Wednesday, June 04, 2008

BFK Site Redesign 2008

I have completely rethought and restructured the BFK website for its new version which has just launched. My intention is that this new iteration of the site will not need any substantial redesign in the near-term and that this new structure defines a stable content platform which we can optimise and refine over time.

I wanted to promote the ‘News’ section to the forefront of the site. Rather than only having news headlines on the home page as before, I wanted the articles themselves right there for people to start reading immediately. Therefore, constructing the new site in a blog structure seemed to be the most appropriate way to achieve what I had in mind. I have grown familiar with the logic of the blog approach through my writing here on Thoughtport. All of the sites that I read regularly publish in an RSS-friendly blog format, yet too few branding and design companies so far have grasped the potential of this format for their own sites, most still preferring to continue with presentation-style site structures. I dispensed with the whole construct of a separate ‘News’ section as well: the stream of news posts is now the central spine of this site.

As with previous builds of this site, the CMS back-end is constructed on the Strata3 Publisher platform. Strata3 had not built a blog-format site before and their Publisher product is optimised for more traditional page-based websites. So it took a certain degree of customisation to deliver on the specific site structure and internal linkages that I required.

The whole site is now laid out and typeset on a strict 25-pixel grid to satisfy my more rationalist design tendencies. To draw attention to the image content, I used lots of white in the layout and typeset everything very sparsely in Helvetica.

One of my primary aims was to retain the depth of content that we have built up over the years. The most disappointing weakness I find with so many design company websites is that they rarely feature any work that is more than a few years old. It is as if every time that they redesign their sites, they abandon all of their existing content. There are design companies that have been operating in Dublin for twenty years who only include five or six projects on their websites. I wanted our new site to not only accommodate all of the relevant content we had going back to 1999, but more importantly to make that content easy to discover. No matter how good your design work is, if people are unaware of it then it may as well not have been produced.

After operating our previous CMS-powered site since 2003, we have all gotten pretty adept at writing 150-200 word posts to explain each branding project, but our existing site was limited to displaying our work in images at only 198x198 pixels in size. What had once been appropriate in the days of smaller monitors and pre-broadband download speeds was now looking pretty out of date. As a brand consultancy, it is important that we are able to showcase the visual aspects of our work in a far more engaging manner. My new layout features full-width images in the primary content panel and now allows for multiple images per news post.

I have established a three-stream labelling system that classifies all of our projects by the nature of the work, by client name and by client sector. So we now have a comprehensive network of cross-links between all of our content. These three choices are based on feedback we sought from existing clients. It has been a recurring theme in such client feedback and research over the years that our clients are most interested in solutions we have achieved for clients in their own particular sector who face similar challenges – and dramatically less interested in solutions delivered for clients operating in different sectors and industries. This new labelling scheme will help potential clients to discover the work that is most relevant to their own interests and needs. Greater awareness of relevant projects should lead to a greater understanding of the strengths of our offer and ultimately to increased sales.