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Designing and building an agency site

Twelve months ago, before the unsuspecting world had an inkling of the seismic geopolitical events that would take place, we embarked on our own little adventure.

It all started with a question. In the vast sea of web-development agencies offering increasingly commoditised services, how do we stand out? A mouthful, indeed. And a challenge, no less. Every competitor site that we looked at, seemed to follow an identikit format - homepage with a large, full-bleed case study image, overlaid with an ambiguous marketing message. Frankly, there are plenty of great agencies not being reflected in their own sites - a clear case of the cobbler’s children’s shoes and all that.

We have been designing and building websites for almost twenty years so surely, you would think, this would be our easiest project. Well, it would be, were it not for the fact that it is our own website! No less than twelve months later - it is fair to say we have fortunately been busy with clients - our new site has launched.

Briefing the team

The previous Clock site was slick, dark, highly stylised and served its purpose, well, for a number of years. However, we wanted to be bold and maybe a tad riskier, project a lighter, fresher image, with the primary goal of specifically increasing inbound communication. By that, we mean lead generation. When prospective purchasers of our digital services and products come to our site, they generally have a buying intention. It is vital they get the impression that we care about our site as much as we would their own.

By that token, the goals for the new site were to:

  • Be unambiguous about our services - not something agencies are generally very good at with their own sites. You can have two companies calling themselves ‘digital agencies’ but both offer very different things. There were plenty of sites we researched where, upon first glance, it was difficult to interpret what the company actually does.

  • Showcase our design, user experience and front-end skills within the site itself, not just through case studies. So many sites for digital services and products are very linear, templated and frankly, samey. They also lead with case studies.

  • Allow our marketing communications to be independent of any tech involvement. In other words, we wanted to have flexibility in uploading content and creating new sections and case studies, without having to ask tech for intervention - a common complaint that we come across with clients when they brief us about their own experiences.

Of course we also wanted to show off the work we’ve done recently and over our two decade heritage, not just the biggest or most recent work. Our goal was to make the user journey relevant to their requirements.

A bold approach

We began with a desire to create a site that adapts to the user, putting their needs at the forefront of the new user experience. Whilst it is impossible to cater for everybody’s needs, we know from our research the primary reason people come to our site - our services. With this in mind we created a system that builds bespoke pages based on the user’s needs ensuring that we enable them to quickly see the services specific to them - for example design and UX only - and explore only the most relevant content.

This also allowed us to dramatically change how we think about the navigation. By simplifying the information architecture on the site, we’ve managed to distil it into three core sections: homepage, insight and case studies. Not only does this ensure that our users don’t have to work hard to find the information they are looking for, but it also helped us think long and hard about how we shape our brand and talk about ourselves.

The biggest problem for a designer is that once you’ve stripped the experience down to its bare minimum, how do you inject personality back in, without ruining the simplicity at the heart of the idea? After many, many rounds of design it all became clear - colour. For years Clock has intentionally been a black and white brand. Now however was our chance to use colour in a way that could not only help show our personality but enhance the user experiences by tying all our new brand colours directly to services.

The strong use of colour, more playful typeface and use of a set of specially commissioned illustrations, have captured the essence of what the new Clock has become in a way that doesn’t distract from our most important goal: giving the user what they want, quickly and efficiently.

Numbers, numbers, numbers

It is very easy to be continually focussed on other projects - and rightly so, our clients' work is priority - but every site should evolve continuously. The launch of a new site is only the beginning of the work. Had we waited until our entire wishlist was dev-complete, who knows when the launch date would have been. We have drawn up a plan of features and functionality - coupled with specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely targets - that we want to add iteratively over the coming months, to ensure it stays relevant and fulfils our targets. If you come back to the site, you will hopefully see these changes.

We are very excited about the new site - we hope you like it too - and are really looking forward to seeing how it is perceived, used and performs.