Time For A Change
What do you do when you know your existing website technology is extremely out of date, and worse, not reflecting who you really are? How do you find time for that daunting task when you’re already busy with the day-to-day operations of running your company and keeping your customers happy?
These are exactly the questions that Davis Publications found itself contemplating late in 2018. For more than 100 years, the Worcester, Mass., company – which is the only K-12 publisher dedicated to the visual arts – has been creating top-notch curriculum and resources for art educators nationwide. Its subscription-based digital Fine Arts Image library currently consists of more than 35,000 high-resolution images of museum artworks. Furthermore, the company’s SchoolArts magazine is the country’s leading monthly periodical for art educators.
In other words, Davis has a lot going on. As 2017 began to draw to a close, it became painfully obvious that the company’s online presence needed to be rebuilt. “We were keenly aware that there was a discrepancy between our products and how we were representing ourselves online,” says Toni Henneman, Director of Marketing at Davis. “We didn’t really have a marketing site at all – it was more like a glorified shopping cart that had pages and pages of content tied to specific products, but nothing in the way of promotional ability.”
What’s more, Davis had built a vast collection of subject matter content but it was being underutilized and wasn’t integrated with the existing site. SchoolArts Magazine was treated separately from other site content and wasn’t searchable or SEO-friendly. In addition, Davis had two separate blogs that ran independently of each other. Each one was hosted on a different site with its own URL, and its own distinct look and feel. What Henneman really wanted was a new platform to launch a marketing site that would a) unify and strengthen all of the Davis digital assets b) allow the company’s creativity and artistic nature to come through, and c) give users a place that would be both inspiring and relevant. Luckily, she didn’t have to look very far for the partner who could help her accomplish this tall order. As a matter of fact, that partner was right in her own neighborhood.
The entire ten24 team understood us so well. They tapped into what we at Davis wanted right from the get-go.
A Perfect Match
Julian Wade, President of Davis, and David Crouch, partner, and CEO of ten24, had met each other in 2016 when they attended an event sponsored by the Worcester Business Development Corporation. They had stayed in touch since that first meeting, and the conversation naturally shifted to Davis needing to address its online presence and strategy going forward.
As Mindi Ennis, ten24’s Director of Client Solutions, explains, it was clear from the beginning of the project that it would be an enormous undertaking. “This new site was going to be extremely content-heavy, because of the blogs and the sheer volume of information associated with the Davis product catalog,” she says. “We also knew that relaunching the Davis presence online was just going to be the start of working together. This new platform would enable a digital transformation for their business”.
The project began with several rounds of intense brainstorming and collaboration, and it was clear to Henneman that the ten24 team really “got” what Davis was about. “With a project of this size, there can be a certain amount of stress if you don’t pick the right partner,” Henneman says. “The entire ten24 team understood us so well. They tapped into what we at Davis wanted right from the get-go.”
Balance and Direction
Once the ten24 team had a solid understanding of the goals, story, and branding that Davis Publications had in mind for their new web presence, planning could begin for how to pull off the restructuring, redesign, and migration in phases.
From a redesign standpoint, delivering what Davis wanted meant walking an extremely fine line between professionalism and creativity. On the one hand, the new Davis site would have to be clear, clean, and easily navigable. But on the other hand, given the creative nature of the market Davis serves, the site would also have to be artistic, whimsical, appealing, and fun. As Henneman wryly observes, “There’s creative and thoughtful – but there’s also creative and kooky/cutesy. We needed to be careful to avoid the latter.” Meeting those two requirements would also come in conjunction with a new content management system that could deliver the flexibility that the Davis marketing team would need for creative freedom.
“Launching a newly designed site is great, but if the marketing team isn’t given the tools to keep the design fresh, post content quickly and have management control - it’s going to grow stale quickly” explains Crouch. “The content structure built for the Davis team pushes the flexibility of the CMS and the tight integration with the Slatwall Commerce platform is a big part of that as well”.
In addition to the flexibility of the content management system, there were other technology enhancements added to the mix. The existing site had been designed for the desktop audience only, and in the meantime, the world of mobile browsing and searching had taken over. With such a large percentage of mobile traffic already, their new web presence would have to be rebuilt keeping that in mind. As a result, reviewing visitor browsing patterns, enhancing content searching functionality and filtering and rethinking the site structure were all critical to giving a new type of user what they were expecting.
Unified Content & Cross Promotion
Great content doesn’t mean anything if your audience can’t find it. The ten24 team quickly realized that there was a tremendous amount of potential in the content from the SchoolArts Magazine - it was just hidden away. The restructured and reorganized site map would mean that the magazine would not only gain visibility but would also be front and center along with the two branded company blogs.
What’s more, because the content could now be related to the product catalog, Davis’ internal team can link key product categories and materials directly to their unique content.
For the user, they are no longer consuming content and then having to go on a wild goose chase to find the related product or curriculum resource - it’s all tied together.
A Big Migration
How can years' worth of content, from different blogs, formats, and websites, be converted to run on a brand new modern content management system and be mobile friendly?
“Moving the sheer amount of Davis’ content from its three separate sites into a single CMS-powered website was a huge task, but critical for future success,” says Ennis. “Our focus had to be on migrating that content while delivering a new experience that maintained the personality and voice of each of those sites.”
Keeping the initial goals of the project top of mind when planning content and product migration is a significant part of the engineering phase. Organizations will often use a site migration as an impetus to kick off a content removal process to remove anything dated or obsolete. In the case of the Davis migration, all of the content was still relevant to its core audience. Working quickly and efficiently, the ten24 team used its engineering process to plan the exact steps for the migration and the level of effort from both teams to reorganize and review once the import was complete.
Working through the engineering and development process in phases allowed the Davis team enough time to focus on reviewing existing content, organizing older content and building those relationships between blogs, magazine articles, and products.
The result is that the blogs now have the same overall look and feel like everything else on the site – yet the authors of those blogs still have their own dedicated spaces and distinct voices. In addition, there is a stronger integration between all different types of content, improved search, and a more consistent navigational experience.
The site launched in May 2019 with an updated, modern look and a new content management system powering it all. Davis Publications has the framework in place to support their current marketing needs and also the challenges they will face as the business continues to grow and evolve.
Henneman sums it up nicely. “What ten24 created for us is a place that reflects our purpose, values, and mission,” she explains. “We really wanted people to be able to engage with our brand and our products on a meaningful level. Our new site is a hub where art educators can come for inspiration as well as the tools they need to do their jobs.”
At a glance – project highlights
- New website unifies Davis' digital assets and strengthens the company’s brand
- Ambitious project required importing large volumes of product content and redirecting two separate blogs. New design standards celebrate creativity while also reinforcing Davis’ long history of commitment to art education
- Site visitor sessions increased by almost 25% in the quarter following the launch.
- Project also sets the foundation for eventually moving the Davis' eCommerce experience to ten24’s Slatwall platform