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6:55am EDT December 17, 2003
Like many companies, the law firm of Weltman, Weinberg & Reis found itself with an outdated Web page that wasn't meeting the needs of its clients or its employees.

"There were a lot of problems with the old site," says Tanya Tybur, marketing director for the firm. "The previous version was several years old. It had served its purpose, but the static HTML pages had outlived their usefulness. As the site grew, the static pages became time-consuming and costly to maintain.

"There were big, clunky graphics, outdated technologies like spinning logos and an outdated design that didn't match our image. Both our internal and external customers mentioned the problems with the site."

The time had come for a major overhaul.

"A lot of people throughout the firm recognized it was something that needed updating," says Tybur. "Especially as we updated our other marketing pieces, it became blatantly obvious."

The demands on the site were more complex. No longer could it just be a brochure for potential prospects. Customers needed access to account information, the HR department wanted job postings listed, partners wanted to use the site as an educational resource for clients and marketing needed to update the site on a regular basis to keep people coming back.

The first step was to form a committee to oversee site development.

"We had people in charge with the power to OK or veto things," says Tybur. "We had a good cross section of the organization to work on the projects to make sure everyone was on board and that their needs were being covered."

The committee decided to keep the project in-house to maintain maximum control and to make sure all needs were being addressed.

"The only portion that was outsourced was the design for the look and feel of the site," says Tybur. "We went to a Web design company to come up with a template look for the home page and one or two other pages. Once that was done, the IT department was able to build the rest of it and customize it based on our plan."

The completed site is maintained in-house; HR handles the employment section and marketing handles the rest.

"One of the advantages of doing this in-house was we were able to harness the efforts of the people who built the site to do other projects," says Tybur. "They built us a tool for site maintenance so we can make our own changes."

The tool helps everyone work together to keep the site updated.

"We wanted to be able to keep the content fresh and give the ability to our individual departments to go into and maintain the content for each category and subcategory," says Daniel Spencer, Web administrator for the firm.

Keeping it in-house also allowed team members to focus on getting everything exactly the way they wanted it without worrying about hourly charges or cost overruns.

"It did take longer than we thought," says Tybur. "From initial planning to completion took about a year. But we are going to be continuing to work on making the site better. Everyone manages the site, because it can't be left alone.

"We have to find ways to make it more sticky to get people to keep coming back. We have to find new ways to meet the needs of the people we are serving. We will continue to meet about new initiatives." How to reach: Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co., (216) 685-1000 or www.weltman.com


Overhaul checklist

The law firm of Weltman, Weinberg & Reis overhauled its Web site to better meet the needs of prospective clients, existing customers and employees. After a year's work, the new site is finished.

Here are some tips it learned during the process.

* Assemble a good team from throughout the company. "Having people on the team that have some artistic ability that can recognize a good design helps," says Tanya Tybur, the firm's marketing director.

* Get authority. A team or committee with no decision-making power wastes time. Either get authority for the team or make sure there is a decision-maker on it to streamline approval processes.

* Choose your help carefully. "If you outsource the artistic design of your site, do it to a firm that is Internet-savvy," says Tybur. "We initially looked at some designers who weren't, but in retrospect, that would have been a poor decision to choose them."

* Consider staying in-house. If you have the personnel to accomplish the mission, consider doing it yourself. No one knows what you need more than the people who work for your company.

* Build extra time into your timeline for site testing. You don't want to launch a nonfunctioning or content-poor site. Also, remember that not everyone uses the same Internet browser. Make sure your site works well with all browsers and platforms.