At The Bike Project, we refurbish old bikes and give them away for free to refugees in London. To fund our work, we sell some of our secondhand bikes to bargain-hunting cyclists all over the country.
It sounds like a simple model, but our old website was creaking under the strain and we were long overdue a refurb.
Launching a beautiful new website, with beautiful new branding is a ridiculously complicated undertaking and we learnt a gazillion things in the year-long process – but here are five that you can use to save yourself time, money and plenty of heartache.
1. Rebranding can be daunting, but go for it!
We were fond of our old branding – it was friendly and homespun. Like us. Rebranding sounded like a big, expensive thing to do. But the old logo was a bit, well, spindly. Most often white, on a baby-blue background and often unreadable, both online and off.
Plus, our website straddled two platforms – half on Shopify, half on WordPress – and the split personality was giving us regular migraines. We desperately needed to bring it all together. However daunting, it was the right time for a facelift and we’re delighted with the results.
2. If you don’t ask…
If you have seen branding and design work that you really rate, seek out the designers and talk to them. You never know: they might have charity rates, or even offer to work pro-bono.
We never expected such generosity, but the lovely Emma at Junction Studio offered to design us a new logo because she liked the work we were doing. She also knew that her team would enjoy the challenge of playing around with something a bit different to their day-to-day work.
Don’t underestimate the power of being interesting! They came up with four cool designs, we chose our favourite and – voila! – we’ve got a bright, fresh and cleanly scrubbed face to show the world.
3. Figure out how to walk the tightrope.
As a charity with an online shop, we had a tricky tightrope to walk when designing our website.
Because we sell refurbished secondhand bikes to fund our work with refugees, we actually have quite a lot in common with a regular e-commerce business. Our website needs to work hard to convert visitors into customers – but without ignoring our other key audiences: refugees, cash donors, bike donors and volunteers.
After much debate, we committed to building our new site entirely on Shopify and to focus on selling bikes to fund our core charitable work.
It’s a tough tightrope to walk, and really rewards careful consideration from the outset of the project. We’re happy with where we got to, but we will keep tracking, testing and improving to make sure we offer the best possible service to everyone.
4. Tech is your friend – just make sure all your tech friends play nicely together.
We engaged a freelance UX designer to work through user journeys and wireframing with us. Then we used a Shopify agency to build the new theme for the site.
There is something to be said for using the same agency to design and build, but by focussing on cooperation and communication, our split approach was a success.
Our developers asked us to run the project on Basecamp (other project management software is available….) which was super helpful at pulling all our various contractors, freelancers and employees into the workflow.
Shopify has numerous apps and integrations that we are using to enhance our e-commerce experience – from how product information is managed, to how donors find where to donate their old bikes. As well as Shopify, we use Salesforce and it was absolutely essential that all our systems could talk to each other so that everything runs as smoothly as possible.
Don’t just cross your fingers and pray!
5. When you’re stuck, ask for help.
We learnt a gazillion things during this process. We learnt all of this thanks to the generosity, patience and kindness of dozens of people who had been through the wringer before us.
There are so many other comms bods lurking out there with experience to share. Even if you haven’t got a big team, it’s easy to reach out for advice. I found the Third Sector PR & Comms Facebook group invaluable for this, particularly as my background is in the commercial sector.
Believe me, whatever it is that you’re going through, hundreds if not thousands of others have been through it before you. Find them and ask them for help!
From all of us at The Bike Project, we hope that these words of advice have been helpful – and if you’ve ever got a bike going spare, you know where to send it!