Tuesday, November 22, 2016

When Is It Time to Re-Design Your Web Site?

Whenever we are contacted by a new law firm prospect, we are inevitably asked, “So, what do you think about our web site?
We try to answer this question as best we can, being honest as to our opinion – regardless of what that might mean in terms of our pursuing this client further. If it’s a great site, we say so and look to discuss ways in which we might leverage this fact. Other times, we may suggest that the firm make some changes to the site, be it of a design, textual and/or of a technical nature. And of course, if the site has some major issues, we are forthright about the need to start over – regardless of whether that site was originally developed by the prospect’s wife, kid or mother-in-law. 
It’s the latter of these situations that I would like to address today – How do you know when its time to scrap your current site and begin again from scratch? 
I think, there are, for the most part, five situations when building a new site makes sense. I’ll try to identify these and categorize them as best I can. But please, feel free to let me know if I’ve missed the boat on some or missed some obvious reasons altogether.
Situation #1: There’s a Major Change at the Firm
This one’s a no-brainer. If the Smith Law Firm, which provides elder law services to folks in Worcester, Massachusetts decides to merge with Reynolds, Reynolds & Reynolds, a multi-practice firm serving all of New England --- well, that’s a great reason to get rid of the old and bring in the new (or at least to get integrated into the larger firm’s site). Similarly, if the law firm that offers family law services now decides to expand into PI, immigration law and estate planning – that is likewise an obvious reason to create a new site that reflects the firm’s new direction. Taking on a new partner may or may not suggest a new site as may expanding into new locations. Similarly, your major competitor’s launch of a splashy new site (one that’s getting a lot of attention) may also provide a reason to pause.
Situation #2: The Site No Longer Does What You Need it to Do
There was a time, not so long ago, when the typical law firm site consisted of not much more than a “Home” page, an “About Us” page, a “Practice Areas” page, an “Our Attorneys” page and a “Contact Us” page. Today however, two things have changed. First, content development has taken on a much bigger role in determining firm ranking on the online search engines. And with that, comes an inherent need to put that content somewhere. Second, technical advances have made interacting with potential clients so much easier and certainly much more compelling. Whether its connecting with them on their mobile devices, downloading white papers, registering for a firm webinar or seminar, filling out an inquiry form, or being directed to a firm blog, today’s web sites are multi-faceted. If yours is not mobile friendly and providing opportunities for your prospects to interact with the firm, you are a) immediately seen as out of step and b) missing a multitude of opportunities to generate leads and improve your conversion rate. If this is, in fact, your situation –it’s time to create a new site.
Situation #3: Your Site Looks Outdated
This reason is a little less obvious. After all, when your site was first developed, it looked great! So how do you know when its time to say good-bye to the old and say hello to that brand new you? Two tell-tale signs. First, if you are already asking yourself this question, then chances are it’s time to move on. Second, if you show your current site to your teenage kids and they tell you it’s “old,” listen to them. It’s kind of like the forsaken spouse – the one who had created the site in the first place is often the last to know. 
Situation #4: Technical Problems
Less common, but important nonetheless, are those situations in which the site’s technical glitches have become more trouble than they’re worth. For example, we once inherited a law firm’s web site that had all kinds of issues, the worst of which was that it been hacked and infected with cryptic coding that linked it to, shall we say, “adult” web sites? Unless, your firm specifically wants to be connected with pornographic URL’s, it might be best to have such mistakes corrected. And if they can’t be easily addressed, well, in the words of that famous football coach (don’t know who), “It may be time to punt.” There are, of course, a whole host of technical issues that can arise. Some can be “fixed,” but at a certain point, it usually becomes clear that a major change is in order. 
Situation #5: You’re Not Getting the Results You Want
This is probably the biggest reason of all. When the law practice starts seeing some of its site metrics decline, it may be time to take a closer look at the site. Are you getting less traffic? Are visitors staying on your site for shorter and shorter lengths of time? Is your site’s load time putting a drag on how high Google lists you on its directory? Are the quality scores of your landing pages not what they once were? These are all potential indicators of a problem that may or may not have to do with the site itself. You will need to dig a little deeper, test a lot, and do some inductive reasoning. But if you determine that the site itself may be the cause of your problems, well…
In most cases that we come across, the decision to make the change to a new web site is due to a combination of factors. For example, a site that is technically obsolete may also be outdated from a design perspective as well. 
Regardless of the reason however, while there will obviously be some expense in making such a change, the purist in me suggests that one look at this as an opportunity to reinvent the firm on more favorable terms – one that may actually promote both revenue as well as profit growth