As a referral-based entity, your law firm should design its website to strategically cater to those customers. But so much can go wrong if you’re really not thinking about how people actually use your website. Visitors might have been the perfect “right-fit” prospect, but if they don’t (quickly) find what they’re looking for, they’ll simply look elsewhere.

When potential customers are referred to your firm, be sure your website is designed to be engaging and informative. Your most promising prospects and potential recruits are coming to your website in search of specific information. They’re qualified leads looking at your bios and researching practice area capabilities. They’re desirable applicants scanning openings and assessing affinity groups and pro bono possibilities.

How do you ensure your website meets your users’ needs? With a streamlined customer journey as our North Star, let’s look at how the right design leads to a successful law firm website.

Let Customer Needs Define Your Direction

When referrals are your primary source for attracting new business and landing new talent, remember that your mission is to inform, not overwhelm. Help them confirm what they’ve already heard about you. Don’t confuse them with clutter.

Many law firms lose sight of what matters most to prospects. Instead, they focus on maximizing SEO or trying to wow visitors with flashy motion graphics, videos and podcasts. But again, visitors come to your site to find specific information as quickly as possible.

Don’t Let Internal Preference Detract From the Prospect Experience

When a marketing team embarks on a website redesign for a law firm, the process often looks a lot like this:

You begin by soliciting input from partners and other leaders, asking what they believe works and doesn’t work with the current website. Their response might be to point to competitors’ websites or other sites they admire. They might have feedback about how the site works or doesn’t work for them.

But this isn’t where you should begin. If your internal stakeholders are looking at the site through their own lens, that will only lead to a lot of wheel spinning and navel gazing. It’s a waste of effort, time and money.

Instead, you need to understand what your website visitors really want. What pages do users visit most often? Can they navigate there quickly? What elements will help you generate new leads or close new business? What can help you attract talent?

The answers to those questions will help you map an effective customer journey that makes the most out of your website as a resource for your referral-based business.

Know Your External Audience Before Tending to Internal Teams

We know a lot of firms have websites with heavy internal users. They use the site as a marketing resource to print bios, produce marketing decks and proposals, and compile matter and client lists.

But just as we mentioned earlier, you cannot afford to have your internal audience become the primary driver of your site’s design and functionality. Understanding how they use the site and accommodating those needs is fine, but set them aside when considering how your target audience should be served.

It’s more valuable when everybody within your organization steps back and is reminded of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and who you’re doing it for — your prospects.

Look at your site’s analytics to help determine if you’re doing it right. For instance, if you see visitors bouncing off the site at a certain point, then you know there’s a weakness such as a bad UX, confusing navigation or slow loading. How much time are they spending on a page? How many pages are they visiting each session? What is acting as a barrier to their engagement?

Think of your site’s visitors like a patient looking for an emergency room. What if you arrived to find a barrier like an enormous garbage can blocking your entrance? You would say, “I’m getting out of here.” You wouldn’t care if there was a good doctor there.

Take a look at where your website is right now, and benchmark yourself against that and design for the ideal journey.

Help Your Website Visitors Quickly Help Themselves

Too many law firm websites are overly complicated. Before your site gets to this point, stop and think about the people who are using it and how they’re using it.

Whether they’re existing clients, prospects or potential employees, anyone coming to your site knows what they’re looking for and is short on time. Your job is to get visitors what they need with as little disruption as possible.

You can facilitate this through clear navigation to distinct sections — your services, case studies, blog articles, and bios — with information presented in a sensible way. Think of it like this: You don’t want Disneyland’s excitement and entertainment in every direction you look. You want a Target store’s navigable aisles and predictability.

And speaking of predictability, there’s a good chance your visitors follow this pattern when they land on your site: The first place they go is to a bios page.  Next is to your practice area. And from there they dive into all the matters related to your firm’s experience that’s most relevant to them.

Everything else on your website is simply icing on the cake.

Don’t Be Distracted By Google. You’re Serving People, Not Search Engines.

It’s also easy for firms to lose sight of their end users by trying to game search engine algorithms in a misguided effort to generate more site visits. They fret over adding alt-text to photographs and including the right keywords in their text with little consideration for how a real person is engaging with that content.

Yes, this approach may increase overall site traffic, but it doesn’t guarantee a meaningful experience or lead to more conversions. More often it means a page design with no hierarchy, lines of dense, keyword-stuffed copy and a horrible user experience. Google may find it, but no human wants it.

So when you design and create content for your site pages, remember to do so with a human-centric approach. People don’t just randomly search for things. They’re coming to your site to validate something that they already know, amplify information they already have, or confirm that they should pick up the phone and call.

Best Practices for Your Most Important Pages: The Bios

We’ve spent some time covering general advice for any law firm’s website. But let’s home in on one of the most crucial areas of your site. Data consistently shows that the most visited pages on any law firm website are the biography pages.

Companies in need of counsel are carefully reading the backgrounds of experts they’re considering hiring. Someone highly recommended your firm to a prospect? They’re checking out your bios before any other part of your site.

To make the most of your firm’s bio pages, make sure you’re doing these things:

  • Be selective. Don’t include every matter you ever worked on,every trial victory you had or every blue chip client you ever advised. Focus on the most impressive, innovative and compelling accomplishments.
  • Be relevant. Stick to your current and most applicable practice area or expertise. Focus on the work you’re doing now.
  • Be timely. List your most recent successes, awards, recognitions and publications (and in reverse chronological order). Limit how far back you go. Nobody is going to be interested in what you did, won or wrote 20 years ago.
  • Be recognizable. That photo you sat for when you first made partner can’t possibly look like the person you are today. Don’t let that be a distraction for when a client sees you now.
  • Be reachable. Having the perfect bio doesn’t mean a lot if a prospect can’t immediately pick up the phone or dash off an email to get in touch with you. Don’t make them jump through a lot of hoops. Include a link to your extension, email, and LinkedIn profile under your bio.

Don’t Leave Money on the Table With Misguided Website Design

Clear navigation. Ordered pages. Relevant bios. Reader-friendly (not SEO-focused) content.

The best law firm website designs put the needs of external users ahead of all others. You can’t afford not to have a site that serves your most promising prospects at every turn.

If you want to know more about how Decker designs those users in mind, we’d love to hear from you.

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