A diverse manufacturer redesigns its family of websites

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Redesigning a website can be a long and tedious process, full of unexpected twists and turns. Consolidating multiple websites into one as part of the redesign process can be a lot trickier, especially if the stakeholders involved don’t have much input into the process.

Milliken & Co., a diversified global manufacturer involved in industries such as textiles, chemicals and flooring, recently undertook a web redesign of its family of 12 websites. With dedicated websites for each of its various business segments, such as specialty interior fabrics, Milliken decided to consolidate its disparate collection of websites into one site. The end goal: to highlight the diversity of the company’s manufacturing capabilities and products and provide a better brand and user experience.

We had a disjointed user experience. Our mission was to consolidate these 12 disparate sites into one site, on one platform.

Richard Freeman, Senior Director of Digital Marketing

Milliken & Co.

Richard Freeman, Senior Director of Digital Marketing, Milliken & Co.

For Milliken, the challenge of its redesign was three-fold: finding a site design firm it could work with as a partner, balancing the needs of internal stakeholders and users, and reducing friction during the redesign process by streamlining the process itself.

“We had a disjointed user experience,” says Richard Freeman, digital marketing manager at Milliken. “Our mission was to consolidate these 12 disparate sites into one site, on one platform.”

In addition to redesigning its websites, Milliken developed its first digital product catalog for three divisions using Content Hub, implemented Coveo’s site search technology, and translated the new site into eight languages.

The starting point to meet these objects was to select the right web design agency. Milliken started the process by developing a set of characteristics he was looking for in a web design company. High on the list was finding a company that could work with the manufacturer as a true partner on the project, rather than treating the manufacturer like just another customer, Freeman says.

Form a web design team

Milliken’s preparatory work before interviewing potential agencies led the manufacturer to select Horizontal Digital, a Minneapolis-based digital consulting firm. According to Freeman, the two key factors in the decision were Horizontal’s willingness to work closely with Milliken’s team of content developers and IT staff, and the agency’s flexible approach to web design. , which meant that she was not locked into a rigid process.

“Big projects like these can last anywhere from six to 24 months, so it’s important that the organizations involved have their cultures aligned,” says Andrew Ridgeway, creative director for Horizontal Digital. “The two organizations needed to agree on what the problem was, how to fix it, and what a great user experience is.”

After hiring Horizontal, one of the first steps in the redesign process was for Milliken to move from multiple content management systems across its 12 websites to Sitecore 10, the latest version of the company’s content management platform. Sitecore e-commerce technology provider.

Improved user experience and brand

Next, the two sides sought to define the overarching problem that caused Milliken to consolidate its sites, which they had identified as delivering inconsistent user and brand experiences across the dozen websites. Once the issue was identified, Milliken stakeholders in the project, such as senior executives and members of marketing, finance, and legal, shared their concerns about developing a better user experience.

The project entered stakeholder information into a spreadsheet to help identify areas not only where stakeholders agreed, but also where they disagreed. The process helped Milliken and Horizontal focus on design ideas and site components worth pursuing. It also helped both organizations align all stakeholders when it came to achieving the redesign goals. “It’s important that stakeholder voices are heard and acted on,” says Ridgeway.

Founded in 1865, Milliken, based in Spartanburg, South Carolina, has 70 locations in 15 countries. The manufacturer’s products run the gamut from specialty chemicals and floor coverings to protective textile materials and healthcare products. As a private assistance company, Milliken does not publish financial figures.

After gathering feedback from Milliken stakeholders, Horizontal then conducted a review of shoppers visiting Milliken websites and identified five common user groups across the family of sites. This information served as the basis for the development of three prototype site designs to give Milliken a tangible sense of the direction of the project and a preview of what the new design might look like. This process allowed Milliken and Horizontal to “align with a vision” that both companies could believe in when it came to initiating the redesign process, Freeman says.

Adopt the MVP approach

With the prototypes created, Milliken had a better idea of ​​the components and content needed to create what Freeman described as a minimum viable product, or MVP, for the project to be successful. “We took the MVP approach to determining which components can be included while still achieving our goals for the new site,” Freeman says. “It means aligning with what is possible and necessary. We can always come up with new features, but to launch on time we needed to know what is doable now and what needs to be delayed to create a baseline, especially if we have to start over.

For bells and whistles that did not make it through the MVP process, the project team designated them for future inclusion and prioritized their deployment. User analysis and response to the redesign would play a key role in determining when pending components would be added. It’s important to eliminate this process early because it helps streamline the design process, Freeman says.

One aspect of the redesign process that surprised Milliken and Horizontal was the insufficient time allocated to developing content for the new site. The problem, according to Freedman, was that content developers were still developing content for Milliken’s legacy websites while simultaneously developing content for the new site.

Content development organization

“Content development takes time,” says Freeman. “As the content is designed for an existing site, you need to consider how it will fit into the new site. You need to give yourself a long lead for content development during a redesign.

To correct the problem, Milliken content writers began working more closely with Horizontal. This allowed them to see the new site’s page templates, which helped determine how much content could fit on a page, what content to use, and how best to present that content. As a result, content writers could easily determine what content to keep and what to omit, as well as size text and images so content could stand out.

“Adopting this approach was a new addition to our process and gave content developers flexibility during the redesign process,” says Ridgeway. He adds that the developers identified “the basic purpose and requirements of a web page and aligned with the page structure without getting bogged down in design decisions.”

The process helped speed up the design process by reducing the number of page components, which reduced maintenance costs for the new site.

The final piece of the puzzle for Milliken was to train its staff to use the new site. This goal was achieved through a series of internal workshops and the development of a training dashboard to empower employees when solving problems. “The goal was to prevent internal users from asking for help every time they had a problem,” says Freeman.

Looking back, Freeman says the key to the project’s success was the close collaboration between the Milliken and Horizontal teams. “The MVP approach isn’t perfect, but collaboration is key because the vendor doesn’t step in and say ‘here’s our process, it worked for others, it will work for you,'” Freeman says. “This project was a success because we gave each other the resources we both needed to be successful.”

Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.

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