Although we only launched in October 2019 with our previous site, we felt that as the agency evolved and grew, it didn’t reflect who we really are as a team, so we decided to start again. This week, after a six-week build delivered by my colleague Alan Ng and myself, we launched our new site.
I’ll preface this post by saying that we are not claiming to be experts or saying that our site is in any way perfect. However, we wanted to share the process that led us to create a site which we feel is far better than our previous site, and met our needs as a client.
As mentioned above, you need a few things before you start a project like this, starting with a team and resource. Our website team was made up of the below. Alan and I, although not developers, have an extensive background in website management, myself in managing the CMS, basic WordPress design and HTML understanding, and Alan, has a background in tech, data and CRO, which he handled all the backend server configurations, redirects, responsive CSS coding… basically all the tech stuff!
- Charlie Harris (me) – Sales and Marketing Director – Front-end developer/designer/content writer
- Alan Ng – Technical & Insights Director –web developer/designer
- Jane Seymour – Digital Designer
- Elle Pollicott – Content Strategist
Once you have your team, you need your platform.
For us, it was an obvious choice to move forward with WordPress, mainly as it’s a platform that we’ve worked within for a number of years and it really works for us as a team. We then installed the popular theme Salient onto the WordPress framework.
It’s worth mentioning here that there are of course, other methods available to achieve the styling and design that you’d like with WordPress. Many choose to create a custom theme, and we have done this ourselves previously. However, with restrictions on dev resource, this has often left us with a bottleneck when trying to update the site, and ultimately this was beyond mine and Alan’s ability, so the theme felt like the right move for us.
For anyone thinking of installing Salient, I’d suggest heading to the site and having a play around with the design blocks available. There are a huge variety of styles and functions, which in my opinion cover every format I can think of as a marketer that I’d like to see on a site.
These are all adaptable and can be re-styled, re-coloured and re-positioned to fit your vision for your site. One feature that I found particularly useful was the option to save any blocks once you had restyled them, allowing you to implement these on other pages across the site. These then sit in the ‘My Templates’ section, ready for when you need them.
This is the sixth time that I’ve managed a website build in my career, and one of the questions I still struggle to answer is if you design for the content, or write the content for the design. I’m still not sure what the answer is to this, even after this build, and there are valid arguments on both sides. I think ultimately, it depends on the overall look that you’re trying to achieve.
Design-wise, we had our brand colours already, and had a bank of great photography (thanks to the awesome Rich Wilson), so that helped us to build the initial style of the homepage, which went on to inform the other pages heavily. This was then vetted by Jane our Digital Designer, and finally approved by our CEO Tim Grice. It’s worth mentioning here, that the lockdown certainly played a role in the final styling of our site, as I’m fortunate to have a UX designer as a boyfriend, who thanks to the cramped working conditions of our cottage had a clear view of what I was doing, and felt compelled to advise on the design as I went!
In our case, we were mainly focussed on improving the design and the UX of our site, so we took the existing content and adapted this to the new, cleaner design that we were looking to create. I did the initial import of content moderating to fit the design as I went, adapting design where necessary, then our Content Strategist Elle reviewed and advised on any amends to the content.
Overall, the whole project took us six weeks from start to finish, which in my experience, has to be one of the fastest builds I’ve ever been a part of, and ultimately we achieved what we set out to – launching a site that we can be proud of.
Key takeaways and tips from Alan and myself are as follows:
- The main deliverable for us was to create a site that worked as a marketing piece, and the build had to be agile enough to cater for this. A bespoke build, from experience, has always limited our ability to grow and adapt the site from a marketing perspective. This build was led by our marketing team. EVERYTHING was built around the site’s future adaptability.
- Don’t be afraid to investigate off the shelf themes as a starting point. The huge benefit of these, are they have been tested and are constantly updated. The BIGGEST plus is they will have been built with versatility in mind.
- Reduce your sign off chain – design by committee never works, as no one is ever 100% happy, so get one person to give the OK. Once it’s live everyone will be as happy as can be.
- DRIVE – whoever is leading the build needs to want to do it.
In his next post, Alan will share what he’s done so far to optimise the site and the results of that. Hopefully you found this post helpful, but if you’d like more information on the SEO or content strategy behind the site, or would just like to ask us how we did it, then feel free to tweet me or Alan, or reach out and contact us.