Responses by Anita Bartolini, senior visual designer; Josh Currie, executive producer; Aaron Edwards, cofounder and chief executive officer; Samantha Edwards, cofounder and chief creative officer; Natasha Eng, senior project manager; Emily Humphrey, developer; Grace Hwang, senior project manager; and Ben Zacaroli, content producer, The Charles.
Background: “The site is the digital home for The Charles Group, a full-service digital creative agency,” says Aaron Edwards. “Our target audience is primarily chief marketing officers, brands and companies in need of strategy, design, content, creative and technology services, in addition to potential new employees. The primary purpose is to showcase our work, our culture and our knowledge of the latest trends.”
“We launched this site as part of a comprehensive digital marketing push we made in Q4 2019,” says Samantha Edwards. “The Charles Group Holiday Campaign was designed to showcase new work; our philanthropic efforts, such as The Charles Gives Back; and talk about the expansion of our content and media services.”
Design core: “As an agency driven by culture and creativity, showcasing our work was the main priority,” says Anita Bartolini. “You can see this manifested in the overall interface: large, carefully curated imagery with a snapshot of what the project is about. This enables site visitors with a short attention span to get a ‘snackable’ overview of what we do best without having to do a deep dive.”
“Our objective is obviously for someone to dive deeper, but we wanted to keep the information about projects broad so not to overwhelm, which is why you see the large text callouts with information and commentary from the team,” says Samantha. “That is where you really start to see the combination of creativity and culture, which are two of our foundational pillars.”
“Since the inception of the agency, we’ve strived to keep the color palette and typography contemporary yet neutral, which enables the work to really shine,” adds Grace Hwang.
Favorite details: “The Service page is one of the agency’s proudest achievements primarily due to the fact that all imagery was concepted and photographed in-house,” says Ben Zacaroli. “Obviously, we do this all the time for clients, but I’m pretty sure any agency creative will tell you that concepting, producing and getting agency-wide sign off on [self-initiated] agency work is the hardest thing to do.”
Challenges: “The fact that we offer such a diverse set of services makes it hard to create a single template that fulfills all of our case-study requirements,” says Natasha Eng. “We strategized on the various case-study content scenarios to design a flexible template with unique modules, so that the case-study creation process is seamless—and enjoyable—for all team members.”
“As they say, ‘The tailor's wife is the worst clad,’” says Josh Currie. “The original deadline moved several times due to prioritizing client work. From a time-constraints perspective, we outlined one week for the entire team to be involved in the various aspects of the site and its content. It definitely brought a new meaning to the phrase all hands on deck.”
New paradigms: “It was hard for us to put a name to what we do on an everyday basis: How do we show the breadth of work and services we offer in the simplest way but without oversimplifying?” says Samantha Edwards. “We went back to our ‘Core 5’: strategy, design, content, media and technology. That ensured we were being as succinct as possible when showing our work.”
Navigation structure: “The navigation design was dictated by three questions: Who will come to visit our site? What will they want to see? What do we want them to see?” says Bartolini. “Using those three questions as the main driver for our thinking—and a lot of data pulled from our previous website—we defined the main pillars from our website and with those, the main navigation structure.”
“The View by Industry sort feature enables the audience to customize the experience by sorting work by industry, which is key when you handle work across luxury, lifestyle, hospitality, consumer-packaged goods, fashion and media,” adds Eng.
Technology: “The site was built using React and a headless CMS,” says Emily Humphrey. “We chose to decouple the CMS from the front end to provide a full, custom-tailored user experience while still offering a familiar platform for content creators and editors. This enabled us to offer faster response times and increase our SEO footprint. We chose this approach to take advantage of the faster web-page load speeds, SEO friendliness and usability on top of our existing WP base.”
Anything else? “The site is built upon a multisite manager instance, meaning other Charles-owned websites can be managed within this master website,” says Aaron Edwards. “We are happy with our page speed and load times based on minified code, especially considering that there are so many images and video assets running throughout the site. The site is also built with flexibility in mind, so there are numerous modules that have been designed; users can practically build their own page or case study using the modular functions prebuilt by us for the site.”