Every professional organization should have a polished website, especially a law firm. It engenders credibility from clients and potential clients, provides information about your firm and leaves a positive first impression.

In deciding to establish a website for your firm, perhaps the first thing that occurs to you is to contract a website developer. In all likelihood, you will wind up with all that you want in a website and it will look great. The downside is that this route will cost you, starting in the thousands. Of course, how great your website works and looks depends on the skill and talents of the developer that you hire. Also consider that websites are living entities and need maintenance, which will again cost every time you need a change.

Creating your own website sounds ludicrously daunting, to be sure. With a tool called a website builder, however, the process of building a site has become much simpler. You no longer need to be a technical guru with the heart and talents of a Michelangelo to create a stunning site.

Step 1: The Domain Name

You are going to need a domain name. This appears in the URL of the address bar of web browsers. Examples of domain names include practicepanther.com, americanbar.org, and supremecourt.gov. Decide on a name that will be easy for clients to remember.  A well-chosen domain name leads to more credibility.

Step 2: The Host

To publish your site, you must have a hosting provider. A host provides the server (special hard drives) space on which your website files reside. Your provider will offer a number of tools to help you manage your website. In fact, most providers also provide web builders. A few include PracticePanther, GoDaddy, HostGator, DreamHost, Liquid Web and TMD Hosting.

Once you have a hosting provider, upload your site files by using one of the many tools offered by your host provider. The hosting provider will lead you step-by-step through the process.

Step 3: The Template

Using a website builder is the best option for creating your own website. Examples of popular builders include Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly. Website builders give you “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG) views and allows for drag and drop. Not only is it not intimidating for non-techy people, but creating a website with web builders is actually a pretty fun venture.

Most builders have a staff dedicated to answering your questions, which is a tremendous help if you do happen to get stuck. Cost is much less than hiring a web developer and you can change your site whenever you wish. Most web builder vendors will give you a trial period so you can see how well a particular website builder suits you. It’s a good idea to take advantage of these trials and test out several builders.

Once you’ve chosen your perfect web builder, it’s time to start your creation. Your web builder will offer hundreds of themes. You can narrow the choice by searching for themes that were designed for law firms. Pick one that best fits your law firm.

Step 4: The Design

After you’ve chosen your template, it’s time to populate your pages with your own text, pictures, and videos, among other media that you might add. It’s a good idea to use photographs that were either shot be a professional photographer or obtained from a stock image company. You do not want to skimp on images as they speak volumes about your credibility as a professional law firm. Indeed, pictures are worth a thousand words.

When designing your site, be sure that each page is consistent with the other pages. Choose two, perhaps three fonts to populate the site. Your template should come with different color pallets, which you can change depending on your own preference. Be sure to stick with these pallets rather than have several colors strewn throughout your site. Too many design styles, colors, and fonts on one website presents as unprofessional.

Step 5: Search Engine Optimization

It’s extremely important to engage in search engine optimization. Your builder should provide tools to accomplish this task. Proper SEO will ensure your website will show up in search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Step 6: Test, test, test

Before you officially publish your site, upload your site for testing. Have several colleagues, friends, and family members test the site. They will probably discover issues that you did not recognize. Have them test for mistakes, ease of navigation, and appearance, among other issues.

Once your site has been tested and you’ve completed corrections and adjustments, officially launch your website. Let your staff know when you are launching the site. To publicize your site, talk it up on social media sites. You might want to place a few ads in various publications, including online publications and social media sites. Incorporate your site address in your stationery. Consider issuing a press release. Don’t forget to email an announcement to your clients.

Consider appointing a staff member to maintain the site after you have launched it. Again, a website should be a living, ever-changing publication kept fresh on at least a monthly basis.

Now that you have a beautiful, fully functioning website, you can cross this off your list of operating a successful law practice with one of today’s most important and useful digital tools.

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