I regularly speak with attorneys about how they can improve their online presence and grow their firm. One key point which I always raise, and which I regularly blog about, is the fact that attorneys should invest in marketing assets which they will own and control. This is a point I went over at length when I discussed how attorneys can avoid using pay per click. One key point to owning your assets, and being in control of your own future, is to ask your web developer which platform they will be building your new website on. Interestingly, this is a question which I am seldom asked and I feel it should be one of the most important points raised. One key thing, and the topic of this article, is the fact that you need to have your site built on a platform that’s “portable,” meaning that if you choose to switch developers you can take your site with you rather than having to have a new one built by ‘da next guy. For this reason I strongly, strongly, (strongly) suggest that you utilize a developer who will build your law firm’s new site on WordPress. Let’s talk about why.
I’m going to give a very brief explanation of what WordPress is so I can explain why it’s the best choice for your law firm. This is important so you can understand the reasons for which WordPress should be your developer’s platform of choice. I’ll keep the explanation brief so you don’t wind up looking like this guy:
Trust me when I say there’s a reason you need to understand the following.
WordPress is an open source software platform which is used for building and maintaining websites. This means it’s free for use by anyone. In January of 2015 it was being used by 23.3 percent of the world’s websites1. It’s maintained and constantly upgraded by a worldwide community of developers. Some of these developers volunteer time to improving WordPress and most make their living by developing third-party software applications which work in conjunction with a WordPress website. These developers meet at events known as “Word Camps.” In 2006 the first camp drew more than 500 attendees2. In other words, without paying a dime, web developers have access to one of the world’s most popular platforms and that platform has a robust developer base which is constantly maintaining and updating the software. This is in contrast with a web company which uses their own software, for which they must pay developers.
WordPress is the best option for law firms due to its huge developer base
WordPress is used by a large percentage of the world for a reason – it’s frickin’ awesome. It’s true that it’s not necessarily the best option for a “DIY” attorney (as I talked about in my post on issues for lawyers to consider when using WordPress). It is, however, the best option for those hiring a web developer. Let’s quickly look at why its huge developer base makes it better than most of the other software platforms used for law firm websites and how it leads to reduced expenses.
As mentioned above, WordPress has many hundreds of developers supporting the software on a regular basis. This has led to seven upgrades in the software’s version in just the last year3 (which is a lot). Software developers are highly paid individuals and most “attorney website design” companies, who utilize their own in-house software, are unlikely to have a number of developers even close in size to the group which supports WordPress. It’s just hard to see, in my humble opinion, how such companies can come close to giving their product the level of support which WordPress receives. Using WP for your site, therefore, means you will be on a platform which is more widely supported.
A key factor about WordPress’ developer base is that they support it as an open source project. This means that if you hire a website designer who will build your site on WordPress then that designer has access to free software. He, therefore, will not be passing his software costs on to you. This is different from a provider who uses their own in-house platform. They have to pay engineers to develop it and maintain it. Such providers, in turn, have no choice but to pass this cost along to you. This leaves you paying for something that you could have gotten for free.
The short and skinny of it is simple – there are likely fewer developers working on the in-house software of attorney website providers when compared to the number of developers supporting WordPress. Website providers utilizing their own software are also likely to have a much higher cost structure than a developer using WordPress. This higher cost will likely be passed on to you.
Attorneys should use WordPress as it allows them to own and control their website
If you hire a provider who uses an in-house platform then you have a problem. You won’t be able to set that platform up on your own server/hosting in the event you choose to part ways with that provider. This means that you will have to have a new website built. Many law firm website designers attempt to spin this by saying that “you own your content” at the end of the day. All this means is that you can build another website and bring your existing content into it. This means, in the end, that you’re still having to build a new website. WordPress defeats this problem. It can easily be moved, in its entirety, from one server to another and you’re not locked in to someone’s proprietary platform. If you want to make sure you own your site at the end of the day then it’s simple – make sure you hire a developer who is building it on WordPress.
All of the websites built as part of our attorney website design & SEO services utilize WordPress. We do so because we feel it provides the best option for law firms. When choosing a web developer you should ask 1) whether they use in-house software and 2) how they justify it given the issues discussed above.
1WordPress – Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WordPress
2WordPress, Develpment & Support – Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WordPress#Development_and_support
3WordPress, Release History – Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WordPress#Release_history