Beyond designing and building websites

Paul Boag

A successful website is about a lot more than web design. But who is helping clients deal with these bigger issues?

Headscape has changed a lot over the last year and I am really enjoying the new challenges it has brought me.

There was a time when like most web agencies, Headscape focused on designing and building websites. However, that has only ever been a small part of what is involved in creating a successful website.

Running a great website involves:

  • strategy,
  • planning,
  • monitoring,
  • recruitment,
  • training,
  • testing,
  • management,
  • policies,
  • job descriptions,
  • organisation charts,
  • responsibility matrixes…

…and all kinds of traditional business skills that web agencies haven’t involved themselves in.

The problem is that if web agencies don’t tackle these “strategic/governance/management” issues then who will? Traditional business consultants don’t have the understanding of the web to do so effectively. This is a new area and at the moment most clients are left to work it out by themselves.

That is why an increasing amount of the work we do is strategic and consultative rather than just design and development.

But, what does that work actually involve?

What’s involved in web strategy and management?

There is a surprising amount of help most clients need with their website to make it truly successful (although they don’t always realise it). I have therefore decided to start a series of weekly posts looking at the different types of web strategy and management services that we should be supplying our clients.

Instead of writing a series of theoretical and abstract posts, I have decided to write about a fictional company and how we could help their web strategy beyond just building them a website.

If you run a website, hopefully this will help you realised just how many issues there are for you to address. If you are a web designer, it will show you how much more we can be offering our clients.

I would therefore like to introduce you to Wolfram & Hart.

Introducing Wolfram & Hart, Attorneys at Law

Unlike its TV counterpart Wolfram & Hart is not a demonic empire with evil intentions. Instead it is a reasonably large law firm with approximately 320 employees spread across offices in New York, San Francisco and London.

Wolfram & Hart Offices

The London office was added about a year ago when Wolfram and Hart acquired a UK law firm. Although publicly they have become apart of Wolfram and Hart, they still largely operate as an independent concern.

Like most law firms the majority of their business comes from the network and reputation of their lead attorneys (the partners). Unfortunately these Attorneys are much in demand and regularly move from one firm to the next, taking their clients with them.

Wolfram and Hart operates across a large range of sectors (e.g. Energy suppliers or financial institutions) and practice areas (e.g. Intellectual property or insurance claims). However, they have a particular reputation among tech companies, hence their San Francisco office.

Compared to the competition their website looks somewhat dated. This is because it has lacked the ongoing investment it deserves. There is a small web team consisting of a project manager and developer working out of the New York office and an all rounder based in London who was inherited from the UK law firm.

The web team is knowledgable and competent, but has little authority. They report into communications in the US and IT in the UK, which causes numerous difficulties.

Content and functionality for the website are largely dictated by comms or individual attorneys, who often have strong opinions about the site. Attorneys in the San Francisco office keep the web team particularly busy updating content.

Unfortunately because so much time is spent by the web team updating content they have little time to think strategically about the future of the website. They know the site doesn’t represent Wolfram and Hart well but…

  • They don’t have the time to do anything about it.
  • They are so busy with admin they cannot plan the next step, let alone a long term roadmap.
  • They are unable to get stuff done because they do not have the power to instigate change.

Fortunately the state of the website is now seen as enough of a problem, that funds have been made available to fix it. Being a law firm, money is not a massive issue and so the web team wants to do things right.

They begin the process by hiring you as an outside consultant to help them move their site forward. Where do you start?

Where to start?

So there you have it. That is Wolfram and Hart. Over the next few weeks I will unpack how we would go about helping a company like this. They obviously have bigger problems than just needing a new website, but this will become even more apparent as we dig a little deeper.

The question is, where would you start? Share your initial reactions in the comments below.