Updating your website is a process - one that can feel overwhelming, even if you’ve been through it before. To help you navigate the journey, One North Interactive, with the aid of some marketing experts, has assembled a candid collection of advice and best practices, which we’ll be delivering to you through our Redesigning Your Website series.
Last week, we kicked the series off by sharing some tips for selecting the right partner. This week, we move into the Planning phase.
PHASE 2 – PLANNING
The planning phase is one of the most important redesign stages. Solid preparation can help the project wrap up on time—and save you money.
“It’s so much easier and less expensive to build around your needs on the front end than to adjust the site to accommodate them after it launches,” says Jennifer O’Leary Cathell, eMarketing, Design and Brand Manager at Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP, which employs 625 lawyers in the U.S., U.K. and Asia. Edwards Wildman recently wrapped up its website build and launched a redesigned site in September of 2013.
To successfully plan for your new site:
SPEND SOME TIME SURFING.
Checking out competitors’ websites can help spark ideas. Other companies may also offer inspiration.
“Go outside of the industry within professional service firms, like advertising firms,” says One North Interactive Architect Michael O’Laughlin. “They’re on the cutting edge. See what they’re doing.”
Block out a few hours and spend some time collecting ideas to help jump-start your website project. You might even want to start a Pinterest board.
PUT DATA IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT.
Examine site diagnostics to find out who visits your site and what areas are most popular. Having facts at your fingertips can help justify or inform website functionality, content and design decisions.
“If you know no one is going to your corporate page, maybe the information is something users don’t find interesting or valuable,” says One North Strategy Manager Sarah Levine Meyer. “Analytics may not tell the whole story—but they help to refine it.”
Data can also help you improve your marketing programs and capture return on investment.
“We do pitches now, and we know a certain company actually just visited our site,” says Marie Alvarez-Yapana, Marketing Manager at multi-service law firm Loeb & Loeb LLP, which has more than 300 attorneys. “That can help you connect the dots with other business development efforts, such as event sponsorships and publications.”
ASSEMBLE THE ARMY YOU’LL GO INTO BATTLE WITH.
Having the right team involved in a website project is one of the most important factors in the project’s success. Some firms have a fully operational marketing committee that meets on a regular basis to spearhead the redesign; others put together an ad hoc website committee to review the site.
“One of the biggest pieces of the process involves figuring out the approvals process inside of the law firm,” says Alyson Fieldman, One North Account Director. “It’s really critical to have the decision makers weigh in on the process in the beginning.”
Having the same team approve the design concept and the final product ensures that the project’s strategic goals will be executed.
“It makes the decision making much less subjective—and makes the process go much more smoothly,” Fieldman says.
Keeping the group a manageable size can also help. Loeb & Loeb, for example, established a core group that Alvarez-Yapana says was “small enough to pick up the phone and talk to each other.”
Edwards Wildman settled on a committee of six attorneys from different locations and practice areas.
“We wanted to make sure we chose a review committee that wasn’t so big that no decisions could be made—but wasn’t so small that offices and departments within the firm didn’t have a chance to contribute,” O’Leary Cathell says.
Regardless of group size, it’s important to designate a point person who is in charge. “Having someone with the authority to push the process along internally really helps,” says Susan Bradley, Senior Account Manager at One North.
Next up is Platforming! Tune in next week for advice on picking the right technology platform for your new site. Can’t wait until then? You can find the Platforming phase and all others that follow in our Definitive & Candid Guide to Successful Websites.