Taking a Content First Approach to Website Design

The main goal of a law firm’s website is to create a solution that meets their target audience’s needs and encourages conversions by getting visitors to contact the firm. Understanding your target audience and your firm’s business goals is the driving factor behind website content. We want to convey your firm’s narrative in a way that’s clear, concise, and emotionally appealing to potential clients. Below are key reasons why your firm should start every website project with a content first approach.

Tackling content first helps shape design and saves time.

Agreeing on content structure helps eliminate two major obstacles: creating new content to fit the design AND needing to edit old content to fit an updated design. Both of those events are avoidable if you create a design with content in mind. This can cut down on rounds of revisions where you may end up making small content changes and allows the designer to present your content visually in a way that appeals to the user’s emotions and conveys your firm’s story.

A solid content plan speeds up the workflow of the project.

Frequently, the biggest road block when creating a new website for a client is waiting for content. Establishing the structure and content needed before the design eliminates this obstacle so you don’t end up waiting on content decisions when the site is almost ready for launch. Developing a plan for content at the start of the project will help clarify who will be creating new content, when it needs to be created, and how that content is going to be structured before anything is designed. Instead of waiting in the middle of a project, we establish this up front for an optimal workflow.

A content first approach makes for a better user experience.

When the design is built around the content, the user has a consistent experience across the website. All practice areas look uniform and aren’t structured differently, location pages have all the necessary content for Google My Business and are displayed the same. We want the user to know they are on a location page or a contact page, not guess because one office’s content is displayed differently than another. Uniformity not only helps speed up the website because there’s less code, but when users navigate the site everything reinforces one uniform message about your firm. With a content first approach, we know what to display from mobile to desktop and how the content will scale in different views and sizes.

Content planning provides scalability and structure moving forward.

Often, content will be managed post launch by someone in your firm. Having the content structured and following an outline helps scale the website in consistency and design. Someone who wasn’t present during the design process can manage the content afterwards without missing a beat.

In short, a lot of the difficulties that pop up during the design and development process can be mitigated if you spend some time planning out what you want to convey with your website, and more specifically, what type of content you’re going to use to communicate that message.

Jeffrey Zeldman Quote on Content in web design

Quote from Jeffrey Zeldman, a legend in the web design world.

How to Assess the Success of a Website Redesign

Not all website redesigns are created equal. In many cases, updating a website is the obvious starting point for addressing technical issues, modernizing design and usability, or updating your brand. Done correctly, a new website should offer a boost to your overall business.

Key metrics to look at when assessing whether a new website is successful:

  • Site speed
  • Organic traffic
  • Usability
  • Conversions

Each of these metrics can be tackled by answering the questions below.

How do technical benchmarks compare against your previous site?

By analyzing site speed, on page scripts, image optimization, outdated plugins, and even the platform the site is hosted on, you can get a pretty accurate picture of whether the new website offers an improvement over what you had before.

Unless you’re adding massive new functionality or downsizing your firm, there shouldn’t be any reason to take a step backwards in terms of site speed or hosting. Moving your hosting platform can potentially tank your site, and developers with no understanding of how search engines actually work can build a nice looking site on a terrible foundation.

Ideally, your new website should only show improvements or equivalencies when it comes to technical benchmarks.

Site Speed Before and After
The dramatic improvement in site speed between old (above) and new (below) is one key indicator a recent redesign was a success.

Are more people finding the site organically?

Although it’s not uncommon to see a dip in traffic following the launch of a new website, one of the best indicators that things are going well in the search engines is an increase in organic traffic.

All pages you’re trying to drive traffic to should be indexed in Google (and the search engine also rans) and getting visitors. Post launch increases in organic traffic are a great indicator that smart decisions were made during the website redesign process.

Do potential clients find it easier to navigate?

You want your new site to be as easy to use as possible. Prospects shouldn’t be struggling to find information or get to the appropriate internal pages. Without using tools like Hotjar to monitor user sessions, the best way to gauge the performance of your new website is by comparing bounce rate, average page views, and time spent on site against the previous iteration.

If people are less likely to leave, looking at more of your content, and spending longer on your new website, that’s a great indicator that things are going well.

How do your conversion rates compare with the old site?

Even if traffic is up and people are spending more time interacting with your new site, it’s not a true win if they’re not requesting your services. By comparing the old site’s conversion rates against the new one you’ll get an accurate picture of the incremental improvement between the two.

Regardless of traffic, if a higher percentage of visitors are reaching out to learn more about whether your firm can help them, it’s a strong signal that your redesign improved your ability to generate new business.

Is it helping you achieve your business goals?

The ultimate goal of your redesign is to get more business. This can mean more clients, higher value clients, or even a shift in which portion of your practice you’re trying to prioritize. Although it’s not always directly tied to driving revenue, that’s definitely the most common goal.

Very few firms are effectively tracking marketing on a cost per client level, but even if it’s only being looked at on a cost-per-inquiry basis, reducing the cost you pay for each qualified lead shows the money you spend on a website redesign was an investment rather than an expense.

Summary

Website redesigns can be extremely expensive and failing to take a data driven approach is a great way to burn money and create massive frustration. Projects of this scope should be approached as an investment in your business and any good agency will work with you to measure the results of their work, continue to refine and improve post-launch, and push for decisions during the redesign process that will not just “look nice” but actually help your firm be more successful.