We are wrapping up this rebrand series with #ahasmembers Handcrafted HoneyBee (next week is part 10 then the epilogue the week after!) and if you've been following it at all, you'll know that the struggles and decisions they face in their rebrand are ones every handmade and small business faces whether they are new or rebranding after years of work.
This week, they ask us to think about our web presence and what we really want from it. The entire series can be found here:
read the prologue here
Part 1 (where they talk about their need to change) here
Part 2 (why it takes awhile to get a rebrand right)
Part 3 (what it's like finding a designer)
Part 4 (creating compelling content)
Part 5 (creating and using your brand guide)
Part 6 (creating compelling packaging)
Part 7 (juggling two brands at once)
Part 8 (building a homepage)
Part 9 (launching their new site)
Epilogue (why going through a rebrand helps you love your brand more)
AND read their designer's advice on getting better with graphic design here
Is a custom site really necessary? Is it the best use of your business’ hard earned cash? If you’ve read this far into the story of our rebrand, I think you’ll be able to guess my answer.
It depends on your business goals.
In Praise of Theme Templates
I am a firm believer in the value of building your brand on your own platform. But that doesn’t mean you have to build it from the ground up.
A website theme template can give you exactly what you need when you’re starting out. A template offers you the chance to visualize what your site can look like and find a style that suits your brand. And many ecommerce platforms list customer reviews of their templates, so you can make an informed decision based on others’ experiences.
A template often comes with documentation to perform limited customization on your own. Depending on the developer, you may even be able to reach out for technical support. The plug-ins available through your ecommerce platform are typically developed to mesh well with that platform’s themes.
Some of my favorite brands use a Shopify or WooCommerce theme, with little or no custom options. It’s a cost-effective solution that lets you focus on running your business, rather than creating & maintaining a website.
So Why Would You Ever Go Custom?
It’s really the difference between off-the-rack and bespoke tailoring.
You can find a really great outfit buying off-the-rack. One that does the job, looks good, has a style that suits you.
But the fact remains that off-the-rack clothes were not made only for you.There might be a small element that doesn’t quite lay correctly. Or the color is close, but not exactly what you had in mind. Or there might be features that you like on two separate pieces that can’t be combined into a single outfit.
Bespoke tailoring is clothing built from the ground-up, starting with your body. Bespoke fits you perfectly because it was made precisely for you. It has the features you want because it was designed with your needs in mind.
The same is true for a custom website.
A custom design places the customer’s online experience completely in your hands. You can include small, subtle touches that can increase customer confidence in your brand. You can integrate the various elements of your online presence (your shop, blog, newsletter signup, member site, wholesale site, etc) in the way that will resonate best with your ideal customer.
With a custom theme, the website’s design & functionality are precisely suited to help your business accomplish its goals, rather than fitting your goals to suit the template.
Ultimately, you need to take a good look at your business goals and decide which option is best for you. If your goals are straightforward and mesh well with the templates available on your chosen ecommerce platform, then you should opt for an established website theme template.
If your goals are complex, if you are looking to establish your brand’s online presence with a unique visual style, or if your business model is unconventional, then you’re going to want to consider a custom theme with a designer & developer.
Handcrafting the HoneyBee Website
Our brand was looking to create an outstanding customer experience. We wanted to strike an emotional chord and engage the intellect at the same time. We wanted to inspire confidence in our product by presenting seamless, intuitive navigation & ease of use.
Reviewing our discussions on Basecamp with the team from Aeolidia, I see 20 different threads. These cover everything from content & goals to functionality, plug-in/widget integration & SEO. As the project manager, Sam kept everything on track & on schedule.
Our copy editor Natalia helped us to keep the content consistent, on-brand & compelling. Jennifer photographed amazing “hero shots” to capture the imagination from the moment a person visited the site.
As with brand visuals, our designer Sarah delivered lengthy case studies supporting her design decisions for each page. But this time, her design decisions were developed in close coordination with our developer Shoshanna.
Take a Look Inside
While the site itself will not launch until July 2016, I can give you a few peeks at the initial designs.
Here are some of the key elements of our new site:
- A rotating graphic with the phrase: “I’m a __________ in the making and I’m all about the __________ kit.” was one of several elements designed to spark a girl’s imagination & connect her story with our educational skin care kits.
- The “HoneyBee Heroine Hall of Fame” encourages our audience to help shape the brand by submitting pictures of a girl with her kit creation.
- ach of the major pages on the site have eye-catching & informative banner graphics right at the top. Even our store locator has an integrated design that’s consistent with the rest of the brand.
- A secret page offering exclusive access for kit creators is not accessible directly from the website. We needed it to look distinct, yet still part of the rest of the platform—special but connected to the place where they got the kit in the first place.
We might have figured out how to make each of these elements work with a theme template, but a custom designed & developed theme is enabling us to accomplish our goals more effectively. It is helping us to communicate consistently to our customer with one voice, through our website, our newsletter, our products & our offerings.
No matter what happens after the site launches, we have built a home for our brand that we can be proud of.
Next Time: I’ll end the story with a few thoughts about our journey and a look at what’s next for our re-branded brand.