We just took on the enormous task of re-designing our own website. This was hard to do in the sense that our previous site was a huge success. It was a lead machine, designed well, an SEO monster, and chock full of great content. But like all good things on the Internet, it needed an update. It had been several years since we had done a re-design; we knew that it was time. Four specific things kicked this project into gear:
1. Technologies have updated. Cue responsive design.
2. All offerings were not represented accurately.
3. The website was showing its age.
4. Upkeep / audit of site content was getting costly.
However, unlike last time we re-designed our site, so many things had changed here at Orbit. Our company has doubled in size, our expertise has grown, we have new leadership in place, and the projects we work on are more wide-ranging than ever.
This begged us to ask ourselves a question, “Is a re-design enough?” We are in the business of making websites, but so are a lot of other companies. We started asking “why are we different?”, “what makes us unique?” and do those answers translate into just a website re-design?
We create a lot of “charters” around here, these “charters” are actually a documented process that our CEO Todd Gettelfinger brought into our teams. Basically they are a document list of very strong, thoughtful, deliberate and detailed questions that are meant to assess the value of anything.
It’s easy to say, “let’s do a re-design”, on the surface it feels like a no-brainer, however, there are plenty of business risks / rewards that need to be taken into consideration. Questions in these documents break everything down to their simplest forms. Questions such as “why this may not work?”, “what is the plan?”, “what are the concerns?”, “describe the business problems it will solve?”, etc.
In answering these questions, you can start to tell what the major risks, rewards are and start to get to the why’s. This was important as we needed to understand what we were up against as a team or it was doomed to fail. Here at Orbit we are highly deliberate and thorough in our thinking. Data, experience, and strong debates drive our decisions.
With a group consensus, we were to move forward with these goals for the project that made it of high value to us :
As you can see, we had to be smart about how we managed ourselves, budget, schedule and our teams while worked on this project.
Early on we made the decision that we wanted to do as much of this work ourselves as possible. We felt strongly about this for 2 reasons:
1. We have a team of talented, creative and savy folks here with a variety of skill-sets we could use.
2. We wanted to be the client. We wanted to do what our clients do and advise ourselves like we advise them. How else would we know where we need fixing? So this meant we were going to tackle all content creation, brand assessment, asset creation, photography and project execution ourselves and see what happened.
Before we even got to a project budget or scope we started with the steps below:
In treating ourselves like any client, we set everyone up to get on the same page about the entire project very early.
Begging the question, “is a re-design of our website enough?”, we wanted to go through a brand evaluation process internally to determine what might need a change. We put everything on the table. Logo, fonts, graphics, name, voice, etc. After hours of debate and research we concluded that our brand is strong. It has equity.
This exercise also reinforced that our people and our approach to web design is a difference maker. We decided to enhance the brand a tad by modernizing our typography, colors and associated imagery. We also wanted to put our people first using photography instead of illustrations. Our biggest challenge out of this evaluation was how to communicate the company we have become.
Once the initial groundwork was set, we created a project plan, scope, schedule and assigned our team. We started on content creation and UX strategy right away. Following our normal client delivery process was important. This resulted in stronger team collaboration, which we knew from client experience was essential in making something that delivered content correctly.
The overall design and development process was great. Our teams were stacked with work but they pushed through. Our Lead Designer created beautiful interface designs. Our Lead Developer worked her magic to make our site come alive in ways we did not expect. Our PM kept everyone on track, and also helped as a content contributor / editor. The entire team did an incredible job. They went above and beyond.
The final two weeks before launch became increasingly stressful. The realization of how much content and loose ends we had to button up was daunting. We asked ourselves, “is this what our clients experience?” We have trained specialists, a team doing the work, are working as iteratively as possible, and it was still a lot to do.
Realizing this, we sat down and prioritized things that were essential. The tasks were assigned and we went to work. One of our recommendations to clients is to get their site live once it is good enough. But we do this for a living, so, when is it good enough? That was our dilemma. Over those last two weeks we buttoned everything up and on October 2nd at 1pm launched the new website.
We are tickled! Our site is responsive, reflects our enhanced brand, packs an SEO punch, is visually awesome, easy to use, easy to update, strongly showcases our projects, services, advice, and personality. We learned a lot about ourselves and where we need to improve. All of this done in order to offer the best client experience we can.
It’s not done, digital ink is never dry. We have phase 2 already in the works, then phase 2.1, 2.2 and so on. We are working on a maintenance plan to keep the site updated more iteratively. Many more great things are on their way. Come join us for the ride and hope you enjoy our new site.