new-screen-grab-home

Where have we been? MIA on the blog and spotty on social media because of an extensive site overhaul and redesign.

Update: We finally pulled the pin on the new site on July 30th, 2015 so everything below is moot. The new design remained pretty true to the concepts and wireframes we showed you below. I’ve kept this post live, but added new links to the actual pages so you can see how accurate they where.

I’m always loathe to talk about a new site build unless it’s pretty damn close. Helps avoid embarrassing episodes like this, where I announced a new design in the works back in 2011 – shortly before the stampede to responsive themes blew that up. Worse, a new site has YET to see the light of day and we’re still clunking along with a version that becomes more of a joke each passing day.

Let’s check some boxes:

Is our current site responsive? Uh-uh. Not even remotely. A kiss of death that.

Is it easy to navigate? Far from it – I have to use the Google to find things and I put the bloody stuff there (that’s what comes with bolting on features across several CMS installations.)

Is our current incarnation clean? Nope. A bit of a clown shoe vibe more like, which was cool and all for its day, but it became long in the tooth right around two years ago.

Functionally, the site is a mess. The overall menu is nasty – image based as opposed to text – and confusing as all get out. There’s too much overlap on sections. To top it off, the top logo is on the right side of the page (I wanted to be different) which apparently confuses people all to hell. The search feature on anything but the blog doesn’t work, something I discovered only last week. Which means, by the way, that it’s never worked since we first started rolling out this version in 2009 (An aside? I do wish that the kind folks who e-mailed me to tell me that periods go inside parenthesis could have also pointed out the busted search field while they were at it.)

Anyhoo, we’ve been laying low on the blog front and social media for a couple of months – preferring to spend any available time working on a new site – and those efforts are now starting to pan out. In fact, version 9.0 of our site (who’s counting?) is about 75% done and humming away on our development server, looking pretty decent, if I do say so myself. Here’s the home page in all its glory…

Anyone who codes a site from scratch these days needs their head examined, so we started with a commercial WordPress theme that we’ve been tweaking and hacking for weeks. I spent a lot more time on this version concentrating on organizing our content into logical and easy-to-find hierarchies, something which was secondary on our current digs. As with most of our site designs, we’ve gone with various departments and color schemes. I also wanted the new site to be big and bold so it uses monster-sized imagery extensively, like so:

Company splash page

Warehouse splash page

Logo example gallery splash page

Logo design help center splash slide

Design services splash page

Now, these images may be big – full screen on a 27″ Apple – but they’re optimized all to hell to avoid clogging of the interweb pipes. This fellah, for example –

– weighs in at 57k, yet is a whopping 1856PX × 736 PX size.) Slides and sliders also serve a pretty practical purpose too – they’re a key part of navigation on thiner devices (phones and tablets) when sidebars are blown out. Speaking of phones and tablets, will the new site be responsive – adaptable to various devices and what-not? You betcha.

On an Android phone:
Android
On an iPad (landscape:)


On an iPad (portrait:)


On an iphone

As is always the case, our logo design gallery is the focal point of the entire shebang, so that’s being set up like so (keep in mind that these screen grabs were taken a few weeks ago, and still feature lorem ipsum and placeholder images.)

The gallery breakout pages are being setup something like this:


Even our 404 ‘not found’ page is getting a work over (and if earlier experience is any indication that guy will get used a lot when we migrate everything over)

So there you have it – a sneak peek at what we’ve been working on for a good chunk of the past few months. Some things I’ve learned?

• Working with responsive themes is a PITA. Some devices ignore certain tags, especially Apple gear (Android is truer to the desktop version across the board.)
• We’ve got a hell of a lot of content to move around.
• There’s a lot of typos on this site as it stands currently.
• A lot of our stuff is dated (though surprisingly a lot isn’t) and anything that is won’t be migrated.
• Our current site is massively over-SEO’d. I’ve spent hours editing articles and posts, taking out instances of “logo design.” While those tricks may have worked when the articles were originally published, they certainly don’t now. Same thing goes for keyword linking which was done to death many years ago.
• Developing a website takes about three times longer than originally anticipated.
• I was finally able to give up our old purple & teal color scheme. As of today, our ‘official’ colors are purple & orange. Cause that’s how we roll.

May even do a podcast on the entire thing (with the new site launch going to try and keep to a schedule with that.) Lot’s of interesting tips, tricks & observations to pass along.

How long before D-Day? That’s a very good question. Not long would be the answer. I had originally planned this past weekend but that was entirely too optimistic. I’m now aiming for next, give or take.

Don’t hold me to it though.

Update:

We finally pulled the pin on the new site on July 30th, 2015. The new design remained pretty true to the concepts and wireframes we showed you up top. I’ve added new links to the actual pages so you can see how accurate they where.