PHB Public Affairs

Screenshot of the new PHBPA website.

Explanation

Marine transportation consultant and lobbyist, Paul H. Bea Jr. had been using a site built almost a decade ago using Microsoft Office. Mr. Bea is a highly regarded mind in his field, but his business website, initially built to have some minimal presence on the Web and dated in style and content as it was, did not adequately represent his work and standing. PHB Public Affairs did not need a feature-rich site, but it did need to convey a reputable and informative consulting service and serve as an informative resource for new contacts to find out more about Mr. Bea’s work.

Problem

The client’s website is not core to his business, which is why it hadn’t been updated sooner, but nonetheless was in a state that did not reflect as well on his work as it should. The central problems with the old phbpa.com were that 1) it was visually and technologically out of date; 2) the content needed organization and updating; and 3) it was not easy to add new content. It also did not complement his active professional use of social media, giving the firm’s Internet presence and image a confused appearance.

Besides needing a new coat of paint, the site was not responsive. If someone met the client for the first time and pulled up his site on their phone, the site would be hard to read and navigate. The client’s own profile and descriptions of his work had not been updated in a while, in part due to the lack of a content management system (CMS). The latter point had contributed to the general lack of significant updates in several years.

Screenshot of the former phbpa.com

Solution

The primary goal identified during discovery was to have a strong online presence to answer the question “who is he and what does he do?”, especially for new and prospective contacts. It was not to be a transactional site or highly-featured contact portal. Unfortunately we did not have past analytics information to work with. However, after reviewing existing content, we decided on an information architecture that featured areas of expertise, services, and professional history.

Mr. Bea was familiar with Wordpress from using it for his professional blog, MTS Matters, so we decided that would be the best platform for the project. For design, the client wanted something subtle and minimalist, but with visual nods to his work on marine transportation policy. The responsive design was to be built from the smallest screen sizes up (“mobile-first”) using CyberChimps’ Responsive II as parent theme.

Results

The new phbpa.com is a clean, fully responsive, clear resource to introduce PHB Public Affairs to potential clients and colleagues. After significant cross-browser testing, we have a website that is device agnostic and easily maintainable. Now in a modern CMS and after training the client on his website’s features, updating will not be an issue and any future updates can easily build upon the existing site. With site analytics now in place, future updates can be guided by strong data.

Though content strategy was not a significant part of this engagement, we did discuss page updates and organization. The website is current and reflects Mr. Bea’s expertise well.

According to Mr. Bea:

The new site is a night and day improvement over the old site in expressing who I am as a professional. I was given good advice from the start: Look at other websites to see what I like, and don’t like. That was very helpful in forming my priorities and preferences. I wanted a clean looking website, with room for content (text), but not cluttered, and with a minimum of images. The final product provides the good looking platform I wanted for my business. One that I can modify as needed. Job well done.

Conclusion

This was a great first project in my new web development career. Being a developer and strategist first, designer fourth, the design stage was a great learning experience. From our wireframing and discussions, I knew that the site would be relatively simple and have only homepage and basic interior page templates. With the additional client note that the design should be fairly simple, I chose to design in-browser, using the nearly blank canvas of the Responsive II parent theme mentioned above. This was an interesting challenge in that it allowed for a certain amount of “playing” with CSS.

Designing in-browser worked in this case due to the simplicity and limited number of design elements involved. Not being a designer first, I’m not sure I would have taken that approach if many more content types and use-cases had been involved.

Though this client’s needs were not extraordinary, as far as features go, it was important for him to have an online presence that reflects well on him and his business. He and I are both very pleased with how this project achieved the goals we set. I hope it serves his work well.