America's Test Kitchen (ATK) is a media company that produces cookbooks, magazines, websites, and television shows, providing recipes and equipment reviews. Their mission is "to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods" through extensive testing.
ATK was growing significantly, and was looking to fill several recently-created positions, many of them tech-focused. But their web site was very dated, and management was concerned that this was discouraging potential applicants from applying. They wanted to position themselves as a forward-thinking, technologically-savvy, and exciting place to work, and needed their website to reflect this. I worked with a team of three others to completely redesign and develop the Careers page, which would tell the story of life inside ATK, and invite prospects to apply for a job, and the About Us page, which describes the company's mission, introduces various members of the ATK team, and outlines their product offerings. The following details my contribution to the project.
Management, not being designers, was not especially articulate about what they were looking for. But my team was brought in to help them realize their vision, even if it wasn't yet a clear one. I began by conducting competitor analysis on forward-thinking, desirable companies to work for (a fellow team member determined which companies fit this description by polling Boston job seekers looking to work in the tech industry), including One Technologies, Huge, Uber, Fresh Tilled Soil, Lounge Lizard, and Spotify. For each of these companies, I evaluated their Jobs/Careers and About pages in order to ensure that my proposed designs would adhere to current industry standards, and be in keeping with what job seekers might find on other modern career sites.
The existing Careers page was a wall of text, and the few images and videos on the page were small thumbnails that opened new tabs to display full-sized images, rather than embedding them within the page. Inundating a user's browser with several new tabs is a bad user experience, and, additionally, this layout did little to showcase ATK's unique work environment and culture.
I identified several common themes from my research of other company's sites, which informed the first iteration of my redesign:
My first design incorporated these findings as follows:
We presented this basic wireframe to ATK staff, got feedback on the design from users (again, Boston-based job seekers looking to work in the tech industry), and incorporated suggestions from both groups into the next iteration.
This design was approved by the ATK team, with just a few formatting and cosmetic changes made later to keep the page consistent with the rest of the site.
I also proposed creating a background video to give potential applicants a sense of just how unique a work environment ATK offers. Because ATK produces television shows, they have vast archives of professionally-shot video, and I was given access to some of it. I then edited together a brief video (seen playing at the top of this page) which, after several rounds of re-edits, everyone agreed successfully conveyed the unique energy of the place.
Like the "Careers" page, the existing "About Us" page looked quite dated, and wasn't mobile friendly:
The page described ATK and its mission, and outlined its products. The updated page needed to add information about the executive staff, news items about ATK, social media information, press information, contact/support information, sponsorship contacts, affiliate program information, a newsletter signup, and a link to the Jobs page.
The first version of my design included these additional elements, and attempted to capture the feel of other tech companies' Jobs pages, in keeping with the goal of attracting high-quality job applicants:
Upon review of the design and user testing we found:
I then implemented these findings into the next iteration of the page design:
From this project, I learned a great deal about how to effectively work with clients who are not designers or web developers themselves. And for future projects, I have a better idea of how to tease out what clients are looking for, even when they might not be able to actually articulate what it is they want.
The main challenge was dealing with ambiguous direction, uncertainty, and conflicting messages and feedback from different ATK staff members. While one person might approve a layout or a particular cut of a video, another might want it redone, but then change their mind again and ask to revert to the previous version. And this is perfectly understandable—people's tastes change often, and project requirements shift over time. What I realized as the project progressed was that I needed to do a better job explaining and defending my design decisions, and be able to communicate clear justifications for each decision I made.
I was also responsible for actually coding the pages. I made the mistake of waiting for final approval on the designs, when I should have started coding much sooner, and updated the code as the site design was updated. Instead, I was rushed at the end of the project, and there were several changes requested even for the "final" design that we presented. My mistake was thinking that a final, "perfect" product was the goal, when I should have thought of the product as something that would continuously evolve, as gradual improvements and minor changes to the pages would continue to be made long after we handed them off to ATK's staff.