So I have written an article on what it takes to be a Drupal Agency In London from the more technical perspective. Navig8 is a full service agency, we design it, build it, SEO it and brand it. Focusing on the creative and planning aspects, below are the activities and services A full service Drupal agency should deliver.

Clients often approach us with little or no real brief. A recent enquiry listed in the ITT, 'we want an intranet and a CMS so that we can create micro sites'. That was it. So often we provide a brief writing service by way of consultation to our clients. A solid creative brief, along with a detailed scoping document will provide both you and your client a very clear scope of work. Everybody will know what is expected of them, the work will be delivered faster and the client is likely to get a clearer costing to begin with.

We sit down with our clients and listen to what they need, what the business aims are, who the market is likely to be and of course the functionality the site needs. We look at the brand values and discuss user interface and the look and feel of the site.

This gets documented and we clearly document the client's aim and challenges.

The ability to understand brand guidelines (which have often been developed for print) and be able to implement them with sensitivity and consistency is vital. However, a large proportion of our inquiries come as a 'new' entity and there is no existing brand to work from. Clients can overlook the need for a brand to be implemented across the new site. They often feel brand is about a logo and not much else.

A website, like any entity, incorporates a number of elements that make up the brand and all should be considered. These include:

Title or mark
Colour palette
Type styles
Link styles
Use of imagery
Tone of voice
Call to actions

Whilst it's our job to deliver these solutions, the client firstly needs to be aware that these are potential considerations and secondly to understand why the solution you give are the right ones.

Search engine optimisation is often seen as a mystery and something that client's can feel doesn't apply to them. It applies to every site, no matter how big or small, no matter what market.

In addition, SEO planning and implementation is viewed as a stand alone activity - something to think about later on. Whilst SEO can be implemented at any time, to do it properly may mean rebuilding pages, re-naming links and worse still, urls, which takes us into the world of re-directs, and a whole host of issues that effect the actual build of a website as well as its content.

If a client wants to make the most of the opportunities and achieve a great SEO listing, perform an SEO analysis before you start with design and build.

There are many considerations when performing an SEO analysis, for instance discovering the terms with the highest return that have few companies competing for them. Think about localisation. There are few searches for a Drupal Agency Norfolk, but a lot for Drupal Agency London. Think about this early on and save some money and get better results.

Interface design
Everybody know this is an important part of the service for delivering great websites that people want to use. But few understand the principles and processes that you and the client need to go through to get it right. A handy book can help (cheeky plug).

Assuming all of the brand elements are in place, the information architecture has been done, you have a brief and a scoping documents, this is the process and activities a Drupal Agency should consider and deliver.

Key page design
This isn't the home page, the home page should really comes last. Clients don't like that, they see that as the most important page, but it isn't so despite the fact that it isn't the most important, when you deliver your designs the client will want to see a home page. Before you design it, design the key pages first. What are the key pages? Depends on the site. If you are selling ties, then the page that lists all the ties based on a particular search term, say 'Paisley' will list all the ties the company has to sell that has a paisley pattern. How does that look? When the user selects one tie, what does that page look like. These are key pages on our tie selling website.

The home page of our website might sell all manner of things; bow ties, cummerbunds, pocket squares. That would have very different look because of the breadth of the product range, but I think it is fair to say that a product page for a tie will be the same for a bow tie. That is why key pages are important. Design these first and they 'feed' into the design of the home page.

Elements page
This is a vital step in the process of web design. Not only for the designer but for the developer. Clients find it hard to understand what an element page is and what it is used for. And it doesn't help much when they see it.  Briefly this is a visual (because it isn't a real page) contains all the common elements that make up the wider website. Headlines, subheads, link styles, footer styles. The list goes on, read the book.

I had a meeting two days ago 7th January 2016 with a client. He had a new website design by us, in consultation with his manager. I agreed with his boss about the things he was unhappy with on his previous website such as hideous splash pages, using really bad font for on screen reading, you name it. We fixed em. This chap was now in charge of the new website and we had a meeting to discuss the changes he would like to make.

It took an hour and every single request for a change was against user interface principles and best practise for web design and build.

Whilst it is OK to go against convention, it has to be for a reason and that decision should only be made when the person making the decision knows what those conventions are and fully understands.

As a Drupal Design Agency, you need to be aware of the principles and conventions that make up a engaging and usable interface. These include the positioning of the search box, where the login should be, heat maps. These conventions have come to be over years of gradual development of the user interface. People no longer think about what to click on, unless you make them. And that's not a good idea. 

Static visuals: 
Presenting ideas to the client is done by creating a JPEG visual - what we call a static visual. These are 'pictures' of the website. They don't have any active buttons or anything like that. they give a visual representation of what the website will look like - in one state.

What do I mean by "one state'? Well usually, but depending on the client's requirements, I mean how the website will look in most browsers, not how it looks on a phone or a handheld devise. This give the client the opportunity to see the site, comment on the design styles, the interface and the architecture.

Sometimes all goes swimmingly and the client approves, other times it takes a number of iterations and comments to get to the place where they feel happy.

Once we have written approval, we move to build. After this point, if the client changes their mind and the site is in build, in can be expensive for them.

Going against conventions and advise
We are employed, as a Drupal experts to deliver websites that work and that people want to use. We are experts in our field, we've written books about it. But on occasion, client's will make changes and requests that fly against the standards of web design. They request things that will, in effect, be detrimental to the end user experience. Our job it to advise. Sometimes this advice falls on deaf ears and we are overruled. This has never worked out well for the client or us, in the long run. 

Websites have to be rebuilt, customers aren't happy, sales aren't made. I think the one thing that I find hard to communicate to our clients is this; we make these recommendations in your interest – in the interest of our clients. To give them the best possible solution, not for any other reason. We step away from their inward, self facing view and focus on their business goals. It is in our interest to make the site work, for you, the client.

I often use the analogy of a mechanic; if your car is not running properly and you do not know how to fix it yourself, you go to an expert. He listens to your engine and perhaps his diagnosis is 'the tappets need repairing'. At this point do you tell him that you disagree and you think the valves need work? And so you instruct the mechanic to fix the valves, even though, as an expert, he's told you that this isn't the problem?

An opinion does not make you an expert. Clients that listen to their experts they are paying, tend to get the best service and the best product.

If you're looking for a creative, usable, well built and maintained Drupal website, get in touch. Our offices are in central London, but we have clients in the US, Spain and Norfolk



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