When Should You Refresh Your Website Design?
We’ve all landed at that business website that looks so dusty and out of date we wonder if they’re still in business at all. The links are dead, the images may be broken, and it looks like it was last touched around the time Legally Blonde hit theaters in 2001.
Of course, a website doesn’t get old all at once. But, like your great-uncle who’s still wearing the suit he got married in, we often aren’t aware of the fact that we’re not presenting our best, most up-to-date version of ourselves.
How do you know if it’s time to update your law firm’s website design? Kristin Lay, Director of Website Design and Service at The Modern Firm, has identified five key indicators that a website is past its expiration date.
"That said,” Kristin jokes, “we’ve found that it’s a little like cars: around the time you’re done paying it off, you look around and realize that the design is showing its age. You don't feel fresh in this car anymore. So, people start to get the urge for a refresh or redesign around year five.”
Do I need a Website “Refresh” or a “Redesign”?
People tend to use the terms "refresh" and "redesign" interchangeably—which causes a lot of confusion.
A website refresh is similar to sprucing up a kitchen by painting the cabinets and changing the handles and drawer pulls from brass to silver. Maybe you go so far as to replace the existing appliances with something fundamentally similar in a different finish. In website terms, this might correspond to a law firm changing its logo and color scheme. Like the kitchen refresh, the aesthetics are changing, but the layout, flow, and functionality stay the same.
A website redesign goes much deeper. It's the equivalent of realizing that your adorable avocado-green galley kitchen no longer serves you and your family; you need to knock down some walls, run some new plumbing, and call an electrician. In the end, it won't just look different, it will also function very differently.
In our experience, when people say "refresh," they usually mean "redesign." They don't just want a new logo and some fresh colors; they need to fundamentally change their website's entire look, feel, structure, and functionality.
Five Signs You Need a Website Redesign
But how do you know you need a website redesign (apart from its being five years since you last touched the site)? There are five key indicators that a website is past its expiration date. Any one of these can trigger a redesign on its own; the more boxes you check, the more likely a website redesign is in your immediate future.
Sign #1: Your Site Looks Old
As The Modern Firm Creative Director Diego Aguirre has noted in the past, people are quite good at intuitively “reading” branding and aesthetics. "People have been subconsciously trained to know what a good brand looks and feels like [and] how a good branding experience is supposed to play out."
There's an unarticulated assumption that a successful business can afford to stay abreast of changing tastes and expectations. Looking outdated online communicates either a lack of attention or a lack of operating funds—neither a good look. Similarly, your site might "look old" to you because it looks shabby when compared to competitors in your field. To someone looking for representation—and thus bouncing around between lawyers' websites—it's easy to see which firms are investing in their online presence.
Sign #2: Your Site Lacks Key Technology
It's common to think of a website as basically static, providing key information in a way not so different from letterhead, a business card, or a brochure. But even the most "static" modern website is quite interactive and responsive, where the design quietly adjusts itself to suit the needs of the visitor.
This includes responsive design, which alters layout and design elements to be more readable on mobile devices, as well as a slew of accessibility features that only kick in for visitors who are using adaptive technology such as screen readers for those with limited vision. There are also a handful of technologies that make it easier for potential clients to contact you, like tap-to-call, proper contact forms, scheduling apps (like Calendly), and so on.
When these technologies are in place and working, they make it easy for clients to get to know you, and contact you if the fit seems right. But if these technologies are absent or poorly executed, they lock potential clients out.
Sign #3: Your Website Doesn't Convert
"Conversion" in this case refers to the percentage of people who visit your site and then go on to contact and hire you. In a digital world, conversion is a key metric for determining if your marketing efforts are paying off.
There are many different factors that can derail conversion.
- A site that previously brought in many leads can suddenly go dry because search engines have changed their algorithms changing your website position on the results pages.
- Traffic you previously attracted might be getting diverted, slurped up by a competitor who's deeply invested in their online presence and digital marketing.
- Shifts in how people frame their problems and ask search engines questions could lead to many people visiting your site for the wrong reason and going elsewhere when they realize your firm can’t assist them.
Or, it could be that the look and feel of your site is out of step with your audience's tastes. Even though you would be a great fit as a lawyer, they cannot picture working with you based on your website, and so they never pick up the phone.
Sign #4: Your Website Doesn't Match Your Brand
This may be because you got stuck with a generic website to begin with, one that failed to represent who you are as a firm or communicate where your strengths lie. More often, the problem is that your firm has evolved over time, and your website has remained the same: your team has grown, as has your reputation, you've focused on a specific niche, or pivoted to a different area of practice. But your website still looks like it did in 2017, when it was just you and the receptionist.
Alternatively, it could be that what you want out of your website is what has changed. Many firms initially invest in a basic "validation website”—more-or-less just staking a claim on some digital territory so people who saw an ad or heard your name could find your contact info. But now you want to move into more aggressive lead generation and online marketing, and you need a site that can support those efforts.
Sign #5: Your Relationship with Your Web Design Agency Has Soured
The Modern Firm often hears from law firms that are considering a redesign because their relationship is falling apart with their current web design agency. It's taking forever to get small changes made, such as updating a phone number or adding a new team member to the About Us page. In the absence of a little TLC, the site has fallen into disrepair, just like a rental property with an absentee superintendent.
The firm cannot access the website to make updates on their own, or discovers that the site is stuck in some proprietary content management system that cannot accommodate what they need now. And their web agency seems either unable or uninterested in helping.
It could be that the size of the website or complexity of the marketing efforts have grown to the point that the agency can no longer handle. Many website agencies grow out of a traditional graphic design mindset, where they started out making one-off web sites, just like they'd made brochures and business cards. Ongoing support isn't really in their DNA, and managing something complex, like a successful digital marketing campaign, is outside their domain entirely.
Choosing an Agency for your Website Redesign
First and foremost, you'll want to choose a company that understands lawyers and the law. In part, this is because generalist web designers do not understand the varying legal and ethical nuances surrounding how attorneys present themselves and advertise in different regions. But more importantly, your web team needs to understand the deeper interaction between their web design, your current and future marketing efforts, and the area of the law in which you practice.
"At The Modern Firm, we only work with lawyers," Kristin Lay explains. "We have 20 plus years of thinking about lawyers and learning about specific practice areas. I'm an attorney. That’s the case with many of the members of The Modern Firm team. So, we understand this interaction between the kind of clients a given practice area has and how their website needs to look and function. We don't just churn out that generic law firm website that's got the gavel and the Supreme Court columns. That says nothing about you. Your site will communicate something essential about your firm. Ideally, that filters in people who are a good fit for you, and filters out clients that are not a good fit."
When you’re ready to upgrade to a higher-functioning website that captures the authentic you, feel free to get in touch.