Even for experts, some projects don’t go as expected, which our e recently undertook the redesign and development of our website. Focusing on our own site, which is easy to lose sight of amid client projects, came with its fair share of challenges and some of them were a real surprise. However, all projects are learning experiences, and this one gave us some valuable insights we want to share with you.

An Internal Website Redesign and Development Project Was Born

After recently completing a “brand-refresh” we determined the agency website was the most logical place to apply it. We also decided to take this opportunity to revisit the site’s user experience and also explore new tools and platforms. First, our Manager of Creative Operations, Corey O’Rourke, hit the drawing board and came up with new design concepts for the website.

D2 Creative former website homepage.
D2 Creative new website designs, homepage and interior site pages.

The two web screens depicted in the image (to the right) shows our website’s new, updated designs that were implemented. Compare that new design to the old design that was on our website’s homepage (to the left).

The two web screens depicted in the image (bottom) shows our website’s new, updated designs that were implemented. Compare that new design to the old design that was on our website’s homepage (top).

Our Typical Web Development Approach

Next up, the technical approach. Dan Eckles, the lead developer, opted to build a fully custom “theme” rather than use an off-the-shelf theme or template. This choice was made so the site could support all of the impressive and complex UI interactions the design team included in the new design. This custom approach is often our preferred choice for websites that we develop at D2 Creative. As Dan Eckels says: “We build custom themes for virtually every client project; we generally avoid pre-built options promising a quick solution.” We believe this approach results in a more stable site that is easier to manage because it gives the administrator more granular control.

From the CMS standpoint, we stuck with WordPress. However, we decided to utilize one of the more popular page builders available today, Elementor. While this was mostly an effort to update our site, we took the R&D opportunity to see what the limits of this page builder plugin are.

We learned A Few Things Developing the New Website

We soon found that Elementor, while a powerful tool, has its share of limitations, especially in the context of the user experience and design approach we envisioned.

Here are some of our findings:

  • Page builders don’t always save time – Depending on the amount of tweaking you need to get things exactly the way you want them a page builder might just increase the work effort. And if you need to “hack” the plugin to achieve the effect you want it will require even more time.
  • Might not be so mobile-friendly – Page builders like Elementor have their own way of dealing with mobile views.
  • The extra code added by a page builder can reduce page speed – Because plugins have associated code needed to function they can negatively affect page speeds and the time it takes for pages to load. This can impact both site visitors and site editors.
  • Hard-coded styling options limit flexibility – This means that you may have to add custom styles to pages and content if the hard-coded options aren’t aligned with your designs. Elementor, for example, only has an option for adding 2 color gradients. As result, we had to go back to the drawing board to redesign pages to accommodate this (instead of sticking with our original “3-color gradient” design).
  • Plugins on WordPress need regular updates – In order to function properly and remain secure plugins are regularly updated. Every additional plugin you add increases the likelihood of introduced bugs when updated. This can result in your site breaking. So, if you don’t need a page builder, it is probably best not to use one.
  • Training is required – Editing content with page builders will take time to learn. If you have a team of publishers that aren’t used to the technology, they will have to research and experiment in order to effectively use the tool.

Our Final Thoughts on Using Page Builders for Publishing

The decision to use a page builder is a choice that should be made on a case-by-case basis. In website development, there is no “one size fits all” approach. If you are building a small website or landing page with a simple layout, a page builder might make the most sense. But as the website grows in size or design complexity a custom theme is probably the best choice.

Making the right technology choice early on helps to ensure that you hit the ground running when the site launches. Considering who will be using your site (both externally and internally) is imperative for choosing a development approach that truly works. There will be times when the off-the-shelf solution is perfect for your needs, but you have to be mindful of the limitations of that solution, and how they may make modifying the site in the future more challenging.

The pandemic presented (and continues to present) a myriad of challenges for businesses, but staying agile can lead to new and more innovative solutions. A recent example is also a personal one, with the recent addition of fully remote video shoots to our video production toolbox.

From Frustration to Innovation

Just before the start of the pandemic, our team was ready to produce interview-style content for one of our longtime clients, IEEE EMBS. However, COVID made the process a lot more complicated, and routine video shoots quickly became anything but.

With travel restrictions and lockdowns in place, flying our crew and equipment out to interviewees became out of the question. We needed to find a way to do things remotely, but how could we keep the finished video looking professional and polished, not a choppy, blurry Zoom recording?

We quickly put together equipment kits, which we mailed to interviewees. We also researched higher-quality video capture alternatives and put processes in place to help interviewees set up everything on their own. We were able to produce video of the quality that IEEE EMBS needed, and now had new remote video production capabilities and technologies we could leverage with all of our clients.

Finding the Silver Lining

When the tried-and-true way of making video content for clients was suddenly not an option, we discovered a way of shooting them that, in some scenarios, is even better.

As challenging as this dilemma was, solving it lead to a video production tool that could help far beyond its original need. Video shoots with clients around the world can be extremely expensive given the time and cost of travel. But with our remote recording kits, what used to take weeks can be done in as little as a few days.

All it took for us to find out how was a push out of our comfort zone.

Here’s the big takeaway: In every challenge your company faces, there are opportunities for growth you wouldn’t otherwise see. Whether it’s difficulties specifically related to the pandemic, or something more general, taking a step back and examining how to turn difficult situations into innovative solutions is a major part of how companies grow.

Opened kit - The interviewee receives a kit in the mail with all necessary equipment.
The interviewee receives a kit in the mail with all necessary equipment.
Interviewee being recorded - After an easy setup, the interview can begin.
After an easy setup, the interview can begin.
Technician running interview - We capture high-quality images and sound from virtually anywhere.
We capture high-quality images and sound from virtually anywhere.

Can You Tell the Difference?

I’ve got a challenge for you. Watch just one of the dozens of videos we produced for IEEE EMBS during the pandemic. Can you tell that it wasn’t shot by an on-site film crew?

We take pride in our ability to solve problems, both for ourselves and our clients. You can read more about how our challenges with IEEE EMBS remote shoots turned into a new and exciting innovation for our video team in our recent case study. Or, browse some of our other stories of how we’ve helped our clients solve more digital marketing issues.

Google Just Launched its Newest Campaign Type: Performance Max

Marketers are used to selecting the ad formats and channels for campaigns in Google Ads. However, if you want to run Search ads and Display ads, you need to make two separate campaigns and split your budget accordingly. With the recent launch of Google’s Performance Max, those days are over.

Instead of having to select and build separate campaigns for specific ad formats, Performance Max ads are shown in every channel Google is able to target within one campaign, including Search, Shopping, YouTube, Display, Discover, Gmail, and Maps.

What Are the Benefits of a Performance Max Campaign?

To start, it’s much easier to build one Performance Max Campaign than it is to create and monitor multiple campaigns by ad format or channel. You simply create one campaign and upload all your copy, images, and videos to that campaign.

The real benefit comes from expanding your audience pool to include all of Google’s channels and networks, not just the ones you specifically select. This can help you find more converting customers from places you might not have expected.

Finally, as marketers, we understand the frustration that can come with trying to crack Google’s algorithm. Most experts estimate that Google changes its search algorithm around 500-600 times each year.

Whether you’re building an audience segment or optimizing a landing page for search, it can feel like a constant struggle to get it right so that you’re able to reach the right audience at the right time. Performance Max campaigns hand Google the reins, allowing it to use its real-time understanding of customer intents and preferences. Basically, you’re letting the algorithm do the heavy lifting for you.

Performance Max Campaign Assets and Specifications

Here are the assets you can include in your Google Performance Max campaign:

Text

  • 3-5 headlines (30 characters max; include one with 15 or less)
  • 1-5 long headlines (90 characters max)
  • 2-5 descriptions (90 characters max; include one with 60 or less)


Image

  • 1-20 landscape images (1.91:1)
  • 1-20 square images (1:1)
  • 0-20 portrait images (4:5)
  • 1-5 square logos (1:1)
  • 0-5 landscape logos (4:1)


Video

  • 0-5 horizontal, vertical, or square videos, at least 10 seconds long


You’ll notice that some assets (like headlines, company logo, etc.) are mandatory, but others (like video) can be omitted if you don’t have content available.

These specifications may change, so check Google Ads documentation for the most current information before you create your assets.

What are the Drawbacks of a Google Performance Max Campaign?

When building a campaign in Google Ads, one of the first steps is to select campaign advertising and conversion goals, respectively. This helps the Google algorithm better predict to whom to serve the ads based on the actions that person is most likely to take.

Should your ads have different campaign goals, know that Google will only allow you to select one objective per campaign. For example, if you’re planning to increase website traffic using Search ads, build brand awareness using Display ads, and get leads using YouTube ads, a Performance Max campaign might not be the right choice.

Lastly, if you already have a number of Google Ad campaigns up and running, it’s possible that a Performance Max campaign could cannibalize existing campaigns and cause their performance to suffer if you’re not properly prepared.

Ready to Create a Campaign?

Google Performance Max campaign can increase ad reach and find more customers where they are, but at a cost of some control. To set your Performance Max campaigns up for success, check out Google’s best practices guide or ask your digital ad agency for some assistance. D2 Creative is a certified Google Ads Partner.