Before ending this year and moving towards the new, exciting challenges that we hope 2017 will bring, we’d like to take a look back at an important 2016 milestone for us: our website redesign.
Why is it an important milestone? Well, firstly, because we wanted to make our website more friendly for you. We wanted you to find quicker what you’re looking for, to browse through the content more easily, and to have a pleasant experience when using our website.
Second, as with any Agile approach where you inspect and adapt your work, we wanted to make sure our website reflects our beliefs, our brand and our identity. This is why we have turned to Brand it Guru (BiG), a creative, London-based agency of ‘Gurus’ that we have worked with in the past. The team at BiG have known us for a while now, and were ideally placed to help us communicate our message in the best possible visual way.
Third, our website redesign project was a great exercise of working in an Agile way ourselves, together with someone who hadn’t really been exposed to Agile before.
Let us take you with us on the redesign journey.
The need for a website redesign
There are several reasons that someone can use for a website redesign. For us, it was a desire to have a more friendly UX, as well as have a better alignment between our visual identity and what the Radtac brand expresses.
We’ve asked James Delderfield, Design Director at Brand it Guru, what Radtac’s previous website looked like from his design/UX perspective, and what needed to be improved.
James: “We identified several issues, but the two fundamental problems with the previous website were:
- Vital business information was hidden in the deepest levels of the website and not getting seen.
- The generic and dated design of the website did not show off Radtac as the industry leading company that they are.
In terms of the backend system there were also problems around using third party integrations of e-commerce and booking (among others), and there was no marketing automation integration, meaning it wasn’t possible to tailor content and information based on previous interest.”
Choosing a partner agency for a website redesign project is an important decision. We had to ensure that whoever we chose would have been able to create that alignment that we were seeking between the visual identity and what Radtac stands for. We have chosen BiG based on their previous work with us and based on their portfolio.
Brand it Guru have designed and developed over 30 websites over the last 24 months, and have been a part of the industry for over 15 years now. They are always up-skilling and challenging themselves to keep up to date with all the latest trends and technologies. Recent highlights on their portfolio include being contacted by the British Embassy in Israel for creating a new website to facilitate trade relations in the tech industry between the UK and Israel, and having their own new website win an Honourable Mention award at the Awwwards website awards this month.
Website redesign in an Agile way
Rich Levy, Software Craftsman at Radtac: For an Agile specialist services company, there was only one way to move forward with the work, and that was in an Agile way. BiG had never delivered using Agile before but were keen to embrace the method, practices and techniques, and they soon picked them up as we started work.
Our initial product backlog and release roadmap were created in a workshop at the very start of the project, attended by all project stakeholders. During this workshop we also identified key project risks, agreed & detailed how we would work, and created a project board to show the current state of the project.
Mindful of tools dictating the way the project is run, we chose to use Trello with set card colours and a numbering scheme to identify and track epics, features, stories and tasks. The rules of the Trello board were detailed on the board itself. Trello not only gave us visible project progress and tracking, but also gave us a communication channel, especially when linked to our team's Slack channel.
We agreed on a 2-week sprint length, and decided that because of the distributed nature of our teams, we would hold the sprint review, retrospective and next sprint planning session consecutively.
Everything about the new site was new to Radtac. We moved hosts, changed platforms and worked with new 3rd parties. With this in mind, we chose to not only represent value on the product backlog, but also risk. We identified key architectural considerations that needed to be addressed early and also put these on the backlog. This approach worked very well for us and we were able to determine early in the project that we had a sound foundation to build upon and a seamless transition plan.
As we moved forward with the project, we were in constant communication with BiG. We used their initial design direction along with annotated wireframes and design mockups to communicate website behavior to the [off-shore] development team, and received daily code drops. Technical integrations to external software was documented diagrammatically and also with code examples from the Radtac architecture team, who also contributed to development where required, which allowed us all to keep quality in check.
At the end of each sprint we held a scheduled sprint review, usually at our Barbican office. Due to the distributed nature of both the BiG and Radtac teams, while a core set of people could attend the actual meeting, most chose to attend virtually. All sprint reviews were cast live on Google Hangouts plus recorded and made available to all attendees directly afterwards. This worked extremely well for those that could not attend.
During the sprint review we presented broadly four things:
- What we said we would achieve in the sprint
- What we actually completed – including a demonstration
- What we didn’t complete
- Any issues we were facing.
Once our staging site was up and running and our release procedures automated (one of the key risks tackled early), we were about to demonstrate from the staging site, which not only acted as an additional test, but meant that we could share the latest release with key stakeholders who could provide extra feedback.
Our retrospectives allowed us to tweak our process as we went, and despite being experienced in Agile, we of course suffered from over-estimation! We identified this early on and ensured that we always questioned each other’s estimates during sprint planning just to ensure a dose of reality. We improved, but it was never perfect!
We identified three key releases of the new website and focused on delivering just-enough to satisfy the needs of each release. After our first release, we were able to roll out incremental sub-releases due to our focus on completing value-based user stories during the sprints.
Overall this way of working, especially with a distributed team and stakeholders worked very well. Our work and progress (WIP) was very visible and the team had a very good collaborative relationship – we still have an excellent and ongoing relationship with BiG.
We wanted to see how the team at BiG felt about this approach, and if it impacted their own way of working.
James (BiG): “This was the first project that we delivered in an Agile manner and it has dramatically changed the way we now approach project management. We have adopted many Agile methods and ideas since working with Radtac – working in sprints has had the biggest impact on our ability to deliver websites on time, on budget and with the greatest buy-in from stakeholders.”
The thoughts behind the redesign
Along with improving the visual aspect, the new website had to cater to some functional requirements that were deemed important. The redesign was centred around four key areas:
Usability & Accessibility
Our focus was creating a website that engages and encourages you to explore and learn as much as possible about Radtac’s services and solutions.
Easy navigation through the site aides this, and so does the ‘Resources Menu’, which we hope creates a place for you to learn more, and return to over time.
Video courtesy of Brand it Guru
With smartphones now the preferred way to browse the web, it was essential that the mobile experience was simply beautiful. We achieved this with clever design and by utilising all the latest Google standards for mobile device usability.
Design continuity across all devices
Design continuity across the various devices helps reinforce the Radtac brand image and us a better visibility.
James (BiG): "It also shows a reliable brand image and competitive edge. This is so important when building a brand – this is an area that we have improved dramatically."
James: The development of constant brand elements (colours, patterns, imagery etc.) was a vital part of this project. For example, the use of cut-off corners creates a cutting edge and unique feel, while the angular patterns used tell viewers that Radtac is multifaceted and forward-thinking.
Results & Feedback
The feedback we have received so far on our new website has been very positive, and, where you have signalled elements that could be improved, we’ve listened to you. As with any Agile approach, we are still reviewing and adapting as needed - so if you have any feedback about the Radtac website, we would really appreciate it if you share it with us. Just leave a comment here or drop us a line at marketing [at] radtac.co.uk.
We hope we managed to create a pleasant browsing experience for you, our website visitors. We would like to think that you’ll find useful content across the website and the Radtac blog, and that you will easily find the solutions to the business challenges you are looking to overcome.
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