I met a really sharp lawyer and marketer, Lee Rosen. I'll be reposting some of his valuable tips on my blog. Here's the first installment...
You need a new website (or maybe it’s your first website), and there are a gazillion options.
First off, depending on how busy you are at this point, you might want to consider building it yourself. It’s not rocket science to build a simple site or blog. I really like SquareSpace . The site offers an awesome interface, cool premade designs, and an incredibly reasonable price. It is a soup-to-nuts solution. It’s worth considering.
If, however, you’re committed to hiring someone to do the work for you, then these tips should help you pick the right someone:
1. Don’t hire someone who specializes in law firm websites. Your site will end up looking like the sites of all the other lawyers. Plus, lawyers generally hire fairly lame vendors, so you won’t be getting the latest and greatest technology or design for your site. Companies selling to lawyers don’t have to be cutting-edge to compete, so they tend to languish way behind the firms doing work in more progressive industries.
2. Hire someone with experience. You don’t want to be the client providing on-the-job training. Make sure the company has been doing exactly what you need for other clients. It should have pertinent experience. If you want a blog, then make sure the company has done blogs. If you want a forum or video or whatever, then make sure it’s done that specific kind of work before.
3. Take a good look at the company’s website. If it’s anything less than excellent, then walk away. Don’t buy the “Cobbler’s children have no shoes” crap. If the company builds good sites, then its site should be outstanding.
4. Look at the work the company has done for others. Dig in and examine it carefully. Don’t skim the homepage and move on. Click around. See whether the sites the company has built are achieving business objectives. If the site has a forum, see whether it’s getting participation. Examine every element of what the company has built and see whether it’s working.
5. Call former clients. Have conversations with the people directly involved in the construction of the site. See whether it was finished on time and on budget. Ask whether the designers provided creative ideas. Ask how the working relationship progressed. Ask whether they would use the firm again. If they’re not using the firm now, ask why.
6. Figure out what team you’re getting. Is the salesperson going to work on your project or sell it to you and disappear? Who will actually do the work? Have you met the people you’ll be dealing with as you move forward?
7. Understand the company’s system for site building. Find out how it approaches building a site. Does it have a systematic approach it can explain to you now? Make notes when the salesperson explains the system and then ask the designer about the system and see how the answers match up. You’ll quickly find out whether there’s a system or a bullshit sales pitch.
8. Find out who owns the code Make sure the contract provides that you’ll own the code and the design. Don’t pay for the construction of a site that you’re actually just renting. Make sure you can leave the web design company and take your site with you.
9. Make sure the price is the price. Check on change orders, add-ons, etc. Find out what you’ll pay for the site over the course of 24 months. Don’t assume that everything is included in the first number you hear. Figure out what you’ll really be paying for the entirety of the project so you can compare apples to apples.
10. Make sure the company works with WordPress. There are lots of content management systems on the market, but I have a strong preference for WordPress. This site and all of our other sites are built on WordPress, and it’s a solid platform with a huge industry built around it. When we need help with our site, it’s easy for us to find excellent assistance. Make sure they have experience building sites on WordPress, and you’ll buy yourself lots of flexibility when you decide to make changes to the site.
Building a website can be an exciting activity. It feels good when you have a site that highlights the advantages of working with you. The process of creating the site forces you to focus on the good things you do for clients. If you work with the right web design company, you’ll enjoy the process and get more than just a website out of the work. Choose the firm carefully, and the end result will achieve your goals and grow your business.