Jayne Navarre and I were chatting yesterday, getting ready for our presentation next week at the Legal Marketing Association‘s annual conference, and we touched on the functionality of websites and blogs.

We both have participated in, and launched, websites, and now blogs, for law firms. In the beginning, it was about the graphics, the flash, the WOW factor.

Personally, I think we have evolved.

It’s now about the functionality. The ability to locate and access key information. It’s the ability for the blog or website to be accessed from different platforms: laptops, desktops, smart phones, RSS readers, etc. It’s about engaging people. It’s about the conversation.

It’s about being found, rising to the top of Google search results in a crowded field. It’s about SEO. It’s about “sticking” on the page and page views per visitor. You have a mere second or two to capture someone … if they get stuck with “loading,” or can’t find what they want quickly and intuitively, they’re moving on.

As I prepare to redo my law firm’s website, functionality is number one on my list. How do I not only get the viewer to engage in the website, how do I get the attorneys in our firm to engage with the website? And, yeah, I have ideas about that.

With all this in mind, I couldn’t help but dig deeper into Greg Lambert‘s post today on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog taking MoFo to task over their new site … and he has some great points:

Never mind the fact that it looks like whoever they paid to design the website appeared to be “print media experts” and not web designers, this site loads like it is running on an old 486 processor.  Why on earth would a site that is basically two colors, run so slow??

I went to IWebTool.com to see if it was really as slow as I thought by comparing it to some other law firm websites.  Sure enough, it was.  On average it took over 1.5 seconds to load the initial webpage.  Click on some of the links and it sometimes took 3 seconds to load.  When I compared it to Skadden’s website, or DLA Piper, the MoFo site was significantly slower.  Skadden’s and DLA Piper loaded 1kb of data in .05 seconds or less compared to MoFo’s site taking 1.26 seconds.  That’s means it takes MoFo 25 times longer to load the page!!

I’m going to add this: I’m not going to a legal website for gimmicks. I’m there for information. Usually something like this:

  • I need more information on the attorneys that presented at today’s beauty contest.
  • Can this firm handle my business?
  • Does this law firm represent clients like me?
  • Can these lawyers help me solve my business problem?
  • Ugh?? What’s the address where I’m going for that deposition?

Flash, video, cool graphics and “branding” are all fine and good, and they’ll win the designers and marketing team some really nifty awards, but will they “differentiate” you from the pack of other AmLaw 100 firm? Will they encourage or discourage returning viewers? Does the home page provide enough content-rich information to push the firm in search results? Can the user find the information they need, or are they going down a rabbit hole of “click here”?

Websites and blogs today are about information, engaging people, about conversations. For retailers, it’s about selling a product. For a law firm, it’s about selling services (the people!). And, we all know, that all things being equal, a client will hire the attorney that they know, like and trust.