Web Development 101

Holly Suttle

28 Dec 2017

When I first joined Tilix, the initial hiring plan was that I was to copy edit blogs. This post is about how I talked myself into becoming the Editor in Chief.

I enthusiastically (you might say naively) volunteered to do more than fact check and spell check blogs. Through waxing lyrical about my interest in coding, graphic arts and website design I was rewarded by being thrown into the deep end of markdown, Jekyll, Drupal, user experience design and scalable vector graphics.

I was initially overwhelmed and wondered if I had made a mistake. However, I quickly learned that thanks to Tilix’s methodical, digital engineering approach to web development I could eat the elephant one bite at a time.

The Brief

A website is a vital component of most businesses. As well as being the shop front to the world, it also helps define the internal culture. It does not take a website visitor long to judge the character and corporate mission as well the levels of customer care and professionalism that can be expected.

My job was to help Tilix transform their website from being a glorified business card to becoming an effective marketing solution. The overarching plan for the redevelopment was:

  1. Optimise the homepage to work for both first time and return visitors.
  2. Produce a constant stream of fresh content
  3. Use web forms to convert visitors to leads
  4. Collect beefy analytics that track leads and reflect regularly on what the data is telling us.

My particular focus was on the second item, which I would deliver through helping to launch the Tilix blog.

This project underpinned the growing importance of marketing for Tilix and was rightly framed as a strategic imperative.

The Guiding Principles

Our goals for the website were:

  1. Help a first time visitor, within 10 seconds, to get a feel for the services offered by Tilix.
  2. Convert visitors to leads with content that helps them overcome their energy challenges.

In establishing my role in the web development team, we turned to ‘The 9 Pillars’ model. All nine are listed below and the areas I had to focus on are in bold.

  1. User Research
  2. Site Strategy
  3. Technology Strategy
  4. Content Strategy
  5. Abstract Design
  6. Technology Implementation
  7. Content Production
  8. Concrete Design
  9. Project Management

My Contribution

I tried to get my head around the technical aspects such as Markdown, Jekyll, Drupal, UX Design and SVGs. However, I quickly discovered that the team had far more capable people in those departments than me.

I really enjoyed doing user research because it really helped me get a sense of the Tilix audience and their needs. We didn’t have time or budget for methods like surveys, focus groups or user testing. Instead we did lots of interviews, which was right up my street given my experience as a journalist. The difference I found though was that the interviews needed to be structured so that I could produce the desired outputs including persona cards, user stories and use cases

Working closely with my Tilix colleagues, we devised a content strategy to ensure the blog would serve 3 key purposes:

  1. Writing the posts in and of itself increases our knowledge
  2. Publishing the posts increases the search engine ranking of Tilix and
  3. Some blogs are a valuable assignment selling content.

We also understood that the blog would comprise of a number of different flavours of posts. The analogy we came up with was jam .

Raspberry jam grows thinner and thinner as you spread. However, no matter how much you try to spread it, the lumps remain in strawberry jam!

In the Tilix Blog, the heavy technical posts are the strawberries and the a priority for the Editor in Chief is to fill the blog with enough strawberry jam to make it delicious to read.

We also identified that Tilix Blog needs some grape jam. That’s the stuff that spreads infinitely thin and contains no surprises. It’s cheap to make and never offends anyone.

In terms of content production, my job was to:

  • Help in managing the production and publishing process.
  • Fact checking, research and drafting on strawberry jam posts.
  • Proof reading and editing of strawberry jam posts
  • Writing grape jelly posts.

The challenge here was to produce an order of magnitude more content than the Tilt website had previously. Another concern was to make sure that the roster of writers would follow a house style guide.

Therefore, a large part of my content production work was in developing a content style guide. This tool is vital in ensuring that the blog maintains a tone of voice which present Tilix as professional, open minded and approachable.

The Result

The foundations of the Tilix blog is now ready. Moving forwards it is in a great shape to feature posts and white papers from more and more energy industry professionals.

In growing the blog, Tilix aims to demonstrate their thought leadership and breadth of experience. As well as sharing knowledge of the industry, this content marketing approach will position Tilix as an authority with the skills and experience to provide high quality professional services.

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