By Deborah McMurray

Law firms are investing more in the de­sign and development of their websites than ever. But are your visitors any happier?

No matter your law firm’s size or budget, visitors expect the same intuitive experience that they have with CNN.com, Southwest.com or Opentable.com. And your site is be­ing judged by the same criteria: (1) Is it easy to navigate and search—meaning do I quickly find what I want and need? and (2) does it an­swer my question or solve my problem?

If you have marketing or business development expectations of your law firm website, then you must view this medium and investment very differently.

1. Start at the Beginning: Is Your Strategy Clear? The reason so many law firm websites are poor is because too few firms pay attention to firm vision and goals, understand their target mar­kets or develop a website strategy. Firm strategy, key messages and points of differentiation should shape every decision that’s made in creating design, determining functionality and developing con­tent. Your firm strategy should be clear when a visitor comes to your site. You have one chance to make the right impression—and you have about five seconds to make it before your visitors make a “stay/leave” decision. Don’t risk making the wrong impression by not spending time on this critical step.

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