Web design process for Athelas
As you probably already know, besides branding, I also do web design (user interaction and the design itself), or what I call branding for web, because no matter how big or small your business is, your web presence is extremely important and probably one of the major points of contact with your customers.
But, even though I do web design, I don't do the coding part. I understand it and try to be on top of technology, languages, and trends to know what can and cannot be done (my experience in motion graphics has been helpful too!), but I don't like or want to code. My strength is design and that's what I'm great at, so instead, I work very closely with developers.
"you had me at <Hello, world!>
On that note, while living in Peru I was lucky to meet the team at Athelas, a web development agency in Lima. Since then we've worked together on a bunch of web projects and last year they asked me to design their website!
Designing Athelas' website was such a fun project that, with their approval, I wanted to share with you the process, so you can have a sneak peak at] what's involved in projects like this.
- It had to be a one-page website, separated by blocks or sections where the background and/or the colors changed. These sections had to feel integrated and the whole design had to work together.
- The sections where:
- a catching/intro phrase area
- portfolio differentiating client work from their own products with a tag or label
- meet the team
- contact, with a hidden panel showing average package costs.
- They wante their existing logo and brand personality to be very present, while keeping the design mostly flat, modern, fun and clean.
- They wanted to differentiate themselves clearly from other local development agencies, who had very structured, straight-forward and not very playful websites. They wanted their personality to shine through.
- Work timeline: 1 week
- Their whole theme was based on phantasy, online video games, lord of the rings kind of feel, and this is the image they gave me as a reference to start:
- The "meet the team" section had to be interactive and unique. They wanted to use "magic cards", but apparently I am not nerdy enough, so I had to look it up:
They were on a hurry, so we got to work right away with a rough wireframe.
Following the concept of a fantasy world and inspired by the story of Jack and the Beanstalk I came up with the idea of having the "World of Athelas" – castle included – exist above the real world, showing the website content in between the 2 worlds. As visitors scrolled down, they experienced the different layers between the fantasy world and the real one:
With the wireframe approved, I moved on to the design process. First tracing the background image and cleaning it up a bit, and then adding some more details.
As I do with my clients, I wanted to get their feedback early on, to make sure we were going in the right direction, so I presented them just the first section of the design, where we selected the typography, colors and other design elements, including the magic cards:
Design version 1:
With this early design approved, I moved on to the rest of the website, creating transitions for the different sections and details for the "magic cards".
Design version 2:
In this second version I showed how the menu and the logo would change as the user scrolled down.
Based on their nick names, I came up with icons for each person's magic card. I also gave them 2 alternatives for their website portfolio presentations, among other ideas...
Design version 3:
After reviewing version #2, we decided the flow would work better if the portfolio was above the "meet the team" section. Changing the order though, resulted a bit more difficult than anticipated. I wanted to keep a sober background color that wouldn't interfere with their portfolio pieces and the transitions didn't work as well that way...
Another element we worked on were the magic cards. The idea was to have these magic cards be interactive. If a programmer was "on duty" actually coding, users could see the hours worked and the progress bar moving. As they reached certain amount of hours, the bar would change into a "completed" state. It also had to show the developer's "specialty language", nick names and real names, and a short description text. We also wanted to differentiate "active states" versus "offline states", so I came up with two alternatives:
- Making the "offline state" blue (almost duotone) to highlight the "online" ones.
- Adding a thin yellow line around the "online" magic cards, which was a more subtle alternative and the one that got selected.
Since the background transitions weren't working in version #3, I came up with the idea of going beyond the sky and into the galaxy, to separate the two worlds. This "out of space" idea worked well, because it allowed me to have a dark sober background for their portfolio pieces and a much needed transition back into the "real world sky". It also created a more evident distinction between the two worlds.
We also decided to change the typeface. The client wanted to use Gill Sans, but needed a more web-friendly typeface for the web, so we went with Alegreya Sans, which shares a few aesthetics elements of Gill Sans, but is meant to be use and read on screens, and has a large family (versions) for versatility:
Screen views as users scroll down:
"Restrictions" are sometimes just challenges that push us to come up with more creative ideas. In this project, for example, I had a time restriction, but at the same time, because it was a developers' website, it offered unique opportunities for fun stuff like "easter eggs".
From the language menu to the different sections and the journey through the 2 worlds, this website offered a unique user experience and made Athelas stand out from the crowd. They went from being 2 developers working from home, to having 4+ employees, a full-time office and new online services being launch this year. The client was very happy and I'm proud.
Visit their site at: www.athelas.pe