Clayton Blog Redesign
Connecting with readers and collecting social capital.
I proposed and ran a year long test to generate social capital and find relevant categories for content with a redesigned Clayton blog. My results and content were used for the final blog design as a part of Clayton's rebrand. My process included UX research, visual design, content strategy, and content creation.
Identifying Problems and Goals
Why redesign the blog? At that time, the blog was not a part of the main company website, had been neglected internally for months, and contained outsourced, poor quality content.
The goal of the blog was to allow users to gather information about mobile and modular homes and create shareable content for users to engage with. However, there were many questions and scenarios. The challenge was how to develop a design that resonates with both past and potential customers.
I worked with the insights team to learn more about who we wanted to target on the blog and what content categories would catch their attention to generate interest in Clayton products. We discovered four main personas of the ideal Clayton customers characterized by low income households living in rural areas. From these we chose to focus on two: Brittany and John.
John represents male heads of household, age group 40-59, who are looking to downsize. John has been around the block and knows a thing or two about traditionally constructed homes, but would like to research the differences about manufactured homes.
His interest in topics may range from construction techniques used in manufactured and modular housing, to lawn and manufactured home maintenance, to financing options.
Brittany represents female millennials with young families or just married couples who are buying their first home. Brittany wants to create a happy, healthy environment in her new home and is looking for information to help her achieve this goal.
Brittany may search for ideas about interior decorating, lifestyle in a manufactured home, tiny home options, going green, good recipes, and DIY projects.
A heuristic evaluation of old blog revealed the following problems:
• Complicated and unintuitive navigation.
• No email subscription.
• No archives.
• No RSS feed.
• Low quality stock photos.
• UI text heavy with crowded formatting.
• No social or shareable links.
• Poor SEO structure.
• Heavy focus on lead generation with form fill visable.
• No comment options.
• No 'About' or 'Author' page.
• No topic or article release coordination with other marketing departments.
After comparing the top modular and mobile manufacturing competitors blogs, I discovered a few commonalities. Each blog contained repetitive content around the building process, image rich content, and few sales oriented message.
For the new blog design, I focused on:
Adding opportunities for users to interact with content.
Enhancing content quality.
Removing strong sales messaging.
Easy to use navigation on each page was a primary objective for the new blog design. I placed the primary navigation at the top of the page with two options - one with a link to the homepage and the other with a link to an authors page. I narrowed the personas' interests into nine categories and listed them in the side navigation. The side navigation also included an email subscription, RSS feed button, "Learn More" section, and archive list.
The blog was originally purposed as a lead generation platform. However, the purpose of this test was to generate social capital. In order to satisfy the goals of both the marketing department and the test, light sales messaging was used in only the "Learn More" section. The section contained a short call-to-action and a link back to Clayton's homepage for users interested in a purchase or learning more about Clayton products.
The design for the blog homepage contained a picture and the first paragraph of the four most recent articles with an option to navigate to "previous" articles at the bottom. Once users clicked on an article, they were directed to a page with the full article. Each article page had a title, author's name, and date of publishing. To allow users quick access to more content written by that author, each author's name was clickable and directed to a page with a list of all the articles written by that author.
Social shareable buttons and a comment box were added to each article to give users the opportunity to further interact with the content. If users chose a category or month from the archive from the side menu, they would be redirect to a page listing all articles tagged for that category or published during that month. To read an article, users click on the condensed version and are directed to a new page with the full article visible.
Email subscriptions were a new addition for the email marketing department and an exciting way to measure social capital. Users clicked on the subscription button and were redirected to a page to submit an email address. Afterwards they would see a thank you page before returning to the blog homepage.
With the first design, I attempted to create a seamless experience for the user by mimicking the company's website. However, due to limited technical resources, I was constrained to hosting the blog with Weebly. This severely limited my design options. White space became a large part of the design, so readers would focus on the content. I used Clayton's green to draw their attention to accent certain navigation features and keywords.
During the year long test, I built a writing team with knowledge and experience in each of the categories on the blog and hired an illustrator to test if cartoon visuals increased click through rates.
I acted as a writer and editor. I wrote three to four articles a month on various topics. I also created a content calendar to post three articles a week.
To increase viewership, I coordinated each post with the social and email marketing teams.
The content formatting and subject matter evolved based on performance. Weebly didn’t supply many metrics, so I used Google Analytics to analyze traffic and article performance.
The test was considered a success and gave the marketing team an understanding for how to format content and the most effective avenues for promoting the blog to users. We gathered data through Google Analytics to track viewability, sessions, and session duration during the test period.
The new design doubled page views after the first six months from around 3,400 views per month to around 8,300 views per month. The new relevant content and increase in traffic enhanced the blog's ranking in search queries.
Design aspects and successful content categories from this test were utilized in the final design for the new Clayton blog.