An analysis of business development for a small water treatment consultancy, culminating in research-based content strategy and a redesigned website.
City Water Technology (CWT) is a water treatment consultancy, specialising in process engineering, which serves
local councils and water authorities, and fills niche-gaps for larger consultancies. Their water-purifying
projects are often small and well-defined, and fulfil a need for rare skills in the industry like manganese
removal and multi-barrier filters.
CWT approached us with issues engaging new clients and re-engaging historic clients; they over-rely on the Managing Director’s 30 years of personal contacts and recent-to-current clients for business. They wanted help gaining exposure with potential clients and new market segments; educating ‘could-be’ clients about who they are and what they do.
2.5 week sprint
Market Analysis, Interviews, Business Model Canvas, Affinity Mapping, Hypotheses, Ideation, Feature Prioritisation, Sketching, Design Studio, Information Architecture, Content Strategy, Wire-framing, Usability Walkthroughs, BERT Surveys, Mood-boards, and Presenting & Selling Design.
Michelle and I approached the problem holistically, by considering CWT’s tender bids, client engagement processes,
CRM usage, business strategies and branding. Although we identified opportunities in those areas, for which we
provided recommendations, we determined our efforts for the 2.5 week sprint would be best spent on a website
redesign and content strategy.
Our modular and integrated web solution allows potential clients to quickly determine the competencies, key people and reference projects of CWT within the context of client needs.
RESEARCH & DISCOVERY
We began with a review of CWT’s standing website to gain a deeper understanding of their offerings, business
and history, as well as identify any immediately apparent design opportunities before the kick-off meeting.
We discovered a website which wasn’t responsive, had a ‘T’-shaped site map, walls of text and an array of under
construction service pages (which we later realised included core services). It was difficult, as laymen, to
clearly determine what CWT do as their statements were broad and high-level, projects were hidden away and
the services page did not have any hierarchy or context.
A competitive analysis helped us locate patterns, standards and differentiators for key players in the surrounding marketplace, including their closest direct competitor. This helped us better frame the problem, the context and determine unknowns to address in interviews with stakeholders and CWT clients. We learned:
City Water Technology is a specialised consultancy whose website does not reflect their extensive project and service history. With the Managing Director taking a step back, consultants will have to fill his shoes.
Michelle and I hosted two interviews with key stakeholders including process engineer, Audrey Knickerbocker (our point-of-contact), and CWT Managing Director, Bruce Murray. We created interview guides and questions which would help us understand the water industry, the business, company structure, services, projects, clients, business strategies and key goals.
In the small water industry, it’s about name and face reputation; in the case of unknown’s, potential client’s have to quickly & credibly judge the match between their current need and a company’s capability.
We also conducted interviews with two of CWT’s clients; a plant manager for a regional council and a technical manager for a large, international, design & construct consultancy. We sought to understand their relationship with CWT, strengths and weaknesses, interactions with the team, their process and key deliverables, and also learn about how they make decisions when in need of consultants.
Insights that were important but deemed out of scope:
DESIGN & ITERATION
To establish a design direction for the website, we used an impact-effort matrix to map our ideas in response to the insights we had synthesised thus far. We used the focus that this provided to sketch ideas and then create concept modules for a prioritisation session with our point-of-contact at CWT. We met Audrey for a coffee and asked her to move our modules around in the order of importance she saw as best fitting, then we asked for her to explain her rationale and took notes.
With ranked features and validation that we were moving in the right direction from our key stakeholder, and having examined the current website content, we ran an open card internally to sort & organise modules into top-level site pages that made the most sense.
Hereafter, we noticed an opportunity for dynamic & integrated content to repeat across modules on different pages; promoting the names and faces of staff, reference projects and key skills quickly and in an interconnected way. This strategy would be achieved and maintained through a Content Management System (CMS) whereby engineers, skills and case studies could be tagged and linked, then be woven throughout the site as support content. This would achieve an easy flow between related people, skills & projects, from which CWT could leverage interest with relevant calls-to-action.
We also considered 3 issues related to this idea:
Our solution represents:
Service Need-Finding Tool: Groups services under straightforward industry, outcomes-based, categories (Risk Mitigation, Optimisation, Process Design, Innovative Practices), giving user a broad view of CWT’s capabilities while highlighting those related to their need. These are tied to summaries and calls-to-action.
Expertise & Approach: Provides a concise, branded summary of the company, breaks down CWT’s water treatment expertise into three key pillars (process engineering, optimisation assessments, management systems) and gives users an idea of their client engagement approach. It’s an opportunity to focus on areas of competence as well as promote services CWT might want to branch into.
A dedicated module that enables users to book workshop meetings with CWT engineers. This idea is dependant on CWT formalising workshop format & content (whiteboarding or lunch-and-learn’s).
Impact Visualisation Module:
Aggregates stats and visualises the impact of projects. E.g. work on Orange City Council plant = CWT helped X houses receive clean water. This infographic module is dependant on CWT’s ability to consolidate key data.
Use geo-targeting to showcase state-based news & engagements, such as research papers or projects, to clients across different markets. This idea is dependant on CWT having enough state-relevant content (beyond the eastern seaboard).
Seek positive reference quotes from clients to act as validations for the user need to mitigate risk and “look good.”
HANDING IT OVER
We surveyed CWT client’s and staff for their subjective emotional response to bipolar descriptors (like warm
/ cool) when considering their ideal experience interacting with the CWT brand and learning about their services.
Knowing that neither Michelle or I were visual designers, we used the clear emphasis or skews to create three mood-boards which could be tested with users and then act as a springboard for CWT to make visual design decisions or handoff to a visual designer.
As part of our handover document, we provided CWT with an implementation plan that included 5 pillars and the next steps related to them. These included: Usability Testing, Visual Design, Content Writing, Content Management & Development; each of which had 3-4 actionable points that would help CWT move forward with the design.
A few insights, holding potential for engaging new business, arose throughout the discovery phase that we chose not to dig into due to the short nature of the sprint. As a final note, we left these leads with CWT to act upon should they choose.
Search Engine Optimisation:
This experience opened my eyes to the potential UX design has to make an impact at any level; the Managing Director told us mid-way through the second interview that it felt great to be thinking strategically again, and our point-of-contact left the handover presentation saying ‘Let’s do it,’ with a big smile on her face. I also learned a lot about the water industry and was pleasantly surprised to work with such a transparent and progressive, family-run, company.
In addition to refining the above array of User Experience techniques, skills and thinking, I did take-away some key lessons: