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Digital Play

The Driving Force Behind Our New Website

by Nazarena Luzzi Castro — Posted on January 26th, 2017

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I’ll never forget when it all clicked. I was sitting in a room at the 2016 Adobe MAX Conference, among hundreds of designers, when I heard the words, “play is the future of digital brand engagement.” That was it – the moment all designers desperately yearn for at the start of a new project; the moment when you know you’ve got something that will lead you all the way to the finish line.

The session I was sitting in, “Why Play Science is the Future of Digital Engagement,” went on to explain digital play and expanded on how consumers in today’s world are desensitized because of constant stimuli from their phones, social media, and television. It proposed that our latest challenge is to bring emotion and personal touches to what users are interacting with. I knew that this corresponded with the challenges behind the latest project I had taken on, the redesign of our website. After the idea clicked, I frantically started writing down patterns of interactions, animations and cues that we could implement to keep our users engaged, not only visually but also emotionally.

When I started to think about emotional engagement, I knew we had to go back to our core values and let them guide the feeling and approach we would take with the site. At Muhlenhaupt + Company, we take pride in selling trust, not products. Ourselves, not services. And that became the driving force of the experience we wanted to create online. We wanted people to learn about who we are and how we do things, because we believe that if they like that stuff, then there would be no boundaries in terms of what we could offer them.

At Muhlenhaupt + Company, we take pride in selling trust, not products. Ourselves, not services. And that became the driving force of the experience we wanted to create online.

As we continued brainstorming, we asked ourselves, “what is the most important part of an interaction?” In our minds, it was simple: humanity. We began to humanize as many aspects of our site as we could, starting with the most important part, the messaging. We wanted to get as close to a real conversation as we could because we, as humans, like being talked to, not sold to. We settled on quirky and informal messaging but still needed some elements of personalization. When the concept of users having unique, specifically targeted experiences came up, we knew we what we had to do. We began incorporating calls to action (CTA messages) that were written to match certain times of day, adding a little extra flavor and surprise to the user experience.

Our quirky and informal messaging helped us reach users on a more emotional level, but we needed to think about visual interactions as well. Our current website consisted of static pages where the user wasn’t part of a journey. That’s when I remembered another talk at AdobeMAX, “Users Are People Too,” where it was explained that users had been found to stay longer on websites if they were given the chance to create their own experience – to discover content, rather than having it right in front of them.

The question then became – how do we spark curiosity? How do we let the users create their own journey and discover the content that they want to see — not the content we want them to see?

We strategically placed links throughout each page to encourage the user to investigate and discover new pages. We also made sure to only include the bare bones information in our main navigation menu. The rest would have to be found.

We added animations, moving pieces, and elements to spark curiosity and remove any static factor the pages might have. Often the fix was something as simple as having the elements fly in from the left or right as the user scrolls down the page. We also added background videos to complement our photography and headlines.

Today, we are proud to showcase our new website - a highly interactive and engaging experience that we can only hope our users find both interesting and enjoyable. If we can even get a, “That’s cool!” – then the rest is history.