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What makes a great website? It depends who you’re trying to reach.

Sure, accessibility on all devices is a clear priority (we’ve previously written about responsive web design as a compelling solution). But today, the success of a firm’s website really depends on the needs of the intended audience: if you’re a newspaper, your audience is readers, and your website needs readability above all else. If you’re a retailer, your audience is shoppers, and your website needs to alluringly and accurately display products. And yes, if you’re a law firm, your website is just as important, and you too must consider how it delivers on the needs of prospects, clients, recruits and other key audiences.

We recently attended the Business Development Institute’s Social Media Marketing Summit for Law Firms. One key takeaway was that overall, law firms are missing an important opportunity to use their websites in a way that engages and informs prospects. Indeed, one general counsel who spoke at the event expressed exasperation at how difficult it was to glean any information from law firms’ websites when she was recently looking to hire a lawyer. In fact, when a website didn’t provide the information she was looking for, she kept searching until she found one that did. Because your website should never turn prospects away, we put together a few best practices and recommendations for overhauling your firm’s digital hub.

Make Vital Information Easy to Find

In an increasingly digital world, your website will often be the first and most common touchpoint at which prospects, recruits and other audiences will reach you. The core question at the heart of every website redesign is: what are your visitors looking for? In the case of law firms, a potential client will most likely start by looking for the capabilities and experience of a firm’s lawyers. A recruit, on the other hand, is looking for information about what it is like to work at your firm. Therefore, the most important characteristic of a law firm’s website should be navigability and ease of finding information. Finding lawyers – and their expertise – should be easy and intuitive. If this information is difficult to find, the visitor will likely search for another firm that more easily provides this basic information. The same can be said of recruits. They want to find information about your firm’s culture and their potential career path. They don’t want to go on a wild goose chase. This is especially true of recent graduates. In today’s digital-first landscape, a poor user experience speaks volumes about your firm.

Publish Content, but Cut the Jargon

The second vital aspect of the law firm website is content, which builds both your brand and reputation. Luckily, law firms have a wealth of content at their disposal. The challenge is that it’s often not easy or engaging to consume: PDFs filled with legal jargon are complicated to access, read, and understand. Instead, slice up these long PDFs into more digestible blog posts (around 500 words), and simplify the language (jargon often isolates the reader: it’s the lawyer’s job – not the client’s – to understand legalese). Content at its best – be it blog posts, whitepapers, videos, webinars, etc. – offers valuable information and expertise that is helpful and understandable across various audiences.

Make Content Shareable

Content should also be easily shareable, especially via social media. A reader is less likely to share a PDF (which usually involves downloading and then emailing as an attachment – an arduous process for a busy prospect) than a blog post that includes social share buttons. Blog posts also become much more engaging with the addition of visual media – images, videos, infographics, etc. – and here’s statistical proof that visual content leads to more readers, prospects, and clients.

Your prospects and recruits are approaching you just as they approach everything else today: via your website. And as the hub of your digital brand experience, it’s vital that law firms pay particular attention to their website’s navigability and content. Again, it’s all too easy today for a prospect or recruit to move onto a more user-friendly and informative site. By providing relevant information, and content that is compelling, timely, and consistent on a well-organized site, your online audience will find it easier to learn about and connect with you.