“A key point in understanding our value is that we go deep and become a partner – we’re beyond a digital agency. In order to have good digital you need a good brand. We can all do beautiful work, but by viewing it in a holistic way we become more valuable as a partner with whom you can discuss strategic work.”

In the B2B space, having a great website is key. In today’s business environment, of readily available information, enterprise buyers do the majority of product research using digital content, and seldom consult a sales person. In fact, half of all customers today expect a supplier’s website to be a helpful channel, and more than one-third expect the site to be their most helpful channel. It is in this context, then, that crafting an engaging and unique website is critical to B2B company’s marketing strategy.

So, how do we go from a good website to a great one? The answer depends on who you consult. Ask a designer and they’ll say a clean, fresh design. Ask a copywriter and they’ll say compelling, articulate copy. Ask a developer and, well, you probably won’t understand the answer.

You get the idea. Everyone involved in website creation inevitably views the finished product from their own perspective. So how do we go from good to great?

How do we begin? We take a step back.

The big picture

There are web designers, there are marketeers, there are oceans of freelance copywriters, many of whom excel at their specialization. But they all only tackle one aspect.

The craft of creating a successful website requires a strategic, holistic approach that starts with the vision for the brand experience.

To kick off the process, we need to ask “where are you now?” and “where do you want to be?”. Without a complete, profound understanding of every aspect of a customer’s corporate culture and identity, building a compelling, coherent brand narrative is impossible – a website is just part of that process, but as the ‘shop-window’ of the business, it’s the one that is the most visible. Once you understand a business’s unique position and value, then you can go about the business of best displaying it to the rest of the world.

An ocean of possibilities

Let’s take an example, a site rebrand for MariaDB, to further illustrate the ideal process. A unique, aspirational database solutions provider, MariaDB is built upon open source tech, a fact of which they are justifiably proud and one which underpins their business philosophy. This freedom from constraints differentiates MariaDB from some of their more mainstream competitors, offering a whole new idea of what a database should offer in the modern world. MariaDB is confident that this open, collaborative approach to enterprise technology is the right one – but how do they get the message out to the rest of the world?

Back to basics

The first step is to establish key elements which differentiate MariaDB from the competition: they are open source, progressive, scalable, and agile. Through an in-depth review of the company and their position in the market, it can be seen that in order for the new website to work, an agency has to go much deeper, taking a fresh look at the brand itself.

At the start of the process, MariaDB had a limited visual language and presence – they had a logo, they had a typeface, they had a color. The logo, that of a sea lion, had an emotional resonance with the company – it was the one area on which they were not prepared to budge. So, instead of changing it, why not go all in?

The language of design

The challenge with MariaDB was therefore to expand upon their existing marine brand theme, using it to express their unique philosophy at every stage of the process. Every color, every button, every word either has to promote this philosophy or be discarded. Constant collaboration at every stage, both internally and between agency and client, is vital to ensure that the core message informs every decision, from design to copy.

The marine theme lends itself perfectly to both MariaDB’s business position and their core values of openness and freedom. From a design perspective, this can be seen in every corner of the site: images of datawaves flow throughout, combining the organic and the technological layers of the brand; abstract topographical maps form the backdrop to whitepaper links, emphasising a ‘deep dive’ into detailed information.

What is so special about the imagery is that this is not just beautiful ‘design for design’s sake’ – every element is designed to reinforce a core brand message.

The design of language

For the website to work as a holistic expression of the company, it is vital that the linguistic tone of voice match up with both the design and the underlying business case. With many agencies, the copywriter is brought in quite late in the process. With MariaDB, that involvement came much earlier, at the brand discussion stage, with the textual style developing alongside the design and the brand strategy, making it that much easier to convey one coherent message.

Good copy contains as few words as possible while conveying the maximum amount of relevant information. A perfect sentence is informative, clear, and interesting enough to make the reader want to know more – it must be compelling. There should always be a clear ‘next step’; in other words, the language in itself should add value to the product or company.

With MariaDB, the brief for tone of voice was the same as for design – convey openness, freedom, and technological confidence at every step.

This early involvement of the copywriter demonstrates the benefits of a non-hierarchical, democratic approach – while everyone has their specialization, there is constant discussion and collaboration between these specialists, making it that much more likely that everyone’s end goal is aligned.

A work in development

For a website to move from good to great, it’s not enough to just look right, functionality has to be tightly integrated with design, adding genuine usefulness and business value.

As with the copy, the key is to make the complex look simple. The ambition of MariaDB’s technical requirements for the website was huge – the software downloads portal alone would be a major standalone project for any development team, but this had to evolve alongside and in complete sync with the main project.

It’s essential that the various teams are involved as early as possible in the process. By getting design, copy, and development teams to work hand-in-hand, a coherent structure evolves, radically reducing production time and ensuring consistency across all pages and channels.

By having an early understanding of the brand imperatives, the development team are better able to express the vision of the design team, resulting in a seamless user experience. This collaborative mode of working saves a lot of time and frustration – freeing up developers to spend more time on back-end issues such as API integration and other functionality.

All together now…

When creating a great strategic website, different teams need to work together from the very start. To make all these elements come together takes a special kind of agency, with access to an in-house team of specialists in various fields, including strategists, designers, copywriters, and developers, plus project managers who provide oversight (and insight).

What is crucial is the extent to which these specialists collaborate – no-one should work in a silo, rather everyone should be aware of the work of others and drive towards the same end goal; a coherent, articulate display of the customer’s brand. A copywriter will be aware of the design language, colour palette, mood boards etc., just as a designer will have read the style and tone of voice of the copy. Developers will work to make sure that the designer’s dream is realised through the underlying structure of the site.

This level of synchronicity is what brings the finished product to life.

Conclusion

For Sköna, a full-service B2B creative agency based in California and Stockholm, this level of collaboration between team and client lies at the heart of everything they do. And the result? A beautiful, elegant interpretation of MariaDB’s core values – freedom, scalability, agility. Like all deceptively simple products, the devil is in the detail – every word, every colour, every button is minutely fine-tuned until it reflects one central business philosophy – openness.

See the finished product here: www.mariadb.com

To find out how Skona can tackle your website project with our unique perspective that builds brands in a holistic, strategic way, contact us today!

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