Industry Trends

Thinking of Building a New Web Site?

by Fritz Stolzenbach  • 

Screen-shot-2011-09-19Today ServInt unveiled a brand-new web site — one that we hope will be easier to use, more pleasing to the eye and more valuable to our customers and prospects.

The deployment of our new web site, in and of itself, is probably of modest importance to readers of the ServInt Source. But it occurred to me that sharing details of why and how it was built might be useful, as the challenges we faced before and during the redesign are fairly common ones. So, following are some thoughts, observations, and rules of thumb that may be of use to you:

  1. When your customers tell you it’s time for a change, it’s definitely time for a change. Face it: the attractiveness and usefulness of your web site is way down the list of priorities for your customers — so when they take the time to tell you it looks out of date, or is hard to use, it’s probably a bigger problem than you think it is.
  2. Building a brand-new web site takes less work than propping up the old one. This one may seem hard to believe, since there is no doubt that the process of building a brand-new web site takes a lot of time and effort. But when you measure both the extra work your company has to undertake on a day-to-day basis to make up for your site’s lack of effectiveness and the big-picture process issues you can fix by implementing a new web site, the value proposition becomes crystal-clear. Bottom line: it’s worth it.
  3. Make your web site a mirror facing outwards, as well as inwards. It’s tempting to see your web site solely as a reflection of who you are, or perhaps who you wish you could be. It’s just as important for your web site to accurately reflect who your customers are. Your prospective and current customers need to feel like they’ve arrived at their online home when they arrive at your site — a place where they’re understood and appreciated. Our customer base skews very heavily towards “value purchasers” — people who don’t have time for marketing fluff. That’s why our site was designed with a visibly minimalist style. Our overarching goal was to provide an extremely efficient path towards the information our customers seek.
  4. Show, don’t tell. ServInt is fortunate to have a loyal customer base that is willing to tell the world how much they like us, and why. If your customers are similarly willing to compliment you in public — let them. A basic rule of thumb is: if your customers are willing to say nice things about you, there’s no need for you to say those things yourself!
  5. Pick a designer who understands you. As mentioned before, we had a clear mental image of what this site was supposed to look like before we started building it. We actively searched for designers who understood the minimalist aesthetic we were after, and why we were seeking it. When we found them, we were able to set them loose to do what they do best. This made things much easier than simply “buying talent” and arguing with them over The Vision Thing. When you and your designer clearly understand the brand strategy you have in mind, as well as the design style that’s going to get you there, you can step back and let them do their job.

We hope you like it!

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  1. Hey, Chris -- Your version of the front page is NICE! I totally see where you're going with the softening of the current front page's "edges." Having said that, the strong lines on the current version also appeal to me for their sense of strength and confidence -- understanding that that kind of thing is always very subjective. My "sense of strength" might be your "Aaaaugh! My eyes! Make it stop!" Like I said before, we're going to let the more radical front page do its thing for a couple of months, and see what happens. But thanks for your edit -- or should I say your free design consultation?
  2. I guess I'm one of the people who like the new look. I'm no designer, but here's a few slight tweaks I made just for fun: 1. Changed the black borders to light grey so they clash less with the text. I probably overdid it, but you get the idea. 2. Adjusted the letter-spacing (-1px) and line-height (44px) of the title, and added some margin-top to the description block so that it looks more balanced. Anyway, just my own aesthetic preferences =)
  3. I don't like to gang up on the redesign, but I have to agree with some of the other comments here. I actually prefer your earlier site design. It had more depth to it. This one feels a little flat by comparison. I liked the client profiles that were on the home page. They were reassuring, and it was interesting to see who is using your service. By contrast, the "hosting websites since 1995" and associated graphic doesn't lend a lot of confidence. Modern, clean, minimal design can be very effective. But this feels almost like a wireframe. I do however like the new photos of the team, and some of the candid shots in the culture section. And the larger photo overlays are nice too. Since this redesign carries over into the portal area, it's not only for your public-facing site. When I logged into the portal, I was disoriented. People get used to looking in a certain area for the links and tools they use frequently. When those are moved, it takes time to adjust. I might have missed the announcement, but some sort of advance preview or heads up would have been great.
  4. @Fritz - I don't think everyone *hates* the new design, just believe a bit of improvement can be made (Colour-wise etc...).
  5. Hey, Brandon! Sorry to hear you're not a fan. (Come on, *somebody* out there must like our new front page!) Just checked out your site, and it's nice -- clean and efficient, with easy navigation. Well done!
  6. Not a huge fan of the new site. I see what you were trying to do, but I don't think it quite made it. If you need an awesome design company don't hesitate to contact us! :)
  7. I agree with Zubin. I thought there was an error somewhere or my browser wasn't loading your site all the way. I totally thought some CSS or something was missing. I also agree that it is too minimalistic. It definitely needs more color.
  8. To be honest I first thought some CSS was not loaded / missing when I opened your portal recently. You might need to round up some edges giving it a more finished look. Also needs either some color or shading. Too much white on the home page.
  9. Hi, I think you went over the top when it came to be minimalist. To be perfectly honet, I prefer the old design. If I had not experienced your hosting before, I wouldn't use you guys based on your design. Your old site kept me viewing the website and scremed "Buy my products" but this new one just feels boring and doesn't make me want to browse over to your packages. I'd go back to the old one.
  10. I like the minimalist style of the site. Congrats Servint! Though, there is too much white. It hurts the eyes, especially at night. Plus, I suffer from light sensitivity.
  11. IMHO, this has turned out a bit too minimalist. Everything is squares and rectangles here. For an example of a terrific minimalist design with nice graphic touches, take a look at the redesigned web site. However, I notice the local nav links for each section much better now compared to the previous design. On the blog pages, in Firefox 3.6.x, on my 1024x768 screen, there is a 40% gap/left margin after which the content begins. I am not sure this was the intended design as the text begins almost in the middle of the page.
  12. Ryan, that's an interesting observation -- it's definitely going in the hopper for further consideration. Our goal was to be so minimalist that it was noteworthy -- to kind of be the anti-Hostgator, in site design terms. I think we succeeded at that. But we'll keep a close eye on whether that design guideline ever negatively impacts the user experience.
  13. The new site definitely looks much simpler, but I feel there's a little bit too much white. On the homepage, for example, there isn't a notable hierarchy that guides the eye over the content... it looks a bit overwhelming at first. Maybe the homepage fader or the buttons below it can have a different background color. Other than that, nice job on keeping it lean!
Fritz Stolzenbach

Fritz Stolzenbach

Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, ServInt

For the last 25 years, Fritz Stolzenbach has led marketing and corporate communications efforts at a wide range of Internet, telecom, entertainment and utility industry enterprises.

In the mid-1990s, Stolzenbach helped build the largest U.S. distribution network for satellite television provider DIRECTV. He then joined the management team that launched the HughesNet satellite internet platform, as well as Spacenet’s Connexstar wide area networking service. By the mid-2000s, Stolzenbach was Global Director of Marketing for the world’s largest satellite fleet operator, Intelsat Ltd. From 2006 until 2010, Stolzenbach was co-owner and CMO of his own multimedia production company, Asparagus Media Inc.

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