Interview: Jon Pittham on redesigning the ClientsFirst website
If you design websites for other businesses how do you go about redesigning your own site? We talked to Jon Pittham about the process the firm went through and the decisions made in redesigning the ClientsFirst website
ABR: How often should a website be redesigned?
John Pittham (JP): I think a website needs redesigning every two to three years, purely because website design is moving so quickly that a site can soon look out of date. It’s a bit like buying a new car, after about five years it can start to look dated and for financial services and professional firms that have an intangible service, the way they present themselves is really important as it reflects on the perceived value of the services they are offering. So everything has got to be kept up to date.
ABR: How much was your team involved in the redesign of your website?
JP: Very much so. The process took 6-7 months overall to complete and as part of our Monday team meetings we discussed what the website should look like, how we wanted to present ourselves, who our target market was and the message we wanted to portray. We then talked through the user experience, the site map and so on, right through to design and fulfillment. We’re not a large team and pretty much everyone was involved at some point.
It was an ongoing and fluid process. We now build websites on an agile basis, which basically means design and development almost go hand-in-hand. It used to be that people would design a site, share a visual file with the developer and the developer would then build it. You can’t do that anymore because the web is so fluid. So once we kicked off everyone was inputting. We work in an open plan office and at key points we’d all gather around a screen and comment, and look at where we could tweak the design, etc. We wanted to involve everybody and we pretty much did through the whole process.
ABR: Was there any website that gave you particularly inspiration for your redesign?
JP: We’re always looking at sites and what’s happening on the web and you get a good feel for what’s going on. There was no one site we took inspiration from but it’s fair to say that our designers and developers are pretty on the ball when it comes to web trends.
ABR: The website is very dynamic and yet simple in its presentation. What was the reasoning behind the bold visuals?
JP: We wanted people to come to our site and immediately see that it was different. It’s actually very difficult to achieve that but it was important to us.
We also wanted it to be relatively simple and really showcase our work, because that’s the easiest way to get the message across about what we do.
It’s important that people get a real feel for who you are and what you can do for them. They are the two most commonly asked questions when people come to a website and you’ve got to be able to answer those with something that is pleasing on the eye and that is quite powerful. We’re big fans of marrying the design with strong imagery – you’ve got to have those two together to create a really great site.
ABR: The second page in is titled ‘Every client tells a story’, followed by the Team page. Why have you given these pages such prominence on the site?
JP: The easiest way for people to understand what we do is to tell stories. There is no better story for us than showing people the work we’ve done, because people can then pretty quickly understand what it is we do. They can probably better understand that through looking at the case studies and the work we’ve done than by reading a page of text and maybe a few brief examples of our work. People should be able to go to that page, see the work we do and better understand whether they want to work with us.
Also, we’re very much a people business and one of the strengths of our business is our client management and client service. Therefore having the team on the site so people can see whom they are talking to and working with is very important to us.
If, as a client, you are putting your business’ brand and image in the hands of someone, it’s important that you can get a feel for the person you’re dealing with. It’s about personal relationships and the human connection.
ABR: You’ve added some personal details other than people’s roles at ClientsFirst. Is this something you recommend adviser firms do as well?
JP: It depends on the firm. It’s an opportunity to get the personality of the firm across. People buy people and they like stories. They like to know why you’re passionate about financial planning, why you entered the profession, the fact that you’re married with a couple of children. I always say if put a LinkedIn icon on the site connected to your LinkedIn account then people can go there to find out about your career background and qualifications. That gives you room on the site to tell people something about yourself that might make the difference between them picking up the phone or going elsewhere.
It has to feel right for the business but I would recommend sharing something about your personal side as an adviser, again to support the human relationship angle. It goes back to what I was saying at the beginning about financial services being an intangible service and the need to make a connection.
ABR: Was there any extra pressure in designing the site because you are a marketing and website design agency?
JP: Ha! I’d say there was. People will look at our site and judge us by it bearing in mind we do web development design work. So yes, there was a degree of extra pressure because of that.
I’ll always be looking at the site and where it could be improved because we’re always looking to push things forward. And, we learn a lot from our development work. Bearing in mind we’re working on six to twelve client sites at a time from a web development perspective, we’re looking at what works best. We like it when sometimes clients request things that are outside the norm and challenge us a little bit more. It helps us in our web design and development process.
ABR: So when will you look at the next redesign of the ClientsFirst site?
JP: I would say that in two to two-and-a-half years we would be looking to review and change it.
Go to the ClientsFirst website