Note: This article was originally posted on July 23, 2009. While some things have changed for the better, there’s always room for improvement. The highlighted areas are especially compelling when you consider this post was written nearly 11 years ago. 

From the most beautiful and creative websites designed by my favorite graphic designers to the biggest corporate websites (including law firms), most sites follow the same schema:

  • Who we are: Diversity, lawyer bios, and office descriptions, press releases, and articles fall under this section.
  • What we do: Typically cover practice and industry descriptions, and case studies.
  • Who we do it for: Well, that’s obvious.

While law firm websites have come a long, long way in a very short time, not much has changed in the way professional-services websites are organized.

But Nancy, what’s wrong with that approach? Clearly, this convention works.
Because sites organized in this manner are focused on the ‘we’ – the corporation and not the ‘user.’ For as long as I can remember, the idea of ‘user-centric websites’ sounded too academic and not applicable to the real world. (Or, at least the corporate website design and development world in which I made my living.)

Our clients hated the idea of a user-centric site: “Who has time to ask the customer what they want? We have a new website to launch!” The graphic designers I worked with knew how much the Jakob Nielsons of the world despised Flash animation because early on, Flash wasn’t user-friendly.* Since 2000, improvements to connection speeds and faster computers have helped make these issues a thing of the past.

Why consider a user-centric approach, especially in a down economy?
Because y’all look the same to the clients, and that’s not a good thing in what is quickly becoming a commoditized business.

But Nancy, our clients and prospects need to know we are, what we do, and whom we do it for!
Of course, they do. And your next site should give them that information – but in a more thoughtful and respectful way.

Here’s my challenge:
Your next site redesign’s primary goal will be to organize it around your clients’ and prospects’ needs (and recruits if this market ever turns around). Less about the ‘we’ and more about the ‘you.’

And while you’re at it, you can make all the other improvements you had planned. But put your users’ needs first. And the only way you’re going to know what they need is if you ask.

PS: Coincidentally, Seth Godin’s current blog entry, entitled “Welcome to Island Marketing,” is very relevant and definitely worth the three minutes it’ll take you to read!

* Flash has since been replaced by other/better technology.

Photo by Daniel Rustic on Unsplash


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