It's been a slow start to 2011 in terms of law firm web relaunches. We had the excellent Burness site a few weeks ago but despite our best efforts it's been hard to find a recently launched site worthy of mention.
However, you may have noticed our Miller Thomson video last week, a video that came on the back of web relaunch back in November. November's not so long ago, right? It's good enough for me!
For those of you that don't know, Miller Thomson LLP is one of Canada’s most respected national business law firms. They said that, not me. With over 470 lawyers and offering a range of business, advocacy and personal legal services to corporations, financial institutions, entrepreneurs, governments, not-for-profit organizations and individuals, you'd hope that their website reflected their size and depth of service. Let's take a look.
First Impressions – The Homepage: OK first off, there's nothing ground-breaking about the site. I feel slightly mean saying that because a few weeks ago, let's call it Pre-Burness (PB), I would have been more enthusiastic about it.
It's nice. Nice is good, but nice is also your seeing your granny for the afternoon, or feeding some ducks, or both.
I like a number of aspects of the homepage: the carousel, the use of images (especially the stunning landscape), the typeface, the colours, the RSS links, the Twitter nod. However, design-wise, it's a bit of Jekyl & Hyde of a page. The carousel is lovely, but it's as if below that the links and content were just lumped there as an after thought.
See what I mean? Or am I being a bit harsh? It wouldn't take much effort to liven up those 'Latest News', 'Featured Publications' and 'Events' modules. But, like I say, the immediate use of RSS kind of makes up for it. I'm still astonished at the number of law firms that don't make their content available via RSS, so good work Miller Thomson on that.
Finding Your Way - Navigation: In a nutshell, very good. Hit the find a lawyer link and you get the very simple alpha options with advanced options if needed. The search function is also very quick and returns neatly organised results (see below). The View Our Services page displays the practice groups with collapsable and expandable text options to view areas of work. This is a really good use of space and a technique employed throughout the site on lawyer bios.
Content: As mentioned above, the site employs cleverly expandable and collapsable text areas to maximise space. This allows for a lot of well-written copy to be included across the site without it looking like a wall of text. There's nothing revolutionary, or shall we say "off-the-wall", about the way the content is presented (no videos of lawyers cooking etc here) but the site does a good job of presenting the information. One gripe, and it's one of my favourites, especially 'PB', is the lawyer photos. Here, like so many other sites, the photos are massively inconsistent in colour tone, cropping, background colour, you name it. Check out the results page above and you'll see what I mean.
As mentioned earlier, what drew my attention to the Miller Thomson rebrand and web relaunch was the branding video that I found on YouTube. This one is not a bad effort and they make a point of featuring it in there media section, a part of the site I'll be looking out for additonal content on in the coming weeks.
Getting Social - Miller Thomson and Social Media: Great use of RSS feeds from the key sections of the site that would benefit from one. They have a link to their Twitter account but so far only 37 tweets so it's too early to see how they'll be using this to engage and promote.
One point of note is that along with RSS feeds they also have an AddThis share content option to other social network sites such as Facebook, Digg, LinkedIn etc. This is easy to implement and a great way of sharing content (why oh why do other firms not integrate this into their sites?).
Rather disappointingly, there are no blogs.
Conclusion: Pleasingly nice on the eye, easy to navigate, and delivering a wealth of content in a way that doesn't manufacture headaches, Miller Thomson's new site gets most things right but falls short of inspirational. But the rebranding video suggests more rich-media content could be on the way, and that could just lift it to another level.
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