By the time a law firm decides to revamp its website, everything about the existing one is usually outdated. The visual design is passé, reflecting past trends that haven’t aged very well. And the back-end technology is cumbersome and convoluted, a perennial source of frustration for anyone tasked with updating content. The website doesn’t just need a facelift. An entire overhaul is in order. And that means hiring both a web designer and a developer or content management system (CMS).
While the process of identifying the right web designer can feel challenging, it often pales in comparison to selecting a developer or back-end solution. Law firms aren’t usually tech specialists, after all. So it’s no surprise that the back-end tech requirements of a website can seem like a bit of a mystery. Add to that the fact that there are a plethora of developers and CMSs to choose from, each with their own claims about what makes them the best choice. The last thing any law firm wants is to pay an astronomical fee for a back-end solution, only to end up with something that isn’t highly intuitive, fully functional, and useful for years to come.
It’s a bit like hiring a car mechanic. You know you want your car to run smoothly and reliably, and you know you want a fair price. But you don’t really understand what’s going on under the hood. Because of that, you can’t objectively assess a potential mechanic’s skills or abilities.
At Decker Design, we understand your anxiety. In fact, we’ve helped many of our clients navigate the process of deciding on the right back-end solutions for their websites.
Technical Requirements: What Law Firms Want From Their Websites
The average law firm has a big wish list when it comes to their website’s technical requirements. They want their website to be:
- Easy to use. The average law firm has a small marketing staff. Typically, a number of individuals with other day-to-day roles share the marketing responsibilities. As a result, law firms don’t have a lot of time or bandwidth to train individual staffers on a complex back-end system. That’s especially true when individual users may only update the website periodically. In this context, steep learning curves won’t cut it. They need a CMS that is intuitive and easy to use. When a partner asks for a press release to be posted on the website, they need to be able to quickly add the content without needing special training or tech support.
- Capable of growing with them. No law firm is static. So it stands to reason that their websites shouldn’t be, either. They need a website that is capable of growing and changing along with them. Modular websites create flexibility and allow for law firms to evolve their sites along with their businesses. Websites that are less scalable hold firms back. Often, they result in a hodgepodge of microsites built on various platforms. No firm wants to manage what amounts to several websites.
- Ready to move to another platform as necessary. All websites are either built on open-source platforms, such as WordPress, or proprietary systems. A proprietary CMS is one in which a private company develops and owns the code base. A website on a proprietary CMS is more difficult to migrate to another platform. Open-source CMSs, on the other hand, use a publicly available code base, meaning any developer with the skills to do so can work within that system. There are pros and cons to both types of CMSs. And there are a number of proprietary systems that are tailor-built for law firms, in particular. Law firm-specific CMSs may come with useful features and functionalities already built in (such as a proposal generator). However, they also tend to cost more and may lock your firm into a multi-year contract. Law firms are drawn to the bells and whistles that come with an industry-specific, proprietary CMS. But they are also scared of getting stuck with a system that is difficult to use or offers less-than-stellar tech support. For that reason, a lot of firms are wary of proprietary systems, preferring instead to have the freedom to move from one tech partner to another as needed.
- Innovative. Law firms naturally want their websites to include the most up-to-date and innovative features and functionalities. This includes things like proposal generators, hidden pages, and customizable landing pages. However, some law firms fall into the trap of creating sites that are too complex. When they do that, they risk losing the ability to easily manage their own websites. And that means paying for ongoing web support.
- Future-proofed. As with their website’s design, law firms want their website’s back-end functionality to be as future-proof as possible. They don’t want to invest serious money in a site that will be technologically outdated shortly after completion.
With so many interrelated needs, many law firms freeze up when the time comes to select a web development partner.
Selecting a Web Development Partner: The Guidance You Need
At Decker Design, we work with developers all the time. A law firm, on the other hand, may work with a new developer every 3-5 years. They are making one choice. We get to see a wide variety of tech partners in action, including both open-source and proprietary solutions. This closeup, behind-the-scenes access yields many insights, including how responsive and cooperative different developers are, as well as how engaged they are in collaborating with designers and clients on a website build. And we have also watched as clients have struggled or flourished with various CMSs.
From our unique vantage point, we help our clients weigh the pros and cons of the various tech options they are considering. In addition, we can also arrange for clients to work with one of our proven developer partners, taking all the guesswork out of the selection process.
A website’s design and back-end are like two sides of the same coin. One cannot succeed without the other. At Decker Design, we are committed to helping clients select the right web development partner because we understand what’s at stake.