Building a good law firm website is a process that does not end once a set of page designs are chosen. With the design agreed upon, the development begins. And unfortunately, sometimes the best looking website designs can turn into a nightmare online if attention is not paid to the whole process, from brainstorming to programming to launch. The decisions your firm and your web team make when transforming a design into a functional website are important components of the overall project. Here are some tips to use along the way.
Leave out the Flash. There is not much to say about Flash other than it is no longer necessary. It weighs sites down with long load times and large files. It is not SEO friendly – search engines cannot see what is in your Flash movie. And it has not been and never will be viewable on iPhones and iPads. Advances in other programming languages can accomplish the same effect with smaller, more accessible and more SEO friendly files.
Take advantage of new HTML5 tags. Your attorneys of course do not need to learn a programming language in order to have a great law firm website. However, you should know to ask questions of your web development team. Are they using the most up to date, compliant code? What are they doing to make sure your website looks good to search engines? HTML5 has added several new tags, some of which help categorize content by relevance for search engines. There are SEO advantages to using up to date code, make sure your team is on top of them.
Forget about IE7. For many years, the Internet Explorer browser haughtily refused to play nicely with the rest of the web. This led to hours upon hours of wasted work and frustration while developers concocted hacks and fixes all to make websites that looked perfectly good on every other browser work on IE. Last year, web developer Lea Verou estimated that creating workarounds for IE 6 through 8 added 100% more work to a project. One company, kogan.com, recently went so far as to begin levying a 6.8 percent Internet Explorer 7 tax on all customers still using the browser.
Developers have long scorned Internet Explorer but grudgingly continued to work within its constraints. But that is no longer necessary. According to browser statistics provided by w3schools.com, only 2.1 percent of all Internet users in the world still use IE7. A tiny fraction of people who see your website will see it using IE7. It is old, rarely used, requires bulky, non-compliant code and causes many wasted billable hours – an expense your firm should not have to shoulder.
Use a trusted development team. This, of course, can be tricky. You may believe you have a trusted resource only to find they have been outsourcing your website to overseas contractors for pennies on the dollar. The best way to ensure you are working with a reputable web development team is to do due diligence. Look at their references. Call people who have worked with them. Ask questions. Make sure they place a premium on staying current with coding standards and development trends.
Attorneys are often stereotyped as being afraid of technology, but this perception is evolving. Technology is an essential component of attorney marketing and website design. It is important to stay aware of the technology-related decisions that are being made on your firm's behalf.
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