Recently, we launched our revamped Fredricks Design company website. We are very proud to have collectively designed the layout, graphics, and functionality in-house with the assistance of our great IT support guru Nate Beighley from Vortex Networking. Before this endeavor, we collaborated with our internal team and a 3rd party marketing and graphics design resource to develop our marketing materials. Our previous website was clean, beautiful, and functional but we began to realize that our story was not being told as effectively as it could be. After an assessment of our website, brochure, and other marketing materials we came to the conclusion that we needed a new direction and voice. We challenged ourselves to tell our own story and design our own graphics with the goal of succinctly communicating who we are and what we believe.
We’ve developed thousands of products over the years but building a website was a new challenge. Keep in mind that we are not marketing experts or website programmers; we are product development experts. We really didn’t know what to expect, much like many if not all product development projects. Early in our planning, we decided to apply our product development process to the creation of our website. We are intimately familiar this process (or PDP) and it made sense to apply what we know about product development to website development. Application of the already familiar process helped to ease the fear of the unknown. We simply treated our process and design decisions as if we were designing a physical product. The five-stage process was surprisingly smooth (most of the time).
The initial stage in development is about finding unmet needs. In this case, we identified the need to tell our story more effectively. In harmony with great work, a better story leads to better relationships with our clients both existing and potential as well as more design project opportunities.
With an unmet need in mind, we set out to study how others were achieving this goal. We educated ourselves, hence the name “discover”. We benchmarked other websites, identified successful qualities of these websites, and dug into many books and articles covering marketing to become better storytellers. Studying graphic design trends and expanding our knowledge of color theory was also a part of filling our quiver for the creative process ahead.
Well equipped with knowledge, design criteria, and project goals, we began to formulate our vision for the new site. We worked in blocky sketch form to build the architecture and general navigation. In this phase, we collaborated with our IT specialist who was essentially our manufacturer. He was able to give us insight in terms of best practices for website design. During concept development, we met with him periodically to recalibrate and ensure that what we were designing could be easily implemented. As in our product development process, we believe firmly in early and often communication with the build source to ease the transition from concept to reality.
In this phase, we had a solid mockup of the site in hand. Our digital prototype was beginning to look and feel like a real website; it included the intended color scheme, some images, sample copy, and a nearly complete navigation structure. We were confident in moving forward with our design because we had worked closely with our developer to ensure our concepts were feasible. During the “develop” stage, we went to work filling in the details and completing the copy. Concurrently, the site was being programmed. We continued to hone and refine our concept with input from our team as well as our developer to ensure a smooth launch.
In this, the final stage of development, we were able to view the mockup site live in a browser. This exposed some design challenges that we could not anticipate while working in Illustrator. Because of the vast number of screen sizes and viewing platforms, we needed to creatively work around some of the programming hurdles. The site needed to respond to the various screens on which it would be viewed. Our team worked closely with the developer (the manufacturer) to find common ground between our graphic design vision and the realities of responsive web programming. As in product development, it’s often the case that close collaboration between our design and engineering team and the manufacturer is necessary to successfully deliver the final product.
We learned a lot through this process and we’re proud and pleased with the result. Although it was very trying at times, the journey was as beneficial as the final product outcome. As they say, pressure makes diamonds. We’ve bolstered our skills in website design and will continue to refine the site as we go forward. We have plans to create a “studio” page and a comprehensive timeline of our company’s history. Our marketing efforts are never done but we have reached a milestone in the launch of our new website and we’d love to hear what you think. Cheers and have a wonderful day!
Post and original artwork by Ben Fredricks.