You’ll notice that things look quite a bit different around here.
And that the flow of the website—as well as the content—has undergone a substantial shift. It was time for a big change, one that reflected the nature of the work and our clients in an authentic, resonant way.
This fall, I went through Flight Design Co‘s strategy process for planning for 2018 (Ariana, their strategist is the bomb—just a brilliant woman who gets independent businesses), and I have so many plans, but in order to implement those, I needed to be more intentional with my positioning and that starts with the website, the front door to the business.
The big change was shifting the tone of the site to be about the company as a whole, not just about me, the owner of the business. The first SMCO website was basically a landing page to prove I existed (I wish it was in the wayback machine still!), then I had a one-page scroll site for ages and ages, and finally I had the website that I’ve received compliments on like crazy. They were all fine, and did the job.
However, there were a few things wrong with that site, despite that people reacted positively:
- It was still very much a site about Sarah, which didn’t reflect the our capacity.
- I’d used my site as a sandbox for experiments for years, so the code was a hot mess. (The cute animations I had? Totally an experiment for a client.)
- The colors and layout style I chose got super popular over the last year or so, and as a result, there are a lot of sites that had a similar look to mine, including one that—to be frank—I suspect was an intentional copy. This makes it harder to be memorable and creates confusion. (I tell clients this all the time—don’t try to look like someone else, be you!)
- I never loved the imagery that I used. I was on a budget when I developed my original site and only invested in a few really quality photos, sourcing the rest from cheaper stock libraries.
Taking the work that Ariana from FDCO and I worked on and implementing it on the website became my #1 priority this fall. I cut back on client work (but we’re scheduling for 2018 and have some Design in a Day slots for 2017 still open) and focused hard on the website.
The reality is that this is a competitive industry and the custom web design service we offer is a bit different than the “package-ized” design services that are popular at the moment (don’t get me wrong, I love packaged services, and Design in a Day is one, but because our custom websites are each unique, and we create a tailored process and proposal for each, and so the services and pricing are highly variable).
I needed to communicate the value of a tailored process. Josh and I spent quite a few evenings working through how to do that without being overly explanatory and, well, boring people!
We start the planning for every custom website with pencil & paper—but had never done this for the SMCO website. Josh and I spent a lot of evenings literally sketching our the journey map for the site restructure. Shout out to 4th of July chips and Frontera salsa for fueling us!
One of the biggest challenges was communicating the breadth and depth of what we provide to our clients. While the doorway for most of our clients is complete website design, they stick around as we work with them on future projects so they can grow efficiently. And, I’ve been informally helping clients with business systems and processes for years, but I haven’t ever actually said that’s part of what we do. So, reorganizing the structure of the business and ensuring the website followed that structure was key. We now have landing pages for most of the key offerings:
- Custom Design
- Non-profit Websites
- Design in a Day
- Law Firm Website Design
- Education/Training (this will be expanded a lot soon)
- Coming Soon: Clear, understandable strategy information & some cool additions that are Design in a Day-ish, but more robust
I’ve developed a new color palette that’s much more the vibe that just works (so much of design is feel), slightly modified the typography, curated imagery that is cohesive (more to come—including some commissioned photography), and completely overhauled the site’s journey map. (The journey map was the biggest piece by far!)
The final major piece (for now) was overhauling the portfolio. This is something I’ve wanted to do for quite literally years but it was hard to implement within the existing structure. I wanted to make it easy for potential clients to scan through and click on projects and learn more about the scope of work, so that when we have a consultation call about a project, there are reference points that are accessible and clear. Fortunately, I’ve been aggressively documenting work for several years, so while this was labor-intensive, it wasn’t creating content from scratch.
Talking myself up is something that’s very uncomfortable for me. (If you’re a client, you probably picked up on that from our discovery call—I can rave about colleagues and clients forever, but myself… ugh!) But I also know that the work that comes out of our studio is of top-notch quality and has won international awards, but that was never clear from looking at the small screenshots in the old portfolio. Sucking it up and showing off a bit is something I’m going to have push myself in a bit, which I think things that are scary can also be things that are good. Right?
There’s a lot more to come, which I’m super excited as we re-introduce our education program, which is now being headed by Josh, add some “product” options, and formalize our strategy offerings in the new year. Sign up below to stay in the loop!