Five tips for your next website relaunch

Historically, many law firms have accounted for websites as one-time expenses. While the initial build (or rebuild) can be seen as a discrete initiative, websites only become single purpose depreciating assets if they’re neglected and not maintained. 

This approach will inevitably repeat itself, i.e., build a website, neglect it, then build another website. We believe there’s another way to go about it that simultaneously de-risks the potential of a website (or the technology behind it) becoming obsolete, while also delivering long-term value: view websites as investments that can actually appreciate over time.

1. Define your target audiences

Develop detailed audience personas, and continually refine them and keep them up-to-date. This will help to ensure that the content you are publishing aligns with your readers’ interests and, critically, drive engagement. It will also give you perspective on how to optimize the experience for your audience, determining whether content should be gated or freely available, showcased on a particular page or geographic region, or signalled with a desktop notification to attract more visibility. Increasing audience engagement with your brand and thought leadership is the best way to influence action.

2. Build a platform, not a website

Your website’s success depends on your team and the content you are creating, as well your marketing technology partner. Many new website initiatives are overly focused on the website itself, and fail to consider some of the main reasons for the project: lack of a central repository for key marketing and business development content, insufficient tools for marketing team collaboration, and the need to integrate with other tools in the legal marketing technology ecosystem. 

The website is just one channel for marketing and leverage your firm’s content: Be sure to maximize any new digital marketing project by building on top of an extensible platform that can support your immediate needs (a website), and future digital marketing initiatives. If your budget allows, select a platform that bundles all of the key functionality you require from the start. If there’s one thing we can say for certain, it’s that digital marketing will only continue to grow in priority and potential impact for firms in the future.

Select a software platform that you can grow with, and a technology partner that is committed to your success and gives you lasting and improving tools that will be flexible enough to grow as you do.

3. Set realistic expectations

Your website is, perhaps, the most critical brand touchpoint for your firm—particularly as office locations have become less viable in the post-2020 world. It’s therefore essential to invest appropriately and be realistic about the cost. What does this mean? 

For law firms with 50 or more lawyers, the upfront investment for a modern, refreshed website starts at $200,000 (including design and development). A firm should ideally budget 30 to 40 percent of that figure annually for maintenance and enhancements. An experienced technology partner can work backward from a budget to help you optimize, as well as manage your expectations regarding delivery. 

While no firm is ‘typical’, a robust website redesign and relaunch should take 8 to 12 months.

4. Adopt an iterative approach

It’s nice to have everything you want today. The best outcomes for new digital marketing initiatives are accomplished by an incremental, iterative approach to development and feature implementation. Iteration allows you to define goals, roll out your changes, and review the results of those changes. As mentioned above, website initiatives can be expensive undertakings. Your investment can be optimized by building on a platform, implementing the most critical functionality for the initial launch, and adopting an incremental, iterative approach for secondary requirements.

For instance, WCAG compliance is an important offering that makes your digital experience accessible to people of all abilities. While some features and functionalities can be added or enhanced post-launch, WCAG is one that is best anticipated and incorporated before launch, so as to avoid costly redos. Migrating external blogs into your main website is another valuable initiative that can improve your SEO footprint and increase website traffic, but one that can often be handled incrementally post-launch. 

5. Analyze, analyze, analyze

To ensure a user-centric website experience, having data ready to support your decision-making is important. As soon as you can measure visitor traffic and user experience norms, you can improve how you create, manage, and publish content—three important stages in the content lifecycle.

Firms that make interacting with their websites a great experience are often the ones winning new business and driving revenue. After all, prospects, i.e., one of your likely target audiences, will choose the firm that understands their needs, delivering the necessary return on any website investment many times over.