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Use The Web, But Don't Let It Use You.


This article was featured on the Leadtooth site before we started the blog, so we’re adding it here for those who might find it useful. It was originally printed in the Illinois State Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Newsletter, Summer, 2007.

On June 29, 2007, an unbelievably large number of people waited in line for hours, some for days, to get their hands on iPhones. Blackberries are everywhere and some laptops can fit in your shirt pocket. We’re right in the middle of the digital age. Over the past few years websites have gone from a useful marketing tool to an absolute necessity. People no longer use phone books. Why dig out a huge book when you can type what you’re looking for and find it in two seconds?

I’m not trying to educate you on the importance of the web though. You’re a lawyer. You’re smart. You probably use the web on a daily basis. So what happens when you start a practice or join one that still uses marketing strategies from the 80s? Like everything else, you hop on the computer and search for a web designer. What you’ll find is pages and pages of companies offering web design and hosting services. It can be scary and overwhelming. Taking advantage of people who have no idea what ftp, javascript, iframes, and animated gifs are is easy to do. There are hundreds of companies out there eager to take your thousands of dollars in exchange for a site that should cost a quarter of that. There are some important things that everyone should know before having someone create a website for them.

– Work with someone who is local! Unless absolutely impossible, meet face to face with perspective web designers. Although the finished work will be in the digital world, this will be your website for a very long time and building a working relationship with the designer will help increase communication and give you certainty throughout the process.

– Many web design companies seem to forget the actual design part of the work. Go to the company’s website and browse through their portfolio. Templates and stock photos are often used by web design companies, with the end result being a generic-looking site with no individuality or personal flavor. Remember, this is YOUR site! The worthwhile designers will make you aware that your input is appreciated and necessary to make the site as effective as possible. A design should be approved by you, with changes to the initial design able to be made at no additional charge.

– Do a little bit of homework. Think about what you’d like on your site. If you want a company bio, try to have it already prepared. Take some photos if you can. Spend a few hours online looking at different sites and write down the addresses of ones that you like. The more you can bring to the table, the more satisfied you’ll be by the finished site.

– Ask for all prices up front. If you receive a price that seems over your budget, as the designer to clarify his or her costs. Many companies charge monthly “maintenance” fees. These are unnecessary and are often used by big companies who hire recruiters to find them clients. The recruiter’s payment is this “maintenance” fee. Most reputable web designers will include up to six months of free simple text updates with the price they give you, then simply charge an hourly rate for updates after that. If you do not need anything changed on your site, you won’t have to pay a cent. Web hosting is another aspect of website creation. Usually you will pay a flat price for the web design and need to pay an annual amount for your site to be hosted (hosting is what keeps your site visible online). Simple, small business sites can be hosted for under $40 per year. This also includes registration of your address ( More complicated sites or sites which include a content management system (CMS) cost a little more to host, usually around $100 per year.

– Sign a contract. This will protect you from any copyright issues and give you all of the information of the company doing the work for you.

– Make certain that you are given your website ftp information (it is used to transfer your site from a computer to the web site) and you know where your site is hosted. You should be given your username and password for your site. If it is not given to you, ask for it. With this information you’ll be able to have any web designer edit and update your site.

With there being so many companies out there, you will be able to find one that you can trust to build you a website that fits your needs and your style. Remember that this is your representation on the internet. It is accessible all over the world and should be something that you’re proud of. Should you currently or ever need to have a website created, I hope these tips will make the process easier, more comfortable, and save you some money.

Matt Arbogast is the founder and designer of Leadtooth Web & Print Design in Chicago. He has been designing websites and print material for twelve years. Feel free to contact Matt with any further questions at or 773-318-3993.