By: Sharon Berman,
Published: The Leadership Exchange, Greater Los Angeles Chapter – Association of Legal Administrators
Have you gone out lately to get estimates on having your website revamped? If so, you’ve probably noticed that professional fees vary widely, and you may even have suffered sticker shock if you haven’t done a website since the 1990’s. Of course, much depends on what you want and how extensive your site is. But regardless of the size and complexity of your site, here are some points to consider and questions to ask to make sense of the great variation in prices, in order to get the product you want.
First, make sure the creative team you select views your site as part and parcel of your marketing strategy. Your website is an integral part of your firm’s marketing, and cannot be created in a vacuum. After all, it’s the first place a prospective client or attorney-candidate goes to check out your firm. A professional website, with fresh information, is your opportunity to demonstrate your firm’s energy and leadership. A stale website, on the other hand, gives the impression of a stale firm. The creative firm you select to create your site needs to see it from an overall marketing perspective and know how to evaluate what it needs to support your objectives.
While you want a creative consultant or team to see your site as part of a larger picture, how much or how little strategic and marketing support you need will influence the cost. If redoing your website is your first step in ramping up on your marketing, you’ll need more direction and input than if you’ve been assessing and evaluating your messages on an ongoing basis. For example, if you and your partners have a distinct vision of your site, there are very skilled people in the marketplace who may be able to put together the pieces you provide. However, their skill set and/or experience may not include looking beyond the design of your site in order to understand your firm and markets, and what you are trying to achieve.
The next question is, what exactly does the fee include? Is it just for the design, or does it include copywriting, and to what extent? Some firms expect you to hand them approved copy, others edit what you give them, and still others provide a writer who will meet with you and write the copy for you, capturing your firm’s unique story. Does the writer have experience in the legal field, writing for lawyers and their markets? If not, how much educating are you willing to do? Although Los Angeles is full of good writers, communicating a law firm’s story, and differentiating it from the competition, is not something easily accomplished without industry experience.
Further, it’s important to ask whether the fee includes the programming of the site once the design is completed. Although it may seem obvious to include the programming, some design firms quote you just that – the design, and presume that you understand that programming is separate, and will refer you to others for the programming, or may quote you the programming fee once the design is done. Also ask whether the fee includes a Content Management System which allows you to go in and make changes yourself once the site is up and running.
Ask how many revisions the price quote includes and consider carefully how many rounds you may need. Most likely, it will take more than you think. If you know your partners will go through many rounds of changes, negotiate for that up-front. If a web designer’s fee seems low, it could go up substantially if the charges for each iteration start mounting.
It’s crucial that you ask who will serve as project manager of the site development process. It may take a tremendous amount of your time if it turns out that you are responsible for having to liaise with both the writer and designer, providing instructions for each and making sure that changes are made. On the other hand, if the website development firm provides project management, you can focus on more important tasks.
Finally, investigate what kind of experience the creative team has. For someone unfamiliar with the legal field, it can be a steep learning curve, and you may find yourself spending a great deal of time educating them on law firms and their markets. Although a case can be made for using someone without law firm experience to get a fresh perspective and new ideas, beware of going too far afield. For example, even highly “creatives” who specialize in entertainment or fashion may find it difficult to develop a more conservative or corporate look required for a law firm.
As with everything in life, web design pricing comes down to trade-offs between what you are willing to take on yourself and how much educating you are willing to do to get the desired result from a designer. However, there are no trade-offs when it comes to one certain fact: competing in today’s market requires a site that showcases who your firm is and what it can do.
Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Marketing & PR, a marketing consulting firm specializing in working with professional services firms. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The firm’s website is www.berbay.com.