You may have experienced something like this…
You gear up for a website redesign and hire an agency or consultant. You meet with the designer, who walks you through the process and shows you some pretty mock-ups. You meet a copywriter who throws out emotionally charged keywords intended to increase your traffic, decrease your bounce rate, and boost your conversions.
The hype builds when the video crew arrives to shoot an awesome homepage clip. A photographer spends a day in the office to grab action shots. The makeup artist makes you feel like a rock star.
You’re already counting the money this new website is going to make…
Your Website Redesign Will Make You 🙁
Shortly afterward, disappointment sets in. The process creeps along, but deadlines get missed. The agency complains that it didn’t get the biographies on time, it's waiting on the developer, or one of a dozen other excuses.
You start to stress as time passes and the old site lingers, looking pathetic in comparison to what could be. Delay after delay after delay…
Finally, the new website is finished. It looks as expected—better than what you had before. But more often than not, all you get is a fresh look. The look feels good, but it doesn’t create additional business.
That’s not good.
Big redesign projects often result in disappointment, disillusionment, and the continued hunt for a solution for the lackluster results.
These 16 Website Improvements Will Make You 🙂
A better approach—one that’s less expensive, less disappointing, and more likely to bring results—is to keep the old, ugly website.
Instead of rebuilding the entire site from scratch, it’s usually better to tackle small projects that actually move the needle. It's better to tweak, twist, measure, and experiment than pay big bucks to some designer or agency for a makeover while praying for a miracle.
A pretty design with updated information rarely increases revenue. It looks cool, but capturing new business is about building trust. Design helps with trust, but it’s rarely the key determinant.
What kind of tweaks, experiments, and projects should you undertake? How can your website build trust so it generates more business?
Prioritize the following issues. Work on them one at a time. Take small steps forward instead of going for huge leaps. These projects are small but collectively have a big impact on your bottom line.
1. Go mobile-first.
Stop thinking of your website as a portal into your business viewed on a 13-inch (or more) screen. In most cases, it’s going to be viewed on a tiny screen in someone’s palm.
Mobile phone visitors to my law firm website were minimal a few years ago. We looked after those folks by installing special WordPress plugins and hoping for the best. They were a secondary concern.
Now, mobile visitors are the majority. They make up 70% of our traffic. It’s mostly dinosaurs (and lawyers) who visit websites on laptops and desktops.
When agencies proudly show you the desktop sites they’ve built, walk away. Unless they're demonstrating on a mobile emulator or phone, you don’t want to talk to those folks. They’re living in the past.
Find a vendor who can make your site useful to mobile users. Revamping the entire site usually isn’t required. Making the site mobile-friendly simply requires prioritizing mobile visitors over desktop visitors.
Once you start studying your site on your phone, you’ll find opportunities for optimizing the user experience.
2. Secure your site.
Google flashes warnings before visitors are permitted to proceed to insecure sites. A big warning is a terrible first impression for your prospective clients.
Make the website secure, and protect the data your prospective clients submit when they message you for more information or to schedule an appointment. If you offer a client portal or accept financial data on your site, then you need to get this done yesterday.
Making your site secure is low-hanging fruit. For a small investment of time and the purchase of a security certificate, you’ll see a big impact. The little green lock will display for your visitors in the address bar, Google will be happier, and you’ll actually protect the data you’re collecting.
3. Speed up your site.
Is your website slow? Type in your website address into this Google speed test to find out.
Google ranks slow sites poorly. Faster is better. Speeding up your site is easy. If you’ve got a developer helping you, get him or her busy. If you’re a DIYer, find someone on Upwork who specializes in improving website speed. (It’s a thing people do.)
These speed gurus can optimize images, tweak code, and adjust server settings so the site pops up fast, particularly for mobile users. (Mobile users are notoriously impatient.)
Optimizing for speed is cheap and easy, so make it happen.
4. Contact pages are dead. Use chat.
In the old days, before drones delivered pizzas, website visitors used contact pages. They filled in the form, sent the message, and waited for a response. Those were great times.
Now, visitors click a button and expect an immediate reply. Sure, they’ll wait if you’re the only game in town, but they prefer an instant response.
A live chat feature will notify you when someone wants to talk. If you aren’t available 24/7/365, you can set it up to automate responses.
Facebook Messenger makes auto-responding easy. There are plenty of vendors who provide configurable bots where you can program a sequence of responses to varied questions. Get the technology working so that you’re “present” when visitors decide to take action.
5. Make yourself human.
Being human is a competitive advantage in the legal arena. In fact, you might try a tagline like “We act like people, not like lawyers” on your website.
Prospective clients are put off by lawyers acting like “professionals.” They want someone who feels their pain. Actually, they’ll take any lawyer who appears to feel anything.
It’s weird because some of the nicest, most sincere, real people I know also happen to be lawyers. But many of those folks put on their courtroom clothing and turn into “professional,” dispassionate, controlled robots. It’s confounding.
Clients want humans they can relate to. Relatable lawyers are the ones who get the best cases and the biggest fees.
Use your website to tell your story. Be human. Be less than perfect. Make mistakes, be real, and reveal your fears and your passions. Tell your visitors what gives you a sore-jaw smile and what makes your eyes fill with tears. Tell them what you’re made of and how you got made that way. Prospects want to know you so they can trust you.
6. Stop talking about yourself.
Lawyers talk. That’s not exactly news.
Most of us talk about ourselves quite a bit. I certainly do. Our websites are loaded with the words “I,” “me,” and “us.” We rarely use “you.”
Here’s some advice (that I probably should take myself): shut the f*ck up.
Stop talking, especially about yourself. Talk less; listen more. Listen to what others are saying and really hear it.
The always-talking-about-ourselves habit manifests on our website when we tell visitors how awesome we are at what we do. We explain “our practice areas.” We tell them “why us.” We go on and on about “our team.”
Instead of talking about yourself…
7. Talk about their problem.
Not all talk is bad. It’s mostly talking about yourself that makes your readers throw up in their mouths.
Readers actually like to listen to you when you’re talking about them. What if your website were less about you and more about them? What if, through your website copy, your readers felt like you understood them?
Readers appreciate when you articulate what they’re experiencing. They like seeing that you get it. They like feeling understood. They appreciate realizing that others have survived this problem.
When you talk about the prospective client’s feelings and experiences, you’re winning. When you talk about your service or yourself, you’re losing.
8. Minimize your name.
I’m sure you have a beautiful name. Your parents likely agonized over it before making a decision.
But other than your mommy, no one cares about you. Sorry to break it to you.
Website visitors care about themselves. They especially care about the problem they’re dealing with at the moment. They’re on your site because they want the information you offer. Information gives them hope. They’re focused on the copy that describes their problem and offers solutions. Your name just gets in the way.
Sure, they’ll need to know your name when it’s time to take action. Don’t worry; they’ll figure out who you are, even if your name isn’t in a big, red, blinking font.
Shrink your big logo to something reasonable. Replace it with words your clients care about, like a short phrase that acknowledges their problem.
9. Put your photo in perspective.
You have an awesome face. People like seeing it. But again, website visitors care about themselves, not about you. Can you make your face a bit smaller?
You should absolutely have your picture on your site. A video is even better. But it doesn’t need to be the focus of your site. Show us what you look like, but don’t make us sick of your face by putting your picture on every page.
Website designers love using pictures of their clients (you) because they know you like it. But that doesn’t sell legal services. Telling your prospects that you understand what it’s like to live in their shoes (empathy) is how you sell more legal services. A big picture of yourself doesn’t say “I know your pain.” Shrink it down.
10. Give them free samples.
One time, a street peddler handed me a sample of sesame chicken. He offered his tray of golden brown pieces, conveniently stuck with toothpicks for sampling. I took two, mumbled “thank you,” and headed toward the pizzeria. When the flavors settled into my tongue, I made a U-turn to get more of that chicken (plus some noodles).
Free samples work.
Your samples might not be as tasty, but they’re just as effective. Prospective clients are impressed when you’ve posted an interesting article, an old brief, or some other information that demonstrates your understanding of their problem and its solutions.
Adding interesting information to your website has a huge impact if it's useful for your visitors. Word spreads quickly when you give away free solutions. People appreciate the help, and they tell their friends, online and off. They link to your articles on social media and elsewhere.
Instead of telling them how smart you are, let them see it themselves when they read your work. Let them be impressed. Put a toothpick in your samples and offer your tray.
11. Forms are the secret sauce.
Free samples can come in varieties other than articles, videos, and FAQs. They can also include forms.
Show them your approach and let them use your forms if they’re handling their case pro se. Again, seeing your expertise is dramatically more effective than attempting to convince them you’re good. Forms are a perfect demonstration of your expertise. Show them how you use different approaches to solve different problems.
Yes, some folks will use your work to solve their problem themselves. But more will pick you as their solution because they’re impressed. Forms draw visitors from search engines. Some of those folks will become your clients. Had you not posted the forms, they likely would have never heard of you. Forms are a win for your visitors and a win for you.
12. Tools keep them coming back.
Forms will bring traffic, but many of those visitors will be of the “one and done” variety. They’ll grab your free form, and you’ll never see them again.
Want them to keep coming back? Want them to bookmark your site and think of you as an expert resource?
Tools have an astounding impact. Building in a calculator, form builder, or storage repository will change your relationship with website visitors. They’ll think of you as a valuable part of their workflow rather than just as a vendor.
Tools foster relationships. They put you on a path toward trust. They build familiarity. A relationship begins between your visitors and your law firm. That’s powerful.
Of course, building tools is more complicated than writing articles. But it’s not overwhelmingly difficult. An inexpensive developer can create your first effort at minimal expense.
The money you were going to waste on redesign will be far more effectively spent when you use it to build a tool that helps those in need of the services you offer.
13. Video is less important than you think.
Video is fun to film. I love hanging out with the camera guy and talking into the microphone. I admit it: I'm a ham.
Video is also awesome on your site. It gives visitors a better feel than text and photos. It’s the real you, and it’s a quick path to increasing trust.
But people don't watch videos as frequently as you think. We keep pretty good stats, and we have access to the website data of quite a few other law firms. Videos are awesome, but they’re not critical. Most visitors will never watch them.
Should you bother with video? Yes, but only after you’ve got the other priorities under control. Focusing on creating valuable educational material, demonstrating to prospective clients that you understand their story, and telling your story are far more important than video.
14. Get a decent host.
Your site isn’t doing you any good if it’s down. There are plenty of cheap website hosting vendors. One of the big vendors costs just $3/month. But for $3, you get minimal customer support, and when your site is down, it’s down for a while. Spend a little more and get a good host.
15. Monitor for downtime.
“Your site was down last week,” I told the lawyer as we talked about marketing. I tried to explore his site earlier, but it hadn’t been working. While we spoke, I tried again, but it was still down. He had no idea.
Websites go down. It’s inevitable. They usually pop back up a few seconds later. That’s part of the nature of servers and the web.
But a website that’s inaccessible for more than a few minutes is unusual. That’s a sign of a big problem. The problem is exacerbated when no one is aware that the website is down.
Use a service (many of which are free) to monitor your site. It will notify you immediately if your website goes down. Search for “uptime monitor,” or get your website guru to set it up. If your website goes down, you need to take steps to bring it back up so prospective clients aren’t left in the dark.
16. Have it all with Squarespace.
Some firms simply lack the resources to do what I have described above. They're hanging on by a thread. Squarespace is a delightful, simple, inexpensive product that allows you to build your own site. It offers templates, customer support, and a comprehensive product that does it all under one roof. It's pretty awesome for those doing the work themselves.
With Squarespace, you'll have your site up and running in an hour, and you'll be able to start making the additions and tweaks mentioned above so that you'll see a business impact from your work.
Create a site with Squarespace or any of the many competitors in the space and then start on the list above. You can do it all with minimal resources and by devoting your time to the projects required.
Hold Off on That Redesign for Now
Redesigns have their time and place. But an ugly site with the right stuff will beat a pretty site every time. Ugly wins when it speaks to the needs of the visitors, touches them deeply, and shows them the way to a better life. Your site can be all of that right now, even with that 1998 design.
Once you’ve got the fundamentals under control, then you can worry about the pretty stuff.
If you question my judgment on this, spend 10 seconds on Wikipedia. It gives new meaning to ugly. But it's trusted. Ugly, with the right words, works.