Just called up a colleague’s website to find it was trashed with error messages, the result of an unsuccessful attempt to switch IT providers.
Here are some of the most important lessons that I have learned from working with many clients in website development, updates and transitions:
1) If you plan to contract with a provider, first, get the name of the program it is to be developed with. Today, the safest – and most common – program websites are developed in WordPress. If your developer is not using it, move on to one who does. This is the vehicle that makes sure your website it’s completely portable, and your developer can’t hold you hostage.
Second, get a written development agreement that specifies total costs, maintenance costs, hourly rates for changes, and certifies that the website will be 100% portable, with a dollar-specific penalty clause if it proves to be otherwise. It should also specifiy that you own full rights to everything created.
2) Make sure that you own your own domain name. You’d be surprised how many un-techy people hand the whole thing over to a web developer and later discover they are trapped because the developer both owns the domain name and has created a non-portable website.
3) Schedule someone in the office to do a monthly test of every piece of the website, including menu bars, linked documents, contact forms (actually submit a contact form each time to make sure they show up in the appropriate in-box) and out-links.
5) Make a (marketing) schedule to add and manage content on at least a quarterly basis, if not more often. Static websites fall off the search engines; frequent changes keep its ranking up.
6) Think carefully if they’re trying to sell you a blog with the site. If your plan is to post legal stuff, don’t. Nobody but your competitors cares about the legal stuff. Your prospects and clients won’t read it. If your plan is to do articles with daily relevance to your target market – say, senior issues, community issues or business issues, good for you.
But think beyond content to commitment. Blogs are only good marketing when they are constantly fed – ideally weekly, at least every couple of weeks, and you work to build subscribers, or have a regular procedure to push out notifications to a larger list. And unless you are deeply committed, you will almost inevitably stop, or at least slow down, and it will become a burden.
And if you plan to hire a ghost-writer, check with your Bar counsel first. Some Bar associations require that such materials have to be written by the lawyer personally, and labelling someone else’s work as your own is an ethical violation.
Finally, if you’re really committed to a blog, don’t use the web developer’s blog. Most are restrictive and not blogger-friendly. Use a true WordPress blog, either directly at https://wordpress.com/website/ or through one of the facilitators like GoDaddy.com.
So. If the above cautions have you nervous – or if the whole idea of creating – or taking charge of – your website or starting a blog seems daunting, just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 407-830-9810. always happy to share my thought and help however I can.