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DIY Law Firm Website? Here's Your Shopping List

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By William Peacock, Esq. on December 17, 2014 10:18 AM

It you build it, they will come. Maybe. If you build it right. And there's a lot that goes into building a law firm website "right": SEO, graphics, mobile-friendly layout, content, conversion optimization, and a whole lot more.

But don't jump off that building yet. Just like those with DIY motivation can learn to tile a bathroom floor, those who want to create their own websites can do so, and you don't even need to know code. But you will need some tools. And a whole lot of time and motivation.

Let's start with those tools:

1. A Domain Name.

What should your name be? Don't go too long, because something like CaliforniaDomesticRelationsAttorney.com is bound to be misspelled by your clientele. Personally, I'm really liking the new TLD (top-level domain, the part after the ".") opportunities, because it'll be much easier to find a fun, memorable, distinctive brand like willie.lawyer than trying to find anything.com that isn't already taken by a lawyer or a domain name squatter.

Domain names often go on sale, especially .com names for your first year or two, while the newer TLDs run about $20 to $40 per year.

2. A Web Host.

What's in a name? Nothing. You bought the address -- now you need the house. You need somewhere to store the files that the name will point to.

Fortunately, Web hosting space is getting really cheap. A friend set up her personal site a few weeks ago on GoDaddy and used their WordPress hosting, which is as cheap as $1 per month if you only plan on hosting one site -- your law firm website, presumably -- though note that if you start getting hundreds of thousands of visitors per month, you'll need a more expensive plan.

3. WordPress Template.

There are a lot of free templates out there. And if you tinker with one enough, you might even be able to build a unique and professional website for your firm. If you want an easier time doing so, you can buy premium themes from a number of companies out there, many of which will walk you through the setup process and help you with any minor code tweaks that you may need to do.

One small tip from personal experience: Make sure that premium theme provider allows automatic updates. Otherwise, you're stuck paying a yearly subscription fee to keep accessing the same theme.

4. Email Provider.

If you've paid for WhateverLawyer.Lawyer, you probably want a personalized email address -- you [at] whateverlawyer.lawyer. Google used to provide a free Google Apps account to small businesses, but those days are gone. Your best choice for free or cheap is Microsoft, whose comparable email, Office Web Apps, and other freemium services are on par with Google and free for small businesses.

5. Billable Hours.

And there's the rub: Anyone can learn to create a website using WordPress. Seriously, it is almost as easy as using Facebook once it is set up properly. But, you're going to spend hours upon hours setting up your domain name, Web host, configuring your email services' MX servers, and trying to find a WordPress theme that conveys your unique brand. (And then you'll be wading through the world of writing SEO-friendly content, dealing with WordPress security bugs, server crashes, idiot hackers from Algeria, and more.)

That's why people pay the pros. You can spend those hours billing clients, or you can spend them doing things the DIY route. Would you rather tile your own floor or pay someone to do it right and do it quickly? I'd be remiss not to mention that FindLaw does websites. It's true. Our marketing experts can build your site while you build caseloads. Just sayin'.

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