What a happens when you become your own client? My branding and digital design firm, Langton Creative Group, recently found itself in this unique position. Experiencing the website redesign and relaunch process as a client provided us with a unique opportunity to appreciate the actual challenges and benefits associated with marketing in the digital age. For any company, building a truly effective website requires understanding the customer journey, establishing relevant messaging, identifying key clients and always coming back to the persistent question: "Where's the call to action?"
Doing this for ourselves gave our entire team a new perspective. We're used to showing clients how to navigate this process—and now we have a real taste of what it's like to build a website for today.
Here are a few of the lessons learned from becoming our own web-design client:
1. Re-evaluate your strategy from a client perspective.
Today, many website designs are actually redesigns of existing sites. Yet it's important to re-evaluate everything and not simply migrate old content to a new platform. Carefully review the content by considering what your ideal clients want to see. Provide content that helps them choose your organization. Show client results and quantify success metrics wherever possible. Demonstrate your core strengths with a unique point of view that differentiates your organization from the competition.
2. Think mobile.
Consider choosing a content management system that's easy to update and is responsive with views in desktop, tablet and mobile. When it comes to mobile web design, try finding a designer well-versed in digital design. They should understand the mobile-to-tablet-to-desktop screen variations that make every message stand tall in any format.
3. Keep it simple—really simple.
Thinking about content in mobile really forces you to examine the length and rethink the images and words for maximum impact for all views. We reaped the benefits of creating authentic engagements with our audience by reducing written content, simplifying imagery and making overall page designs more open and accessible.
4. Collect your own data.
To promote search engine optimization, or SEO, we decided to include a more robust "Media Center" along with a new "Awards" listing page. This turned out more daunting than expected, as we uncovered over 75 awards and 200 published articles and posts. In addition to identifying insights about the company's past success, the data collection process helped us pinpoint a goal to ramp up new PR efforts to outpace past performance.
5. Rethink the manuscript for web.
One of the most difficult things you can do is to transform the content from your old website into an effective online tool. You can't simply cut and paste the old copy and expect it to work in the new website. Even though you have endless space online, your reader may actually spend less time reading online. So you should strive to write copy that is succinct and tailored to the needs of a reader who wants to glimpse content and spend less time bogged down in details. You can craft your messages with links to longer content in what we call "progressive disclosure." The key is to let the reader choose to read more. An effective web manuscript can be the Holy Grail of a successful project.
6. Think like a database.
Throughout our process, we identified ways to streamline tedious tasks associated with the rebranding effort. For example, when organizing lists such as awards and articles, categorizing them in a spreadsheet is much more efficient and easier to sort than compiling longwinded documents. Across the board, we learned that time devoted to effective archiving and consistent file classifications paid off in the long run.
7. Design systematically.
Designers think visually; web developers are systematic by nature. While each point of view is valid, true success happens at the intersection of these essential perspectives. In Langton Creative Group's case, designers quickly learned the benefits of providing creative elements in a consistent, catalogued format. This systematic approach streamlined the process and increased flexibility. The result was an enhanced opportunity for creative design in the final web layout.
8. Include calls-to-action.
Throughout the rebranding process, our web developer and strategist hammered the team with key questions. "A successful website has to deliver on the strategy," he said. "I challenge clients to answer questions that matter, such as: Where's the call-to-action? Where is your client on the customer decision journey? What message will connect with your prospect on this given page and in this given situation?" These relentless reminders resulted in relevant, custom-crafted messages for each of our focus areas.
9. Align with your brand.
Each step of the rebranding process stems from one key question: Does the design or message support the new brand idea? In the final analysis, we presented a consistent look and style using a bright color palette, geometric components and a consistent, friendly voice that communicated the concept of progress by design. The new brand elements are evident in the company's stationery, digital presentations and email marketing communications.