A rebuilt website for a spiritual business that helps its customers reach their true potential.
Michelle Clinard-Wagner wasn’t new to building websites using WordPress. She’d done it before.
But with a growing business and other responsibilities, she knew it was time to hire a developer to help.
She met a developer (who is not me) via referral from a colleague. But it didn’t turn out to be a good experience.
The website they put together was full of clutter inside and out. People found the website hard to navigate and use. And on the back-end, it was hard to make changes or tweaks, and there was a lot of unnecessary code. I don’t even know what this is, Michelle often thought.
On top of those problems, a security breach compromised the website and nearly cost her all her content.
For a business owner striving for an effortless website experience, this scenario was the thing of nightmares.
Michelle needed to get these fires put out and to have a website that represented her business well and could be run with minimal effort.
She wanted to get her content together again, get everything situated, and get back to running her business without website headaches.
The website needed to fulfill some specific functions for her business:
- It was essential for the website to be easy to use and navigate for her readers and customers, especially after her previous experience, and also convenient for her to maintain and use on a day-to-day basis.
- It had to strike a good balance between pointing people to the free blog articles and other content she had to offer, while making sure potential customers were aware of the services she offered.
- People needed to be able to book sessions with her, taking them through the process of seeing available time slots, booking a session, and paying for it. (People are more likely to book if they can immediately find a time that works for them.)
If she had a website that met these needs, she’d be good to go.
Michelle and I got in touch via someone we both know.
She has a good eye for design, even though she didn’t know exactly what she wanted things to look like going into the process, so we knew it would be a collaborative experience.
First she provided me with some content to get going and shared her vision for what she wanted the experience to be like.
Then it was my job to turn that vision into a concrete design and user experience.
How I start the design process
Many designers like to do a mock-up in Adobe Photoshop or something similar and get agreement from the client before actually building anything. There are good reasons to do it that way, but it’s not the approach I favor in most cases.
I’ve found things usually work out better if I put together a working design first.
It’s one thing for a client to say a Photoshopped design looks good. It’s another for them to like it after having an opportunity to touch it and interact with it. Using a design prototype lets a person experience the website ? and that’s when the ideas and really helpful feedback start flowing.
So I went into this part of the process with a vision from Michelle and a desire to create a draft that she could start using.
I chose the Genesis Framework with a child theme as the base because it scales great and offers tons of room for customization. This framework makes it easy to get started. Even as you rebuild and customize large sections of it, you can continue getting the official core updates, which means you don’t sacrifice anything that matters.
Lots of productive back and forth
Michelle was able to give specific feedback on the early designs, as well as being able to create mock-ups that more closely resembled the vision in her head.
As we worked together, it became clear that the design was really taking shape.
That’s the thing about design ? being able to interact with it directly helps you develop something that looks good and that gets the results you want.
Our iterative approach worked well and got us on the way to Michelle having exactly the website she imagined.
Adding custom functionality
We wanted a seamless experience with how the website handled Michelle’s myriad services. She does different types of sessions, from readings and healing sessions to coaching. We also had to support options for packages of sessions.
Custom post types (CPT) for handling services
As mentioned earlier, it was important for Michelle to be able to make changes easily without having to get deep into the code.
The best way to make it so that Michelle could easily add and modify the different kinds of services she offered was to store them as something WordPress calls custom post types.
If you’ve used WordPress before, you’re familiar with Posts and Pages. Posts are articles. Pages are standalone content. But some kinds of content don’t fit nicely into either of those boxes.
Service offerings are one such thing. You could create a page for each service, sure, but there’s a lot more to it than that.
You would also need a page that has info on all the services, another page for a list of all the services within one category, another page for listing services in a second category, and so on. And every time you make a change, you’d have to change it in every place it appears.
That’s not efficient or practical. It’s easy to miss one, and then you have customers using the wrong links or seeing incorrect prices ? not good!
So I created the services as a custom post type that used custom fields to handle things like the price, location, and booking information.
Then I built templates that could list all services, list by type, or display a single service.
It meant that Michelle could go in on her own and add, change, or remove a service in just one place in the back-end.
Then the site would update everywhere on the front-end with the changes automatically.
Offering convenient BOOK NOW buttons along with descriptions and a design that stands out helps her customs get the sessions they need from her.
When a customer clicks the BOOK NOW button, the site directs them to a list of available times they can book for a session with Michelle. Upon selecting an open time, they then go ahead and pay.
This setup is convenient for the customer because they can sign up instantly, without needing to go back and forth with the practitioner trying to find an open time. And it’s great for Michelle because she doesn’t have to do anything to book sessions and have them show up in her work calendar.
The blog portion is straightforward, but crucial.
Michelle has built a consistent blogging practice and she builds trust with her readers and customers that way.
We opted for an approach heavy on visuals, including featuring the most recent blog posts on the site’s front page.
We relaunched the website with the new design in early 2019.
Michelle has no problems going in and adding posts or other new content. It’s been easy for her and works great.
It’s a major improvement from her previous situation in terms of navigation and security, which is a big relief for her. It’s running smoothly with no problems.
Even better, her audience nearly doubled in the first six weeks of the new design being live.
That’s a win!