Since I started at Springthrough a little more than a year ago, the firm’s website has been a topic of discussion. My suspicion is that even before I began, people were tossing around the idea of a new site. It seems pretty common to be most critical of your own website.
But in 2015, we began pushing forward a plan to launch something new. The last update to our site occurred in 2014, so it actually wasn't very old. It didn't look bad either. However, as we approached the website with new marketing objectives, we kept running into limitations.
Our website provided a great example that a site shouldn't just be evaluated on looks, but instead, on how it helps you reach business goals.
A snapshot of our previous website
To reach the business goals for marketing, our website didn't offer as much as it should. The structure of the site didn't allow us to dive into any of our specialities or share the stories of our clients' successes. If I wanted to make an update to the website, like when a project was awarded as a Website of the Year, I had to rely on the developers to add a callout to our website because I couldn't change the content myself.
This brings out one of the most apparent challenges of our old website.
Everything on our website had to be coded by developers - I couldn't update content without their time and effort. For a firm that implements content management systems for clients, we had a great opportunity for change. We always recommend to our clients that a website should be more than an online brochure; it should be a tool. And yet, because we didn't have any one person responsible for website, we just “set it and forget it.” Like many of our clients, we needed to define workflows and who would be responsible for the site.
Of course, the scope of our IT consulting website is very different from the sites that we build for clients. One of our clients, for example, had thousands of web pages that they moved from a static website into a content management system (CMS). We were essentially moving from a single page to the Sitefinity CMS. Unfortunately, that didn't mean that launching a new website was easy. Almost any firm will agree that working on your own website is the most difficult. Why? Because we wanted our team to work on projects for clients. So we had to find outside resources and blocks of time internally where we could chip away at this project.
We start any project for clients with a robust strategy, so that's where we began with our own site. We conducted stakeholder interviews, user interviews, and considered how the structure of the website would work. Through that strategy we uncovered another challenge that our clients face: prioritization. We want to be among the best websites with amazing designs, content features, and experiences. But the the realities of budget, timeline, and scope came into place. So what did we have to do? Prioritize. We decided on the MVP (minimum viable product) aspects of a new website, so even with the new launch, we have plans to do more.
We worked to create the content models for the website (how each piece of content connects), and we contracted with one of our partners, Adam Mikrut of Keen Studios, to design the pages. Then we designated some of our own developers to implement the latest version of Sitefinity. They customized the templates within Sitefinity to match our desgin.
One of the challenges (not insurmountable but important) was integration with other systems. We began using HubSpot, a digital marketing tool, so I could begin working on some of our goals right right away. One of which was our Springthrough blog. In order to connect the content in our blog with our website, our developer actually had to build a custom integration between the two, which allowed us to display content from HubSpot on our Sitefinity website.
The last piece, and the biggest challenge for me personally, was the content. Big surprise, right? This is an area where we advise our clients to prepare for in advance. Don’t underestimate the process of gathering, creating, and approving content. We got a good start at the beginning of the year when we partnered Adam Barr as a copywriter for our website. But there were still rounds of revisions and approvals to go through before launch.
And content can apply to more than the words you write. Photos, videos, and documentation all need to be organized and considered.
A snapshot of our current homepage
The importance of a roadmap might be the biggest takeaway from this project, which I’m sure our clients can relate to. We launched our website – hurray! But it’s not nearly done. Before launch, we already had started a list of Phase II enhancements. Things that I will do myself as a marketer, and things that the developers will build. Our website is a work in progress, yes, but it's something that’s moving forward. It's helping us tell a story and differentiate ourselves in the industry.
The process that we apply to our client’s projects moves through phases of Insight, Clarity, and Enablement. Each step informs the one after it to reduce risk and allow us to continue to iterate our website while still heading in the right direction. For this project, we used the same activities to guide our work and (finally) get us to a new website.