What website design and marketing trends will be worth your investment this year? We asked five experts, “What do you foresee as the biggest trends for law firm websites in 2018 — and what’s worth paying attention to?” Here’s the forecast from Drew Barton, Andy Cabasso, Karin Conroy, Steve Matthews and Mike Ramsey.
Drew Barton: AMP Up
The most significant website trend legal professionals should keep in mind is the continued shift to mobile-optimized web design and development. More and more people are using their smartphones to access the internet, and your website needs to be ready for these mobile visitors. Ignoring this shift not only means your visitors get a poor user experience, but it also can hold you back in search engine rankings.
One way to stay ahead of the game is to get involved with the AMP initiative. Short for “Accelerated Mobile Pages,” AMP can dramatically improve your site’s mobile performance and speed by minimizing large design elements and advertisements on a page. It’s not just a “nice to have” element, either. On a search engine results page, the AMP icon serves as a welcoming beacon to the 62 million Americans (that’s 1 in 5 people in the U.S.) with slower internet connections or limited cellular data plans. Since loading a full-size webpage requires significantly more data than an AMP-optimized page, users in this segment are more likely to click on results featuring the AMP icon. If your site does not support AMP, you could be missing out on reaching potential clients.
Drew Barton (@drewbarton) is founder and president of Southern Web, an award-winning agency specializing in web development and digital marketing. He is the author of “The Buyer’s Guide to Websites: What You Need to Know to Get the Website of Your Dreams.”
Andrew Cabasso: Productivity Platform
More and more law firms are taking the approach that their website is not just an online business card or advertisement for the practice. Rather, it’s an essential part of the firm’s business and productivity. Firms are, and will increasingly be, using their websites to do things like accept client payments, host intake forms, schedule appointments, link to their client portals, and integrate with their practice management software.
Andrew Cabasso (@AndyCabasso) is a practicing attorney and VP of Web Services at Uptime Legal where he runs JurisPage, an internet marketing firm specializing in online presence solutions for law firms. He is the author of “Search Engine Optimization for Lawyers” and “The Complete Guide to Attorney PPC.”
Karin Conroy: Three Things
Here are a few web design trends that law firms should pay attention to over the next year.
- Animation. Animated objects are found just about everywhere online these days, and GIFs especially have seen a dramatic increase in use. They are being used in logos, website icons, online advertisements, email newsletters and a wide variety of other digital applications. Websites that make use of smooth animations can do better at attracting visitors’ attention. Scroll-triggered animations have become especially popular. The technology itself is nothing new, but website designers are implementing it in new ways.
- The Internet of Things. IoT uses technology to connect various devices to the internet. For example, apps help people find their lost keys, and smart lightbulbs can be paired with apps that allow you to control your home’s lighting from your devices. This type of connectivity is still very much an experimental technology, but you can expect to see many more types of businesses, including law firms, finding creative ways to use it.
- Security. Web developers are identifying new, effective ways of guarding digital media against malicious hackers and minimizing the chances of security breaches. In 2018, expect to see web developers taking extra steps to boost site security. For example, all websites should now have a security certificate. If not, your site runs the risk of being blocked by browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome.
(Note: Dive deeper into Karin’s design forecasts in “Top Law Firm Website Trends for 2018.”)
Karin Conroy (@karinconroy) is a legal marketing consultant specializing in creating award-winning websites and building online reputations for law firms. Karin has an MBA from the University of California and a background in design, creative direction, and marketing management.
Steve Matthews: Small-Audience Marketing via Private Client Portals
Imagine having a client so important to your firm that you’d be willing to launch and write an entire blog exclusively for them. (I’m sure you have at least one client who fits this description!)
Over the past year, I’ve noticed that this precise activity is trending among law firms — they’re creating what I call “private client portals.” Your first response might be, “What, extranets? They’re old news.” But I don’t mean private websites where clients can access updates on their files or financials. I mean an online periodical with an audience of one, driven by a desire to deepen your communication and idea exchanges with a specific client. Think of it as small-audience marketing.
We’ve learned from private networks like Facebook and one-to-one social tools like Snapchat that granting exclusive access to material can significantly enhance its value. More and more firms are following this trend by building these private client portals where specific audiences — e.g., aerospace executives, restaurant owners or a key firm client — can read their most exclusive material.
In the future, not all online marketing will be done on the public internet. Giving your best clients early or exclusive access to your finest ideas makes a lot of sense. Keep it small, keep it exclusive and only deliver your best work. This is my legal web trend to watch in 2018.
Steve Matthews (@SteveMatthews) is founder and principal of Stem Legal Web Enterprises, Inc. Stem Legal helps lawyers and law firms gain greater web visibility and effectiveness. A thought leader and trend watcher within the legal profession, he blogs enthusiastically at both Law Firm Web Strategy and Slaw.ca, where he also serves as publisher.
Mike Ramsey: Show Yourself in the Best Light
With competition so tight among highly ranked law firms, it is becoming more difficult for consumers to decide who to hire. All other things being equal — good rankings, positive reviews, strong testimonials, depth of content — lawyers who work on presenting their very best selves are going to stand head and shoulders above those who don’t pay attention to details.
In 2018, you want to pay more attention to the visual aspects of your site: better photography, video and mobile-friendliness. You want to humanize the lawyers in your firm, show them in the best light, and make your information easily accessible.
Take the following site, for example. Before, it was non-branded and had no imagery. Now it is 100 percent focused on the attorney.
Attorney bio pages are the most visited pages on legal websites. You, the attorney, are the product you are selling. Your site must show lawyers in a good light. We gathered data from the top-ranking websites across four legal practice areas in the 50 largest U.S. metros and found that 40 percent of these sites already use attorney images as the first image on their site — and 43 percent also have a photo of the firm’s staff. (Check out the entire legal landing page study here.)
Firms that fail to do a good job portraying themselves online are going to get passed up. If presentation matters to a jury (and it does), then it matters to your prospective clients.
Bonus tip: Google My Business (GMB) is increasingly becoming a hub for potential clients to visit and call your office without ever seeing your website. We saw one client’s site traffic dip by 46 percent, but calls from GMB increased by 82 percent during the same period. There is no denying the importance of GMB.
Mike Ramsey (@mikeramsey) is president of Nifty Ventures and founder of Nifty Marketing and Nifty Law. The Nifty Law team brings legal marketing rocket science — digital marketing, website design, SEO and content marketing — to firms nationwide. He is the author of “Winning At Local Search” and a partner at LocalU, which provides conferences in the realm of local search marketing.
You Might Also Like:
- “Five Tech Options to Make Your Law Firm Easier to Contact”
- “Forecasting Top Website Design Trends for 2018”
- “Seven Ways to Optimize Your Website”
- “Three Reasons Google Is Your New Home Page”
- “Engage! A Lawyer’s Guide to Social Media Marketing” (Free Download)
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