Lessons Learned: Website Redesign (Part 2)

Vanessa Hill

The decision is made: your firm is going to dive in – create a new website or redesign your existing one.  I hope you had a chance to read my teammate Amanda Peth’s blog Lessons Learned: Website Redesign (Part 1) about when to do this.  The team is assembled and ready to begin this detail-intensive process.  Here are a few pointers reinforced by our team’s journey through website redesign.  The path is not always straight, but with patience and perseverance, it will get done (McManis Faulkner website):

Do Not Neglect the Firm’s Current Website. 

It is very easy to become wrapped up in the new website design and put the current website on the back burner.  Do not let this happen!  It is your responsibility to make sure your audience still sees the firm’s current website at its best with new events, wins, and those ever–so-popular attorney bio pages.  Keep in mind, when you are ready to launch your new site, you will pull information from your current one.  The more up to date the current website, the smoother the transition to the new one.

Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings. 

Sometimes people complain about meetings, but team meetings, whether in-person, by video conference, or telephone conference, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis – will keep the ball rolling forward.  These meetings may actually save you time – writing and reading team emails can be inefficient.  Our team had weekly meetings with just the in-house website team.  We would follow up with once-a-week or bi-weekly telephone conferences with the website developers.  We learned quickly that having our in-house meetings before website developer conference calls made our conversations with them more productive. 

You may be tempted to cancel some meetings when it looks as if you do not have a lot of items on your agenda.  Keep every meeting!  We found that every time I would say, “Let’s keep our meeting…it will be quick…we only have a few items to discuss” – that those meetings still would last an hour.  There are always questions or concerns that required attention in such a detail-oriented project.  And, we always walked away saying, “Glad we met.”  In addition, the team meetings hold your team members accountable for completing assigned tasks, which, in turn, will keep you on track to meet your launch date!

Do Not Just Review Your Budget Monthly, Analyze It.    

You must take the time to analyze your website budget/hours every month.  Ascertain which kinds of changes take the most time (and money).  Certain changes or edits to the website will be universal, done with a couple of computer keystrokes.  Others require more time and effort by an actual human.  Analyzing what hours you have in your budget each month will allow you to prioritize realistically which changes to make.

One big budget lesson: factor in money to cover the time needed to update content to the website, or should I say websites!  At some point in the redesign process, you will have two websites running concurrently – both of which require updating.  Double the budget hours for content upkeep.  Every day that you push off that launch date is one more day you pay double to keep content current. 

Keep a Record of All the Changes. 

There will be a lot of changes throughout the redesign website project.  It is extremely helpful to have a color-coded, excel sheet that reflects all the changes made, along with changes still in progress.  We used this excel sheet to show the in-house website team and our website development team (located out of the state) updates and items in progress at a quick glance.  Starting this excel sheet template early in the project saves a lot of confusion and time. 

Speak Up! Also, Listen!

If someone on your team discusses a design element you do not like or understand, speak up!  And, very important, listen to their answers.  There will be certain items on the website redesign you will be more passionate about and some about which your teammates will have more knowledge.  A healthy back and forth of ideas is key to a successful project.

Provide Sneak Peeks. 

Include management and provide them selective sneak peeks from the very beginning of the project until just before launch – to give them the vibe of the new site.  But, be careful not to overwhelm them and show them small samples of specific pages.

When you are more than half-way through the redesign, select different people from different departments to review the site.  They can provide feedback about how the site moves, feels, and looks to someone who has not been obsessing about it for months.  This step is very helpful and we implemented some important changes to help the end-user.  Friendly reminder, ask for opinions and thoughts only from selected firm members… do not get too many cooks in the kitchen. 

The process of redesigning a website can be overwhelming, but it is a project with a specific end-date.  Pick your battles, be mindful of the budget, and understand how much of a redesign the firm really wants.  And get ready – after you celebrate that successful launch, there is a whole new list of things to do.  Check out my teammate, Barbara Reedy’s blog Lessons Learned: Website Redesign (Part 3) with suggestions on what to do after you launch your new site. 

About the author Vanessa Hill

Vanessa oversees and implements the firm’s marketing programs and keeps partners abreast of current trends and strategies in legal marketing.  She serves as event coordinator for all firm events at Levi Stadium and the SAP Center of San Jose.