In an ABA Benchmark Study on Law Firm Website Costs, Legal marketer, Conrad Saam reports that “WordPress has become the de facto website platform for most commercial websites.”

Saam’s right. WordPress for so many reasons has become of the software of record for publishing. Whether it’s a law firm website, a blog, or good portions of the New York Times, WordPress is the right fit. Commentary that WordPress is only for blogs and is inherently insecure come from the unknowing.

But I don’t agree with Saam in his comment that those software and development companies charging law firms ongoing subscription fees for WordPress sites are reaping pure profit after they’ve recouped their initial costs. At least not in the case of the good companies.

Any law firm using WordPress for publishing, whether for a website, blog, micro-site, magazine, or whatever, needs to be paying for upgrades and feature enhancements. Ideally they’d be working with a company doing research and development so that the law firm is receiving never ending improvements to their publishing platform.

Think about it this way, says Mike Duncan, CEO of the marketing agency, Sage Island, in a story in Wilmington Business Insights:

You buy an awesome new car, one with a killer paint job, leather seats and a state-of-the-art sound system. That car is your baby and because you want it to last a long time, you take care of it with regular oil changes, repairs and weekends spent waxing it until it shines. Well, your website is the same way. No matter how good it looks, there’s a back end, much like the engine of a car, that needs to be serviced regularly. If you fail to take care of your website, you’ll quickly run it into the ground.

You need to on the latest version of WordPress for any number of reasons, per Duncan.

  • Security. WordPress is immensely popular, which makes it a target for hackers and data thieves. By updating to the latest version, you’re able to reconcile known security vulnerabilities. If you ignore the updates, you’re putting your website – and your business – at risk.
  • New Features. Each WordPress release comes with new features and improvements. Taking advantage of these features is an easy way to improve the users’ experience and keep your site looking and feeling modern and relevant. It sends the right message to your clients, and shows them that you care enough to offer them the best experience possible.
  • Speed. Faster is better, especially online. Each WordPress update improves the speed of your website, which is a huge factor in SEO. If you don’t update WordPress, it could take minutes for a simple page to load, and today’s online user doesn’t have the patience to wait that long, nor should they.
  • Bug Fixes. Nobody’s perfect, not even WordPress. The platform is, however, constantly improving. In fact, any issues you experience on your website can usually be solved by updating WordPress, as each new release fixes bugs that managed to slip in. If you don’t update your site, these fixes won’t be available.

Beyond these reasons, you have feature enhancements that ought to be regularly added. There are constant and never ending improvements that can and should be made to a publishing platform that go beyond core WordPress upgrades.

There are unique publishing, education and support features sought by law firms. This requires ongoing research, development, testing and regular upgrades to those features.

A law firm would never use software that is not regularly updated. Unfortunately, law firms often only look for upgrades to websites and blogs when they are looking for an updated design.

But design is only the surface. Launching a nice looking design on an outdated version of WordPress with outdated plugins, which version and plugins are only getting more outdated over time is fraught with peril and something that can easily be avoided.

Moving from an agency model to a publishing software business model has enabled us to focus on our underlying publishing platform built on WordPress. Like other SaaS providers, it’s enabled us to provide law firms and other professional services firms with a publishing platform that’s better, faster and cheaper.

So, yes, do pay for regular upgrades and feature enhancements. But me smart in the way you do so. It need not cost a lot and probably ought to be paid on a monthly or annual subscription.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Cristian Labarca 

 

  • Conrad Saam

    Great point Kevin… maintaining the most current non-beta version of WordPress is extremely important for the security, speed and platform issues you raised. Its why we recommend Managed WordPress hosting (all of our clients are required to be on WPEngine, but there are other providers as well). Unfortunately, its about 300% more expensive that traditional hosting at $29/month. Over a year that’s an additional $250 cost, but as you note, very well worth it when keeping your WordPress platform up to date.

  • Thanks for the comment, Conrad. We use WPEngine as well, but as an enterprise partner. We’re running our own WP set-up with mostly our own plug-ins etc. We have found them an excellent partner. We’ve also found lawyers and other professionals need a self help and support center tailored for professionals in their publishing environment. That requires additional R & D, development and maintenance making things more expensive, but worthwhile like you said.

  • I think it really depends on how much firms are being asked to pay. This is a space that is definitely ripe for exploitation. I can see unscrupulous support services companies ripping unsuspecting firms off with ridiculous prices. Lawyers are often not particularly tech savvy and wouldn’t realise that WordPress has the ability to many of its updates automatically.

    I agree with you but where there is a savvy person in the firm who can differentiate between the excess charges and the necessary, though reasonable, charges.

    • We’re not talking significant charges, a couple hundred dollars a month or less will cover updates, feature enhancements and quite a bit more. The greater risk comes from updating sites every few years driven by design preferences.

      • I take it that cost is primarily billable time for the service provider?