A website is integral to your law firm’s online presence. Your ideal clients use websites every day to find solutions to their problems. Without an optimized law firm website, you miss out on the chance to reach those potential clients.
But the prospect of choosing the right tools to build a law firm website may seem overwhelming.
Many lawyers are attracted to the idea of using a simple DIY website builder to get started quickly. The bad news is that most website builders fall short of a law firm’s needs.
Simple page builders don’t offer the options needed for a website that performs well, competes in the marketplace, and wins you new clients. A content management system is a better choice for most law firms who want to build a site that effectively advertises their legal services.
Website Builders Vs. Content Management Systems (CMS)
You can use either a website builder or content management system to build your law firm website. Beyond that similarity, there are significant differences to consider.
The former offers ease of use at the cost of functionality. While the latter excels in the flexibility and control you have over the resulting site.
A content management system requires you to have a hosting service first. Then you can install your CMS software, such as WordPress, on your hosting plan.
A CMS manages and stores your content. This means you can upload your content in a user-friendly backend without going through FTP or writing raw HTML on your own.
Most CMSs will need a page builder on top of the CMS software. A page builder determines the layout of the site. In other words, this tool is what allows you to create and display your web design.
There are many different types of website builders available. These are simple all-in-one platforms. In most cases, these let you drag and drop your design in a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) environment.
Website builders vary in terms of their templates, prices, and features. Some of the most popular website builders include household names like Wix or Squarespace.
Some hosting services like GoDaddy will also offer their own website builder. These host-provided builders are very limited, which is why they didn’t make our list.
In terms of content management systems, WordPress.org is the most common. More than 43% of the Internet is built on WordPress. Because it’s so widespread, there’s tons of support and functionality for the platform.
Most website builders do not offer the same capabilities as WordPress CMS. They’re easy to use but severely limited after you’ve built your site.
With a website builder, you’re limited on important factors like:
- Ownership and control
- Options for optimizing for search engines like Google
- Technical optimizations
- Features, plugins, and integrations
Our recommendation for lawyers is that while a page builder is easier for beginners, a CMS is the best option.
Should Lawyers Use a Website Builder or a CMS?
In almost every case, using WordPress is better than trying to build your site in a website builder. Using WordPress may take some additional time or outsourcing, but this is better for you in the long run.
Simple page builders are easy to use, but they make it more difficult for you to market your law firm in the future. It can also be challenging to move your law website from a website builder over to WordPress in the future.
Page builders such as Squarespace and Wix are not as flexible as WordPress. This means you will not be able to optimize or tweak for law firm SEO in the future.
Best Website Builder Option: WordPress CMS + Gutenberg Page Builder
The best website builder option is WordPress CMS with Gutenberg page builder. WordPress is a free and open-source CMS platform used by an incredible number of websites. Because the platform is in such wide use, there’s a ton of support and tools for it.
The WordPress CMS refers to the self-hosted WordPress.org rather than WordPress.com. Many people get this mixed up when they start.
WordPress.com may allow you to launch a site quickly, but it is a paid platform with fewer options. WordPress.org allows you to access the customization options and plugins a law firm website needs. It’s also free to use, meaning you only pay to host your WordPress.org website.
WordPress is not a page builder, but it does come with a pre-installed page-building plugin. The Gutenberg plugin lets you create outstanding layouts for the pages on your site.
We recommend using the Gutenberg Block Editor because:
- The WordPress team designed and optimized Gutenberg specifically for the platform
- You’re less likely to encounter bugs than with 3rd party plugin options
- Pages built with Gutenberg load quickly and result in a fast site
- It’s free
With Gutenberg, you can edit your pages and check out a live preview in a new tab to verify the edits you’ve made. There are blocks for common elements such as text headings, galleries, buttons, and more.
There are also thousands of website design templates available for WordPress. You can use these on your site to get a quick start. They’re fully customizable, so you can modify them to fit your aesthetics with the help of a designer if need be.
Because of WordPress’s wide adoption, there’s also a massive plugin library. This means you can leverage many features and customization options you wouldn’t have in a DIY website builder.
If you’re considering WordPress, you may also want some inspiration for your new site design. Check out our guides to the best law firm websites, the best personal injury websites, and the best solo attorney websites. You can also check out our law firm website design guide.
Other Website Builder Options
If you’re not convinced that WordPress is the right CMS for your law firm, there are other options out there.
Below are a few alternate options. We don’t recommend using these, but it’s a good idea to know what’s available. We recommend something that can grow with your firm rather than working for a short time before you have to throw it out and start over.
If you build your website as something basic on Wix but later decide you want more advanced functionality like interactive forms, you’d have to move everything over to a new website builder.
If you are choosing not to use WordPress, Webflow is the second-best option. This is an all-in-one page builder built from the ground up with the performance of the website in mind.
Unlike other website builders, this means you can make SEO and technical optimizations on your website. Sites built with Webflow can rank on Google Search and perform well for visitors.
Trying to learn to do something on Webflow or to add further personalization is easy. Webflow’s academy and detailed tutorials can walk you through the entire platform.
While there are many benefits to using Webflow, the way it handles blog post content feels like an afterthought. It also does not provide the streamlined experience of WordPress.
Webflow is best for building incredible static pages, such as your practice area pages. In addition, it has fewer plugins than WordPress, though the library is growing.
Elementor is a WordPress page builder plugin. It has some major benefits because it makes things simple for users who want to build on WordPress. These include:
- A live editor
- Pre-created templates
- A front-end page builder
- Drag and drop design elements
- Ability to create responsive websites
- Extensive widgets for customization
Elementor also has a simple workflow for responsive design. This makes it easy to develop your site so that it looks good whether someone is viewing it on a computer, tablet, or mobile device.
The flexibility of Elementor makes it a decent choice since it comes with unique layouts, designs, and styling. That means you can spend as much time tweaking as you like if that’s your preference. With that said, the free version is fairly limiting.
However, there are some serious drawbacks to Elementor, which are that it:
- Has many bugs that make it hard to do basic things like copy/paste or save a page
- Requires substantial WordPress memory and loads slowly
- Has numerous problems with messy code, which decreases page speed
Overall, these issues are frustrating from the design end and create a poor user experience.
Wix is a very simple tool for building a website, but for that reason doesn’t offer as much support or personalization for lawyers.
The pricing and built-in templates make this tempting for lawyers building their first law firm website. Unfortunately, most of these sites don’t look professional when published. There are also many limitations to what these templates can do.
Other issues with Wix include:
- Slow page loading
- Lack of analytics tools
- You can’t switch templates once you launch
All in all, the phrase “you get what you pay for” applies to Wix. You might end up having to pay someone to move you over to another host or CMS in the future if you can’t deal with the downsides.
Squarespace has over 140 professional templates available. This may make it appealing for a lawyer who doesn’t want to spend time customizing every aspect of their site.
The blogging feature on Squarespace is better than most competitors in its class. Plans are affordable at $16/month, but the platform doesn’t allow as much personalization as other website builders.
Some companies who built their site on Squarespace report usability concerns, too, so you can expect a learning curve. Squarespace also falls short on backup and restore options and depth of navigation.
Legal practice management software company Clio offers its own website builder for attorneys. Clio includes this option as an add-on to some of its software plans.
Publishing a website with Clio is easy, but that may be where the benefits end. It’s probably not robust enough for ongoing law firm marketing needs.
The customization options are limited here. You can choose some custom colors and images and add your own copy, but there aren’t many other options. This may make it difficult for lawyers on this platform to stand out in a crowded market.
On the plus side, the user experience on these sites is good. You can create contact forms that hook directly into your client intake system. But without options for search engine optimization and technical fixes, you may not get many visitors to fill those forms out.
LawLytics is a DIY website builder specifically for the legal industry. Despite the fact that it caters to attorneys, there are some drawbacks.
The first thing you should know is that you will not own your LawLytics website. That’s a huge problem if you ever want to use a different service. If you want to transfer your website, you’re guaranteed to start from scratch.
The membership pricing for LawLytics is $200/month. That does not include your initial setup fee. Setup fees vary based on whether you’ll be importing your current website. The membership comes with a responsive and hosted website and a dedicated support team.
If you need to make your own edits from time to time, you can add things like navigational titles, sidebars, and page titles on your own. You can also upload your own videos, images, links, and forms quickly.
Much like Clio, LawLytics sites limit the things you can do to stand out from other firms. If you decide you want to make major changes to your LawLytics site, you may not be able to do so.
Create a Professional Law Firm Website
If it’s time for you to invest in a custom law firm website, look for an experienced partner to help you.
At Rankings.io, we have extensive experience building modern, high-performing websites for law firms. We can also work with you to develop your law firm marketing strategy. Combining these elements will put you in the best position to grow your law firm with new ideal clients.
Contact us today to see how a modern and optimized law firm website can help you meet your goals.