10 Things We Learned From Our Site Redesign
Most agencies choose to refresh their websites every few years. Typically the decision is design-driven, but in our case, the motivation was to rebuild our site on a new CMS to gain increased functionality. While we weren’t unhappy with our previous site design, making the switch to a new CMS helped us create a whole new look. Ultimately, we wanted our site to provide value to the end user. We set out to create a beautiful yet simple site that offers insight into our company, showcases our work, and offers helpful, thought-provoking content. Throughout the process we took note of what worked and what didn’t, as well as a few a-ha moments. Here are some of the key takeaways from our experience.
Any agency knows that when paying client work comes in, internal projects quickly move to the back burner. This time, however, we decided to treat our website redesign like a client project. We set firm deadlines for ourselves and followed the same advice we typically give clients. We forced ourselves to balance the production of the site within our existing workload. And in the end the site launched right on schedule.
Selecting the right CMS is a must. We chose to build our new site using Craft, which provides a flexible back-end that, when combined with the right components, creates a powerful, flexible tool for managing the site. Using these systems together, our content editors can design pages on the fly by simply dragging and dropping blocks in any order and previewing them in real time.
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Instead of creating a complete layout, our designers used style tiles to develop the site design. Style tiles consist of a single document and are a collection of design elements, including fonts, colors, and interface components that determine a site’s look and feel. When working with clients, getting early buyoff on style tiles can help save time and money by aligning our team with the client’s vision of the site’s visual style before layout begins.
For our new design, we departed from the previous site’s darker, dramatic photography style and sans serif fonts. This time we created a more sophisticated look with ample white space paired with serif fonts. We moved away from large photo headers and color blocks, and now the site primarily has simple headers. The new design is bold and clean, and allows the work to speak for itself.
We learned that custom photography is an excellent way to convey our personality and make a major impact. According to the Content Marketing Institute, conversion rates are seven times higher when custom visual content is included.1 For our team photos, we used a ring flash photography style, which presents the subject in a raw, visceral way. All these photos were shot within the walls of our office. (Speaking of, if you’ve never been to our AAMCO-garage-turned-agency-office-space, you really should come by sometime!)
Studies have shown that team pages are some of the most visited on agency websites. While they provide an opportunity to showcase employee personality, how you present your team needs to jive with the vibe of the agency. We wanted our team photos to mirror the agency’s personality—energetic, confident, smart, and eclectic. And to help visitors get to know us, we developed an interesting set of get-to-know-you questions that we all answered. Because we are a purpose-driven agency and not just a branding agency, we included a mix of purpose-related questions along with a few off-the-wall inquiries.
When people visit our site to see our work, they shouldn’t have to wade through large blocks of text. The work should speak for itself. That’s why we provided concise summaries of each project’s challenges, solutions, and results right at the beginning of each case study. But we didn’t get rid of all the content. If the reader feels so inclined, he or she can still read the entire, in-depth case study located right below the summaries.
Keeping content above the fold used to be the industry standard. Then came smart phones and flick scrolling. Now most sites live below the fold, which provides unique opportunities to tell interesting vertical narratives. Through each flick of the screen, we wanted to pull users deeper into our story, letting them know who we are as a company, what we do, and why we (hopefully!) matter to them. Our goal is to guide users through a clear, concise narrative flow that eventually drives them to action.
Google loves relevancy, so when considering SEO, the first question we asked ourselves was how to make our content the most relevant and valuable to a potential client’s search query. We began by looking at our target audience and identifying the search queries they use most frequently. We identified their common search terms and the questions they ask regarding marketing and services. Then we used that information to build a content marketing plan filled with sharable, searchable content.
If we didn't provide strong CTAs (calls to action) throughout our site to drive conversions, all our helpful content would be meaningless. We carefully designed multiple CTAs for every page, each with a clear action for the user to take. Because our CMS’s expanded functionality provides us with flexibility to test CTAs, we can use them to improve site conversions—whether through signing up for our newsletter, downloading our change maker e-book, reading a white paper, or engaging our team on a new project.
If you’re thinking about creating a new site or refreshing an existing one, please reach out to us. We’d love to use our experience to turn your site into a powerful marketing tool. We’ll throw in our sparkling personalities (which you can read about on our site) for free.
1. The Content Marketing Institute, 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America,
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