This morning the ABA Journal launched a brand new website that fills a void in the legal news space that will be tough to beat. Summarizing 25 to 50 legal news items a day (RSS Feed), the Journal aggregates the legal news world in one spot. In addition to legal news, the Journal editorializes what is the “most important” legal news you need to be aware of by highlighting “Top Stories” (RSS Feed). Not stopping there, the new site brings their print edition online with full access to the current issue as well as archives back to 2005 (with plans to go even further). Finally, the Journal has a blawg (legal blog) directory which currently has over 1000 blogs categorized and more are added daily.
These are just a few of the highlights. In reality, there is a lot behind this redesign that is cool. Some of the “not so obvious” secrets include:
The Slider – an interactive sliding bar similar to what you would see on Time.com or Washington Post.com. It will highlight special features and parts of the monthly magazine.
Advanced Search – Most advanced search boxes take you to a separate page with new fields to check off for narrowed searches. Not this site! Click “Advanced Search” and get an AJAX slider presenting you with some new options for you to narrow your results.
Action Bar – Get directly to comments, Share/E-mail uses a similar AJAX slider feature, Permalink, and Print.
Commenting – Add your opinion to our posts and magazine stories. Comments will be open for 7 days past news items and 30 days past magazine articles. Name and email required as well as filling out a CAPTCHA and agreeing to some terms/disclaimer.
Mobile Edition – Stay up-to-date on the most recent posts with your smartphone. Be sure to bookmark http://mobile.abajournal.com.
This site was a large undertaking and in reality went from memo to launch in just about five months. This was very aggressive when you think about all the decisions that need to be made from functionality, to wireframing, selecting vendors to work with, design/comp, filling with content, beta-testing, fixing bugs, training, and launch. My work with the Journal was specific to translating business goals and functionality into working documents for vendors, developing some beta templates, and providing training on specific functionality and business processes.
The great thing about the web and a website like this is that it is never really “done” and believe me when I say that this site will continue to improve with new features, functionality, and reasons to visit on a regular basis. So bookmark the site (www.abajournal.com), sign up for a newsletter or grab an RSS feed or two and be sure to keep tabs on this site.
On a personal note, congrats to the ABA Journal (specifically to Ed, Molly, Deb, Martha, and Sarah) on a job well done.
A few other aspects I forgot to point out about the new ABA Journal website:
Daily and Weekly Newsletters & RSS Feeds – Pick your poison, get news via RSS feeds for top stories and daily news, or subscribe to the daily and weekly email newsletters. Daily will recap the last day’s worth of content; weekly will cover the top ten posts of the week.
Tag Cloud – Having your topics sorted in alpha order is nice, seeing a tag cloud is better! See how many entries we have pertaining to a topic on the Topics page and on the Tag Cloud tab. Categories are alpha left to right and are weighted against the number of items in each category based on the news items and the magazine content.
Read some other opinions of the new site:
Denise Howell @ Bag and Baggage
Dennis Kennedy @ DennisKennedy.blog [Note: Dennis and I are friends as well as having previously worked together at the ABA, so this one is a little "slanted" in my favor. ]
Eric Turkewitz @ New York Personal Injury Law Blog
Bill Gratsch @ Blawg.org
Ernie “the attorney” Svenson @ Ernie the Attorney
Carolyn Elefant @ MyShingle
Mark Obbie @ The Carnegie Legal Reporting Program at Newhouse Blog
Lots of stuff happening in the Web world lately, but two to note on is that del.icio.us updated their homepage today to include more search options and added thumbnails of the “Hot Now” bookmarks. Pretty cool stuff. Their homepage was updated not too long ago to a much improvement in design and layout. This just continues the trend of great things from del.icio.us with Yahoo! funding. Oh, and a side note is that del.icio.us also has contextual ads now too.
Google opened up the doors on Google Analytics yesterday. I’ve had a Google Analytics account for a while and found it very useful. I’ve debated using other types of sources, but my Web host doesn’t provide the greatest package out of the box, and I’m not willing to spend the money yet to get something more robust. GA seems to fill the bill for now. Of course I want other features to be added that can help me determine key information about my visitors, but what do you expect from something that is free. Still worth having, so go get your account today.
Recently Google acquired Writely also opened up its doors today for new registrations. The online collaboration tool that allows multiple users to write on a singe document and then export out to RTF or DOC for free is an indispensable tool for those who are not in the same organization who are working on the same document, let alone hate the problems of swapping files in email. This centrally located tool was indispensable for me when working on a recent article with multiple contributors. If you haven’t checked it out, you should.
The following are my top five reasons why your Web site will ultimately be unsucessful and be useless stagnant bits and bytes on the Internet.
5. The IS department is in charge of design and content creation/publishing.
The IS department does not know your content better than you, the content contributor. Unless you have a very specific workflow that facilitates the content creation process and how it interacts with your IS dept. for publishing, it will never work.
4. Your content is “brochure-ware”, static and stale.
Have you ever heard this in your office?
“Hey Bob, let’s just put our brochure up as content on our web site. It is the same marketing copy we would use anyway, so why re-invent the wheel.”
This conversation should never happen. If it does, please..PLEASE say “no” and make sure your content for your web site is written for the Web (yes, there is a difference) and it is reviewed on a regular basis if not changes on a regular basis.
3. The majority of your senior managers and middle managers don’t “get it” when it comes to the web.
Your management sees the Web site as a something that you “had” to do to keep up with the Jones’, but never saw the value in it and will not put more resources to improving it.
2. You have decentralized content creation without standards and rules.
Can you say Silence of the Lambs? Wild, rabid kids without any supervision will fend for themselves which gives you a fractured, inconsistent mess for your visitors to wade through to find the content they are really looking for. Without explicit standards and business rules, decentralized content control and creation can become unruley and very difficult to manage globally.
1. You don’t understand your audience and how they interact wit your brand and company.
Rule number 1: Know thy audience and thy will strive. If you don’t know who you are providing content/services to how can you build something they will use or come to?
Carson Systems launched their latest project last week. It is called Vitamin. Vitamin is a resources for web designers, developers and entrepreneurs. It brings the best and the brightest in the Web industry together to talk about the Web and how to make it better. Amongst other things, the latest post is from Dave Shea. Dave discusses how IE7 is going to break all of our Web design hacks for CSS and gives some guidance on how we wil manage this as we fix our designs and prepare for the future of browser support. I get the pleasure of seeing Dave speak in Chicago at the CarsonWorkshop on Building Beautiful Web Sites with CSS. I was so impressed with other CarsonWorkshop seminars, and Dave for that matter, that I got 14 of my colleagues at work to go too. Should be a great time.
Check out Vitamin, their podcasts, and the advisory board. Great group collaborating in this space.
This is the first in a new category based on Web site development, design, usability, and standards.
So when was the last time you looked at your Web site statistics? Not recently? Not at all? Shame! Your Web stats are a great place to find nuggets of information about how visitors are using your Web site. When checking out your stats there will always be a ton of information with many reports. This is often intimidating for almost anyone. If you are a novice at reading Web stats, here are some tips to reports you should pay particular attention to:
Referrers. This report will tell you how visitors are getting to your Web site and from where. For instance, visitors could be finding you from a Google or Yahoo! search. They could have followed a link from another Web site that is pointing to yours. The referrer report will tell you all of this. It is important to know how visitors are getting to your Web site to better optimize it.
Top Content / Top Page Views/Visits. This report, depending on what service you use, is described in several different ways. Google Analytics calls it a Top Content report. Other packages will call it Most Page Views while other ones will call it Most Visits. What they all indicate in their own unique way is what is popular on your Web site. Knowing what is being read helps identify topics that are popular with readers.
Now, be wary of top content always being looked at in a positive light. It can also indicate content that is poor. Check your referrer log and see where those links from other Web sites are pointing to and what they are saying. You just may find out that your blog post or white paper is not as effective as you thought.
Top Exit Pages. This report is great to determine if specific Web pages are performing well. An exit page is the page where your visitor was last before they left your Web site. Google Analytics does a great job of telling you where visitors exited your Web site on many of their reports. Exiting is not always a bad thing because if visitors are coming to your Web site looking for something else, it is good for them to know up front the content they were looking for is not here. But if your homepage is getting a high exit rate, then you might want to re-evaluate your navigation or the content that is being displayed. If it won’t get visitors to click through to more content, something may be wrong.
Search Terms. There are two reports you will want to pay attention to in regards to search terms. One will show you what visitors are typing into the major search engines that find your Web site. The second is where it shows you what visitors are typing into your search engine to find content on your Web site once they are here. This only works if you have search capabilities enabled on your Web site. Most blogs do by default.
These reports are key to discover what types of words and phrases visitors are using to find you and your content. This allows you to leverage this information into your future blog posts, writing of papers, and formatting of pages (headers, sub-headers, etc.).
Of course I could go on and on at reports you should look at. You should look at all of them at some point in time. Knowing what browsers, platform, screen resolution, and type of ISP is important for design and development, but not something you would look at everyday. Keep in mind that you don’t have to look at these every day, but reading your Web site statistics is important and should be part of your normal routine. The Web is on 24/7/365 and that means you have a presence to customers, vendors, clients, and colleagues 24/7/365.
Not sure what type of Web site statistics you have? Check with your Web host. Most likely they have something as part of your hosting package. If you are not satisfied with those reports there are other free ways to you can gain this information. The following services all require you to add a snippet of code to your Web pages to work correctly.
Google Analytics. Free and very robust on what type of information it provides. If you use AdWords as part of your marketing campaigns, GA is a must because it can integrate your AdWords into its reporting and provide you a better ROI on those bids.
SiteMeter. Free and provides you with most of the information listed below. A pay version will give you more information that you might find useful.
StatCounter. Stat counter is similar to SiteMeter but provides you with more information on the free account side. Their reports are cleaner and you don’t have to show a graphical icon that you are using their service unlike SiteMeter.
By utilizing the information found in your Web statistics you will be able to optimize your Web site to better serve your visitors and your bottom line.