First and foremost, we decided this would be the year that we make our website wonderful. And the benefits have been bigger than we ever anticipated. We refocused who we are, how we want to communicate with our world, and how we want to be seen.
With the goal of a wonderful website that focuses who we are and attracts attention, we looked at which marketing efforts were working best in terms of generating name recognition and sales results. Our monthly email newsletter topped the list. We get lots of comments on our newsletter. In particular, people like our staff recommendations.
The next things we hear about are our Canright Calendar and the Featured Chicago Networking Event of the Week emails. We’ve given both the recommendations and our Featured Event prominent positions on the home page.
From other feedback we’ve received—often unsolicited—people like our articles. We also know that clients turn to us for content. We decided to focus on content and client projects to showcase what we produce. As a communications and marketing firm, we have to be a great example of what we do.
Becoming Our Own Client
But how to get it done? Given that client work would always take priority, we needed to become our own client. We decided to institute the same working process for ourselves as we do for our clients, the Canright Project Methodology.
We had already started the Discover phase of the website design process last spring, when we did an Ideal State Action Plan. Then we came to a screeching halt. We told ourselves it was because we got busy with clients—we all have other jobs besides our website, you know.
So, we planned our formal Develop phase and set a final deadline—go live before Christmas. And we set up a process where we would check in weekly on the progress. We went over what we liked and didn’t like about our previous site, looked at other sites for inspiration, and talked about how we wanted to be perceived. We also made one member of our staff, Aya, the owner of the project—just as we do for our clients.
We had a lot of content on our old website, and all of it seemed necessary. What to keep and what to let go of?
White space became a point of orientation, to keep a bright, open look no matter what we had on the page. We have more information on our home page now than we did before, but it doesn’t feel that way. We organized it so each section is distinct but all works together. It’s easier to find what you’re looking for.
As we moved into the Deliver phase of our project methodology for coding and content management setup, Michael became the development owner, with both he and Aya consulting with the rest of the Canright team as the actual site took shape with the final content.
The Right Tools
On the technical side, we built the site using the WordPress publishing platform. WordPress has evolved from a blog tool into a content management system for websites and became our preferred site development tool last year. We used it to build our blog and then set up a WordPress installation for the main site. With WordPress, everyone in the office can update pages, not just those who know code.
WordPress made it easier to achieve our goal to have more dynamic content on the site. Our home page pulls the latest RSS feeds, generated by WordPress, to load our most recent blog posts (speaking of blog posts and RSS, see our post on Google’s RSS reader). The platform allows us to categorize the sections of the site and customize how different types of content will load on each page. For instance, our recommendations are set to display randomly on the home page while the Featured Event is always the most recent.
WordPress automatically updates the home page, as well as the rest of the site, when new content is published, so the site always displays something new. We also rely on Feedburner to syndicate our blogs, keep track of subscribers, and offer our readers another way to subscribe (including by email).
Preparing For Launch
Design, content, and coding came together as the deadline neared. We made tweaks and changes to each as we reviewed progress. Talk about excitement. We felt proud, especially as testimonials we had asked for from our clients started pouring in.
To make the site speak to what we do for clients, we went right to the source. We asked our clients to submit testimonials for us and review the case studies we wrote on how we solved their problems (check out this recent blog post to get a better idea of how we approach case studies). Their feedback was gratifying and gave a positive ending to the year for everyone on our team, as we read quotes from emails out loud in our office. It was like getting presents from our clients.
And We’re Live!
The site went live the day before Christmas, and we spent the last week of the year fine tuning. We launched an email announcement, and the response has been great. Now we’re working on additional case studies, ongoing content, and further feedback so we can keep the site dynamic and change it into a means of converting visitors into leads.
Please take a look at the site and feel free to leave a comment below.