Inside the industry and inside the agency
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 is delighted to announce wagamama’s recent appointment as their full service digital marketing agency. Appointed after an 8-month competitive procurement process which saw 10 agencies shortlisted to 3 for the pitch presentation, Wickedweb is excited to say that work is already underway on the strategy to better engage the target audience online.
wagamama is an award winning Japanese inspired global restaurant chain, targeting a wide range of audiences. The brand is in a strong position in the pan-Asian cuisine market, which is expected to demonstrate recovery and growth in 2012 / 2013, meaning our plans for the future will engage users just as restaurant dining expenditure returns. Our ideas are innovative and ambitious, whilst looking to capture the brand’s Japanese influence and minimalist style, so that wagamama is positioned as the industry benchmark.
Stuart Wells, Managing Director at Wickedweb comments:
“We are absolutely thrilled to be working with the wagamama brand and team on their digital marketing. It’s an account we really wanted to win, as the business and relationship values strongly mirrored our own, which we know leads to the best results. We have some really ground breaking ideas that will help bring all the wagamama digital channels together, and in turn position the brand as one at the forefront of digital within their industry sector”.
Brand engagement is everything to wagamama which resonates perfectly with us – as an agency it is at the heart of everything we do and we look forward to enhancing the digital landscape for this fantastic brand.
Ingrid Williamson – Director of Marketing at wagamama comments:
“Finding the right agency can be a challenge. You want to work with people who understand your Brand and simply ‘get it’. Wickedweb got it right from the start. We are thrilled to have appointed Wickedweb and look forward to some very exciting times ahead”.
Wickedweb are well placed to deliver an effective digital solution. We are drawing on robust experience in the food and drink industry with clients such as Ella’s Kitchen, and in addition can utilise our online brand engagement strategies as showcased by clients such as Gear4, Cosmetics a la Carte and The Lifehouse. This is an exciting relationship and we look forward to engaging the wagamama audience and delivering a real brand experie
Schülke are the international specialists in infection control products, hygiene, disinfection and preservation, and are a long standing client of Wickedweb. The UK website was over - hauled by us a year ago and Wickedweb manage ongoing developments to the site and the digital strategy. One of schülke’s key objectives is to maintain their leading position in the market by ensuring the brand engages with its audience in an innovative way.
Following the website re-brand, schülke were keen to enforce this re-positioning, increase traffic to the site and encourage repeat visits. It was also paramount that we worked on raising awareness for the brand. Wickedweb advised creating a members area for the main schülke website as part of the content strategy, in order to bring engagement with the audience to the fore. In addition, a dedicated microsite for the dental portfolio was created to support a key campaign.
Our recommendation also included launching social media activity for the first time, which underpinned their data acquisition objectives. Furthermore, Wickedweb rolled out an SEO strategy.
Find out more about the overall strategy Wickedweb implemented for schülke and how this met the client’s objectives.
Nicola Furniss, Senior Product Manager for schülke comments:
“Wickedweb were integral to the launch of our re designed site which was intended to make us and our products and services more accessible to our customers. Wickedweb continue to support us both creatively and technically in our online activity as pioneers of infection prevention.”
We are delighted to welcome ITE Exhibitions to Wickedweb. We were shortlisted and subsequently won the fantastic opportunity to deliver design and website build services for ITE Exhibitions; the organiser of over 180 leading international events a year.
Stuart Wells, Wickedweb’s MD says “I have no doubt the Wickedweb team will take one of ITE Exhibitions leading brands to an exciting new level. We will confidently deliver a website that showcases why ITE Exhibitions is deserving of its coveted position in the industry”.
Wickedweb have built up a solid reputation for delivering digital projects in the exhibitions sector, including clients such as Internet World, The Destinations Show, The Vitality Show, London and Southampton Boat Shows and our work with Closer Still Media. Furthermore, our award winning work in the B2B industry means we are perfectly placed to deliver a hard hitting digital solution for ITE Exhibitions.
As the project unravels, Wickedweb will be focusing on the key objectives of the new website; to increase visitor registrations, sales leads and overall traffic. This will be achieved in a number of ways including championing the brand vision, implementing usability studies to determine optimum user journeys and delivering strong message hierarchies. This site will launch in the Autumn and so watch this space...
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.
We are proud to announce the launch of Prime CFD’s new look website, the site is powered by WickedwebCMS our own custom built content management system, allowing Prime CFD to update all areas of their website with ease.
The new site features CRM integration allowing contacts and leads to automatically feed data from forms to the database, removing the need for manual input of data received by email.
The site is user-friendly through clear presentation of information and easy user journeys, and particularly, features an easy to fill in form to boost registrations and data capture.
Long-term, the aims for the Prime CFDs website are to improve organic ranking results so that increased traffic volumes are driven to the new online offering, and improved data capture – both volume and quality of data. In addition, one key performance indicator of the website over the long term is the growth in funds invested with Prime CFDs.
The Glass-House Community Led Design is a national charity working with community groups across the UK to promote a wider understanding and practice of community led design. The organisation provides free project support and design training to community groups who are leading regeneration projects in their area. This includes projects focused on local housing, public spaces, community buildings, play areas, facilities for young people or entire neighbourhoods.
With a website that is underperforming and inconsistent brand communication online and off, Wickedweb's brief is to develop the brand identity, presenting new brand guidelines that demonstrate a clear understanding of the complex range of services the charity offers to communities across the UK and the varied audience that The Glass-House needs to engage. Refreshing and clarifying the brand to provide a set of guiding principles will ensure clear communications and successful marketing campaigns long-term.
Wickedweb's next focus is to develop the charity's digital strategy and reflect the new branding online to raise awareness and the profile of The Glass-House amongst key audiences, generate interest and new clients for The Glass-House’s paid services and encourage online donations through the Just Giving link. In addition, Wickedweb will deliver key benefits to the organisation's administrators, including an intuitive content management system (The Glass-House will be using the WickedwebCMS platform), enchanced data collection mechanisms to grow the subscriber database, exciting feature functionality and a superior hosting solution for maximum uptime and quick loading.
Check back soon for news on the website launch and more information about the WickedwebCMS modules that will deliver an impressive user experience.
When designing and building a website it is imperative that you get the balance right between functional and fascinating. While some clients and their products lend themselves to being highly visual and attention grabbing it is not always a good idea to use too many fancy techniques to obtain your goal.
Some sites, such as the award winning www.ellaskitchen.co.uk lend themselves to being fun and interactive whereas other sites are there in order to inform the user using facts and figures and do not require any sort of extra "va va voom".
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