If you’ve ever used a quality piece of commercial kitchen equipment, chances are Vollrath Foodservice made it. They’re a Midwest-based global manufacturer of award-winning prep, cook, and service equipment for a variety of industries.
In Q1 of 2018, they identified shifts in their customers’ needs as well as how industry talent wanted a more interactive, B2C-style online experience— things their current website could not provide.
To assist in this digital transformation, Vollrath launched a formal RFP process. And after whittling it down to three key finalists, CI Design won out over two more familiar choices due to a thoughtful approach to team structure and clear chemistry between the Vollrath and CI Design teams.
Step 01 in our collaboration? Discovery.
WHAT IS DISCOVERY?
Glad you asked.
A discovery is just what it sounds like: an exploration designed to uncover all the information we need in order to make informed and goal-appropriate decisions on a project. Every website project CI Design does begins with a thoughtful discovery. The more complex the website, the deeper we dive into the analysis and recommendations.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
This initial phase of a project allows us to better understand the client’s audience, goals, and expectations, as well as the desired features and functionality they have for their new website. Making sure we’re all aligned on those things helps us achieve a better result and avoid unnecessary surprises like scope creep or changes.
As our Marketing Services Director Heather Vaughn says, “Discovery also follows a Goldilocks principle of sorts. It allows us to make sure the site we’re building you is not too big, not too small, but just right. Even if 'just right for now' is the first step and you intend to do more with it later, discovery allows us to know how to plan for that expansion."
OUR DISCOVERY PROCESS FOR THIS DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
For this particular project, the research phase was substantial, spanning five months and just as many departments. Here’s exactly what it involved:
- Pre-Discovery Input
The Vollrath team provided us with a great starter document, which collected information we could use to better understand their vision for this new website, including the desired look and feel, as well as other companies’ websites they admired (both in full and for specific features).
- An In-Person Workshop
Vollrath brought representatives from each department that would be affected by this digital transformation. On our side of the table, we brought specialists from our web development, content, user experience (UX), SEO, project management, and creative departments. Together, we spent three hours learning everything we could about their departmental and collective desires for this project. It resulted in the Vollrath team agreeing upon their audience and goals, which allowed us to move forward with the next phase of the discovery.
- Transfer of Assets
After the in-person workshop, Vollrath sent our team all of the documents, guides, notes, marketing materials, brand style guides, and additional inspiration they felt were critical for us to have as we embarked on the discovery phase.
- The Guiding Light
One of the most important things we did during this process was to create a document listing all of the goals and KPIs. This document was a constant point of reference for us internally as we advanced the discovery process, and was shared at the beginning of every presentation along the way to reinforce to everyone in the room what inspired our decision making.
- Developing Personas
During our in-person workshop, Vollrath identified five different end-user types, and provided some basic input as to who they are, what they do, and how they used the existing Vollrath Foodservice website. These became the foundation for our five user personas (pictured above), which also included info like new website features they could benefit from, types of content they consume, and where and how they consume it.
- Building User Journey Maps
With the personas advanced to a near-complete state, we began mapping out their individual user journeys (pictured above). These charts allowed us to identify the motivations, needs, and actions each individual would take in relation to the new Vollrath Foodservice website.
- Interviewing Key Stakeholders
One of the most invaluable components of this entire experience was the access we were given to Vollrath employees and customers. Being able to hear firsthand from the customer service staff, sales teams, distributors, dealers, and corporate buyers allowed us to not only refine our personas to greater accuracy, but helped inform and validate our eventual recommendations.
- Documented Assessments
At the same time all of this was happening, our web development, UX, SEO, and content specialists were assessing the existing Vollrath Foodservice website, and making recommendations (pictured above) based on best practices, research, and the company’s goals for the new website.
It sounds obvious, but it is also worth saying: strong, frequent communication is key for the success of any project.
Internally, very few recommendations were made to the Vollrath team without each of our internal departments agreeing on them, or at least understanding why that solution was being presented.
Externally, we maintained constant communication with the Vollrath team throughout the project, sharing insights and discoveries, collaborating on solutions, and exploring new possibilities. In addition to sharing frequent progress reports and asking questions, we also paused at the halfway mark to present the Persona and Journey Maps to their team. This allowed us all to be in agreement before moving forward.
THE END RESULT
Ultimately, the end result is a stronger overall web experience that serves Vollrath Foodservice’s specific target audiences and provides everything those end-users need to achieve their goals.
More specifically, however, this massive research phase was compiled into a 180+ page document (and digital presentation deck) of assessments, research-backed recommendations, and examples demonstrating how the brand new Vollrath Foodservice website should look, read, and function.
These findings were presented in person to the client over the course of two days, and again in abbreviated form to their C-Suite leadership. The findings also laid the groundwork for the future phases of this website.
Up next: In Part 02 of our series, we’ll explore what went into the UX and design of the Vollrath Foodservice site.
Discover what the UX & web design experts at CI Design can do for your website. Ask for Brent!