Learn from the journey one firm took in redesigning their website.
Over the past several years, our firm, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, experienced a very exciting period of growth — both organically as well as through strategic mergers and strong lateral and entry-level recruitment. As an organization on the rise, we wanted to create an engaging “digital front door” to Taft, positioning us ahead of the curve, supporting current and future growth, and forming a consistent brand presence.
In January 2017, our new chairman and managing partner prioritized the firm’s website overhaul, creating a renewed excitement and energy around the project. It was a large undertaking to build a site that tells the story of our expanded capabilities and expresses our commitment to innovation and collaboration. As other firms might find themselves in a similar position, I thought I’d share a handful of steps we took and features we included in our website redesign process that may help the next law firm going through a similar process.
Setting a guiding statement for your brand
Having undergone such dramatic growth in recent years — our Chicago office alone has grown 37 percent since 2014 — it was important that the website tell the story of a forward-thinking organization with upward momentum. After a rigorous RFP process, we decided to partner with digital agency One North to aid us in this effort and help direct the overall process.
With their help, we created a thematic statement that embodies our growth strategy and commitment to excellence: “Raise your expectations.” By having a declaration like this, anyone visiting our site would easily understand our mission. This would also greatly inform future steps of our website redesign. For our firm, the statement points to our client-service mentality and willingness to go above and beyond expectations. It also serves as an internal call to action, challenging each team member to expect more from themselves and each other.
Use a video homepage for storytelling
In order to bring the concept of “Raise your expectations” to life visually, we landed on the idea of creating videos as a tangible way to provide potential clients and new hires with a snapshot of the personalities inside our firm. The addition of videos to describe our volunteer efforts and work/life balance initiatives allow website visitors to further engage with us. We also created a video tour of our offices that lives on the homepage, so site visitors feel as though they are walking through the space with us.
Today, our homepage welcomes website visitors with video footage of our leaders, attorneys and staff engaging in conversation, as well as a few personal shots of individual workstations. Because we decided on this statement early in the redesign process, we built in shots that reinforce the upward movement suggested in the brand statement. “Raise your expectations” appears over the homepage video as the camera pans upward to overlook the iconic Wrigley Building, one of the views from our Chicago office. We chose a specific purpose for our videos, but they could also highlight careers, community involvement, diversity initiatives and much more based on the brand another firm wants to convey.
Build a narrative through fresh content
Continuing our focus on storytelling, we added a section for case studies and increased emphasis on notable matters to the new website. Demonstrating past client experience was an important goal for our team, as One North’s research suggests that 88 percent of professional services buyers value proven performance over promised results when making a decision to hire a firm. Divided into sections that describe challenges, teamwork and impact, our case studies provide potential clients a snapshot of our team in action and examples of our process, which should help them gain an understanding of how we work.
We also rewrote a large portion of the website’s content — attorney bios, practice and industry pages, career opportunity pages, and professional development and mentorship sections — to ensure it was fresh and relatable to a larger audience.
Create user-friendly navigation
Google, Netflix and Amazon have spoiled us. No one enjoys hunting for answers. Considering how people use the internet today, we created a user-friendly site with navigation that guides users to areas of interest, such as attorney bios, practice areas and industry experience.
To further improve the user experience, we organized our website navigation to appeal to end-users from specific industries. We also incorporated an easy and accessible search function, so visitors can find exactly what they’re looking for in the quickest way possible. Focusing on features such as navigation structure, responsive design and predictive search helps us ensure end-users can better engage with the site.
We prioritized building a site that functions properly across devices in order to deliver a seamless experience and brand consistency. The mobile version of our website includes the same concepts of simplicity and ease of use, with a consistent experience across desktop and mobile. We also added a permanent “Offices” drop-down to the bottom of each mobile webpage to provide easy access to contact information, a map and parking directions for each of our locations.
Promote autonomy through technology
As part of the redesign, we also updated how the site was built in order to provide the marketing team additional flexibility and control using a new content management system (CMS). Our old CMS left little opportunity to make changes without assistance from a developer, which made it difficult to incorporate new ideas and be more agile. The new site allows more freedom to manage the outward look and feel on our own, which has been helpful for our team.
Stay on track for launch
Knowing everyone is a critic when it comes to the website, we realized early on that to succeed, we had to manage stakeholder feedback. At Taft, we wanted to ensure our stakeholders understood the firm was working with the right team for the job, and in many cases, it made sense to defer to the experts. We knew this would help in the long-run by limiting feedback and leaning on One North’s expertise in the legal space on bigger decisions. After we earned the trust and support of our managing partner at the very beginning, the rest of the firm followed his example.
We also hosted both a high-level design review and VIP preview prior to the official website unveiling, which helped build credibility, earn leadership buy-in and maintain the short 9-month timeline.
That's a wrap
Since the website reveal, we’ve received positive feedback from recruits, associates and partners. The new website helps us achieve a renewed brand experience — present in all storytelling elements, from engaging videos to new case studies. As the firm’s story continues to unfold, we invite each website visitor to tour our offices, explore our service offerings and get to know our people.