Your law firm has finally arrived at a consensus: It’s time to redesign your website. Now that you’ve reached this point, you’re anxious to communicate your preferences to your designer. You may even have a handful of “inspiration” websites in mind — websites that seem to embody the results you’re after.

During the beginning stages of a web design project, it’s natural to want to show your designer examples of websites you admire. In fact, you might assume that doing so is the best way to guide your designer in the right direction.

To be sure, your designer wants to understand your preferences and aspirations. In that regard, inspiration websites can be very useful. But if you treat your favorite inspiration website as a boilerplate rather than a conversation-starter, the end results are certain to disappoint.

In order for inspiration websites to be useful, you must use them as the jumping-off point for deeper, more meaningful conversation.

The Danger of Treating Inspiration Websites Like Design Templates

When preparing an RFP for your website design project, you may be tempted to include links to your inspiration websites. The problem comes when you expect those samples to lead your design process, rather than starting from a more solid strategic foundation.

All experienced designers have seen it before. It typically goes something like this: A design brief from a small firm points to an industry leader’s website as the project’s north star. The subtext of the brief is something like this: “Here’s the McKinsey website. Now make my three-person firm look exactly like this global company.”

Of course, that’s not possible. Our hypothetical small firm simply doesn’t have the budget, content, or message to pull it off. But more than that, it’s not good practice. The reason? The McKinsey website — like all of the most successful professional websites — was beautifully designed to express the firm’s unique value proposition and brand personality. That’s what makes it so impactful.

Those “right-fit” design results are exactly what you should be going for when it comes to your own firm’s website. Which is an outcome you’ll never get from “copycatting” the website of the firm you most admire.

A truly strategic design partner would never agree to simply emulate your favorite website. They will insist on crafting a website that reflects and elevates your firm’s authentic points of differentiation.

How to Talk About Inspiration Websites with Your Law Firm’s Web Designer

We’ve already established that you shouldn’t expect your designer to emulate an inspiration site. But inspiration websites can serve a useful purpose in the web design process. In order to realize their value, you must dig deeper.

To start, review your inspiration website with an eye toward identifying the specific elements you like (and dislike). Is it the images? The color palette? The user experience? The brand identity? Something else? Get as specific as you can.

Next, find a way to explain why you are drawn to each element. What about it is triggering a positive response? For example, let’s say you like the typography. Rather than simply saying, “I like the font,” see if you can describe what the font communicates to you. Is it traditional, or is it edgy? Does it convey strength and authority, or does it bring innovation to mind?

Insights like these give your designer something to work with. If you say you like a particular font choice because it looks sturdy and dependable, your designer’s takeaway isn’t “use this exact font.” It’s, “find a way to weave these underlying qualities into the design.” Rather than putting the designer in a box, you enable them to use their expertise to find the best possible solution.

Even when presented with your compelling reasons, a smart designer won’t just blindly embrace each of your personal preferences. That’s because they will only make design choices that align with and support your brand’s personality and bigger-picture objectives. 

Bottom line? Discussions about what you like and don’t like should be used to generate deeper questions. So you may begin with an aesthetic preference, but you must ultimately come back around to the goals your organization wants to accomplish.

The Best Law Firm Websites Start With a Strategy-First Approach

When it comes to your law firm’s website, strategy must come first. What are your goals for your website redesign? What do you most urgently want to convey about your brand? Who are your audiences? What problems are they trying to solve, and how is your firm uniquely positioned to solve them? These questions (and others like them) are much more critical than personal aesthetic preferences to the success of your website as a marketing and business-generation tool.

At Decker Design, we guide our clients through a research and strategy-driven process that enables them to answer these questions with confidence. Using internal and external interviews as well as competitive research, we reveal our clients’ most promising positioning-related opportunities. Then, we lead them in solidifying their positioning by pinpointing the subtle (and not-so-subtle) factors that set them apart.

All of Decker’s design work flows from our initial strategy-building phase. This is important for two reasons. The first is that it ensures we remain focused on creating designs that support your bigger-picture business goals. And the second is that it promotes consensus-building among your law firm’s partners.

If your design decisions are made based on nothing more than aesthetic preferences, then you’ll have no choice but to argue over whose preferences should take precedence. But in a strategy-driven design process, your team can assess design options based on a more objective and common measuring stick.

Interested in learning more about how Decker Design can help your law firm define and elevate your brand? We’d love to talk.