With more and more potential clients going online to utilize search engines and third party review sites such as Yelp in order to find well-respected, reliable, and honest legal council, an online presence is an absolute necessity for attorneys. A competently designed, informative, and regularly updated website can grant those in the legal field an edge over their competitors. However, slogging through website design listings makes for a daunting, dizzying, and occasionally frustrating task. By using the free services listed here, lawyers aspiring to build or improve upon their websites can find the tools to set everything in motion from the ground up. Whether they desire to start from a template or start from scratch with basic coding, the most valuable – and free! – resources for both creating as well as promoting legal services.
- 1. Wordpress: Blogs make for one of the best methods of generating content. While it is inadvisable for a legally-oriented website to exclusively build from this type of format, incorporating a blog via Wordpress can do nothing but help establish and solidify an online presence. It allows for easier access to widgets, del.icio.us, Reddit, and Digg plugins, Twitter streaming, and other features that both supplement as well as promote content. All Wordpress blogs come with a bevy of templates, but it is possible to create a customized format for better incorporation into a website.
2. Twitter: Offering free, unlimited 140-character “tweets,” Twitter may make for a poor website, but it still operates as a very useful promotional tool. A Twitter widget on a main site can keep potential clients informed about availability in real time, letting them know if they will be calling during vacation days or hectic periods where they may be contacted a few days later. It allows for faster communication than updating a blog, and can be updated via phone for moments when a computer may not be available. Likewise, subscribers to the accompanying Twitter can be informed as to when the website is updated with new content.
3. HTML Goodies: HTML is one of the most basic building blocks of web design, and this site offers tutorials and information appropriate for all skill levels. It constantly adapts to new trends and developments in design, offering applications and scripts to help those constructing websites better incorporate new and useful technologies such as the aforementioned Twitter. In spite of the site’s title, tutorials and tools for other coding languages such as CSS, PHP, XHTML, and Java are available as well. The security section may be of particular interest to lawyers who allow potential clients to contact them through forms on the website.
4. Websitetemplates.org: Free and fully customizable website templates are available here for lawyers who lack the time to build a website from basic scripting and coding. Only one explicitly legal-themed template is available, however. Though with the level of customization available, it is entirely possible to pick another professional layout or color scheme and switch the pictures out to something more appropriate.
5. Templatenavigator.com: More free templates for the harried lawyer are available here, though the sophisticated ones incorporating Flash and other animation techniques must be purchased. The corporate and company themes seem the most appropriate and professional frameworks for an attorney’s home page.
6. stock.xchng: The internet may frequently operate as a complete affront to copyright law, but attorneys especially need to set an example if they wish to establish credibility. All of the thousands of photos on stock.xchng are free of both charge and royalty. Individual photographers may require a credit, but otherwise the licensing agreement allows for pictures to be displayed on commercial sites. However, those containing people may be subject to likeness issues and could possible require further permissions.
7. The CSS Tutorial: CSS code can help lawyers with a little extra time on their hands clean up and streamline the HTML on their site. These quick, easy tutorials offer a valuable introduction to this useful skill.
8. Webmonkey: One of the most indispensable web design resource available, Webmonkey offers a veritable arsenal of tutorials, scripts, browser and color charts, and even cheat sheets to help both beginner and advanced web designers create clean, innovative sites.
9. W3Schools.com: Another necessity for the aspiring web designer, this site offers not only some of the most comprehensive and understandable tutorials on scripting and coding, but validations, editors, templates, hosting information, examples, character sets, and even certification as well. All of these amazing services are provided completely free of charge to help lawyers and other professionals develop and promote their online presence.
10. Widgetbox: For attorneys connecting their website with a blog or social media source, Widgetbox offers over 300 law-related widgets. Some are free and some must be purchased, but all of them help create useful, relevant content to add interest and attract potential clients.
11. Websitetips.com: More design tutorials and a list of recommended books are available through this site, but the resources section offers the most information on web design issues.
12. Webweaver: This site offers over 3,000 free clip art graphics as well as quick code and banner generators that help build a site quickly and accurately for lawyers on a time crunch.
13. Dzine Blog: With some of the most thoughtful and useful articles on web design available, this blog assists those building an online presence from a technical as well as artistic perspective. They also offer numerous free templates and themes. Lawyers looking to add visual interest and project a uniquely aesthetic but professional image would do well to peruse their painstaking research.
14. Web Developer’s Handbook: This site features hundreds of links relating to every aspect of web design imaginable, with advice on technical, artistic, accessibility, and promotional issues.
15. For Web Designers: Another excellent and exhaustive compilation of links and resources for those lawyers desiring to piece together a website from scratch.
16. Resources for Web Design: Issues such as bandwidth theft, copyright information, and other frequently overlooked aspects of website creation sit next to the requisite coding and SEO tools and tutorials.
17. Google Webmaster Central: The quintessential toolbox for lawyers hoping to establish a respectable online presence, Google Webmasters Central helps users optimize their websites for maximum exposure. The site offer free and absolutely necessary analytics, site maps, diagnostics, and checklists for tracking and attracting visitors while simultaneously optimizing their experience.
18. SiteMeter: SiteMeter is one of the most popular counter and statistics trackers available, not only looking at hits in real time, but providing specific details on activity as it relates to time and location as well. Lawyers can glimpse how many potential clients in their area have explored their offerings.
20. Access Matters:Lawyers ought to take the needs of the disabled into consideration when providing information regarding their services. This site offers a variety of quizzes and information on creating a website suitable for all users regardless of physical or mental limitations. It may take some time to fully implement some of the guidelines, but the end results eventually become all-inclusive and do not leave any individuals feeling marginalized.
21. Usability.gov: Another excellent guide to creating a website that conforms to the tenets of the Americans with Disabilities Act, this fantastic resource lists the necessary guidelines and advice in explicit detail.
22. Morgue File: Packed full of free and royalty-free stock photos, this website allows for its contents to be used for commercial purposes without crediting the original artist.
23. RSS 2.0 at Harvard Law:One of the quintessential resources for lawyers desiring to establish a web presence, this site mainly focuses on RSS issues. However, it also delves into trends, information, and news regarding copyright, aggregators, and technology as well.
24. Technorati: While Digg, del.icio.us, and Reddit rely on visitors actively promoting a website – plugging one’s own material is considered a highly gauche practice – Technorati allows the site’s owner to advertise without violating internet protocol. It is valuable marketing tool, especially for lawyers who opt to keep a blog on their site.
25. Web Standards Group : Attorneys desiring a website that conforms not only to persons with disabilities, but users with vastly different browsers and connection speeds as well, ought to scan this essential resource. Standardizing a website maximizes the number of satisfied visitors and helps simplify, streamline, and establish long-term viability as well as lowering production costs.
26. Web Design Resources and Tools I Use: Another extensive listing of sites particularly useful for web designers, Web Design Resources and Tools I Use offers valuable information on creation, promotion, shortcuts, and everything in between.
27. Are My Sites Up?:Also available as an iPhone application, this service allows website owners to keep track of their domains to ensure availability. Every minute of server downtime is a minute that potential clients cannot see what a lawyer has to offer, so it is crucial to know when and why a website goes offline.
28. wikiHow: Though not exclusively a web design resource, contributors have posted a wide variety of guides on HTML, PHP, CSS, Java, and other useful codes and scripts.
29. eHow: In the vain of wikiHow, user-generated tutorials on website design and promotion necessities are also available here.
30. Web Developer’s Journal: With forums, tutorials, scripts, and other tools, any answers or advice sought on the technical, creative, or marketing aspect of a website can be found in this wonderfully comprehensive resource.
31. Open Source Templates: Free CSS and XHTML templates and vector art stand as the main draw here, with several very clean, very professional designs open for customization.
32. PHP.net:A PHP resource for those desiring to use the scripting language to supplement their HTML, this website offers tutorials and communities for all skill levels.
34. Webreference: The bevy of articles, tutorials, and information on anything and everything related to web design makes this yet another useful tool for lawyers seeking to create their own site.
35. Webdeveloper.com: While the content itself is comprised of the requisite tutorials and server information, the forums here remain active and provide those seeking to build a website with a place to ask questions and seek advice on any problems they may encounter.
36. Web Developer’s Virtual Library: More tutorials and guides on the usual scripts can be found here, alongside resources on Ruby, Ruby on Rails, and Python as well.
37. Flash Kit: For lawyers seeking to a bit of animated flair to their online presence, the Flash Kit features over 1,200 tutorials as well as sound effects, loops, and fonts for further customization. It is advisable to use Flash sparingly for aesthetic reasons, but the creative attorney can find several smaller uses for it.
38. XMLFiles.com: This site provides overviews and tutorials for XML and its numerous applications for lawyers building their online presence from scratch. It also offers a validation service to check for potential errors.
39. Design Shack: A frequently updated blog and community, Design Shack features a gallery of CSS websites offering ideas and inspiration for aspiring web developers. Beyond that, however, it also offers advice, techniques, and updated news pertaining to CSS and its place in design work.
40. 456 Berea Street: Swedish web developer Roger Johansson frequently updates his blog on issues regarding usability, accessibility, and web standards. For lawyers concerned with ensuring that those with disabilities find ways to access their website, Johansson’s posts provide a provocative and necessary resource. He also attempts to open up awareness to comparatively more minor issues that nevertheless may make the difference between a visitor and a client.
41. Guild of Accessible Web Designers: This international nonprofit organization dedicates itself to accessibility for peoples with disabilities, and the tips, updates, and articles provide yet another important resource on how to best optimize a website for use by everyone. Advice is free, but membership into the guild requires a one-time membership fee. An individual or corporation does not have to be a web designer to join and enjoy the benefits, but interested parties do have to support and display an adherence to accessibility principles.
42. intensivstation: This site features some clean, simple CSS and XHTML templates for customizing a website. In addition, it also offers 16 lessons in both scripting languages to help aspiring designers add more features to the preexisting templates.
43. CSS Zen Garden: While the graphics on the featured CSS pages are not for redistribution, copying bits of code and ideas are covered under the Creative Commons license. Some exquisite layouts can be found here, and though outright copying of code is frowned upon in this community, lawyers who find a few interesting tidbits are welcome to borrow them to fill in holes.
44. The Web Standards Project: The Web Standards Project is a grassroots movement pushing for education in and adoption of accessibility practices, working with other businesses and organizations to create cost-effective, viable standards. Their site offers tutorials, articles, and other resources on establishing a more all-inclusive online presence.
45. Mezzoblue: A blog for those interested in delving further into coding and scripting, Mezzoblue offers insight into the various aspects of web design that many beginners may not realize are available. There are also several posts on SEO and meta information.
46. Basic webstandards Workshop: This website breaks down its lessons and overviews into seven parts, covering XHTML, semantics, accessibility, CSS, floats, and possible bugs. Ensuring that code is entirely free of issues not only ensures that websites flow smoothly, but it also prevents any potential issues in the browsers of potential clients as well.
47. dafont: An excellent place to find unique fonts to add more visual interest to a website and give it a bit of character. They can be used in graphics or on the pages themselves. Not all browsers support all fonts, so the use of any specialized ones may require some extra CSS coding to prioritize replacements. Most visitors without the fonts enabled will automatically default to Times New Roman anyways, but it is always a wise idea to slip in some script just to make things run as smoothly as possible.
48. Digital Web Magazine: The site may have quit posting new content, but the remaining articles still offer insight into internet culture, protocol, and – most importantly – the design and development of webpages.
49. A List Apart: Their content may be protected by copyright, but A List Apart does allow web developers to copy their source code without hesitation. However, its usefulness extends beyond that, operating as a comprehensive guide to all things web design, development, and promotion. Writers take accessibility issues into consideration for their posts as well.
50. SitePoint: SitePoint offers free videos in addition to content revolving around every aspect of web development. Lawyers can build their site from the tutorials and videos, clean it up with the art and design lessons, and market it with their tips and tricks for successful promotion. It covers everything the burgeoning developer needs from start to finish to regular maintenance.
In an age where an online presence can hold as much influence as a personal one, lawyers hoping to attract clients must establish themselves through a website and other internet spaces such as Wordpress or Twitter. With these resources, attorneys can build their business online in a way that conforms to their skills, schedule, and interests without costing any money. Each of them brings something valuable to the table, be it coding, templates, analytics, or simply useful information on accessibility or marketing.
Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.