New site, new offering

Well, it's been a long time coming, but CarbonGraffiti has finally been picked up, dusted off, reconfigured, rethought, rebranded, rewritten and repolished within an inch of its life. Not bad. Just 8 months late, then.

I went freelance 8.5 months ago, and what a ride it's been. I've had dozens of new clients, more trials, tribulations and lessons learned than you can shake a stick at, have been offered 2 full-time positions (both of which I turned down) and have seen London from 30 stories high. I've watched my little girl go from a 3-month old baby to saying her first words, and I'm constantly grinning from ear-to-ear as she's almost started walking.

All this to say that never once did I actually have the time to redo the website. There's a phrase about how the shoe cobbler always has the worst shoes, and the same couldn't be truer about those who make websites and the maintenance of their own.

Well, enough shoe cobbling. I finally got round to it, so here's a quick lowdown on the new site plus some inner machinations and noteworthy notes.

Offering

The previous CarbonGraffiti site centered on one main theme - email design - whereas the work/portfolio page fragmented into both web design and email design work. This was a problem for the user and for myself. Firstly, I wasn't doing myself justice as I have a vast background in digital marketing which wasn't being made abundantly clear to potential clients. Secondly, the overall theme and message of the site didn't seem to convey what I truly did. Email design seemed to be the only thing, which couldn't be further from the truth.

This new site attempts to clearly and concisely explain exactly what CarbonGraffiti does, why it's unique, what services are offered, and better examples of work done. The use of the Venn diagram mechanism throughout the site communicates the overlap in designing and marketing, a skillset that I find is harder to come by without going to a multidisciplinary agency (which equals much larger budgets).

Style

I love light-on-dark sites. I always have. But when a client back in December 09 mentioned that he found my (now old) site hard to read, I knew that any future site will have to finally adhere to a high-contrast palette in the name of business. I've always found that light-on-dark palettes are moody, interesting and look great, but let's face it - from a new business point of view, they're simply not ideal.

HTML5

Yup, it's all in there. Knowing full-well that this is the direction we're going in, and eager to try out newer technologies when time permits, this new site is built as HTML5, complete with section, aside, nav, header, footer and more. It's not quite there yet though, as I'm itching to try out tricks with canvas, improve semantics using microformats, and much, much more.

CSS3

Such goodness. Viewers on newer browsers like FF 3.6+ and Safari 4+ will benefit from rounded borders, rgba background and border opacity, and of course some subtle -webkit transitions, namely the navigation glow and homepage animation (only seen by Safari users, unfortunately). If you haven't noticed, @font-face is used for the body copy (Liberation Sans Regular) as well as the homepage header (Nevis), just to give the typography a little extra 'oomph'.

Grid system

As you've likely noticed, the new site uses a strong grid system. Not only cleaner from an aesthetic point of view, grid systems allow Seamless changes, updates and edits to a site without losing the overall style. Without a grid, the last version fell victim to my constant tinkering, ultimately resembling a site held together with tape and blue-tack. Hint: Press 'G' on your keyboard to view the grid. Courtesy of #hashgrid.

CRM

Seeing as I've evangelised the use of CRMs in past full-time positions, it seemed only fair that I finally eat my own dogfood and use one for myself. After a diligent search for a CRM that was unique, user-friendly, fit my needs, and would grow with me as a business, I ended up selecting Batchbook by Batchblue software. The contact form on this site now feeds my CRM automatically, so no more silly direct contact form-to-email messages. Instead, I have an 'in the cloud' repository of my contacts, communications, opportunities, sales, and sale-related to-dos. I can't recommend enough that more freelancers consider a CRM as part of their communication strategy, but that's for another day and another post.

Email marketing

Considering my background, you'd think it would be about time I got a fully-functioning email marketing strategy in place. Using the ever-awesome MailChimp, I've integrated a newsletter sign-up into the footer of all pages of the site. I chose the footer for email subscriptions purposely - at this point in time my primary goal is not to solely increase my subscription base. I should also mention that my choice of Batchbook was swayed by its great integration with MailChimp's API.

A better About page

Skills are one thing, but knowing who you'll be doing business with is something else entirely. I've strengthened my original About page to highlight my history, showcase my social networks, and most importantly put a face to the name. I also chose to limit (and mask) my tweets on this page - I don't feel my current opinions on football (I launched during the World Cup) and general mischief are fit for being splashed across a site that is attempting to drive business, no matter how non-transparent that might be.

More to come

It doesn't stop there. Many more things are in the pipeline, including administering some Google AB test results, awaiting the results of my Crazyegg tests, getting more email templates up for folks to download, and making this site fully iPhone-ready using Responsive web design and more.