Redesigning a brand for an open source community is a rare opportunity. See how we approached the website to bring their ecommerce platform out of obscurity and into the big league to rub shoulders with industry giants.
Stembolt is an engineering company coding ecommerce websites for companies around the world. They build on an open-source ecommerce platform called Solidus, of which a handful of developers from their team are full time core contributors.
The Stembolt team hired us to define Solidus’ messaging, branding and to create a new website for the Solidus open source community so their platform could have a fresh look that would appeal to multimillion dollar ecommerce companies. With our audience hats on, we set to work to position Solidus in the best light possible.
Side note: Normally in our line of work there is a very clear line between who is hiring us and the direct benefit they receive. Of course, working with an open source community doesn’t follow that pattern. When there’s a culture where no one owns everything and everyone is sharing resources, the fact that Stembolt was willing to fund this redesign meant we were working on something their team truly believed in.
Targeting a balance.
Born of a community of developers, the existing Solidus website did a fantastic job of catering to coders, but it missed the decision makers who ultimately make the final choice of platform. Our job was to present Solidus as an option that would appeal to decision makers so Solidus could compete with the other big platforms like Magento and WooCommerce.
After all, the platform had the guts, support and the right price (free). It just needed a compelling presentation that appealed to both audiences while maintaining the culture of open source. If we went too far to the corporate side, developers would run the other way!
An exercise in empathy.
We started with a deep dive into all things ecommerce to complete the messaging guide for Solidus. Where did their platform fit into the competitive landscape? What would allow them to stand out? Our content director spent a number of days working from their office, interviewing key personnel and soaking up the culture of open source developers.
During this process we noticed that there were vastly different ecommerce platform pain points for developers and decision makers. While a decision maker may be frustrated by the money they’re dumping into their own in-house ecommerce solution, developers are frustrated by the overwhelming number of feature requests they’re swimming in to keep the store running smoothly.
What if we showed both sides of the equation so each audience could understand the other side and see how Solidus provides solutions for everyone? This way developers could feel understood, and decision makers could see how Solidus is the best solution from a business perspective.
Branding shoutout: While our copy team was focusing on messaging, our branding team dove in to discover the best logo, typography and colour palette for Solidus. The task was to infuse some personality and character into the brand without going too far to the wild side. Remember the hidden FedEx arrow in their logo? See if you can find the credit card in the new Solidus logo!
A change of perspective.
In the end, we decided to incorporate a perspective toggle along the length of the homepage that would allow the user to switch between decision makers and developers and their respective pain point and Solidus solutions.
Throughout the rest of the website we were careful to balance our two audiences with social proof that would appeal to both too. Competitors like Shopify or Magento had the resources and content to create limitless case studies and compelling content, but due to the non-funded, open source nature of Solidus, we had to think further outside the box.
For the decision makers, we were somewhat limited to logos and testimonials from ecommerce stores building on Solidus. But for developers, we highlighted the activity of the community on GitHub with a live commit feed and short bios for the full time core contributors. This social proof along with the pain point solutions for each audience gave Solidus the profile it needed to compete in the high end market.
Unique illustration styles and colour palettes working together with light, interactive movements that were both unexpected and informative helped create a brand that wasn’t overly corporate, but that still conveyed a sense of professionalism that would appeal to decision makers.
- WEB + MOBILE
The Moral of the Story:
Mind your messaging.
The best part of this project was that we were able to work on the messaging and branding of Solidus before touching the website redesign. There’s no point in sitting down with a paintbrush until you know what you’re trying to communicate. Starting with messaging was able to give us a solid understanding of where Solidus sits in the market and how to position them competitively. From there, everything else followed.
“I really enjoyed the messaging guide process that we went through to land on the core positioning for the Solidus platform. It was nice to collaborate with a strong, local team who clearly went above and beyond to keep our audience top of mind and lead with strategy in their work.”- Sean Taylor, Cofounder of Stembolt
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