Site Gags: 3 Things to Consider When Choosing a Website Designer

For my money, unless you have actually been a real-life, honest-to-goodness website designer at some point in your career, and if you’re a lawyer, it’s never a good idea to design and maintain your own website.  It’s kind of like performing open heart surgery on yourself, and it can have the same negative effects on your business that it would on your body — including the potential for flat-lining.  Even otherwise traditional law firms are drawing more and more business from the web; and so, the law firm website, as the online hub for your business, continues to be vital to generating law firm revenue.

So, let’s start at the beginning, and I’ll tell you three things to watch out for when you’re choosing a website design firm:

  1. Own your Own Domain.  The cheesiest website design scam is when the vendor buys your domain name for you and sells it back to you for an exorbitant rate before the vendor will release you from your contract.  No reputable provider does this.  There is, of course, an easy fix to this: buy your domain name(s) before you hire a web designer,
  2. Don’t Pay for Simple Updates.  I hear from so many attorney who tell me they’re paying their website designers hundreds of dollars an hour to make basic page updates to websites: things like revising contact information or publishing a blog post or adding a photo.  By and large, with modern CMS systems, you should be able to make basic changes on your own by accessing the backend of your site.  Now, if you truly don’t want to make any changes to your website, but want to farm that out instead, that’s cool: just make the choice consciously, and understand the cost.
  3. Subscription Maintenance Plans.  Most everything you pay for (especially in the realm of technology) is moving toward a subscription payment model.  (This is mostly because it stabilizes income for vendors; it’s the closest thing a business owner can get to a salary.)  And, the subscription model is becoming more prevalent in website design, as well.  The majority of vendors are now charging monthly maintenance fees.  But, if you don’t want that — maybe you want an annual review instead, or the opportunity to call your vendor to troubleshoot if an ad hoc issue arises — make sure you’re clear about that with your vendor, and that you negotiate the term out of the contract.  Understand the risk, though.  It’s like buying home heating oil in the Northeast on a monthly basis versus when the tank is empty: if the winter is unseasonably cold, you win out with the former strategy, and if the winter is unseasonably warm, you win out with the latter strategy.  If your contact form breaks, do you want to be left out in the cold?

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If you want more (or less) out of your relationship with your website designer, we can help.

The Wyoming State Bar offers free law practice management consulting services through Red Cave Law Firm Consulting.  To request a consult, visit the Wyoming State Bar’s law practice management page, and start running your law firm like a business.

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