The Other Wes Moore

Designing TheOtherWesMoore.com

I’ve had the pleasure of being involved early on with author, scholar, and speaker Wes Moore as he was developing his idea for the powerful book The Other Wes Moore and the personal site that would host the book: TheOtherWesMoore.com.  Brainstorming with Wes and developing a myriad of ideas, a number of specifics bubbled to the surface.  Wes was extremely flexible in allowing us to the freedom to make the most of it. We had discussions about his priorities for the site and how we could develop an appropriate solution. His goals were to inform, inspire, and connect.

The Basics

After discussions with Wes and editors from Random House, we decided that WordPress would be ideal for the site.  We also planned for Wes to enter the wild world of blogging and to integrate Twitter, Facebook, email campaigns, Google Analytics, and good old fashioned word o’ mouth.  As we began designing mockups and discussing various ideas, Wes had been contacted by producers at Harpo (Oprah Winfrey’s production company) to be a guest for show. We quickly prioritized the site performance as the site was expected to be deluged by visitors.

The Early Versions

Within the first day of the project we had lined up the setup and configuration of his domain name, email address, and basic security settings.  Soon thereafter we had launched the first simple and basic version of the site teaser which held a preview of the book and an email capture form.  At this stage, little of the book had been finalized other than the book name and parts of the cover, so we rendered digital versions in Photoshop to help with layout and giving visitors an idea of what to expect when the book would be finally published. And then we began the process of building upon WordPress with a custom theme.

The Experiment

The beauty of the book was the variety of subject materials and thus the variety of approaches to the entire site.  We wanted to the site to vary somewhat based on the content of each page and rather than have the assets for the site flow from a content management system into the exact same page layout every time, we used hooks into WordPress to have different pages flow based on the needs of the content. Thus, the Press & Appearances page looks different vs. the home page vs. the About The Author page vs. the Elevate blog homepage. Some of the different layouts are below:

Barnes-Noble-Event-5-26-2010-_-The-Other-Wes-Moore

The Secret Sauce

In addition to the extensive work customizing WordPress and the design for the site, an entirely different and starker format was designed for the blog to give it a life unto its own.  The ELEVATE blog was designed with high contrast, easy readability, elegant typography, and a wash of negative space.  In addition, we built upon some great free and open source plugins for gallery and slideshow display with the blog posts.  A screenshot is shown to in the gallery above and you can view the live post here. We also generated a simple email template to help Wes in his publicity for the book and its many charitable causes.  We turned around a concept into a full working template deployed via Campaign Monitor.  You can see the thumbnail with a link to an image of the full size version in the gallery above. Lastly, we A/B multivariate testing (via Google Analytics) was used during traffic spikes to optimize the site for the most successful clickthroughs to the site Order page while maintaining the site’s aesthetic balance.

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