A quick overview about how we got from A to X, and soon will get to Y as we worked on, and then launched, the new Deschutes Brewery website. If you're wondering when we'll get to Z, please read on.
There has been much discussion lately about what some might call the tension around the idea that there is a distinction between a "traditional" agency and a "new" or "digital" agency. As of this writing I've been following an interesting thread that was inspired by this post - Do We Really Need 'Chief Innovation Officers' in Ad Agencies? followed by this one. Both posts are from Ben Malbon, Director of Strategy at Google Creative Labs, New York. The comment thread is the most interesting to me as it exposes the weakness in the argument that there is a difference between creative disciplines within agencies; simply put, all agencies ought to be innovating and that might mean actually building things - useful products that provide customer value.
Essentially there are no right or wrong answers to both the CIO question or whether a "traditional" agency is better or worse than a "digital" agency. It's basically a non-starter, a bubble issue. Innovation, insights, planning, research, vision, and creativity are required disciplines when an agency is tasked to deliver value to their clients' customers and/or users. After all, what would an agency be without those disciplines? No one team within an agency should have any more "creativity" than the entire agency combined. These days companies aren't necessarily hiring agencies to work for them; it's much more of a partnership, in which agencies are tasked with creating value for the company's customers.
How about we simply embrace the idea that a forward-looking modern agency of the present is an AGENCY? An agile, multi-disciplinary, multi-creative, innovative company clearly focused on its clients customers. Those customers do not distinguish between digital or non-digital media, they embrace and live amongst those media on a daily basis. An AGENCY needs to do that too: let's not spend our time and our clients money in the present to try and solve problems of the past; let's think about building value for our clients' customers, and think about building products rather than always thinking in campaign terms.
Perhaps if all agency employees were innovating there would not be a requirement for a CIO?
So what has all that to do with the new website for Deschutes Brewery, you may ask? The answer is simple - when Deschutes Brewery came to us, asking us to start the process that would lead to a new website we saw an opportunity to put what we think and believe at North, into action. We would design and deliver a website that focused on and championed the passionate Deschutes Brewery beer lovers, and by extension, beer lovers the world over.
For some readers, especially those who have researched, designed and delivered a website, there'll be nothing new in the next few paragraphs - your feedback would be appreciated though.
Users & Business Goals
Our first task (as should be expected) was to research the existing site's usability from a UX/UI perspective. We began by asking the fans of the brewery how they were using the original website by using a polling tool, Wufoo, and by reaching out through the brewery's main social media channels - Facebook and Twitter. Although research and feedback from the fans of the brewery were vitally important, interviews with the company stakeholders were also important. We needed to understand the long term business goals of the brand and how a new website would family up to those business goals over the long term. In other words this was not going to be a campaign-based website; the site would express the brand essence and provide value for the brand's customers, all the while helping the brewery to achieve its business goals.
The polling resulted in almost 1,800 responses, (people are clearly passionate about beer...,) and we found that some assumptions were turned upside down - not to be unexpected. Although we asked many questions of the brand followers, there was a clear winner, as can be seen in the images below:
Click on images to enlarge
Basically both men and women were saying - "I want to find beer, brews and events."
Those findings were extremely useful but we didn't stop there. The next research phase involved taking a trip to the brewery in Bend to interview the company execs and stakeholders. Meanwhile we had begun to paste thoughts, scratchings, questions and insights on to the back walls of the North offices. Some of the questions we wrestled with:
Why are we doing this?
Who will use anything we make?
Why will they use it?
Who are the people that will use it?
Will it be better?
Should we be asking this?
After some time we began to focus on a Mobile First philosophy for the site.
If we correctly understood the research results and our parsing of the data was watertight, then the way forward had become apparent. Mobile ubiquity is almost upon us so it made complete sense to begin this project by concentrating on designing for mobile first. From there, the road back to the desktop and laptop was much easier.
With hindsight of course, it makes perfect sense. The preponderance of mobile device users accessing the web will only continue to grow - Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley has great insight into globality and mobility and this - 'Mobile Internet Will Soon Overtake Fixed Internet.' There's also the iPad and other tablets - 'Global Tablet Sales Will Exceed 80 million by 2012.'
Click image for large version
Clearly we could have taken it as a given that a large part of experiencing beer happens away from a desktop computer, even a laptop, and that a mobile device would surely be within reach. But it takes research, questioning and even cajoling, to actually discover whether an assumption is correct or false.
And so - Beer Finder. A mobile-optimized version of the website that allows beer fans to find Deschutes Brewery beers quickly and easily using location services or by entering zipcodes.
What's so special?
The team came up with a way to create ease-of-use for Deschutes Brewery mobile users. The mobile-optimized site has the ability to auto-detect a mobile user’s location that can be controlled by editing permissions in the device. We gave the beer fan the ability to search and find a specific beer product amongst all of Deschutes Brewery’s beer brands by location, even at events - which is something we hadn't seen before. And in beer searches the results include Deschutes Brewery events whenever the searched beer is being served at an event.
We feel that some of those actions are fairly unique for a brewery's mobile website.
It's all teamwork
I would be remiss if I were not to mention all the great collaborators on this project.
Getting to Z
There is no getting to Z on the web..it keeps moving.