Home Client Work Website & e-Commerce Sound Wizard

The Challenge
Sound Wizard provides audio consultancy for applications ranging from the design and development of music recording studios to lounge bars, discos and home theaters. The company had grown significantly in the few years since its inception and dealing with the growing number of queries from prospective customers was taking up a major part of their daily work. The need was felt to direct such queries to a website with detailed and comprehensive information about the company. Didier Weiss, the technical director and sound engineer for Sound Wizard, realized the importance of maintaining an up-to-date web presence. But for the website to be effective it had to be a faithful reflection of the company itself and the existing website did not adequately meet these needs.

Crossroad was approached to redesign the Sound Wizard website. While they had collected a lot of additional information for a website redesign they had reached a point where it was becoming difficult to handle the entire project internally. A memo from Dider to us, stated the objectives in the clearest terms possible. "We are looking for someone who can put all of that together into a beautiful website."

The home page is dominated by a large rendering of the Sound Wizard logo and tag line. Below that are four images that update every time the page is refreshed. These images provide the only real colours on the pages which otherwise consist of a dark grey background with white text.

The Process
The previous website consisted of exactly four pages. It was the result of the familiar "Get Something Up" mantra of the early Web. While content was quite limited, the layout and navigation of the pages did not make very thoughtful use of screen real estate.

After doing a careful audit of all existing content we decided that copy could be repurposed for the new site, but the pictures had to go. Also the existing logo and art work on the website did not give the impression of Sound Wizard being a professional company with a track record of exceptional work. After several attempts at creating new logos we felt there was some equity in the original logo and by altering it just a little bit we could provide the much needed design punch.

The primary navigation consists of links that seem to be attached to a steel wire-frame, emphasizing the engineering and architectural aspects of Sound Wizard. The flowing curves create a visual analogy to sound.

We built a quick, functional prototype, incorporating the content they had put together. We could quickly resolve several tricky navigation issues, even before actual design of the pages began. For example, the information design of the new site had an unusual structure to it. While most pages did not have secondary level links, it was important for visitors to quickly access the various applications of acoustics from any page. We resolved this problem by creating a permanent sidebar navigation system to act as an anchor point on all pages. No matter which page a visitor was viewing, she could easily look up information on a particular application.

We submitted two distinct design directions based on initial discussions with Sound Wizard. Once design issues were resolved and refined we started building the redesigned site. The pages themselves were set in white text against a dark grey background to provide high visual contrast to the subject matter and to also make the beautiful images stand out even more.

Every page has four images that form an image deck just below the masthead echloing the simliar arrangement of dynamically updated images on the home page. These page specific thumbnails provide the main colours to the pages. Below this deck is the title for the page set in a relatively large point size.

To make the site more interesting for visitors, Sound Wizard wanted to host excerpts from articles on Architectural Acoustics and the audio field in general. We felt this would be really helpful if it could be tied to the particular audio application that was being viewed along with the list of projects that Sound Wizard had undertaken for that kind of environment. So for example, when viewing Recording Studios, a customer should be able to easily browse through all the Recording studios built by Sound Wizard and also read additional informative articles specially relevant to studios.

We achieved these goals by constructing a data-centric model that tied all projects, articles and web content together, while structuring it in a way that would still be easy for them to maintain with their limited web design skills. All pages were built as templates that were dynamically rendered while the actual content came from plain html files or database tables. The database was maintained offline as worksheets in Microsoft Excel, a tool that Sound Wizard was already very comfortable with. We provided a very simple front end for them to upload tab-delimited data to the live server. As they had some experience maintaining their previous website using ftp to upload modified content, they quickly adjusted to the structure of the new site.

We set up a staging area on our own server to help review work in progress and it proved to be an indispensable tool for communication between our two companies. Once all the sections were completed and tested on several platforms we were ready to launch the redesigned site.

The Benefits
The site redesign has matched all of Sound Wizard's expectations while exceeding their requirements in many areas. Letting them handle and modify content even with their limited skills has given them an unprecedented level of involvement in the development of their own site. It provides them with a powerful marketing tool which they can update and expand upon to suit their changing needs.

Offloading a significant amount of queries to the website has allowed Sound Wizard to focus more clearly on what they do best, build compelling workspaces or living spaces that deliver pristine acoustics.

The Results
Before crossroad was approached for the redesign project Sound Wizard was putting the finishing touches to one of its last projects. There were no new prospective clients, no future work, nothing to show others what they had achieved or what they were capable of creating. No company likes to stay in that situation for long hence the urgent need for a more effective web presence.

With the new website Sound Wizard has found renewed confidence and is actively marketing its skills and services to a much larger audience.