Birch Studio has had a website since the Wild West days of the Internet. Before Google, before Facebook … before your momma got a cell phone. This new site has been completely rewritten to add clarity and definition to our services and products.

Like most of our clients, Birch Studio has developed its business to the point where we outgrew our old website. We got to that point where the website needed to evolve to keep up with our new offerings, new technology and new processes. The aesthetics of site 1.0 drew many positive comments. Site 2.0 was growing in content nearly monthly with our blog posts, new projects and Fish Wrap newsletter.

With the upgrade to 3.0, there was no question about whether to keep the look. But if we were going to keep that look, we had a few problems to address to ensure that our design worked well with the updated profile of our business.

Over the years, I’ve been writing more and more educate our clients and expose our processes. We go through a number of projects each month that we’d love to put online but the process was cumbersome. We wanted to infuse our sales process with more information to help customers come to us more prepared, and to help us to know our clients sooner.

Accordingly, we created these goals for our new site:

  • make the new site instantly recognizable to people that know us already
  • make the content pages easier to read
  • make the portfolio easier to update
  • make the contact form more useful

Keeping it the Same
Since we didn’t need to change the overall design, this task was primarily driven by the increase in size of the computer screen, which has doubled since our last redesign. Our old background elements didn’t play well in a much larger space. We added some width to the background elements, and some illusion of depth to the site with shading. The design now looks better, but the same. (Note: As I’m writing this, thousands of mobile devices with much smaller screens are coming online. We will soon be modifying the design to work with those too.)

Making it Different
Even though there is perfect contrast between a black background and white text, it is a difficult format in which to read large amounts of text. The eye has some rules about what it does and doesn’t like to read. For the first time in our website’s life, we shifted to the eye-friendly light gray background with black text. The overall feeling of the site still says “Birch Studio” but now it also says “you can read me”. This inspiration was originally manifested in our need to make notepads, which of course, need a light background. We extrapolated the element theme developed in the notepads applied it to the website – a good example of our cross-media chops and how we work with a seed of an idea to create a larger concept.

Updatable Portfolio
We gladly took advantage of a more convenient way to build our image gallery. There are a vast amount of gallery tools to choose from, though there are very few that are used. Being in the business of creating uniqueness, we needed one that wasn’t one of the common ones you see everywhere, or if it was, it needed to be flexible enough that we could make after our own image. We discovered a spiffy javascript-based gallery which lets us edit which images display in a single line of HTML. Upload an image, edit the HTML to include the file name and description, and we’re done.

Streamlining Operations
With a better portfolio code base in place, we then streamlined the workflow of posting images in the portfolio and blog by standardizing their size. The geek in me is proud to say that we now have just one thumbnail size and one full image size that we can use anywhere in the site. We post thumbnails and full-size images to our blog, use the same thumbnails in the Fish Wrap newsletter and then use those same images in our portfolio.

Packing up our Offerings
We’ve come to understand that while we have the skills to do a range of print and web branding projects, it’s a whole lot easier for customers to shop for something that’s already in a box. We reviewed our projects over the past several years and found some frequent groupings of products which we could formalize into packages. The predefined nature of packaged services allows us and clients to have a known set components and milestones that we hit over and over again. That helps streamline the project management process as well as the sales process. Repetition is the key to mastery. And that fits perfectly with Birch Studio’s goal to be the most professional firm you’ve ever worked with.

Making Contact
We’re not looking to get every customer, just the ones to which we can provide the most value. As with any good sales process we want to determine as early as possible which ones those are. We decided we could save ourselves and our prospective clients a few hours of time with some carefully considered questions. Our Get Started Form now helps us organize a client’s profile before we begin a relationship, and then ties back in to our packaged services so that when someone sees a package they like, they can order it directly from the contact page with just a few clicks.

I hope you like the new site. I look forward to reporting more news back to you as our changes get worked into the flow over the next few months. As with any serious evolution, there is more to come. We are always open to feedback. Feel free to drop us a line if you have any comments or suggestions.