Web sites for solicitors - choosing a provider

Indeed, it was easy to see how a solicitor who did not speak the languages of HTML, PHP, Joomla, CMS, RSS, XML and SEO might get a little confused.

So what do you need to know when choosing a new web design agency for your law firms’ web site? And, how do you compare the quotations?

Choosing a Web Agency

As with choosing any new supplier, there are a few obvious things a solicitor needs to look for:

  • How long have they been established?
  • Are they the right size – big enough to provide all the support you need, small enough to care?
  • Do they have any quality marks?
  • Are they financially sound?
  • Have they designed any other legal web sites?

Of course you will want to judge the quality of their web sites – so you should ask them to provide you with details of their most recent web site projects.

Spend some time navigating these to see if:

  • Web pages are quick to load.
  • Links are intuitive and working.
  • The design, content and layout are pleasing.

If they are offering a content management system (CMS), ask to see a demonstration. Seeing two or three systems will help you to assess which is the easiest to use.

Take up references too, especially from other solicitors, and ask their other clients how efficient they are to work with. What is support like? Do they understand the importance of accuracy and attention to detail in the legal profession?

Make sure to ask what work is done in-house and whether any programming or design work is outsourced. Take care to review their terms and conditions.

Comparing Quotations

There is the initial, usually one-off, cost of building your web site which may be split into phases as follows:

Web site concept and design – You can expect your web site design agency to present two, three or more initial concepts for your law firm’s new web site.  From these you would usually agree a preferred design and colour theme.

This will then be developed into an agreed home page design and internal page template(s).  Signing off the designs is a typical key milestone (and billing point).

A Wireframe – may be created by a larger web design agency or for a large and complex site or module, such as a quotation module. It is essentially a working model of the site, reflecting all the link structures and any calculations.  Ironing out the structured bugs at this stage makes the programming much easier for the web developers. Small, simple web sites are unlikely to require a wireframe.

Web site build - This is the cost of programming the web site and it may or may not include the cost of a content management system (CMS). Some programmes use their own CMS or they purchase a third party system, or alternatively use an open-source one.

Take care here as some web design agencies charge an ongoing monthly fee for use of their CMS, which should not be necessary. Over several years this can make the total cost of the web site extremely expensive and it is quite unnecessary, now that there are many good CMS available.

Training - The cost of initially training you to use the CMS is usually included in the web site price. However, if the person within your team leaves, you should expect to pay for another member of the team to be trained in the future if necessary.

The only on-going cost that you should face is a small charge for hosting the web site each year.  You are not usually under any obligation to host this with the web site designer.

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