City Water Technology

An analysis of business development for a small water treatment consultancy, culminating in research-based content strategy and a redesigned website.

UX/UI Design | Service | Web

The Challenge

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.

Duration

2.5 week sprint

Team

Anthony Drane
Michelle Tran

Skills and Methods

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.

Our Approach

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

Evaluating the Current Website

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.

Suggestions:

  • Make website design responsive for use across multiple devices and window sizes.
  • Sort content into new Information Architecture, making structure more flat (less than three levels).
  • Rewrite, reorganize and re-structure content for ease of consumption.
  • Develop uniform content guidelines for use across website and transferral to other media.
  • Generate a consistent visual design, including images, that aligns with CWT’s branding.
  • Remove or create content for the array of service pages that are ‘Under Construction.’
  • Upgrade case studies and capability statement’s to better reflect CWT’s long-standing reputation.

Understanding the Market 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:

  • There is little differentiation in regards to pages, content, layout & tone.
  • The presentation of case studies is a key point-of-difference.
  • Many companies use the website as a client engagement platform (with login, dashboard reporting & project management).

Interviewing Stakeholders

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.

Interviewing CWT Clients

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.

RESEARCH SYNTHESIS

Stakeholder Insights

Implication

CWT Client Insights

Prioritise website for sprint, emphasise core projects, services & what it would be like to work with CWT.

Managers use websites, especially when a company is unknown, to judge and make decisions that mitigate personal, organisational and community risk. The bidding and quoting process is costly and time-consuming; when allowed, users are looking for a reason not to seek multiple quotes.

Although Bruce’s relationships drive 90% of business, he is planning on stepping back and placing more emphasis on engineers for relationship management.

Engineer & Staff Profiles

The water industry is a small name and face driven industry; users need to be able to identify and understand the people they will be working with as well as their experience & reputation.

Reputation & history of brand is not reflected in the website e.g. high credibility projects like the Sydney desalinisation plant.

Project Timeline

Potential client’s need to quickly determine credible project experience of an unknown company.

Need-finding tool

Potential clients are looking to satisfy a current and specific need; when browsing a website, they have to be able to quickly identify that a company has capabilities, expertise, reference projects and key people who can fulfill that specific need.

CWT are willing to meet and give information to anyone who comes in; conversations, presentations and hosting workshops lead to business.

Book-a-Workshop Form

Business is often conduced via networking & recommendations. These are supported by free advice, honourable sharing of business & solid communication

They get a lot of work from companies needing to meet standards because Bruce contributes to publications and thought leadership e.g. the Good Practice Guide.

Out-link to blog where all staff can build their thought leadership (Medium/LinkedIn)

Companies in this area tend to have their own sources for reputable information which helps them stay up-to-date, however thought leadership and contributions in the form of conversations, whiteboard sessions, workshops and papers is seen as invaluable and noteworthy in the water community.

Testimonials

Client Engagement Process Overview

Favours transparency, honesty, sharing of business, being personable and having clear written and verbal communication skills set CWT apart.

“I will tap Bruce’s mind from time to time.”

CWT have a progressive culture; flat hierarchically & try to empower staff (winner of gender diversity award & young engineer of the year)

Promote Values, Culture, Awards & People

The ideal situation is hands-on on-site work, blending in with the client.

Tailor Calls-to-Action & weave into process

Following on from engagement, they need an understanding of process next-steps

Insights that were important but deemed out of scope:

  • CWT are not receiving a lot of work through tender bids, suspecting storytelling, price and non-locality as pain points for potential clients.
  • Branching outside of eastern seaboard into western states, New Zealand & Asia.
  • Bruce begins communication then hands off to engineers to manage relationships, who vary in interpersonal skills.

Hypothesis: We believe that re-designing the website for quick determination of the past projects, engineer reputation and CWT niche expertise, within the context of client needs, will minimise unfamiliar client’s perception of risk and reduce the need to seek multiple quotes to qualify consultancies.

DESIGN & ITERATION

Ideation & Prioritization

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.

Information Architecture & Site Map

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:

  • What if an engineer leaves CWT? Either remove/hide their tag or de-emphasize them by greying them out/changing their status.
  • What if no currently employed engineers worked on a project? Engineers with overlapping skills could be shown in that place – but this distinction would need to be clear to users.
  • What if a service or skill no longer has a competent engineer? Either set skill levels (competent / master) or determine if it’s a current strength or area you want to expand in and train or hire.

THE OUTCOME

An Integrated, Modular and Scalable Solution

Our solution represents:

  • A shift, from quantity to quality, of services and projects.
  • Self-referential and self-supporting content - importantly building the profiles of engineers.
  • The ability for potential clients to satiate their use-case for the website effectively & know what to do next.
  • The culture, values, thought-leadership and experience of working with CWT.

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.

Case-Study Timeline: Showcases CWT’s extensive project experience and ties into the need-finding module to reflect the services being sought by the user. It would cross-reference content from other modules and display notable engagements, successful outcomes, skill expertise and involved engineers.

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.

Our Experts: Builds the profiles of engineers and other staff in the organisation, empowering them as experts who are accessible to manage their client relationships and projects. It also acts as a base to link individuals to skills, case studies, research and contact information.

Book-a-Workshop Module:
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.

Location-Specific module:
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).

Testimonials:
Seek positive reference quotes from clients to act as validations for the user need to mitigate risk and “look good.”

HANDING IT OVER

Visual Design

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.

Implementation Plan

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.

Further Recommendations

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.

Client Engagement:

  • Consider the investigation into better utilisation of CRM ‘Clarizen.’
  • Consider formal client engagement processes or training for engineers, so consultants can more effectively manage relationships.

Tenders:

  • Leverage re-structured content from website redesign and use as formatted company content in tenders where applicable.
  • Consider tender writing training.

LinkedIn:

  • Leverage re-structured content from website redesign and use on company page (e.g. ‘Our Expertise’ content).
  • Re-publish (or share) research and thought-leadership content on LinkedIn (instead of Facebook).

Search Engine Optimisation:

  • Consider consulting a specialist on SEO for better discoverability: industry keywords, cross-links & references.

RETROSPECTIVE

Key Learnings

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:

  • Managing client expectations is very effective when done up front, and doing so is essential to getting client respect and trust for a successful project.
  • The importance of respecting the point of contact by transmitting all communication through them.
  • Doing certain work (such as client documentation) once in full detail, as opposed to drafting multiple times.
  • Summarising interview notes in a digestible way makes for a great reference throughout the project.
  • Work to your strengths and let your partner work to theirs: I found myself taking the lead in certain areas while Michelle took lead in others which taught me lots and only made us stronger as a team.
  • The power of ‘yes-and’: building on ideas non-judgementally elevates them to new heights and promotes psychological safety.
  • The effectiveness of productivity and organisation technology like Trello and Google Calendar.
  • How to make a compelling slide deck and present to it effectively.

View Our Documentation

Phase 1: Discovery.pdf

Phase 2: Handover.pdf

Wireframes (Google Drive)