Thursday, 27 October 2011

Water over... office things.

We were flooded. Everything in the office was destroyed.

Check out the water level.

These are the things we have learned.

1. Have insurance. Without it... you’re toast.

2. Do your back-ups. Without saved data you are... lost.

3. Know all your account numbers (telephone, internet, software subscriptions and whatever else you need to run your business). Without these you are stuck.

4. Ask for help. Without asking you will be buried under the... to do list.

5. Communicate. Let others know. So you don’t disappoint your business customers. If you need to ask for patience, do it. Better telling, then... the opposite.

6. Keep smiling. Go have a cup of tea and think things out. Without the ability to do this... you are gonna go bonkers.

7. Don’t forget to say thank you. When all is back. And don’t forget the above list. Actually, share it.

8. Nobody hurt? Say thank you to that and move on.

    ‘’And why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up. :) Some mainstream wisdom for you hehehe. 

Monday, 3 October 2011

Building when it all falls to pieces. Or less dramatically put, how came into place

This is how it all started. For us.

First , there was an idea. No. Recession. Yeah, that came first. Then, an idea. Then, a name for it, a website... and no plan.

We picked Evolution as our ecommerce provider – we found them to be the best (if you read this in 2015 you might want to do more research, but in 2011 – they are the best) and we went online.

After 15 years of B2B we went B2C. We had to: the furniture market – that was so kind to us in the past, was gone, business was slower than ever and... since we are only a small family business, we had no choice but fight for survival. No parent company to hold us safe, nothing like that at all...

So we had this idea of going online and selling to anyone who needed the products that we supply. Nothing new with that paradigm. Except one little detail: It was new, to us.

We had our new website up and running for a month when a friend of ours had a look at it and came back with a report, an online audit of the existing website: SEO, design architecture, back-end and more. Everything was looked at and the result was something like this:

We sort of took it all in and went: ok, let’s do this. We knew that in order to make sense of the online we had to get our things together and focus on what makes the wheels turn in this www. And so it all began.

Our friend became our business strategist and as you know it started to be put together.

We looked at our business and what it was all about for the last 15 years... and what it wanted to become. We sat down and had a long ponder on what we have learned in these 15 years and pulled customer feedback out of our experience, information that we already had... but never used for the purpose of building a business. Or shaping a business.

We looked at the online world and picked what we thought we need in order to be relevant and useful. We wanted to go social but we wanted to do it right.

We looked at competitors, both the big league and the small family business, like ours. We looked abroad, across the oceans, pretty much everywhere... inside and outside of the industry. We started reading Mashable religiously and we became a bit geeky. But it was all good, all constructive and positive... even if it was overwhelming.   

If we are to bullet point it all, it would look like this: branding / business strategy / information architecture / design architecture / product files/ marketing strategy / social media strategy / permission marketing... and some other stuff. Lots more actually.

Other stuff like... design. We knew what we wanted. We knew the colours, the design architecture was done, we picked all the photos that you see on the website now (except 2 or 3 that defaulted onto it and we agreed to keep them), we put together the new menu and the call to actions were decided already, everything was pretty much put together before the actual design came into shape.

We worked closely with the developers, slashing and dashing stuff... for 6 months.  Some changes had to be made to the initial mock-up in order to suit the Evolution platform and the developers were great at coding our strategy into life.

Looking back at it all, the way we changed things, adapted things, had the designers work our vision into an actual website we can only say this: stick with how you see things, how you want them to be. If you have to change things 10 times because something doesn’t feel or look right, do it.

It is what we did. It is called art direction. And if you realise that creating a new website = shaping or creating a brand... then you must be involved, things must be built with your input, every single step of the way.

We worked a good bit on and everybody involved in the process had a lot to learn. We learned so many things that listing them would now qualify as corporate treason, hehe.

But we don’t mind sharing.

From this

To this

And this

And a lot more scribbles and changes and mock-ups... to this:

Results so far?

The attention we have been getting is impressive. Our brand identity is getting stronger and we try our best to do our best for our customers. Image without substance will never last.
And we are not done yet. We are working on a few exciting things... and we will soon have a few launches.

Yes, we are selling more, yes we have very valuable new customers and yes... we are perceived better. An yes, we are liked. And we are grateful for all that. We truly are.

And there is more... but we can’t share it all... Some of the most exciting news is... unshareable.

For now.

P.S.: We will come back and look at the website a bit more in detail. And at our business strategy. We are happy to share some of our thinking patterns. We don’t mind if others learn from us. We have seen it happen already.