all images, icons or other media files because at some point you WILL have to go back and make changes. Finding all of these items will be much easier, and will save you several headaches if they are properly labeled.
My example: I had to reduce the file size of every icon and image after I learned they were slowing down my site. I had to find and replace the larger files with the smaller ones. I did not label and sort the files on my computer, so this process took me much longer than it should have.
4. Don’t forget about mobile optimization!
Today, people are searching on mobile devices at much higher rates than desktops. Make sure that you test your site on all devices (iPhone, android, tablet, etc.) and browsers (safari, chrome, firefox, etc.) before making it public. Even if your website platform says it optimizes your site for mobile devices, preview it on those devices to verify.
My example: Although my website platform claimed my new site to be “optimized” for mobile devices when I viewed the mobile site in the editor preview, items were completely out of place, out of proportion and overlapping. The mobile site was unreadable. So I had to hide the mobile site from the public and manually re-do everything.
My firm’s website as seen on mobile devices
5. Do it for free!
When you add elements to your site, you will find both free and paid options. I always went for the free option, even if it meant searching longer for the perfect image.
Paid stock photos are not necessarily better quality or unique, as they are often used by website developers that your competitors hired. Not to mention, there are A LOT of free sites out there offering this type of content.
My example (my favorites):
- allthefreestock.com (photos, icons fonts, templates, videos, etc.)
- icons8.com (last I checked, over 35,400 customizable icons downloadable for free. Every icon on my website came from here)
- wikicommons.com (contains almost every photo within the public domain)
- wix.com (It is easy to use and lets you create your website for free. You can even publish it for free, but you will have to pay to upgrade for many important features like using your own domain name)
Is all of this handwork worth it? Absolutely. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing the fruits of your labor. More importantly, I don’t have to pay a company for site updates and routine maintenance. I learned how to do it all myself and can fix and change the site as I see fit, no waiting for a tech guy to get back to you!
The question now is will it bring in clients? Only time will tell.