When did your firm last redesign its website? Many interactive marketing specialists recommend that law firms refresh their website every 3 to 4 years. Chances are, it may be time to start thinking about updating your site—a process that can feel overwhelming, even if you've been through it before.
To help you navigate the journey, One North Interactive, with the help of some legal marketing experts, has assembled a candid collection of advice and best practices. Over the next few months, we’ll help you learn how to determine what changes need to be made, what design best practices might apply—and how to get started – through our Redesigning Your Website series. Check back each week as we tackle a new step in the process that is the website redesign.
PHASE 1 – PARTNERING
Redesigning a website is a major undertaking, and few firms employ enough marketing and design professionals to completely plan, create and launch a new site in-house.
As a result, many firms partner with interactive solution providers that can offer expertise, advice and guidance throughout the project. Partnering with an agency can help firms create a more dynamic, interactive website—but finding the service provider that’s a perfect fit for your firm is key. You are going to be spending a lot of time with your interactive partner, so make sure you have good chemistry!
A few suggestions:
LOOK FOR PARTNERS THAT TRULY KNOW INTERACTIVE.
Review websites they've produced to see if the sites thoroughly engage viewers.
“Your goal is to create a better user experience,” says One North Interactive Architect Michael O’Laughlin. “You want to add more interaction and excitement.”
Websites are different from print or traditional design in that they require well thought out information architecture and interaction design. Make sure your partner offers resources (i.e. people) that understand interactive web design, as print designers don’t always know how to build a compelling online experience.
THE TYPICAL DUE DILIGENCE RULES APPLY.
Call references and ask former clients about vendors’ strengths and weaknesses. Confirm the project will work with your annual budget, and make sure you have full support from firm leadership.
Discussing any design aspects you’d like to include during initial meetings can also be helpful. Ask potential partners if they have experience working with the types of functionality you’re hoping to include to make sure they have the qualifications you need.
HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS.
Even the most qualified web designer can’t produce a new site overnight. Your schedule may not allow you to approve site prototypes that quickly, either.
“It is really hard to tack on a website project to your already very full day job. You need to plan and schedule appropriately,” says One North Strategy Manager Sarah Levine Meyer. “It takes a lot of work, attention, time, energy and focus—even when you’re working with [a vendor]. The end product, though, justifies the investment and can be very rewarding.”
A detailed project plan can help keep the redesign on point. Work with your interactive partner to come up with a step-by-step plan, and be sure both parties agree on the timing and specifications outlined in the plan.
“We urge clients to spend extra time on design and functional planning,” says
One North Senior Account Manager Susan Bradley. “You want to make sure you are really excited and comfortable with the look and also the features of the site. During this phase, I like to remind clients that we are essentially building the blueprint of the site. It’s important to get the major site features approved at this stage.”
Along the way, if you do notice you’re falling behind schedule in the delivery of approvals, be sure to alert your vendor early so together you can work to edit the timing on any dependent steps in the plan.
With each new week, we’ll introduce one more ‘chapter’ of a website redesign, and our marketing experts will weigh in based on their experience (both positive and negative) working through these phases. Next week, we’ll move into Planning and share a few tips that can help your project wrap up on time, and on budget.
Don’t want to wait until next week to read more of our tips? Worry not! You can check out our Definitive & Candid Guide to Successful Websites to read the full collection of advice and best practices.