Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Re-Designing Origen: Part 1: Content Strategy
With the launch of my new site, I thought it might be interesting to blog about the re-design process. This has been a side project for nearly a year now, and I finally decided to set a deadline for myself in order to end my procrastination. As any web designer knows, designing your own site is always harder than client work.
To guide my redesign process, I focused on four major areas, which I will be blogging about individually in the coming weeks. These areas are:
- Content Strategy - I started the design process by tackling my content strategy. I discuss why in this post.
- Design - This redesign went through several concepts before I settled on this design. I'll tell you about the process and why this one won out.
- Front-End Development - This site has a lot of exciting things going on on the front-end, including HTML5, CSS3, using real fonts served up by TypeKit, and progressive enhancement/enrichment. I'll show you some of the cool things that are built right in.
- ExpressionEngine 2.0 - This site is my first venture using ExpressionEngine's new 2.0 platform. I'll discuss the process and let you know some of my thoughts on EE 2.0.
Content Strategy: Giving Users the Content they Want
I knew I needed to update the content on my site. There were things I wanted to share about Origen that weren't covered in the old site, and I also knew that I didn't want the content to get out of hand. I wanted succinct presentation of information.
Narrowing in on Services
For example, I really wanted to define my services with a visual design/front-end focus. This is the area of service that I excel in, and I wanted to make it clear that I am first and foremost a "Front-ender." When it comes to back-end work, I focus more on ExpressionEngine integration. Since I don't do custom development in-house and prefer to work with EE, I decided to make that clear.
Defining the Process
The web design process is critical. A good process followed well makes a successful project, and my clients need to understand and trust the process in order to create the best outcome. I believe that you get out what you put in to the process. If your process is thoughtful and user-centered, it will show. (If your process is clumsy or largely ignored, that will show too.) I use a five phase process for web redesigns, much of which is borrowed directly from Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler's amazing book Web Redesign 2.0: Workflow that Works. I want potential clients to know that I not only get the web, but I know how to manage their web redesign project.
The Portfolio is the Primary Focus
The real content people look for on a portfolio site is (not surprisingly) the portfolio itself. On my previous site, the portfolio was a single page with pithy text and small images. For the new site I wanted to feature my past work, along with customer testimonials, a list of services provided, and large screenshots of the work itself. I think this version does a good job of giving users the "meat" of what they're looking for without going overboard with case studies.
Finding "My" Voice
On the old site, the text is full of "we" and "us" statements which make Origen sound like more than what it is: a web design studio with a single - albeit talented and capable - designer/owner (maybe not so humble, though). I've struggled with finding the right voice for the Origen site for quite some time,and one of the hardest parts of this process has been figuring out the proper "voice" for the site.
In the end, I've decided to go with text in the first-person, where "Origen" and "Josh Clark" are synonymous. The large headline on the home page solidifies this message, "Hi! I'm Josh, and I am Origen Creatives." This voicing allows the site to take on a more conversational tone, which is more indicative of my client relationships.
Rinse and Repeat
The unique thing about the web is that it's iterative. I'm happy with the content, but I think that over the next few months I'll find better ways to meet the needs of my audience. This has been a fruitful process for me, and I think that the site now has a content strategy that better suits Origen, and is more connected with my identity as its sole designer.
In upcoming posts, I'll tell you more about the design and development process. Stay tuned!