Thinking, musings, opinions of This by Them

The Evolution of thisbythem.com

We are super excited to announce the relaunch of our very own website, thisbythem.com. To celebrate, let’s take a stroll down memory lane to see how we got here.

Over eight years ago, on April 12, 2006, we registered a domain—thisbythem.com—and kicked off our little web business. Lance and I kept busy knocking out websites for clients, so all we had time for was a fancy version of an under construction page. Here’s what it looked like (built in Flash! Ha!) …

The Beginning

Back then, our time was focused on clients, leaving little for ourselves. Our website stayed that way—as a temporary under construction page—until sometime in 2008, when we finally created our first, full website. Well, not really, it actually was just another temporary page, except this time we added a form. Here’s what that version looked like…

The Beginning

It wasn’t until late 2009 that we finally launched our first full website, for reals this time. That’s right folks, we had been in business for over three full years before we had our first real website. That’s crazy. But this one was pretty cool. Check it out…

thisbythem.com, 2009 to 2011

That version went on to make a little splash on the design blogs. Smashing Magazine even featured us at the top of their 69 Sexy Portfolio Designs to Inspire You article, which we still get click referrals from to this day.

Notice that in this version we fully intended to launch our blog soon after the relaunch, but that didn’t come until a few years down the road.

Two years later, in the spring of 2011, we redesigned again. This time we wanted to simplify and clean up our image. Our last version was very colorful with a strong theme that maybe overshadowed our work for clients. This version let the client work pop. It even had a robot and a blog! Yep, that’s five years in business before we first launched our blog. Here’s what that version looked like…

2011

In previous versions of our site we started with the design first and not much of a plan, feeling our way to the finish line. As a result, they all had really cool design, but the message lacked coherence. There wasn’t enough to help a visitor get a sense of who we are and the kind of work we do.

So in the fall of 2013, we kicked off a new redesign. This time we wanted to focus on the messaging, on the copy, and to communicate who we really are and why clients love to work with us.

After working on it for several weeks, we started to realize something was off. It felt like it lacked focus. The enthusiasm was lost, and it was now eating up too much time and energy trying to get it back on track. It just didn’t feel right, so we scrapped it.

In hindsight, we had ended up doing the same thing we did all the other times, which was to get caught up in the design more than the message. That’s why it wasn’t feeling right.

We instead ended up just doing a minor refresh of our site, and improving the about page. This was the last version of our site. Here’s what that looked like…

2011

That brings us to mid 2014. We had a bigger redesign in mind for this year and were looking for the right window of time to tackle it. We didn’t want it to turn out like the last attempt, so we followed the same rule we follow on our client projects—copy first.

I started by taking several passes at the copy, getting feedback, trying again. I spent quite a bit of time experimenting with different tones, trying to capture the essence of who we are. Finally, I arrived at something that felt pretty good to all of us (though it actually would change completely again a few more times before we launched).

Having solid copy before we broke ground in code helped us determine the structure and flow of the page.

We wanted a big, fullscreen hero. The copy we started with for the hero had the phrase “dent the universe,“ so I had the idea to create a starfield background that would warp as you moused over it. We almost scrapped the starfield when we couldn’t get it to perform very well, but I was able to make some substantial tweaks to prevent it from bogging up the experience.

As Lance started on the design, he iterated the hero copy and layout to come up with what you see now. He also had the brilliant idea to lay the who we are section over the starfield with cutout images—one of our favorite parts of the new site. (Check back next week for Lance’s post on the inspiration for the look and layout.)

2014 hero 2014 hero 2014 hero 2014 hero

So what’s in store for the future of thisbythem.com? Well, unlike in the previous versions, this time we plan to iterate frequently. We’ll be looking at the copy often and finding areas to improve. We’ll be adding more projects as we launch and more elaborate case studies. We’ll also be adding service specific pages to further explain, in detail, all we offer clients.

We’re really proud of where we ended up and think this version is the best representation of us yet. We love it, and hope you do too.

Tweet and tell us what you think!

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