The Amazee Labs Redesign: Part I
It’s been about two weeks since our new Amazee Labs website launched and it’s still hard to believe I’m writing about it. We’ve kept this project a secret for so long my mind’s been tricked into thinking I’m spilling the beans by explaining what got us to this point.
In this three-part series about our redesign I’ll cover, among other topics, why we decided to update the website, how we chose a design direction, how the design evolved, and how we executed our vision. I’ll also show you some design iteration, which I’m excited to see myself.
The first Amazee Labs website was launched in 2010, designed by the talented Mike Kus, who also materialized our brand. Its illustrative style was his way of giving the site a hand-made look and feel, which is undoubtedly what made the finished product so admired.
For three years the Amazee Labs website was appreciated as one of the more unique on the internet, especially among its Drupal counterparts. We’ve even had a number of well-publicized copycats, that admired the site a little too much.
Near the third anniversary of Amazee Labs 1.0, whispers of 2.0 began to float around the office. It was the opinion of our fearless leader (at the time) that an agency website should be updated every three years. His reasoning? Clients, potential clients, and even potential employees, particularly in the web industry, want to work with an agency not only in the know, but on the cutting edge of technologies and best practices. In an industry changing on a daily basis it seems, a three-year-old website has almost no chance to make such an impression.
Finding our way
On February 9, 2013 we met as a team at a small cafe in Zürich to discuss our new mandate — Amazee Labs 2.0.
Of all topics on the agenda that day, the most anticipated for me was our discussion about design. To prepare, I had been working on three mood boards to present to the team. A mood board is a very broad representation of a design concept. It’s a collection of imagery, typography, textures, and colors that, together, can quickly communicate an overall look and feel. And because they don’t take long to make (compared to an entire site design) it’s easier for respondents to be honest if they feel the mood isn’t right.
I was hoping the three I brought to the table would help us efficiently choose a design direction.
The Amazee Retro mood board was presented as a stylized effort to recapture what Mike Kus had contributed so well to the original design — unmistakable style. The idea was to introduce a mid-century aesthetic to the web, a style that was already (and still is) making a comeback in modern interior design, product design, and architecture.
The Amazee Eco mood board catered to our company culture, one that, in large part, is kindled by a love of sport and the great outdoors. In an industry chock full of tech-centric competitors, this design approach I presented as the “play hard, work harder,” alternative.
The Amazee Duo mood board simply stated, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It was presented as a matured design, but one that wouldn’t stray to far from what had brought us success in the past. The idea was to meet in the middle, between keeping some old, like color and texture, and introduce some new, like photography and depth.
Retro, Eco, or Duo?
Which would you choose? Allowing no time for discussion, I immediately posed the same question to the team. And the winner was… well, there was no winner. As I remember, the vote was pretty evenly split between the three.
What followed was a lengthy discussion that ultimately boiled down to this — stick with what people know and love about Amazee Labs, and build on the equity we have in the original design. Amazee Duo became our design directive.
The Amazee Retro mood board was so well liked by the team, it became the design directive for Amazee Metrics, our sister company dedicated to web analytics, SEO, and conversion optimization.
Now you may have noticed the Amazee Duo mood board doesn’t exactly look like the tape-tastic website before you today, and that’s a fair assessment. In part two of Amazee Labs 2.0, I’ll dive into the design phase and show you how the website began to evolve.