Founded in 1897, nTelos has kept pace with the times and provided services to dedicated customers in the Central Virginia region. They hold their own against the big four telecoms through unparalleled customer service. Birch Studio has been a customer of nTelos since 1998 and has told everyone looking for a phone company about their incredible service.
As with most telecoms these days, the hottest side of their business is the wireless division. Most of the resources of their small in-house IT team are devoted to keeping up with the near-daily changes in that industry. So the wireline division was left behind. Wireline had a backlog of updates to make, not least of which was a redesign of that section of the website. Being that nTelos had a design in place for the wireless side, our goal was to integrate that look into the wireline side of the site and, instead of reinventing their brand, spend our time adding some additional improvements along the way.
On the home page, we created an auto-scrolling banner system that promotes each of the five major sections of the site – TV/Video, Broadband, Home Phone, Business Telecom and Bundles. Clicking on any of the banners takes the user to the respective section of the site. This simple, straightforward navigation allows users to be briefly entertained while waiting for their navigation link to come around in the slide rotation. Normally, we don’t want to make users take more time than necessary to get where they want. In the case of the scrolling banners, they are subtly learning the structure of the site without having to click around. They can click directly on the image that represents the section they wish to see, making navigation extremely intuitive.
For each major section of the site, we replaced their text-heavy landing pages with graphically rich ones. Best practices show that a heading and a one line description is usually enough information to help users to reach their destination. Any more than that and you’re starting to provide a summary of what they are going to read on the next page. When you’re trying to move people through a website to get to their destination quickly, you don’t want them to have to read the same information twice. The small graphic buttons in each section were also color-coded to distinguish products, or something you could buy, from ancillary pages such as support, surveys, etc.
TV is the sizzle in wireline services so this area required special treatment to make it pop. We shelved most of the design elements which we so carefully preserved in other sections of the site, keeping just the four column format. We popped in a home theater motif, complete with red curtains, silhouettes of the family watching TV in the front row, and made the page come to life with scrolling montages of video channels (sports, news, children, premier, etc) and scrolling network logos. The distinctive look and photos give a warm feeling that is more welcoming in contrast to the rest of the site. The scrolling montages allow nTelos to keep people on these pages longer for the right reason – to learn more about what they sell.
”It was refreshing to work with a company that listened to our needs and implemented them without reinventing the wheel. Birch Studio worked within the framework that I already had in place for our website and improved upon it with their expertise and vast knowledge in website design and coding.”
– Nate Thompson, Former nTelos Webmaster
Keeping up with the trends in the telecom industry, nTelos designed bundles of products to sell at different price points. In the old site, they had a simple, data-driven table to show what features you get with each bundle and then provided a link to go to one of three pages with all of the bundles. The pages had overlapping information which created confusion. That was too much clicking and cerebral work on the part of the customer. There was no place to see a comprehensive comparison. We liked the idea of the matrix and went big with that – designing it as a full-page graphic rather than an inset. We added a three-bullet summary to each of the bundles, and triggers for each bundle that displays details in a collapsible area just below it. This keeps the user’s attention anchored around the item they clicked on, and allows them to explore and compare other bundles efficiently on the same page, without ever having to hit the back button. And the interactive, clickable nature of this page is just fun.
For the business side of wireline, we listed products and services available in a typical format. We uncovered that most of the business on the business side is done through consultative selling, meaning that very few customers pick a product from the website and buy it on the spot. To introduce and direct users to a sales person, we created an interactive map of the account executives. When a user rolls over a telecom market area, the map displays the account exec’s photo, name, phone number and email. For confirmation that the user is looking at the correct area, we repeated the name of the city in the heading of the box.
To help nTelos keep up with the pace of updates and to better use their internal resources, the majority of the site was built on a content management system (CMS). Simple text, image and document edits can all be done by their in-house staff on a regular basis through this CMS.
With the depth of the changes that we made, we consolidated many areas which had multiple pages into single pages. Knowing that search engines and users both store page URLs, created a redirect script on the server that automatically forwards traffic from the old to the new pages.
The total scope of our work on nTelos’ telecom website overhaul ran from schematic planning to design, implementation and execution. We are continuing to monitor and make incremental improvements to the site.
1. create written outline of the content that we will include and how we will organize it
2. research competition
3. create schematic sitemap to organize site navigation
4. create schematic page layouts to show the major information on each page
5. create first draft renderings with shading, proportion, colors, fonts, content in position
6. revise first draft after client review
7. modify design to create a special section for TV
8. set up core code for content management system (CMS)
9. integrate designs with CMS to make the website live and hand off the site to nTelos