Civilis Strategies is the newest member of The Omni Family of brands owned by 3LS, Inc. Civilis is focused on government and non-profit civic engagement consulting. They knew that they wanted a WordPress site to remain consistent with the rest of 3LS’s web properties, and they chose to partner with Berry Interesting Productions for the design, copywriting, and development of their new brand’s first website.
challenges in building a WordPress website for a brand new business
Copywriting for a new business website
The biggest unknown at the start of the project was a result of the newness of the Civilis brand. 3LS has been in operation since 2015, and the management team brings years of experience to the table… but it comes to Civilis, they are very much building a new business.
New businesses are nearly always a challenge when it comes to content. Standard things that site users expect to find – a portfolio of work, a list of clients, detailed service offerings, photos of the business, blog posts – are often still in the process of being created and refined.
The initial copywriting process for the Civilis Site, therefore, created a loosely defined structure that will allow the site to grow alongside the business. We made it our priority to focus on the future of the company and the potential work that the team hopes to accomplish, while providing a roadmap for content creation as the business grows.
Kimberly Bond led copywriting for this project and will handle future copy as needed, providing consistency going forward.
WordPress website accessibility on a budget
Since Civilis is working with clients in the government and non-profit sectors, we knew it was important to pay attention to the accessibility of the new site, but we also knew that the site would grow quickly, making accessibility work on the front end only the first step in Civilis’s ongoing efforts. Therefore, it was important to keep the initial efforts affordable. When it came to the Civilis site build, we were lucky to work with a client who also appreciates the need to pay attention to accessibility. Our development efforts focused on accessibility from the start.
First, we started with mobile-first, black-and-white wireframes, working with the client to identify the most important content. The Civilis site is built to offer a quality user experience, no matter what device a visitor is using to access the site.
Then, we used the WAVE browser extension to check our work. While no audit tool is perfect, WAVE is extremely helpful in identifying all manner of barriers to accessibility. While we certainly paid attention to accessibility during the build itself, WAVE caught things that we could not. The most helpful thing that WAVE did for us was allow us to focus on color use, so that users with color vision deficiencies would be able to access all of the site’s features.
Finally, we installed the WP Accessibilty plugin, which does some helpful work behind the scenes to make the site friendly to assistive technologies like screen readers. It also gives users the option to change the font size and the color contrast on the site themselves, in real time, just in case the rest of our efforts failed them.
planning for growth with phased development
The direction established during copywriting gave our development team plenty to work with. At the time we wrote this post, it was only possible to see pieces of the overall structure of the site. While we launched with only two custom post types (Team and Services) alongside a few static pages visible to the public, we built two other custom post types (Success Stories and Clients) and customized the blog archive & single post presentations.
Although Civilis didn’t start out with content to flesh out those additional areas of the site, the functionality is live in the dashboard. The Civilis team can enter new content at any time until they reach a critical mass and are ready to push the new content live. With the bulk of the development work done, pushing new parts of the site live will require very few additional development hours.
Part of the benefit of this is that, when the business is old enough or large enough to warrant the additional content, it will be affordable and fast to activate those portions of the site (rather than waiting for content to build the infrastructure). The other reason we approached the project like this is to provide a structure for the Civilis team’s future content plans. With the functionality already in place, there are fewer imediments to actually creating and publishing that content. Now there’s no excuse for falling behind on writing those success stories or sharing the latest local news coverage – the structure is already built!
setting up for success and launching with lead capture in place
Neglecting the collection of basic information from potential clients or advocates who are interested in services is an common mistake to make, especially for new businesses. When you’re focused on building your business, it’s easy to have thoughts along the lines of “I couldn’t handle new clients right now, anyway!” or “I don’t even know what I’d do with an email list at this point.” However, collecting information from interested folks doesn’t mean you have to know what you’re going to do with that information, and the sooner you start collecting it, the larger your list will be when you do get around to figuring out your marketing strategy, email or otherwise.
For Civilis, we went ahead and installed a tool to collect names & email addresses using the slide-out panel option in the Elegant Themes’ Bloom plugin. We chose to use Bloom for several reasons:
- built by the same folks behind the Divi Builder, so we expect minimal code conflicts
- free to use, since we already acquired the license for Divi
- lightweight and easy to use, with a low learning curve
- easily connects to Constant Contact, 3LS’s email marketing platform of choice
Bloom isn’t the perfect solution for every site (in fact, it is somewhat thwarting our accessibility work), but in Civilis’s case, it took care of the biggest hurdle – getting lead capture in place upon launch with minimal effort for development and for the client. We expect that Bloom will be an adequate solution for 18-24 months of this site’s life. By that point, the Civilis team will have their marketing strategy well underway and will be ready to re-evaluate their lead capture needs.
Services provided via this project: sitemapping, copywriting, user experience optimization, accessibility audit, theme customization, WordPress development, lead capture implementation
WordPress website design & development process gallery
another happy berry interesting productions WordPress development client!
We were delighted to find, after the launch of the Civilis Strategies website, that 3LS, Inc. wanted to continue working together. Future business plans demand that 3LS, Inc. finally get a site for itself.
While we anticipate that the site architecture will be very similiar to the Civilis site, 3LS has been in business long enough that the copywriting process for its site will look substantially different. Luckily, Kimberly Bond is once again taking lead on copywriting. She’ll leverage the knowledge she gained during the Civilis site build while digging in deeper to the history and work products of a mature organization.
Check back here in a few months to find out more about the new 3LS, Inc. site, or sign up to get emails from Berry Interesting and we’ll keep you in the loop. If you’re curious about how Berry Interesing Productions can help your team build an outstanding website, we’re always happy to help! Drop us a line or book a consultation directly with our fearless leader, D’nelle.