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Learn How Research Shaped Our Site Redesign (Part 3: Creative Direction and Design)


Part 3: Design

For the third and final part of our site redesign series, we interviewed the site’s design team, Aquent’s Creative Director Zac Siswick and freelance Creative Director Michael Gatti. (Haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2? Check those out first!)

As the creative team behind our redesign, Zac and Michael needed to roll in all the research and UX elements and work with a copywriter to breathe life into the site. In this interview, they talk about the influence of research on their design, the story they were looking to tell, and how they settled on the animated parallax approach the site ultimately took.

Q: What role did research play in your design work?

Michael Gatti: Any time you can talk to your end user and get a real sense of their real needs, I find that invaluable.

So many times you work on site redesigns and you don’t have any input from users; you’re just taking things off a client’s list of what they want. It could be the CEO has decided they want something or the designer wanted something. But if you have research from your users and you can lay out the tea leaves the right way, a lot of good stuff comes out of it.

My biggest takeaway from our research was that the way things were set up before was a little bit confusing. It wasn’t totally clear what was going on and what the actual promise of Vitamin T was.

That’s how we ended up with the current direction, where it’s very segmented, but each segment flows into the others very nicely, and it’s all very clear and concise. And by trying to keep everything in these nice 200-character count blocks, we made the content easily digestible and very, very clear.

Q: How did you synthesize all the feedback?

Zac Siswick: Based on the research, we decided that, instead of trying to cater to multiple audiences (i.e, talent AND clients), we would be very clear that the redesigned homepage was aimed at new and current clients and solely dedicated to making a strong case for why they should work with Vitamin T.

Seeing it from this perspective highlighted how everything else was just taking away from that mission. That’s why we decided to take our blog off the home page, get rid of featured jobs, and remove anything that would get in the way of communicating our most important messages.

Q: How did you balance visuals and copy on the redesign?

Michael: Shorter and more concise was always the goal, no matter what. Now, that didn’t mean that everything we did had to be 50 words or less (though sometimes you can get your point across with NO copy at all). It was more about knowing what the story was we wanted to tell and knowing how to tell it as succinctly as possible.

Q: How did you end up with an animated parallax design?

Zac: We just brainstormed what the flow of the page could be and how we were going to achieve a more modern approach to storytelling. Everyone agreed fairly quickly that parallax scrolling – or some kind of animation – would be the way to go. We reviewed a couple of websites where people were telling stories like this in a really simple way and we used them as a loose model to work from.

Michael and I then locked ourselves in a room for a couple sessions with Roman Edirisinghe, our lead developer, to help us understand if the things we were envisioning were technically feasible.

Once we got buy in from development, Michael and I met again and brainstormed what visuals would support the copy. We tossed some things up on a white board, erased them, put up some other things, and then worked offline independently to refine our ideas.

I put together sketches of the more polished finalized ideas, and we discussed whether they were any good. Then we had a bit more back and forth making the sketches really shine. Finally, we were ready to unleash the concept and get feedback from our leadership team.

Michael: When I came on the project the working comp was essentially, “Here’s where we are and here’s some glorified bullet points.” Some real basic chunks. But if you really wanted to know how we worked, you’d still have to click through to another page somewhere else, a What We Do page.

So the thinking here was, “Let’s not mess around. Let’s make it easy for people to learn what we do right on the homepage.” The homepage became a de facto What We Do page. It won’t give you every single detail — you can still click through for that — but you’ll know that Vitamin T places talent, that they have local folks, and so on. You get the main thrust right off the bat.

Parallax worked well with this idea and meshed nicely with Zac’s illustrations. They really lend themselves to this sort of simple animation style where you can have multiple things happening on a page and do some really interesting stuff without it being a big strain on the browser or especially load heavy.

Q: Are there any obstacles when using research to drive design?

Zac: I welcome and embrace it because I think it makes certain decisions easier, such as what content to display on the homepage.

On the other hand, it can feel like you’re crowdsourcing your design at some point. As a designer, I feel more confident and comfortable when design decisions are being made by one or two people, not a focus group. So, at times, it was a bit difficult for me to let go and let someone else steer.

Q: What are the benefits of using research?

Zac: For anyone who focuses 90% of their life working on web designs, it’s kind of exhilarating to get real, honest feedback from people who are not invested in your project. They’re just giving you honest, unfiltered, input. And that’s really a very cool thing that I don’t think too many designers have an opportunity to actually experience.

Do you have questions for Zac and Michael? Please write them in comments and we’ll get an answer.

Be sure to check out all the pages of our new site and tell us what you think!

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