Proper Care & Feeding: How to Build a Law Firm Website for Easy Maintenance

June 4, 2018

It’s a time-honored truism that– for almost any business or law firm– working on your own marketing, promotion or website tends to come last on the priority list.

When you’re busy, you need to deal with the immediate essential tasks for your own clients and projects, and everything else falls by the wayside. When you’re not busy, you want to enjoy a few minutes to catch your breath. As a result, it can be easy to neglect your own law firm’s website. This can have uncomfortable consequences down the road if you’ve let your site’s content become outdated or inaccurate. Often, the responsibility for updating the site gets passed from one person to another like a hot potato.

What’s the best way to handle this problem? The more we can remove the obstacles that get in the way of updating our sites, the less it’ll feel like a hassle or an obligation. It could even become– dare I say it– enjoyable!

Website maintenance has come a long way over the decades. There was a time when even the most minor punctuation change had to go through a developer. Now we use content management systems, such as WordPress, which allow content editing without requiring any special technical skill. It’s a huge leap over the old days, but it can still be convoluted; different developers might use different workflow or terminology that can confuse novice users.

Having a well-designed public-facing side (what developers call the front-end) of your law firm website isn’t enough. To ensure that your site’s content stays fresh and accurate, it’s important that your team is comfortable accessing the back-end of the site. You’ll need a back-end administrative dashboard that makes it simple to edit your existing content and share firm news, such as announcing a new lateral hire or sharing an important recognition.

Tips for a user-friendly law firm website:

Minimize the number of places that a change needs to be made.

Law firm websites are content-rich, but much of that content is referred to and repeated in different areas. For example, if you have a page for each of your firm’s practice areas, you’ll need to include a list of all lawyers who work in that practice area. Some firms may list dozens of practice areas and industries. If a lawyer joins or leaves your firm, do you want to have to edit every single page that refers to them? Wouldn’t it be easier if you could simply make all those changes in one place?

On our clients’ sites, we aim to make the editors’ dashboards as efficient as possible. Lawyers, practice areas, industries, events, case studies, and other key components are all designed to refer to each other. Making a change in one place will affect the entire site. Let’s say Lawyer Smith joins the firm. No need to call in a coder and no need to panic. Simply tag Smith’s expertise on their bio page and Smith’s name (and, if you like, Smith’s image) will appear on all the relevant web pages.

The right tools for the job – and not one more.

It’s possible to let a website’s dashboard get cluttered with options and widgets and configurations and settings that are irrelevant or even useless. This forces the website editor to hunt through a workshop when all they really need is a pencil. Needless complexity adds to the mental effort required – exactly the sort of unnecessary burden that can make you dread updating your website. On the sites we build at fSquared Marketing, we make sure to configure a dashboard that is both powerful and streamlined.

Building with growth in mind.

In the requirements-gathering process, where the functional specifications for the site are determined, it’s important to have an understanding of how much you expect the site to grow over time, to ensure its scalability. Perhaps your firm has 20 lawyers now; do you see this growing to 25, 50, or 100 within the life-cycle of the new site? Make sure you’ve planned for this growth so that new additions can be made seamlessly.

Stay on top of changes.

…for your own sake as well as the site’s. The more you use and update the site, the more familiar you will be with the interface, and the easier it’ll be to do absolutely anything. It’s like practicing a musical instrument — it becomes second nature if you keep at it, but put it off for too long and you’ll get rusty and forget your skills!

When updating is a breeze, your firm can share more news, articles, and upcoming events and make better connections with your clients. An active website shows the world that your firm is thriving, just as the regular posting of insights assures visitors that a firm’s lawyers are on top of emerging legal trends.

With solid planning, training, and practice, it’s possible to build a website that’s easy to keep consistent and up-to-date. Like caring for a flourishing garden, it can be satisfying to see it well-maintained and appreciated.

Learn more about how we approach web design for law firms and professional services or check out our case studies for examples of our team’s award-winning work.

Kirsten Starcher

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