October 9, 2020

We Redesigned Our Website: Here’s What We Learned

Creating a new website for your organization is an exciting time, but demands investment, energy, and hard decisions from your team. We ask these things of our clients when we’re giving their website and brand a much-needed upgrade. So when the time came for us to redo our website, we trusted the very process that we use for our clients. After stepping into the shoes of our clients and months of work, we’ve learned some helpful lessons about bringing the best possible product to market. 

Every Website Has a Shelf Life

Read that one more time. It’s a sad truth, but the average lifespan of a website is three years. Now, this doesn’t mean that after three years your website will blow up, completely die, or disappear from existence. Rather, after three years, a website will have accumulated a bunch of baggage as does a house when you’ve been living in it for a while. The baggage slows things down, the features become outdated and the design typically needs a refresh. The website that you launched and loved three years ago just isn’t what it needs to be anymore and it’s a sign for updates.

We believe this so much so that this year, we invested over 600 hours into reworking our content, design, photography, videography, and the functionality on our website. 

But not everyone needs to completely reinvent their digital presence to stay competitive. Website refreshes are super common and usually a healthy sign of a maintained brand system.

Refresh vs. Reinvent

Typically, a refresh is needed when a brand system simply calls for updates rather than a complete rework. When you’re refreshing your brand or website, you’re maintaining foundational elements like your logo, and updating the presentation of it’s overall style. You can compare this to a personal makeover. You’re giving your website a new haircut, some fun accessories, and a confident attitude to do its job. 

In contrast, a reinvention would include a completely new brand, sometimes a new name, and usually an overhaul of all verbal and visual identities. 

In 2017, we reinvented ourselves, shedding our West Designs brand to welcome the PHOS Creative we know and love today. But, 2020 called for change (more than we expected) and positioned itself as a perfect time to give ourselves a personal makeover.

Our Brand Refresh

Before we could begin crafting our new and improved digital identity, we needed to visit every aspect of our brand system including:

  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Values
  • Brand rational
  • Messaging
  • Three uniques
  • Buyer personas
  • Visual identity
  • Brand attributes

Many things remained the same, but some were reworked, challenged, and enhanced to create a stronger, more concise brand identity. We knew going into this project that we would be the most difficult client we’d ever work with. Challenging ourselves to think objectively proved to be the most rewarding part of this project.

Updating Our Visual Identity

When redesigning your website, you have the opportunity to enhance your visual brand attributes like color, font, graphics, photography style, and more. Our team recognized our strong visual identity, but welcomed new fonts and color variations for an updated brand. This is why we affectionately refer to our updated style as PHOS 2.0.

“Visual narratives cannot just be good, they have to be right.” 

Becca, Creative Media Associate

Crafting Our Website

Once we ironed out the visual aspects of our refresh, our designers began designing a new website. We didn’t immediately dive into a web design. We analyzed our current website to highlight what’s working and what’s not. We also created a wish list, things we knew our website needed that would move the needle on our own business goals. Some of those wants included:

  • Creating a beautiful and engaging way to showcase previous client work
  • Walking a user through our unique process in a clear way
  • Highlighting our culture through fun headshots, personable photography, and copy

“We needed to make the clients we’ve worked with the hero..showing their successes and how we were a guide to help them get there.”

– Jenelle, Senior Designer

Development

Our web design creates blueprints for our team of web developers when building a website. The new website came to life from the work of both Mike and Hendrik, our WordPress developers. We also were able to implement new features to key pages on the website, as well as take the time necessary to incorporate accessibility and user privacy on the front and backend.

“With a large website, revisions and quality assurance should be handled in phases and stages. When you’re a part of that QA team, make sure that you focus on the defined scope of each review. For example, if you are on the content review phase, don’t spend time reviewing functionality. If you are on a design review, don’t worry about messaging. Bucketing your review will increase efficiency and clarity as you move towards launch.”

Brandon, CEO & Founder

Lessons Learned 

As we do with all of our client work, our team shared learning moments and reminders from the project. Here’s what some of our team members had to say. 

Brandon, CEO & Founder

There is a ton of value in gathering diverse teams to speak into creative ideation. The challenge with branding yourself is the loss of third-party, unbiased perspectives. When you start a project like this, build the right team (external and internal).

Simplicity is always the hardest, but important part of creating a messaging strategy.

If you have ever moved, you realize how much stuff you collect over time. Websites function the same way. For highly active websites, you should anticipate that you have acquired a large amount of content that will need to be carefully managed, considered, optimized, and transferred. The extent of what we had developed was surprising, even for us.

Derrak, Project Manager

Designing and developing our own website involved a new level of accountability that has helped clarify our process. We have learned what it’s like to be on the other side of “us.” We have a better understanding of how our clients feel about what we ask them to do as a part of our process, what it’s like to sit in our meetings, and what it’s like to deal with delays. It challenged us to ask, “Is this step of our process really helpful? Does it make sense and is it valuable?”

This project has brought to the surface in a clarifying way the tension of working “on” the business verses “in” it. We all naturally gravitate to working “in” the business. This is doing the work for our clients, the work that we were hired to do. Working “on” the business is also important, but rarely urgent. We had to manage this tension a lot during this project.

With so many “cooks in the kitchen” and valuable opinions on the team regarding our own website, it challenged our collaborative process. But we saw the real value of different perspectives and holding loosely to our opinions while holding tightly to the goal and vision for the project. This is collaboration at its best. It’s hard to lean into real honest collaboration. It can be messy, but when we see it through the end result is much better and we are better for it.

Alexis, Inbound Marketing Manager:

Content takes a long time and a lot of eyes to perfect and that’s ok. We wrote, re-wrote, and re-wrote (again) most of the content on our website. It’s often a necessary step to communicating what you need to in the right way. Embrace the process.

Simplicity is KEY. Less is more when it comes to engaging your audience and I was reminded of how hard that can be when you lack a third-party.

Kill the jargon. Every industry has it. Most customers don’t get it. Just kill it.

Jenelle, Senior Designer

Your brand is your hardest client! I wanted to try all these new things for PHOS because it felt like we had “free reign.” In the end our design decisions focused on our target audience and what would make an easy and enjoyable UX for them.

Just because we are a digital agency, doesn’t mean that we needed all the bells and whistles of what would be considered “an amazing web design.” Our design process had to make sense for the end user. We had to design our website that showcased our culture, but also gave an overview of how we use strategy and creativity no matter the engagement.

It was a challenge to not make our website all about us. Because well, it’s our website. We needed to make the clients we’ve worked with the hero, showing their successes and how we were a guide to help them get there.

Becca, Creative Media Associate:

Lean into the difficulty. Our stories are always the hardest to tell from a fresh perspective because we’ve become so comfortable telling them. Allow yourself to question your brand’s visual (and verbal) narratives, particularly the ones you’ve been telling for years, because even if you end up in the same place you started you’ll know you’re sharing the most powerful and authentic version of your visual identity.

A rebrand/refresh isn’t just for your audience, it’s for you and your team too. The process and the result of reevaluating your visual narrative is fun and empowering. It gives your team something fresh to 1) feel ownership over and 2) be proud to represent.
Different is not always better. Visual narratives cannot just be good, they have to be right. Sometimes the story you’ve been telling for years is the right one, and that’s okay! In fact, it’s exciting! Be willing to discover that.

Redesigning Your Website is a Process

This website and brand refresh has been a project 7 months in the making. Over 600 hours have been invested in crafting, designing, challenging, questioning, reviewing, and finally launching our new and improved brand system. What a joy it’s been to work together on a project for ourselves. Take a look around and make yourself at home on our new website! We invite you to connect with us to learn more about how you can redesign your website.

While it was hard to say goodbye to our old website, we thought we’d get the whole team involved in its farewell. Are you ready to break up with your website? Watch how the PHOS team had to have the difficult conversation with our old website below:

Bailey Revis

Bailey Revis

As an Inbound Marketing Executive, Bailey implements hands-on practices and innovative thinking to build strong client relationships and deliver valuable content.