Redesigning our website. Travelstart stories 22/30

 

Back in
2005 I was sitting in South African waiting for my Swedish development team to
deliver something I could release in South Africa. We were already half a year late
and if I had known that it would take as longs as it did I would have decided
on doing something different. But anyway here I was.

I met a guy
who ran this new media shop developi.jpgng designs and websites for established
companies and start-ups. I had recently bought a luxury chocolate shop for my
sister and it needed some brand and design work, so I asked this person to come
up with some ideas.

I loved the
pi.jpgtch and bought the design works from the team. Being a sucker for good design
I fell in love with the people that did the work. As days, week and months went
by I figured that perhaps we should do something completely different when
launching in South Africa. After all our web pages was the same since 2000 and
I was tired of the same gloomy colours and pi.jpgctures. It bored me to death.

So I asked
the designers if they would be interested in joining me as employee #1 and #2
in our newly founded venture Travelstart South Africa. It didn’t take much to
convince them.

The design
work started and after a week or so they pi.jpgtched me their new idea. It was
terrible. The website looked like Schiphol airport. Damian the UX man told me
the underlying rationale behind the idea and I understood that I probably gave
them the wrong idea on what this company is about.

I told them
it’s about people and I need something WOW!

A week or
so later I got a completely different pi.jpgtch, which was about exactly – people
and WOW.  I asked them to continue
work with the sketches. Meanwhile we moved into a small office space of perhaps
10 sqm or even less. We had a monumental view over Cape Town and Table Mountain.
Here we planned the next website and the move to our next office, Avalon.

The design
work took some six months and covered everything from booking flow for air, and
blogs, my account pages and several other sections that we never launched. Other
sections of the website like hotels, cars and matrix presentations were all
added later.

Our strategy
was to first launch the new website in South Africa and then roll out in the
other countries. The website was launched in July/August of 2006 in South
Africa. The positive thing about the delay was that the South African market
had matured somewhat in the meantime. I had had time to understand the market
and launch a much bigger scope than was originally planned.

It is hard
to manage artistic people, but having worked with musicians for ten years I had
some experience. There were often were clashes between commercial, design and development.
My experience is that commercial must always go first but it’s easy to quench
the artistic drive if you’re not careful, which is exactly what we did as the
company and complexity grew. Sad.

We still to
this day use the same designers who now have set up their own successful
business.

Our design
and user experience is appreciated all over the world and not a week goes by
without people contacting me for using our technology. They all fall in love
with the clean lines and the colours and it really has nothing to do with the underlying
technology.

Design and
user experience will always be at the core for Travelstart because of Anne
Sophie and Damian.

The luxury
chocolate store was closed down only a couple of months after the pi.jpgtch. My
sister got bored and the designs were unfortunately never used.

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