MEK scored a regional (multi-state) Diamond Award for its 2018 digital project for client Smithville, a nationally recognized top 100 broadband company in south central Indiana. “This award reflects a strong team effort in actively and deeply exploring what customer needs were and what Smithville’s experience internally has been in providing superior customer service,” said Michael Snyder, MEK managing principal. “Our creative director Tim Meyers did a superb job in taking the key findings from the external and internal research that we conducted and developing an attractive and highly functional web design.” Programming and other support was provided by Rare Bird, a long-time web partner.
Details from the award application and the work performed appear below:
How does a top tech company react when their online brand imagery doesn’t match market reputation? Known as a leading technology innovator, Smithville’s main website didn’t match its reputation. Visitors regularly complained about Smithville’s web presence as a painfully slow-load with an old look that hadn’t been fully updated in years. The old site resulted in online brand-bruising, as Smithville held a strong reputation for outstanding customer service and early adoption to new tech like Gigabit fiber broadband in south central Indiana. The challenge? More than a decade ago, now-former employees of the company developed a Drupal-based website that inexplicably locked down certain features, rendering the website difficult to update. MEK was retained to transform the existing platform and create a foundation for an enhanced and improved online customer experience.
Research – MEK conducted internal and external research that included both primary and secondary research, and also an intense competitive analysis. The interview research included internal employee and key personnel focus groups, where customer-facing staff was able to articulate both what they didn’t like and what they would like to see in a new website. Over the past three years, MEK had developed workaround service-specific web properties as Smithville dealt with internal technology issues to lay the foundation for an all-new Smithville.com. MEK also added a pop-up research tool on the Drupal site (and other Smithville web properties) to determine external perceptions and needs, as well as using Google Analytics and other data sources for user analysis. MEK then provided separate presentations of the completed research to senior management. The research showed a major need for a new responsive and mobile-friendly website with specific improvements for an enhanced customer experience (E.g., smoother log-in for bill pays and other services, an improved capacity to determine service availability, better communication access, and other items). The internal research yielded more functionality requests than were available in a Phase I development, but the research process did positively better manage internal expectations and produced guidelines for a proposed Phase II.
Planning – Smithville had previously standardized with MEK for a WordPress platform for its other websites. That would continue with the new Smithville.com. Driven by the research, a formal Creative work plan was developed and objectives for the new site included: improvement of prior load-times, an attractive and more intuitive web design (clean and less cluttered parallax format), easier log-ins for various customer services, enhanced mapping functionality for service availability, a new capacity for visitors to solve their own problems with extended FAQs and new chat functionality, and the capacity to serve as a central portal for all existing Smithville web service properties (business, security, etc.). The scope was divided into phases, with Phase I to provide the firm foundation for later enhanced functionality after the abandonment of the old Drupal-based site and the creation of an all-new customized WordPress-driven site.
Implementation – MEK assembled a team, including web partner Rare Bird, to develop the new WordPress platform and implemented an in-depth process to port over existing content from the old site, now edited and revised with key words and alt phrases to maximize SEO optimization. Concepts of the new site were regularly presented during development to senior management (and on occasion external contacts) to drive positive development. The GDPR implementation in Q2 was accommodated in the new site. Development was smooth.
Evaluation – The completion of Phase I met or exceeded all objectives. The new award-winning web site can be viewed at https://www.smithville.com/