As readers may notice, My Shingle has gotten a bit of a facelift — as it has over time – morphing from how we looked ten years ago to two weeks ago to the present. Ultimately, technology rather than design sensibility forced my hand: when Google announced last spring that it would take account of a site’s mobile-friendliness as part of ranking, I knew that I had to get with the program. Same is true for my home site which I finally updated earlier this week – though it’s still a work in progress. And while both sites look fine – if a bit bland – on the big screen, like big fish in a small pond, they rule on an iPhone screen or mobile device.
So why rely on a quick fixes to update my sites instead of forking up some money to hire an established law firm web design pro? Several reasons.
First, for me, a designer website flunks the cost benefit analysis. MyShingle isn’t a large enough source of revenue to justify a big spend, and has all the SEO it needs after nearly a dozen years of content production. Meanwhile – in contrast to Bob Ambrogi’s experience, I’ve found that most of my clients, and particularly referrals, are more likely to view my LinkedIn Profile (also in need of an update) than my law firm website.
Second, just as clients say about legal services, the same is true for web design – it’s not just the price but the value. When I shopped around for a design company, I found most wanted to upsell me on pricey add-ons for hosting, copywriting, content creation and SEO – services that I neither need nor want. Meanwhile, while many of the cheaper, “one-off” law firm design companies are reasonably priced (and a good option for lawyers who can’t or don’t want to DIY), most tend to offer overly-lawyer-looking, cookie-cutter and just plain ugly templates (maybe it’s the generic fonts and mustard or maroon tones) that just don’t appeal to me.
But the main reason that it doesn’t make sense to invest in a pricey website anymore? Moore’s Law – or at least a variant of it. Moore’s Law postulates that computer processing power would double exponentially, while relative cost would decrease. As explained here Moore’s observation is so significant because it “transformed computing from a rare and expensive venture into a pervasive and affordable necessity.”
The same holds true for web design. Technology changes so, so quickly – moving from those clunky, flashy self-coded HTML websites of the late 1990’s to languages like Moveable Type that powered blogs ten years ago to Word Press and the spare, elegant mobile design of today. Just two or three years ago, I had contemplated going with a one-page design which back then was so unique – yet now, is popular even for many law firm sites. These days, designers birth unique, new themes daily – and most are free or cheap and easily customizable even by tech novices. And because no one knows where web design is heading in the future why spend thousands of dollars to lock into a look that may be obsolete or even non-functional in six months or a year?
As with all advice, mileage may vary. If your website is your principal source of clients, or if you operate a virtual law firm where clients use your site daily and credibility is paramount, you have to suck up the cost of new development every 18 months as Lee Rosen suggests. But if you have a practice like mine that relies on a combination of traditional marketing (e-newsletter, speaking and lawyer referrals) and social media (Linked In & Twitter), you may want to reconsider a big spend on a website that will be out of style by next season. And with so many relatively easy to use and low cost options (even a five buck website if you want!, but more realistically, a few hundred dollars) and a little resourcefulness, you may never pay retail for a website again.