What Makes a Good Attorney…Small Business…Consultant…Engineer…Web Site?

I recently responded to a question in an online forum that asked: “What makes a good attorney web site?” I thought the way the question was framed was interesting because, on the one hand, I do think it’s important with any communication to focus on specific objectives. But, on the other hand, I would also say that what makes a good attorney web site is very much the same as what might makea good small business web site, or a good consultant web site, or a good engineer web site–you get the picture. As with any other communication tool (business card, signage, newspaper ad, billboard), some general rules apply.
Any web site should be developed with objectives and audience in mind (the same as any communication tool). Regardless of the business you’re in, the profession you represent, or the customers/clients you serve, when thinking about how best to develop–or improve–your web site, my recommendations would be:
  • Start by identifying what your specific objectives are with your site – to raise awareness? generate leads? educate?
  • Then consider who your desired audience is, very specifically.
  • Then think about how your audience is likely to seek information about what you have to offer, what questions they might have, what information might be useful, etc.
  • Then organize that information in a clear, easy to read, easy to follow and easy to understand manner.

Most importantly, all of the above must occur from an “outside in” perspective. It’s not about the information you want to share and how you want to share it, it’s about the information that your target audience needs/wants to have and how they seek to find/access that information.

For instance, if I’m looking for an attorney–let’s say I need an attorney to help me set up a business partnership–what am I likely to be most interested in as I begin my search for someone to represent me?
  • I’m probably looking for someone located near me geographically.
  • I want an attorney who specializes in setting up business partnerships.
  • I’m likely to be interested in the attorney’s philosophies about setting up business partnerships.
  • I’m probably interested in learning about other businesses the attorney has worked with.
  • I might want to get a sense of the attorney’s personality to determine if this is someone I’d like to work with.
  • I will need to know how to get in touch with this attorney–by phone, by email and where his/her office is physically located.
So, given these likely areas of interest, if I’m the attorney thinking about setting up or improving my web site, how might this information help me determine: a) what kind of information to include and b) how best to display/locate that information? ¬†In addition, how will this information help me with my SEO efforts?
As someone who has been in the communication field for a number of years thinking “from the outside in” comes fairly naturally to me. I’ve learned, though, that it doesn’t necessarily come very naturally to others. The natural tendency for most of us is to think about what we want to say¬†before we think about what our audiences need/want to hear. To be successful in any communication it’s critical that we turn that tendency around–that we think carefully, and creatively, about what our intended audience is likely to need or want to know, the questions and concerns they might have, the specific, nitty-gritty nuggets of information that will help them make an informed decision. And then, importantly, we need to think about how we can convince them that we–among all the other options available to them–represent their best choice.
No, it’s not easy. And in an increasingly cluttered world it is becoming more challenging. But, whether you’re designing a web site, an eletter or a newspaper ad, an important first step is thinking about your audience and the point at which someone who is a member of your audience needs what you have to offer.

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