Connecticut Websites provides custom web design services to match the needs of our clients. and build a web design for optimumal success on the internet. If you’re looking for a web design company in CT, or anywhere else, Connecticut Websites are the designers for you.
Early in 2010, Connecticut Websites took on the re-design of Bruce Barber’s Real Life Survival Guide. The original idea for the web design “theme” was something with a “retro” look. Initially, we kicked around the idea of taking design cues from the early 1960’s, similar to what we were seeing on “Mad Men“. The other goal was to come up with a truly memorable design that would help increase RLSG’s brand exposure.
Although it was a great idea, for some reason we weren’t really feeling it, so we went back to the idea of retro, and took a different approach. We started researching advertising from that era, and immediately started coming up with little design tidbits. We knew we were zeroing in on something, but again, it felt hollow.
One day I found myself wandering through the Yale University Art Gallery, and the minute I saw the work of Roy Lichtenstein, I knew exactly what the site design should look like. It would be simple yet radical, different, retro, and the “pop-art” element would allow for a unified design throughout the website. The next day, I came up with the first design concept, and I could hear in Bruce’s voice that he was as excited about it as I was.
(click on images for larger version)
During the initial rounds of design, we made small changes, keeping things that worked, and discarding things that didn’t. When we reached a place in the process where we felt comfortable moving from the design to the prototype, we shared the conceptualization with a few friends, including Ed Bartlett of Shoreline Out And About, Ann Nyberg, Pam Landry, and one of my all-time favorite designers, KHyaL™. Based on their valuable input, the final design was complete, so we began to develop the actual site.
The Development Process
Meanwhile, Bruce had refined his vision of what the site would accomplish, and it was simple: Create a site where people have conversations around a theme or topic. The tag-line would be “Conversations About Life’s Little Problems”.
In addition, Bruce had a vision of a hybrid mixed media web site that would support his new radio show, but also function as a stand-alone entity online. The content would be a mix of blog/article posts, video clips, and audio pod-casts, and all of these media would be a starting point to encourage a dialogue with site visitors.
Web design is an odd business. Sometimes, the perfect design emerges early, sometimes it evolves more slowly. It’s a process. The same holds true for the development side – sometimes what the site does is a process of refinement, with an occasional element of trial and error. For Real Life Survival Guide, this was definitely true. The best example of this was an idea that evolved in the latter stages of the project, when we decided to integrate Web Forums into the website, and use that tool as the primary platform for the conversations. After testing a handful of forum platforms, we finally settled on BBPress.
it was a painful decision to make, but the right one
Initially we faced the surprisingly difficult challenge of integrating BBPress Forums with WordPress, which is the platform we developed the web site on. Although BBPress and WordPress are both open source projects from Automattic, we soon discovered that the integration process was very time consuming.
Once the integration was done, we launched the site, and within a week, people were responding to it…a little. Overall, the response to the forums as the platform for the conversation was underwhelming. After carefully weighing all the options, we made the difficult decision to delete the forums, and let the conversations happen in the more traditional way via the article comment threads. Although it was a painful decision to make, it was the right one.
Almost immediately after the forums were removed from the site, Bruce Barber’s Real Life Survival Guide went viral. With minimal promotion, the first couple of weeks were wildly successful. People began joining the conversation, and Bruce was finally realizing his dream of what his website should be.
This project serves as an example of the business philosophy for Connecticut Websites: Building a nice web site isn’t the hard part; designing, developing and marketing a successful website is what we strive for. The success stories aren’t in the paycheck, but rather the performance of the products we produce.