One of the first things that I asked when I started working at Manas was: Can we build a new company website? If you never visited our old site let me tell you, you did not miss much. Manas was always blessed with word-of-mouth recommendations. That meant that having a website that represented our work was never a priority. What we had when I came in was, to put it nicely, pretty vintage.
This was, for me, the perfect opportunity to unveil the true soul of Manas to the world in the form of a website. From the marketing point of view, working from scratch with a blank canvas was the ideal scenario.
Since we started building our new site, I have learned a lot, the easy and the hard way. Here’s some of it.
Expectations vs. Reality - You can’t always get what you want
As Mick Jagger has been saying all these years, you can’t always get what you want. I learned it by being part of the process from the first drafts and mock-ups Joni, our lead designer, created to the final product. Many ideas and sketches were fantastic, but they would have taken an enormous effort to build.
If you focus only on the creative aspect and getting to a "perfect" communication piece, tweaking forever is the tendency.
As they say, done is better than perfect. I have seen our teams helping our customers prioritize scope and get to "good enough" on time and budget. We had to learn that ourselves: Is this site good enough? Does this site represent us? Would we be happy if we showed this to the world?
Questions and answers - Don’t lie to me
Can you tell me the date when the site is going to be ready? Can we make it feel more colorful? Can you just delete that? What if we move this over there? I have asked our development team these questions many times, more than I dare to admit. After a while, I finally understood something key: I was asking the wrong questions. And thus getting useless answers. Learning to ask better questions was a genuinely valuable lesson I'll remember for years to come.
Communication - Tell me
This was not just another website redesign. It was the biggest redesign Manas did of its site in 13 years of existence. We all had high expectations. I felt responsible for delivering an excellent image of Manas to the world. We expected some communication interferences. These past months I have learned a lot about communicating with my teammates. I have had to remind myself that just as I do not code, the rest of the team does not do marketing. I had to learn how to express my concerns and needs and to have realistic expectations. The process of translating ideas into real stuff is where the magic happens. It is a process, and final results may vary. But that is a good thing.
Content - I got the blues
At some point, I had to make peace with the fact that I had written way more content than what we could use. It took me a while to adjust and let go. After all, writing and creating content is one of the things I enjoy the most about my job. But, as many of the things we cut from the scope, it was for the best and even more important: it was not personal. I'm a compulsive tweaker and, for me, new content is never enough. Looking on the bright side, we now have material to update our site for quite a while.
The finish line - (I can’t get no) Satisfaction
I am never going to be completely satisfied with our website just as it is. No matter how good it looks and feels, Manas is always evolving as a company and as a team: our site needs to evolve too. But evolving requires interacting with your environment - and for that to happen, we need to release! That will allow us to collect feedback and data to improve our user experiences.
Mobile - You can make it if you try
Creating a custom mobile-friendly site is not as easy as many of us, marketers, may think. I have seen our team sweat and struggle with every piece of content to make sure it looks great on every mobile device and browser. I started this journey thinking that "responsive" was just another natural step when creating a website. Now I have learned that mobile responsiveness, while entirely necessary, is not something automatic. So, a big thanks to the team for working its magic and investing significant effort to make sure our site looks good on every screen.
The results - Everything is turning to gold
I recall the exact moment when I knew our site was going to be something to be proud of. I came back from 2 weeks off work and saw that new content was on the staging server. I clicked to check it out and immediately got a big grin. It was clear that we were doing something right. Changes were still required, and some sections were missing - but it was still amazing to experience the difference between our old site and what we were creating.
It was different from anything we had shown to the world before. It had that nice Manas' feel that I can only describe as a mixture of uniqueness, attention to detail and amazing content.
At that moment, I made peace with everything that could and had gone differently from what I expected. We had poured our team and company soul into a brand new site.
Being part of this project was a fun and challenging experience. I got to experience first hand the process of transforming an idea into a fantastic product. I learned how our QA team works when testing, how our developers organize and track tasks and the importance of daily team updates. It was incredible to watch Joni create a beautiful design out of a bunch of ideas and to see how dedicated our dev team is. I got the opportunity to go back 13 years and learn about Manas since day one. I read about 10-year-old projects that were incredibly advanced for the time and traveled the world through our photo archive which documents the many trips our team has taken along the way.
I like to think that this beautiful new site that we are unveiling today has been 13 years in the making. It started as a small and shy website just as we were starting our business. It evolved through trends (who remembers Flash?), grew in content as our team also grew, and became unique as we discovered new motivations and technologies.
Finally, I can only hope that our site continues to improve as we evolve as individuals, as a team, and as an organization.
We have definitely come a long way.
You may have already noticed it, but the titles in this article were inspired by The Rolling Stones songs. To listen to the playlist, click here.