If you want a successful website redesign, do this homework first

firesign marketing designs websites that are researched and well thought out

So you’ve decided to redesign your law firm website. Very likely, you used data to make that decision, whether formal figures (declining page views or increasing load times), or more anecdotal information (a realization your website didn’t align with your current offerings or less-than-complimentary comparison to a rival’s site).

But before the redesign starts, collect more data. You need to do this homework to help your designers work effectively and to make sure your new site delivers on your hopes and dreams.

You’ll need a process to collect thoughts, preferences, and dislikes from key stakeholders and share that information with your web designers so the process is strategic and not disorganized.

To compile a comprehensive assessment of what your firm wants in a new website, all stakeholders need to participate. You can hold a meeting or send out a web-based questionnaire, but make sure everyone who should be heard from answers your questions.

It’s never a great scenario when you’re one day from launching the new website…then find out one of the named partners hates the color scheme. An even worse scenario: to realize you spent time and money on a site that does not advance your firm’s strategy, position you effectively, or do more than just take up virtual space.

Take inventory

First up, you’ll want to document what is on the website right now. Do an inventory of how many pages there are, and outline how they are organized.

Then ask what pages can stay, what pages need to come out, and what pages need to be added. For example, are you focusing on new practice areas since the last website launch? What content needs to be written, or re-written?

This is also a place to ask what works and what doesn’t. Is your website secure? Are there issues with loading times or how the site looks on mobile devices? Remember, the average time spent on a website is 54 seconds, according to Hubspot, and if your site isn’t making an instant impression, it’s time for a change.

Identify your website’s audience

A redesigned website needs to be more than visually appealing. It needs a purpose.

To establish this, ask what your website’s target audience is – and it’s OK if there are more than one. Just remember: Your website is not an internal directory or bulletin board; it is there to address your clients, prospects, even potential hires.

For each audience, consider what they might be looking for – and how they might find it. If potential clients primarily find you through Google, optimizing for search is imperative; if most prospects find you through referrals, that’s less of a priority.

For prospective clients, are your services organized on their terms? On the consumer side, are they accessible and easy to understand, i.e. “Divorce” vs. “Domestic Relations.” If you are wanting to court business clients, are there key industry groups where you could feature expertise? Some companies may be more likely to self-identify with “Manufacturing” rather than as a consumer of “Tort Litigation.”

If you are using the site to recruit talent, how can you make a convincing case that your firm is a great place to work? Most prospective laterals will consider more than one firm; 35 percent consider four or more firms. Consider a thoughtful Careers section that is more than just job listings.

Once your target audience is on the site, what do you want them to do? If the site is intended to be informative and educational, are there materials to download or newsletters for subscription? If the site is meant to establish contact with the firm’s attorneys, how can that be expedited?

Establish a look and feel

The final set of questions should cover aesthetics.

Start by looking at your current materials – from letterhead to reception-area signage to business cards. What are the colors and fonts involved, and should those be incorporated into the new site? (If not, are you prepared for an update to all of your other marketing materials to ensure a consistent brand presence?)

Then look outside the firm. Assume the identity of someone shopping for firms in your particular niche. What are the consistencies across your competitors’ visuals? What might be opportunities to stand out? If every firm has a navy-blue color palette and black-and-white photography, make note – you may want to pivot.

Also seek inspiration sites. These can be any website, law firm or otherwise, that stakeholders like. Ask them why they specifically chose the site as an inspiration for the redesign. In our experience, inspiration for law firm websites have come from airlines, software and even recipe sites – in fact, some of the best inspiration comes from outside the profession.

Put it all together

The right website designer will seek this information (and likely more) at the onset of your project. If they do not, proceed with caution. The best website design agencies for lawyers will want to get to know you and your goals – not just crank out a templated one-size-fits-all site.

Be prepared to share your ideas and feedback early and often. The best collaborations come from clients who bring their ideas and are not shy about saying what works (and what doesn’t) for their firms.

While every agency is different, most will look to start with a site map, which is a visual outline of the new site, and a creative brief, a document that explains the objectives, look and feel, and rationale behind the site. Review these carefully before issuing a green light: By getting them right at the beginning, you will save yourself time (and needless revisions) later.

Firesign’s award-winning creative team has extensive experience working with law firm and legal services clients to help them achieve their website redesign goals. If you have questions about how to start the process to refresh your site, contact us today.

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