2016: A Year in Digital
So… 2016, eh?
It goes without saying, it was a momentous year. Trump, Brexit, more celebrity deaths than probably the past decade combined… but things were very much on the up at Elm House Creative!
The Elm House Creative digital team started out the year in much the same way as the majority of the population; with a warts-and-all self-appraisal and a willingness to improve any and all aspects of our collective existence. This is actually an increasingly common thing with digital teams these days, given how fast the industry is moving and how quickly best practices change. There are so many tools and resources out there, but sometimes it’s best to improve from within.
After much discussion, post-it notes and throwing of pens, we settled on three major goals for the year:
- To develop an in-house template framework and implement a more modular design approach for our websites.
- To design and develop a client-facing content management dashboard, to be packaged with every site.
- To raise our overall quality of design and development, producing cleaner, faster websites.
The purpose of building an in-house framework was simple; to create an asset that would form the launch platform of every website project going forward. There are many of these ‘boilerplate’ resources out there, but we felt we needed something more adapted to our own particular workflow and how we like to approach design and development as a team and an agency.
As anyone who has regularly dealt with the admin menus of content management platforms will know, they can be complex and tedious. We felt our clients deserved better! So we also set about designing and building a simple, clean dashboard interface that would hook into the back-end of our websites, so our clients could add or edit pages, blog articles and content with a lot less hassle.
Of course these ideas only get to evolve through client projects and real-world testing, and the client work came thick and fast…
We had our first crack at the whip with a website for Reader’s Park, a new housing development being built in Ballyclare by our long-standing clients, Neptune Group. Our artwork team had already established a brand for the development, as well as producing high-quality booklets and advertising billboards to market the properties to potential buyers. The digital team’s first task was to build a simple holding page, allowing those interested buyers to fill out a quick form and register for the first phase of house purchases, then progress onto the main website itself.
This was a chance to put our modular design practice to work. We took the Reader’s Park branding and print design and deconstructed them into modular elements that we could use across the site. This allowed us to build up a ‘tool-kit’ that would form the basis of our design and development.
We found that this approach sped up the development of the website considerably, having the ‘ingredients’ pre-prepared and able to be added where and when necessary. We produced a clean, responsive website with an interactive site plan, detailed elevations of the various house types and plenty of information for potential buyers to browse about the development. Read more about Reader’s Park in our Portfolio here.
Creightons of Finaghy, Balmoral and Black’s Road is a family business with over 80 years of experience in serving their local communities in Belfast. With three busy locations and a multitude of services, they came to Elm House Creative with two requirements: their branding and their digital presence needed a serious refresh.
With a brand new establishment due to open in Balmoral, the clock was ticking fast. The entire agency pulled together to establish new branding to be used across their stores, uniforms and products, and of course a new website that would pull everything together in one place on the web. This was both another chance to put our in-house framework to use, but also to put our new dashboard through its first major test: being used by multiple staff members in three different locations to manage one website with a near-constant flow of offers and news announcements.
Making use of the new branding guidelines and high-quality photographic content, we were able to develop a responsive website that successfully presented the array of services and products offered by Creightons, as well as allowing them to announce special offers, news items and ticket sales from their Ticketmaster desk, as well as job vacancies. The client was delighted with the finished website and we spent some time training their staff on the new dashboard interface, taking notes and seeking feedback all the while to improve it.
The work we did for Creightons across branding, design and digital proved to be a real highlight of the year for Elm House Creative.
Another highlight of 2016 came in the form of local marine engineering firm, ABCO. The team, based in Lisburn, knew that they needed a brand refresh to match their ambition to reach the top of their field. After re-writing and designing their marketing materials, it was over to the digital team to build a website to incorporate this new image.
We made use of the bold branding and colour scheme of the print and marketing materials already produced by the design team to create a fresh, attractive, modern website with some excellent features and our customised dashboard for the ABCO team to use. This particular website, we feel, epitomised our new design approach and combined all of our objectives for the year into one very successful project and a very satisfied client! Have a look at the full ABCO story here.
Elsewhere in 2016, we worked with beer-brewers, property surveyors, consultants, mental health charities, churches and luxury pool and spa installers!
We also took our first tentative steps into mobile app development, building a hybrid iOS/Android/Windows Phone app for our long-standing client, the Labour Relations Agency. Using AngularJS, the Ionic framework and a custom API from their website, we created a mobile reference app that allows users to look up important information and book workshops with the LRA on the go. It is available for free on the Apple, Google and Microsoft app stores and marketplaces. This was an exciting and enlightening foray into a new domain for Elm House Creative and one we are looking forward to exploring further in 2017.
So it was a busy year all round. We worked with some wonderful clients, produced some of our best digital work so far and established a platform that will stand us in good stead for 2017 and onwards.