A company’s website can be an amorphous thing. A place that tries to be something to everyone that visits.
Most product-based websites are attempting to sell you something. Whether that’s a dream, a physical object, a service, or a piece of software the goal is to take you from visitor to lead to customer. This process of conversion is well-studied and cottage industries have grown around helping businesses convert website visitors to leads.
For a time, LexBlog’s website tried to act as this funnel using relatively standard techniques. Early iterations had clear calls to action for purchasing something. Later, “more sophisticated”, approaches had landing pages for different personas and extensive product tables.
Today’s version is the closest version to what I’m comfortable with as a LexBlog employee. We’re no longer pushing LexBlog and our products through our website. Instead, we’re shining a light on our customers and the people that want to join us in our mission to broaden the discussion of the law online and make that discussion freely available to anyone that is interested.
This shift has not been without it’s struggles. To get to where we are today, we had to first take the website formerly known as LXBN and put a better dress on it. This included not just updating the design of the site, but bringing it into out platform in a more formal fashion by opening up subscription options to publishers on our platform. We then had to move LXBN to become the new LexBlog.com. We did this almost under the cover of night last winter with our CTO, Joshua Lynch, working his domain magic to get the hardest parts done.
While we’ve come a long way, the version of LexBlog.com that you see today is full of warts and issues. These are things that perhaps only I can see, but that if we’re serious about our mission, everyone will see sooner or later. The tools we use to aggregate our customer’s content are the same ones that we used in 2011 when LXBN.com was launched and I can only describe them as lossy. We can and should do better, which is why the product team at LexBlog has, over the course of the past several months, been working on more advanced and faithful ways to pull content into LexBlog.com and treat it in a way that respects our publisher’s actions on the platform, and provides greater context to readers that come to the site.
In layman’s terms this means better post attribution, better organization by source (i.e., by blog) and by membership (i.e., the organization – be it a law firm or legal company – responsible for publishing), and a foundation for future iterations around search and subscriptions.
In technical terms, this has meant a deep dive into the WordPress REST API by Scott Fennell and Angelo Carosio – LexBlog’s dynamic developer duo – so that we can keep our network of 1000 blogs, 15,000 publishers, and nearly 400,000 posts in synch with LexBlog.com. This has been no easy task, and in many ways, the core WordPress work of building out custom REST endpoints has been the easiest. The real trick has been looking at the tools we’ve layered in (additional profile meta, content reassignment tools, etc) that our publishers have access to, and making sure that when they take an action, it’s reflected over on LexBlog.com.
Practically, this means when a post is updated on Kevin, our CEO’s, blog, a request is sent to LexBlog.com to update the corresponding post there. Or if Bob Ambrogi, LexBlog’s editor-in-chief, posts a new article on a piece of technology he’s interested in on his LawSites blog, that post goes right over to LexBlog.com – in full – and is properly attributed for the audience there to read.
This is all still a work in progress. We’ve only just come to a point in the project where I feel comfortable talking about it out loud instead of in a company Slack channel after getting through some of the more complex bits of debugging that we’ve had to endure at LexBlog. To take this from a project in the LexBlog lab and move it into the light is going to take some serious elbow grease. While we don’t have a set launch date for this project quite yet, I’m continuing to be optimistic that we’ll make significant progress before we’re too deep into the Seattle summer.
But what will the finished product look like? Ultimately, it will be similar to what you see today. A place where we continue to highlight the best legal content on the web and bring together opinions from all over the globe on the shifting landscape of the law. A point of pride for me as a LexBlog employee has always been the level of care we have for our client’s work. The company that we are today is because of them. It feels good to build LexBlog.com as a vehicle for their work, not ours, all in an effort to bring the law online.