Blog • Tribe Culture

Green Light: New Site.

We’ve just embarked on the head-bending journey of the agency website redesign. The Mount Everest of internal projects. Here’s how we got on, and what we learnt. With all the swearing taken out obviously…

A signal for change

When any business makes the decision to redesign their website, they need to consider the primary reason(s) for it, and the most fundamental goal of what they want it to achieve. Whilst the changing landscape of technology is almost always a prime factor (a bigger variation of devices and browsers which the site will need to adapt to, increased bandwidth speeds giving scope for richer experiences, mobile-first optimisation etc) – for us, a key factor in redesigning the site was the progressive development in our position as a business. 

With rapid growth over the past 18 months and the galvanisation of our position as Brand Experts, we required an online experience to showcase our work and expertise that would bring further credibility and substance to our offering.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Good planning and preperation are the foundation for any successful project and would be especially important for us to deliver a great site. We considered the biggest issues with the current site and how to address them; not just for the immediate, but for foreseeable future developments. 

Our current site used a bespoke CMS – built on ageing technology, it had become unreliable and didn’t provide an adequate foundation to build upon. WordPress has become a pillar of the internet, powering some 20% of the content-managed sites out there. It provides an open, stable and extensible basis for web projects and continues to be supported by a community of millions. For us it was the ideal choice, providing a platform that we could instantly leverage, allowing us to obsess over the finer details of the design and experience.

In web development we often talk about how ‘anything is possible’ because when it comes to the web that is pretty much true; but how long it will take and at what cost provide limits for any project. By using a familiar system like WordPress, we were able to reduce this barrier to entry and think beyond those initial constraints of what was possible. This allowed us to think about things like, how can we bring our social streams into one location to provide a ‘live’ running aggregator of all our online activity? How can we use video to engage our visitor and capture the essence of the brands we work with? And how can we create and capture the idiosyncrasies that we believe separate us from the crowd?

Living technology, not just using it

As with any problem we look to solve at Tribe, be it for ourselves or a client, the core idea has to come first. It has to solve a problem. And in the age where everyone is trying to drape style over the newest technology in order to ‘engage audiences’, it’s as much an exercise of restraint to ensure that form always follows function. We’re solving a problem, not creating a piece of beautiful but vapid art. With this in mind, we considered which pieces of technology would best accomplish our strategic vision for the new site.

Google is placing an ever increasing bias on sites that are secure, with plans to explicitly mark all non-HTTPS website as insecure as early as this year – which made the decision to deploy another increasingly essential piece of web technology, HTTPS, a no-brainer. The new Tribe website picked up an ‘A’ rating from the good people at SSL Labs, so you can rest assured any data communicated to and from our site is completely secure.

The wisdom of crowds

When it came to approaching the visual and experiential side of the redesign, it was vital that we managed input and direction intelligently. A clear vision and direction would lead to a more cohesive end result; but to make sure the vision wasn’t one dimensional and would satisfy the objectives fully, we had to research and question competitors, potential users, and each other to ensure we were on the right track.

At any project’s start, the possibilities are endless. That clean slate is both empowering and terrifying. As designers, we make a thousand tiny decisions, moving back and forth through pixels and prose, trying to shape and deliver a message that will resonate with our audience. Then in the middle of that flow, we stop and share our unfinished work. This halt in the creative process is necessary but unnerving. However, provided the balance swings towards objective critique rather than subjective taste – it can be pivotal in hitting the ‘sweet spot’ that connects vision, design, strategy, technology, and people.

We could elaborate over every design decision we made, the back and forth between type treatments and colour ways, the hours spent cutting and editing the copy – and give away the complete strategy that we reflected upon for each decision, but that’s not the point of this post. Aside from announcing we’re now live and we’re ready for you all to take a look, this is more of a group therapy session than a diary of our process. Hopefully it’ll be used by the few to bring affirmation and assurance to those who’re attempting the head-bending journey of the agency website redesign. The Mount Everest of internal projects.

All killer no filler

As an integrated brand consultancy, the experience of the website had to be pleasurable and simple – to reflect the skillset of both our design and digital development teams. The apex of the project though, would be to provide a successful platform that best demonstrates the work we do for our clients. This throws up its own challenges, agonising over which projects make the cut, and ensuring we tell the stories of how we’ve helped each brand as well as possible. Finding a good balance between strategic and creative work, whilst communicating each project in a compelling way was no mean feat – each section of work being put through numerous revisions and edits.

Having a clearly defined strategy for the design and development of the site was paramount to keeping focus. A cleaner aesthetic that better represents Tribe’s aspirational position, and placing thought leadership and industry-related activity at the fore of a site that feels like a hive of activity. Showcasing the depth behind each piece of work beyond the final deliverables was also a prime objective. We knew if all our design decisions referenced these objectives, we’d have a great chance of success.

Let it go

A mantra that came to prominence throughout the process was ‘let it go’. Make no mistake, this wasn’t about saying ‘that’ll do’ – but one major pitfall of designing for yourself is that you see everything from a distorted viewpoint. You can see every pixel of your idea in startling clarity, because you’re looking at it under a microscope. Everyone else is looking at it through the opposite end of a telescope – your entire concept is the size of a single pixel in their world, whereas to you, it’s the complete opposite. We had to realise that when something worked well, we should let it go and move on to the next element. With the new site being built on a more solid platform and by monitoring the analytics, we’re now in the position to evolve the design and content over time – meeting the needs and behaviour of our audience along the way.

The new Tribe website achieves Google Page Speed Grade of 88/100 making it some 60% faster than the average. The website also achieves a Google Page Speed Insights score of 96/100 on Desktop and 89/100 on Mobile. It might seem like a barrage of numbers but it shows that the website loads quickly and importantly that Google’s own analysis shows this, contributing to Tribe’s search engine ranking. Good for visitors and good news for us.

We now have the springboard to develop and enrich our online offering, and, as with any project, we’re keen to hear what real users think – so that our team can consider, learn from and look to improve the experience as we go.

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