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Be responsive with your firm’s site

columnist Elizabeth Millard webIn the technology world, one of the newer phrases taking hold is “responsive web design” or RWD, a strategy that calls for crafting sites that make navigation easier. Usually done through less content and more images, the approach aims for an optimal viewing experience across multiple device types, which means that it shouldn’t matter whether a site visitor surfs in from a laptop or a smartphone, your firm’s site and brand image would be consistent.

“It’s not just about two-way conversations with brands, it’s truly experience-driven engagement that facilitates business,” says Nancy Lyons, president and CEO of Minneapolis-based digital agency Clockwork Active Media.

The amount of buzz around RWD and other cutting-edge design tactics should serve as a wake-up call for some firms, especially those that have relied on the same website for a number of years. Content-heavy pages, long blog posts, clumsy mobile navigation and other relics of the past should be considered for the chopping block. Here are some ideas for freshening up site content, regardless of specialization area:

Consider online interactions

If your firm has a level of online client engagement, such as through surveys or virtual document sharing, then it may be time to tweak how these interactions are handled by the website. Lyons believes that discussions about transactions should go beyond thoughts about mobile vs. desktop and move instead into the realm of how clients approach a site.

“We’ve been talking about ‘transactions anywhere,’” she says. That means discovering how clients can have more options for talking, publishing, participating, and sharing content regardless of device type. In order to get a better grasp of how clients interact, for example, you could do a short web survey asking for their preferences — do they prefer to get legal documents via email or Google Docs? Are calendar sharing apps useful for them?

Refine navigation

Similarly, if your site hasn’t done usability testing since its launch, then it’s likely time to re-check how newer users navigate through the content, and how they perceive that content as well.

Pay particular attention to a site’s “About” and “Contact Us” pages, advises Martha McCarthy, co-founder and CEO of Minneapolis-based social media consulting firm The Social Lights. “Although responsive design favors less text, these pages are still very important,” she says.

Make sure to update blogs

Many firms launch blogs and enthusiastically update them for a few months or a few years, and then quietly stop putting up new content. But users will be able to see when a blog is last updated, and if a partner’s last compelling thoughts are from 2011, that might make the firm itself seem stagnant.

Social media tools can be substituted for traditional blogging, says McCarthy, but many of her company’s clients see results doing both, as long as content is updated at least two to five times per month. Also, promoting the blog posts on social media drive inbound leads and help with SEO.

Start having conversations about Web presence

Refreshing a firm’s website is a significant undertaking, and it’s likely that any transition will be a gradual one. Work together to create a vision that includes strategic rebuilds, advises Terry Low, CEO of Byte Technology, a Web design firm in Bloomington.

“Part of our work as Web developers is to provide education, and to help clients understand the impact of any changes,” he says.

Elizabeth Millard writes about technology. Formerly senior editor at ComputerUser, her work has appeared in Business 2.0, eWeek, Linux Magazine and TechNewsWorld.

About Elizabeth Millard