Sneak Peak at the New Martindale-Hubbell Connected

Martindale-Hubbell Connected's new front page.

One year after its official launch, the professional-networking site Martindale-Hubbell Connected is preparing to roll out a relaunch, with a new design, new features and enhanced functionality. Well before its official launch, I posted one of the first reviews of the beta site. Since then, the site (which is owned by LexisNexis) has continued to evolve, but it has been plagued by a clunky interface that makes it difficult to navigate and sometimes difficult to use.

Today, Jon Lin, senior director of product management at LexisNexis, and Mike Mintz, community manager for Martindale-Hubble, presented a webinar preview of Connected’s redesign. They were showing a demonstration site that lacked full functionality, so it is difficult to fully assess the changes. Based on what they showed, however, it appears that the new site will be a major improvement in ease of use and navigation.

The redesign had two overarching goals, Lin said. The first was to make it so simple to use that even a child could easily understand it. The second was to create tighter and more seamless integration between Martindale-Hubbell Connected and the public Martindale.com site.

To improve navigation, the redesign incorporates a standard navigation menu with drop-down sub-menus that will appear on every page and make it easy to access the site’s various sections and features. Also, the site makes greater use of tabs on pages, with the goal of giving users access to greater varieties of information while requiring fewer clicks.

Along with better navigation menus, the new site has a much improved search bar that will appear on the top of every page. It will let you search for lawyers by name or practice area; find firms and companies; search by law schools; find groups; search discussion topics in blogs, wikis and forums; and search for jobs. In short, the search function will search for anything posted anywhere on Connected.

A user’s home page on Connected will now look more like a Facebook page in that it will feature a status update bar near the top and a Wall-like array beneath it featuring activities and updates of others in your network. Tabs let you switch this display from showing all updates to show just status, group or discussion updates.

The new design makes ample use of various types of widgets tailored to your location within the site. On your home page, one widget gives you quick access to your connections and another helps you find activity and discussions that may interest you (based on information you provide about yourself in your profile).

Enhanced Profile Pages

Among the most significant substantive changes are to profile pages. Until now, a member’s Connected profile had no direct connection to his or her Martindale.com profile. Now, the two profiles will be virtually identical with the same information. The primary difference between the two will be that Connected members will have one-click access to editing and updating their profile information.

The new profiles will be arranged in tabs, showing professional details, community posts and activity, ratings and reviews (as now appear on Martindale.com) and network connections. Users will be able to add much more information about themselves than now, including links to their other social-networking sites, Twitter feeds and multiple blogs.

A new “My Diversity Information” section will allow users to identify their gender, ethnicity, physical handicaps and identification as LGBT.

Also completely redesigned is the way the site handles and displays groups. This has been one of its clunkiest areas, so these changes are welcome news. Functionally, the biggest changes are that groups can now include multiple subgroups and that subgroups can be set up as public or private. The more visible changes are to the design of the groups directory and to specific group pages, all of which are made much easier to use and move through.

An important change for current members to note is that all information in public groups and blogs on Connected will become visible to the public — meaning nonmembers as well as members — and will be indexed by Google. This is intended to give users greater visibility. Private groups will not be visible other than to members. Users who wish to change the status of a group from public to private must do so by May 28.

The redesign is slated to launch sometime in early June.

It is difficult from viewing a webinar to fully evaluate the changes. Based on what they presented, however, the changes appear likely to improve significantly the “experience” of using Martindale-Hubbell Connected. The cleaner design and enhanced navigational elements look promising. Better integration with the Martindale.com parent site makes sense — provided Connected does not turn into a forum focusing on upselling to enhanced products and services.

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  • What I’m still trying to figure out is why would I use MH Connected over LinkedIn? What is the benefit? Granted MHC is an exclusive network for attorneys who can be a source of referrals. But then again, why not just use LinkedIn to make that connection and gain referrals?

    If it was integrated with LinkedIn making it more effortless, then I think I would use it more. Right now I barely use it except for when another attorney wants to connect (but that almost always happens on LinkedIn first).

  • Hi Richard,

    If it’s ok I will answer your two questions in reversed order:

    Firstly, we have collaborated numerous times with LinkedIn, appreciating their value and capabilities and saluting the way they changed the market and user behavior. Martindale-Hubbell Connected and LinkedIn ARE integrated – you can see shared connections you have with a specific lawyer or Connected member on LinkedIn, as well as import your LinkedIn connections to Connected via People You May Know. Keep your eyes open for future integration news.

    Secondly, what differentiates Connected from other networks? I heard from many people that use Connected that they do so because it is legally focused, and not generic. I would say personally I invest a significant amount of time on LinkedIn and Facebook myself, but it would really damage my career, knowledge, network and development if I wasn’t member of Social Media and Product Management focused communities online, because these are professionally focused areas, where people, content, and knowledge is already filtered for me.

    New Martindale-Hubbell Connected is differentiated from other networks by additional elements. As Bob mentions in his post “An important change for current members to note is that all information in public groups and blogs on Connected will become visible to the public — meaning nonmembers as well as members — and will be indexed by Google. This is intended to give users greater visibility. Private groups will not be visible other than to members.” This is UNIQUE TO CONNECTED. No other network offers groups the ability to produce social content outside registration, a huge benefit for our members which gives them a really powerful SEO and marketing boost.

  • Alin, you make a number of valid points and you represent your company well. But I remain unconvinced largely because of how I leverage social networking and internet marketing to connect with potential clients (or at least how I perceive it should be leveraged).

    The social networking aspect of MHC is exclusive to attorneys. Although I agree that reputation building among peers is important, it takes back seat to building client relationships. Put another way, if you had the opportunity to have lunch with a potential client or with another attorney, you’re going to choose lunch with the potential client. So, having the choice between MHC, LinkedIn, ABA’s LegallyMinded, or other similar site, LinkedIn puts me in touch with the broadest possible audience without restrictions. And let me stress how important my time is (what attorney’s time isn’t?) so I need to choose a social medium that provides the most return for the least amount of time expended.

    Second, and this is attributable to all social networking sites and not just MHC, I’m bothered with all the free content gained from users. Why would I start a blog on a third party website and create tons of free content that I don’t have control over? Granted there is a benefit to attorneys writing articles or answering user questions by virtue of being promoted on the third party website. But I wonder how much better off that attorney would be by creating that same or similar content on his or her own website. In my opinion it is the social networking site that comes out on top with the user generated content and not so much the creator of that content.

    The bottom line is that to me MHC feels like an afterthought — like someone at Lexis realized they were missing the boat and needed to come up with some way to capitalize on the social media frenzy. As a professional development tool maybe MHC’s got something. But as long as there is LinkedIn and other social networking-based sites out there offering me a broader audience, it’s difficult for me to justify spending my time on yet another social networking website.