Anatomy of a Website Redesign: An Interview with CenturyLink Cloud’s Creative Directo

CenturyLink Cloud recently launched a new version of the tier3.com website. This was a complete site redesign and an important step in explaining why CenturyLink Cloud is a premier choice for your cloud computing needs. This redesign was led by Nathan Young, CenturyLink Cloud’s talented Creative Director and UI Designer. I sat down with Nate and asked him a few questions about the goals and technology behind the new website.

Richard: I suspect that when you planned the CenturyLink Cloud re-design, you also looked at what our peers in the industry have done with their own web presence.  Without naming names, what sort of things did you see that you liked, and disliked?

Nate: One thing we noticed while doing a competitive audit was that many cloud company websites felt very “cards close to the vest.” Granted, there would be tons of information, but nothing that actually shows what the customer experience is like. It felt like as if there was a standard checklist of benefits and specs that had to be on the site, but nothing to supports those claims with product experience demonstrations.

Part of my job as Creative Director for CenturyLink Cloud is being an experience designer, so I appreciate anytime one of our competitors–or any company for that matter–demonstrates the actual product experience through things like screencasts, screenshots, or demo accounts. It really puts your product (and company) out there, and demonstrates a level of confidence that I think is lacking from many traditional enterprise vendors. Cloud providers or hosts in general, at a certain level can all have the max number of IOPS, bandwidth, available CPU or memory, but our customer experience is what I believe to be a key differentiator and competitive advantage.

Richard: What are the hallmarks of a useful, visually appealing corporate website? How do you balance the need to capture the visitor’s attention while not creating a superficial experience?

Nate: Clearly communicating what it is your company does and making it easy for potential customers to know what their experience will be like should they choose you. Once you’ve got that, then the rest is easy.

Richard: What was missing in the previous CenturyLink Cloud website and what did you want to make sure we had in this version?

Nate: Honestly, we suffered from the very thing I didn’t like listed above. We didn’t show the customer experience. Therefore it was harder than necessary to communicate our value to peers and customers.

Richard: A good CMS seems to be critical to an agile, maintainable website. How did you go about identifying the CMS that CenturyLink Cloud uses?

Nate: Besides the standard list of features a CMS is supposed to deliver (security, stability, scalability) one to the first considerations was using a CMS that had the flexibility to allow us to execute our creative vision. We ended up choosing ExpressionEngine by Ellis Lab. It met all our needs, plus it has a great community of developers around it.

Richard: What are the technologies used in the new CenturyLink Cloud website?

Nate: Nothing too fancy, we customized a version of Bootstrap to use as our front-end framework. Other front-end tech includes Jquery, HTML/CSS, and a little bit of custom javascript here and there. ExpressionEngine is our CMS of choice, which we host with a LAMP stack.

Richard: What aspect of the site are you the most proud of, and why?

Nate: Customer experience is one of the major differentiators for CenturyLink Cloud, so I’m most proud of showing the product experience. That, and the fact that we can easily iterate on the site content and layout with our content management system. In fact, we’re working on improvements right now…

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