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Stuart Wells, Managing Director at agency Wickedweb talks to Figaro Digital about best practice within design and build - Article by Jon Fortgang - Figaro Digital
"If you build it," runs the line in baseball drama Field of Dreams, "they will come."
That was back in 1989, but until comparatively recently the same theory underpinned plenty of design and build projects. Now that Google decides on ranking, campaigns are seeded on social and the mobile frontier opens up, brand managers and marketers need to approach the planning and construction of their sites – and in particular SEO - with scientific precision.
Wickedweb are a full service digital agency who specialise in this field. Established in 2002, the company's work with a range of clients over the last decade has provided them with a clear perspective on some of the most persistent challenges – as well as the greatest opportunities – open to digital marketers seeking to optimise their presence across all channels.
"We speak to some new clients now," says Stuart Wells, Managing Director at Wickwedweb, "who've been through maybe two or three versions of a design and build project, and they're a bit nervous at the start. They're saying to us, 'we've made these mistakes in the past, we've seen these errors crop up. How can we mitigate the risk and improve our top level approach to a design and build project?'"
For Wells and the team at Wickedweb, the answer to that has involved establishing a clear best practice procedure which, they believe, helps brands refine their objectives and focus on achievable goals with measurable value. So what, for Wells, does best practice within design and build actually entail?
"Most projects start with a client saying, 'I want to deliver this'," he explains. "'I want to do it in three months and this is how much I've got to spend.' But the reality is, at that point, nine out of 10 clients don't know what it is they're looking to achieve, they don't know how long it's going to take and they don't know how much it's going to cost. And the agencies tendering for the job don't know either, because until you get into those detailed workshops and discussions, you simply don't."
Wells uses a three-part model to describe the approach best suited to streamlining and unifying that process. "There's the budget," he says, "There's the deadline, and there's the delivery. The methodology by which a large scale design and build project is delivered is all-important. In years gone by you'd see the 'waterfall' methodology, where you do one stage of the project, agree it with the client, sign off and then move to the next stage."
The problem with that approach, explains Wells, is an inherent lack of flexibility. Budgets change, deadlines shift and objectives are reconceived. "A lot of times that ends in disappointment. We inherit a lot of clients who've been through that relationship. What we're looking at now is a more agile way of working, where we'll ask the client not necessarily to commit to a definite budget but a budget range, not to commit to an absolute deliverable, but to a deliverable range. And not to set their heart on an absolute deadline but to a range of dates. That way you can enter the project and be far more open and pragmatic and say, 'What is actually achievable here? What are you looking to do as a business and what can we do to give you as much value as possible?'
Given his experience, what, for Wells are some of the most persistent challenges facing brands and agencies as they embark on a project together? Though brand managers may imagine the tighter a brief the better, that isn't always the case.
"Eighty per cent of briefs are actually too specific," he explains. That might sound counter-intuitive in a field where clarity of purpose is key, but more information, it transpires, doesn't always mean better information.
"Most brand and marketing managers will have a good idea of what they want to achieve. Let's say it's an integrated campaign – they'll be aware of some of the things they can do in social media, some of the things you can do with a CMS. But they may not know the best things that can be achieved at that point in time. Often agencies will respond to those client requirements because the clients have been very prescriptive. But that may not be the best way to achieve a client's underlying objectives, because there are new methods or more technically advanced ways of doing things." As an example, Wells cites advances in browser-technology versus Flash. But the point, he says, is that agencies should be able to analyse a client's top-level objectives and then present that client with the best routes to achieving those aims, rather than having to stick to a rigid, pre-ordained road map.
Starting with SEO
Key to any design and build project is SEO. For Wells and the Wickedweb team, it's the foundation on which everything else rests. So how does best practice apply here?
"To get the best results in SEO," says Wells, "you have to be there right at the beginning. Your organic search strategy has to be considered right at the start of the project. And that search strategy needs to filter through to the content audit – understanding where content is going to be placed. It needs to filter through to the information architecture stage, ensuring that the structure is correct around the content and search strategy. And on the back of that it should fall into design and build in a way that's fairly straightforward. You're then at the point where you've got the right foundations for search."
Dealing with data
Though the focus is inevitably on the launch of any campaign, when it comes to looking at data, this is the beginning rather than the end of the story.
"The brands that we see doing best in digital are the ones who understand their data best," says Wells. In the past this meant relying on disparate methods of analysis. "Now, with newer platforms and technology – Sitecore for example - we're able to work with customers, look at the data, look at the audience and actually prescribe the user-journey we want people to go down as we engage with them. That strategy can be put in place right at the beginning of the project and be constantly checked and progressed throughout."
While agility and flexibility are key, Wells acknowledges that the speed with which digital technology moves means specific strategies must themselves remain fluid. What works this year may need revising next. But remaining nimble, adaptable and open to change is a surefire way for brands to protect – and see measurable returns on – the investments they make in digital.
Best Practice in Practice – 10 Tips For Design & Build
- Choose you partner agency on who they are – as people!
- Get the background on senior figureheads leading all key roles within the agency
- Ask about their internal project management processes and methodology, status updates and meetings
- Ensure you know your SLA, response times, maintenance and support retainers
- Ensure you know how they and you will measure the ongoing success of the project
- Ensure you have portability
- Ensure you have performance
- Ensure you have scalability
- Ensure you have targeted content
- Ensure you have data and information
Wickedweb are delighted to announce a new relationship with the e-Commerce giant and leading home shopping brand Shop Direct. Shop Direct are behind some of the UK’s best known home shopping brands, including Littlewoods, Very and Woolworths.
Managing Director of Wickedweb Stuart Wells comments: “We are thrilled to be working with Shop Direct and their creative team on this global website initiative, and we hope it will be the start of a long and exciting partnership.”
More information coming soon.
Wickedweb are the lead digital marketing agency for The Lifehouse spa, and we have had an exciting time working on their website launch and full technical systems integration.
The Lifehouse case study focuses on an interesting challenge: the marriage of brand positioning, technical consultancy and creative execution. There were a range of objectives that needed to be considered as part of the brief spanning functional, business and creative requirements. The solution executed by Wickedweb weaves these together. In addition, The Lifehouse spa was not visible online. At the start of our work there were no keyword listings and little brand awareness beyond their name. Therefore, an SEO strategy was implemented to turn this around.
This has been a successful case study and the results showcase the impact of the website and the SEO strategy. Want to find out more? Read on to discover how we did it…
Stacey Hedges, Marketing Manager at Lifehouse comments:
"Wickedweb have provided us with invaluable support, guidance and creatively in launching the website. The team have been a true extension to the marketing department and play an integral role in the development and evolvement of the site. It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with them and we look forward to continue to drive traffic to the site and future developments"
Wickedweb are delighted with our latest award win for client Cosmetics à la Carte – the IMA Outstanding Achievement Award for the 'Beauty / Cosmetics' category. There were 56 entries submitted for this category this quarter, and so we are proud to receive an award that is extremely challenging to win.
The website for Cosmetics à la Carte excelled in all areas of the judging criteria and represents a very high standard of planning, execution and overall professionalism. The criteria Wickedweb are judged on includes design, content, feature functionality, usability and standards compliance and these scored very highly.
Congratulations not only to our client, but the talented team here at Wickedweb - in particular Kalli Daffin, Rob Hollander, Steve Coventry, Ian Jepp, David Pook, Lazlo Sike, Rob King, Mark Townsend and Billy Harvey.
If you would like more information on this project then click here to view the case study. Alternatively, give us a call to find out more.
Paul Scally appoints Wickedweb to deliver a suite of digital services across Gillingham Football Club’s portfolio.by Sue Akam / Make a Comment
Wickedweb are pleased to announce we are the agency of choice for Gillingham Football Club, and look forward to delivering a suite of digital services across the Club’s portfolio.
We have recently won the opportunity to deliver a range of websites for the Club, and will begin with the brand identity for Priestfield – the club's conference & banqueting facility. The brand strategy work will roll out into the design and build of the new website for the largest purpose-built venue of its kind in the south-east.
In addition, Wickedweb will also execute development work on two further websites for charities supported by the Club in order to raise awareness and funds. More details will follow.
We will also be developing a new approach and image for the Club’s online merchandising site.
Following the website builds, Wickedweb will conceive the digital media strategy to take the websites to the next level, and will begin with traffic driving initiatives via SEO and Social Media.
Murray Evans, Marketing Manager for Gillingham Football Club, said: “We searched for a partner who could deliver a range of innovative ideas and solutions for several very different needs. We have started with our conference and banqueting business, because it is crucial to the company's success off the pitch, and we look forward to working with Wickedweb on this and our other digital projects in the foreseeable future.“
Wickedweb adds Gillingham Football Club to our existing sporting credentials which include a global strategy, design and build project for Mitre International, a microsite for the Rugby World Cup in conjunction with The Telegraph and a website for Ben Garner, a top ranked squash player.
Wickedweb have a lot of clients in the retail sector and so we keep a keen eye on the industry - in particular M-commerce as this is the topic we are being asked about regularly. With Mobile strategies coming to the fore, our focus has been on planning M-commerce initiatives for our clients, and so it was interesting to come across this article published on the Econsultancy website recently.
e-Digital Research has recently undertaken an M-Commerce benchmark study which uses mystery shopper surveys to assess the customer experience for websites viewed on smartphones. ASOS has come out top, narrowly beating M&S which will no doubt inspire other retailers to look at how effective their M-Commerce actually is.
Although it has been criticised in part, there is a key point to take away from e-Digital’s Research study: it is imperative that retailers are focusing on optimising their website for mobile as this is an area that continues to evolve rapidly. Wickedweb are advocates in implementing a usability study at the outset of a build for our retail clients, to consider how M-Commerce will be addressed and executed. It is essential that the design rendered on a smartphone is simple, along with the navigation. ASOS have scored highly on the product pages where information including price is clear.
It’s not good enough now to merely have an M-Commerce presence – the solution has to be carefully thought through and tested in order to provide the best possible user experience for the customer and ultimately the most hard hitting conversion rates for the retailer…
Wickedweb are excited to work with one of the world’s first companies to launch a brand dedicated to iPod accessories. Gear4 are owned and managed by Disruptive Ltd, and are passionate about music and the capability of the iPod, iPad and iPhone. This presented an interesting project to Wickedweb as we needed to translate this passion into a brand led ecommerce website with an exceptional user experience.
Wickedweb had two key objectives to deliver against: firstly to showcase Gear4's product innovation and secondly to provide an additional channel to market alongside their offline focus.
In order to engage the user, Wickedweb's approach was to ensure first and foremost that the creative execution was brand led, and subsequently arresting enough to evoke desire to purchase.
Our solution to Gear4 also involved implementing the award winning Wickedweb content management system and ecommerce platform across different localities. Our in-house platform was perfect for this task as it allows the CMS user to indicate different tax levels according to the location of purchase. It also integrates seamlessly with payment providers and fulfilment houses.
For more information and to view further visuals see the case study.
Wickedweb are excited to share the details of a website we have recently launched for Cosmetics à la Carte, a complex eCommerce solution delivered on the award-winning WickedwebCMS.
Cosmetics à la Carte are a premium, multinational brand and have enjoyed customers such as the late Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Diana to Blondie, Kylie, Kate Moss and Lady Gaga. Conceived in 1973, Cosmetics à la Carte pioneered the concept of 'made to measure' make up, and have been pushing the boundaries ever since for innovation. With the desire to overhaul their image and launch the brand online, Cosmetics à la Carte approached Wickedweb for an exceptionally stylised e-commerce solution.
Our brief was quite simple - to create the most interactive and personalised experience possible for a cosmetic brand online, and to replicate the 'human' element usually experienced in the stores. Wickedweb were tasked with elevating the existing Cosmetics à la Carte brand, and rolling this out across the website.
In terms of reporting, it is early days. However, Google Analytics already shows conversion to be anything between 2.9% and 5.9% which is well above average.
Goal conversions are strong at 6%, indicating that key junctures of the user journey are robust and intuitive.
The email campaign that followed the launch of the site is extremely encouraging, with click through rates at 30%. We look forward to building on this as we work further with Cosmetics à la Carte’s e-marketing strategy going forward.
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