A Look at How Benesch Launched a New Site, Focused on User Experience
This article was originally published in the August 2013 edition of LJN’s Legal Tech Newsletter, a division of ALM.
User experience is arguably the most important factor in the success of a law firm website. Great design, intuitive navigation and advanced search capabilities go a long way in enhancing a user’s visit to your site, supporting the successful delivery of your firm’s brand and content, and enabling you to develop stronger relationships with clients and prospects.
As the appetite to consume and share content grows – and our world becomes more and more mobile-connected – law firms must work to improve the user experience of their sites to fit these evolving needs. This is what my firm, Benesch, sought to do when we embarked on a redesign project last year of www.beneschlaw.com.
Our previous site had become outdated and didn't accurately reflect the firm’s brand or the level of business focus and professionalism we have to offer, so we partnered with interactive agency One North Interactive to develop and launch a vastly different, dynamic website that more effectively showcases the firm’s recent growth and progressive and vibrant personality.
One of the main objectives we identified for the project was to improve the site’s information architecture so that our most important content is more easily accessible. Previously, we had a laundry list of our practice areas listed on the site, but the redesign really encouraged us to take a step back and reevaluate the way we market our practice areas. To make it easier for potential clients to learn more about our experience, we took that massive list of practice groups and instead broke it down into a list of focus areas and industries we serve. We also rewrote many of the practice group descriptions so that the most relevant information could be found in the first few paragraphs.
We completely changed the way visitors can search for, or – more importantly – find, the information they’re looking for. Our search functionality previously employed a site-wide search. A user would type in “Smith,” and any item with that name came up in the results. Now, search results are suggested as the user types, and the results page displays a small number of the top hits for each major content category on the site, with the ability to click to view the full set of results within each category.
Clients can easily filter their search by attorney, publication or experience, and attorneys can find out if we have experience representing a plastics company in Texas, for example, instead of going back and forth on e-mail with other firm members to find this information. It puts people, both internally and externally, in charge of the search. It’s a little progressive for a law firm, but if we hadn’t done it, three years from now, we’d be behind.
It was very important that Benesch's new website be inspired by the firm's dedication to building a deep understanding of its clients’ businesses and industries and on providing business-minded and team-oriented solutions to legal problems.
Our previous site was the standard law firm site – a cluttered homepage with a ton of news about us. It lacked a connection to our mantra “My Benesch / My Team,” a strong supporting message and reminder that Benesch attorneys and staff are committed to strong working relationships as trusted advisors.
When it comes to law firms, your only true differentiators are your experience and people. The new site allows us to present our experience through the lens of our clients. Client testimonials highlighting notable experience are now showcased directly on the homepage, assuring our market promise is infused into the site.
CREATING A NEW LOOK AND FEEL
We wanted to create something totally different from the typical white-background-with-logo-on-top law firm website. We wanted something that was really edgy, which is why we chose a bold design option, with a dark color palette. Using large, client-centric imagery to support our client highlights on the homepage was another bold decision, as this has only recently started to be allowed on legal websites. Finally, we opted to use a single-page homepage navigation structure, with parallax scrolling to add an element of movement to the site.
MAKING IT SOCIAL...
Improving the organization and delivery of thought leadership and showing our audience that Benesch is knowledgeable in the topics they’re interested in was a key goal of this launch. Consequently, we really wanted to incorporate more of the firm’s social media and blog posts on the new site.
One North’s design suggestions helped us highlight some of our social media activity on the homepage in a unique way. We now have a ‘What’s Trending’ section on the bottom of the homepage, where we can highlight up to six of our social profiles or industry blogs at a time.
We have a Twitter feed, for example, on a phenomenon called Utica Shale (it’s a geological formation under portions of the Northeastern U.S. and parts of Canada that potentially will produce natural gas in certain areas and become a big game changer for the economy in Ohio, where our firm is headquartered, as well as surrounding states). On a daily basis, we put out constant updates about what’s going on with the situation. Thanks to the attention this blog has gotten, several people have contacted us about doing legal work for them in this industry.
Shortly after the new site went live, we embarked on the mobile site project. We toyed around with whether we even wanted to do a mobile version because the website design on the main site is so beautiful, but in the end, we couldn't deny the importance of providing users a touch-friendly experience as well.
The mobile version is essentially the same as our main site on the back end, but the look is totally different on the front end. We knew users coming from smartphones and tablets would have different needs in terms of the amount and types of content they’re consuming, so we created a version of the site to fit those needs. Users can now easily search for an attorney’s contact information or directions to our office with the touch of a finger.
A HOLISTIC LAUNCH
One North really helped us to take advantage of every communication channel for this launch. Realizing that the new ‘What’s Trending’ section of the homepage would drive a lot of traffic to our social media channels, they helped us reface all of our profiles to really synchronize the new look.
Our Facebook and LinkedIn pages were updated shortly before the launch with a ‘sneak peek’ approach, alerting followers that the launch was happening soon. Our Twitter account was also updated with imagery that matched the new color theme. It was a great way to preview the launch, get people excited about it and then drive traffic to it once it was live. In addition to refreshing our social profiles, we also created an e-mail launch announcement that went out to all firm contacts that integrated the look and feel of the new site and social media properties.
THE FINAL RESULT
We may call it a redesign, but really, it’s a whole new site. It’s completely unique. It doesn't look like any other firm’s website, and it promotes our firm in a completely different way. Everything I've heard since the launch has been positive. People have said that they love the new look and our new site is much more user-friendly, which we were thrilled to hear. We've even had potential clients contact us through the site.
We've seen a major increase in page views and visitors, and our Facebook and Twitter profiles have literally tripled in the amount of followers and links.
The redesign helped us make our website about what we can do for clients. We've been able to move away from our site just being about Benesch and really have it say to clients—and potential clients—“Here’s how we can help you.”