The Agency: Wolf Interactive
I have run a digital agency for well over a decade now and have seen much change in that time. It’s very exciting, but with the pace of the industry, you’ve got to stay on your toes. Along the way, you’ve got to make sure you remain an expert in your field rather than a glancing jack-of-all-trades.
To achieve this, our approach at Wolf Interactive has always been a healthy mix of strategy, bespoke design and technology. We’ve produced many hand-coded CMS’s for really custom projects and we’ve also have adopted more platform-based setups (like WordPress) depending on the needs of the client. Each configuration comes with its tradeoffs, but one thing we rarely compromise on is great visual design.
Migration time: Some considerations and hesitancy
In 2014, our tech approach changed when we discovered HubSpot. We saw its sheer marketing power and recognized how it could consolidate and evolve our clients’ current digital setups.
We wanted to use it for both our clients and our own website replatform, but the immediate question was whether it could ‘bend’ to fit with the level of front-end design we wanted to achieve. Our designs were focusing on visuals first, whereas HubSpot sites, in line with their inbound methodology, focused on content and function first. An immediate decision had to be made, and we chose the HubSpot COS.
What we could expect from HubSpot’s transition?
We took the plunge and used our own site as a trial run. At the time, this site was on a hand-coded CMS. We consulted closely with the HubSpot team, starting with a free conversion to their platform. Throughout the process, they were particularly clear in what we could expect from this process. It essentially meant that the core page templates carried across.
Our site design works on a large-format presentation, which we’ve discovered is a great way to showcase a business with a strong design component. The design translated very well, although we noticed some responsive states became loose. We also lost interactive elements, such as button rollover states and an image carousel.
Completing the Launch
To successfully finalize the site, a further programming effort was required. The good news was that we were able to achieve the responsive tightness and reintroduce all interactive elements, mitigating any doubts about the HubSpot COS. It took the better part of a month to achieve, so it’s important not to underestimate the effort required if you want to push the limits on the design.
As we moved to the platform and towards a more inbound strategy, we we’re coach as we progressed. This has been a fascinating process, as we have been increasing our emphasis on the importance of CTAs, landing pages and content offers. This required new pages and caused our site map to grow. We designed these pages so they could be easily replicated in the future via HubSpot without the need for a programmer. To fill these pages, we wrote content offers, including ebooks and worksheets; these ‘offers’ are now integral to our strategy.
What we learned
From a design perspective, we found that as long as you have a proficient technical developer who is willing to give the site some additional CSS love, you can design what you want without too many constraints.
The most notable difference we saw was a shift in focus to make a site more of business-driven tool. Sure, we’ve done in-depth research and extensive UX planning, but HubSpot has been great because it’s pushed our realm of thinking well beyond that. We’ve adopted many inbound concepts, such as designing a Resources section, creating landing pages that capture details and providing content offers, and we’re still looking deeper. With a Stage 2 of our site currently in the works, we are focusing on our blog strategy (making it the “hero”) and optimizing file size via Amazon’s S3 service. As the saying goes, the more you look, the more you see!
Through this process, we now know for certain that HubSpot can accommodate beautiful websites with a visual design focus. Don’t hold back for design reasons. Instead, see it as an opportunity to combine UX and design skills with an awesome marketing engine.