Responses by Jessica Walsh, principal, &Walsh.
Background: The purpose of andwalsh.com is to showcase our work for our target audience: current clients and potential new ones. We wanted our site to show what we do and who we are in a clear and transparent way. We’re very proud of the work we have done and our strategies backing this work, so we heroed it on the site.
Our secondary audience is future talent and the design industry. In the past, we’d found that many designers thought we only created design work, not realizing that we also handle strategy, copywriting and production. Because of this, we added visible text on case study pages to explain the strategy around the project.
Design core: When designing the site, it was all about minimizing. Our work is the hero, and we wanted the site to fade away so the work could speak for itself. We landed on using Maison medium throughout the site in only three sizes and a minimal white design with subtle gradients. The fluid, responsive design enables the work to scale up no matter the user’s screen size. The simple grid lets visitors grasp the breadth of the project easily on scroll.
Structure: We wanted our site to be incredibly simple and functional. So many designers or agencies make their websites “a design project” with crazy design or complex functionality, but we’ve always found that incredibly distracting. I personally just click out of people’s websites when it is too difficult to navigate—even if their work looks great—because the site is too frustrating to figure out.
When I log onto a portfolio site, I just want to see the work, a bit of information about who they are and how to contact them. If it gets too complex, I lose patience. In studying Google analytics of our past websites, I found that most people navigate a portfolio similarly: we found that almost 95 percent of users click on “About,” “Work” or “Contact.” With this research in mind, we homed in on these three sections of the site.
If fans are really interested in finding other parts of our site—like “Shop” or “Answers” or the “Articles” section—they can find them through the “About” page. But given that a small percentage of our visitors care about this, and given that our main target audience is potential new clients, we kept the navigation streamlined on the pages that matter.
Challenges: We had so many crazy ideas for the site that the real challenge was homing in on the ones that were feasible, within our time and budget, and didn’t detract from the overall user experience. For example, at one point, we wanted to do a live video of every single person in our studio’s face that calculated their mood. You would log on, see us all working on a real-time feed and understand our emotions. We also had an idea where users could log onto our Furbo and feed our studio dogs.
Ultimately, we found that these ideas would slow down our site speed too much, which, in turn, would jeopardize potential client experience. Having the constraint of keeping the site experience optimal for our primary audience kept us focused on what matters.
Upcoming attractions: We’re very excited to soon be releasing an onboarding microsite for new clients. Before our first meeting, they will go through our “brand therapy” digital onboarding to help us learn about who they are—as well as for the brand to learn more about us.
The initial meeting between agency and client can often be stressful for a brand. Undergoing a rebrand or creating an entirely new brand can produce anxiety, especially if it’s with the company’s founders; it’s like changing the face and voice of their baby! To do this well involves vulnerability, honesty and trust. We want to break down our clients’ anxiety before we even get in the room together and lighten the process to make them feel great about the work to come.
Navigation features: Underneath our simple, arguably “boring” site is a crazy, bizarre world that we’ve built. We wanted to give something special to our fans who stay on the site for long periods of time, so we hid surprise Easter eggs throughout it. These are bizarre animated GIFs that we randomly placed throughout the site and will lead you to dozens of microsites we created. Some of these microsites are funny, some strange and some give you a bit more depth into who we are. You’ll have to find them to find out what they’re about.