Redesigning the Fourth Wall Content website

Redesigning the Fourth Wall Content website

In April 2021 I founded Fourth Wall Content. As I approached the two year anniversary of the company, I wanted to redesign the website to better reflect the work I do, the people and organisations I work with and to bring together my thinking on all things content.

I’ve previously written about how it went from being a blog idea to a business within two weeks. Then within two months of being a sole trader, it became a limited company. What has followed has been two of the most rewarding, satisfying and enjoyable years of my career. I was busy with client work, family life, learning how to run a business, trying to keep up with an ever-changing industry and figuring out exactly what I wanted Fourth Wall Content to be. So the task of redesigning my website kept slipping down the list of priorities.

I created the first website for the business entirely by myself. I created the brand identity (only four dots, but that has a story and meaning of its own), designed and built the site using and figured out hosting and domains which was a relatively new world for me. Aside from minor content changes here and there, the site stayed the same for almost two years and for a long time, it was fine, until it wasn't.

Where the old site was working

The site served its purpose at the time I created it. It was a place where people could understand the work I was aiming to do. At that point I didn’t have much experience under Fourth Wall Content so it leaned heavily into my past experience and my aspirations for the company, which I was figuring out as I went and as I took on more work.

It was a digital presence so I had something, it was a way to say a bit about my skills and experience and for people to contact me. The design was relatively simple and I worked as best I could with an off the shelf template from Wix. I was happy to have a minimal colour pallete, only a few pages, and a clean design that gave prominence to the content - a must have given the line of work I'm in and the services I was promoting. Here's how it looked:

A snippet of how the old Fourth Wall Content homepage looked with the company name and logo, navigation, main headline, image of Robert Mills and supporting content with a link. The colours are teal and dark grey on a white page.

I could update the content as I needed and was using Unsplash for free images and Duotone to achieve consistency in style and colour across imagery. It was never perfect but it was pretty ideal for my abilities, time and needs.

At it's essence I was able to mention that I had taken steps into self employment and the site was a way of showng that. I always knew I would come back to the site, but I never expected it to be two years later. Hurrah for being so busy with client work.

Where the old site wasn’t working

In the beginning I focused on content strategy, content creation and content marketing as my main services. I very quickly found myself working as a content strategist or content designer on projects and there was a focus on content operations throughout my work too. That meant the website quickly became inaccurate. I could change the content to reflect my work but the fundamental structure of the site and reliance on templates I hadn't designed, and didn't have the time to customise more, meant that it even small changes took a lot of time or were like painting over cracks.

My content was being influenced by the design and gaps in my own skills, like on this part of the old services page:

A section of the old services page on the Fourth Wall Content website. Three columns represent three services with an icon at the top of each in teal,  title and a description with a bullet list. The icons are a target for content strategy, a pencil for content writing and a megaphone for content operations.

There wasn't enough of a design style to work with for presentations and to develop the brand, the blog typeface wasn't very legible no matter which one I used. It just didn't seem professional enough anymore.

I stopped sharing the site as it never felt like it was good enough. I was getting frustrated with the site and it slowed my enthusiasm for publishing articles on there. It wasn't terrible, but I knew it could and should be better.

Goals for the new site

After almost two years I really understood what Fourth Wall Content was and what I wanted it to continue to be and apsire to. I had enough projects and clients to have examples and evidence of the services I was offering. So it was time for a redesign. I'd already been thinking about a new site so had the goals firmly in mind when I made the decision to commit to changing the site. My immediate goals were:

  • replatform the site for more control and so it was easier to update
  • work with a designer and developer so I could have content templates that met my needs
  • introduce a more varied colour palette and usable design style
  • retain the brand identity but evolve it to better suit the business values, tone and style now it was more established
  • include clients and testimonials to share the work I've done and showcase the amazing people and teams I work with
  • have a blog that made me want to write more
  • find a way to share all the articles, podcasts and events I've done in my content career

The new site achieves all of those goals and there are also longer term goals for additional work on the site where eventually I aim to add:

  • ecommerce functionality
  • a video library
  • case studies of my project work

I was developing and noting the goals across the two years so I was also preparing for a redesign even if it was a bit scrappy and ad-hoc when I remembered to jot ideas down. Before I reached out to a designer and developer I more formally wrote down the goals and a project brief with my own content strategy, business goals and audience firmly in mind.

Using experts and playing to strengths

I knew that I needed expert help or else any second version of the site would likely be better but still not meet all of my needs. As soon as I was ready to get the ball rolling I contacted Superhero Studios, a designer and developer duo who I've known for a long time and worked with previously. Zach (designer) and Laura (developer) from Superhero Studios had done a lot of work for me in a previous job. I knew their style, work ethic and I just like them loads too - they're great people and make things easy and clear. They also bring a lot of their own ideas and that's exactly what I wanted in terms of design. I had to concentrate on the content, of course. A side note that writing for and about yourself will always be the hardest content challenge there is!

Within a few emails the work was agreed and I fully trusted them to design and build a site that would tick off my goals. And that they did. Aside from a few minor changes, the site we published isn't far off from the first visual they shared. Here's part of the new homepage:

The homepage of the Fourth Wall Contenr website showing a logo and navigation, and a heading overlayed on a Venn diagram of biege, purple and green which reads in black 'Content strategy, design and operations' with a subheading underneath in dark green that reads 'Strategic conten services.'

My highlights from the new look of the site are:

  • a larger colour palette giving me more to work with on presentations, social posts and other content too
  • a blog that has a magazine like style and better presents images, quotes and headings
  • prominent testimonials that include a photo of the client too
  • an improved logo and more legible typeface
  • how my past guest articles, podcast episodes and conference talks can be included
  • a way to make images consistent using brand coloured overlays

Here's an example of the testimonials:

A testimonial from Patrick Stafford from UX Content Collective about Robert Mills that reads 'Rob is a rare combination: excellent at his craft, and an absolute pleasure to work with. Don't pass up a chance to work with him'

This is a section of the client summaries on the services page. I love how Zach designed the content I sent him and kept it simple but also looking great and really creating a solid and more defined brand style for Fourth Wall Content.

Four different coloured boxes, two on top of two, each containing a company logo and written summary of the work completed by Fourth Wall Content, with links where appropriate.

On the replatforming side, the new site is now on Webflow, a CMS I have used before and one that Zach and Laura are experts in. My highlights in terms of the development work and CMS side of things are:

  • being able to change every bit of content across the whole site from headings to button copy
  • testimonials that automatically change at regular intervals
  • ability to choose a featured article on the blog
  • the overall ease of Webflow and the fact it has been built around my content

Zach and Laura understood my goals and they achieved those in a way far beyond anything I could have imagined.

A future-proofed site for Fourth Wall Content

I'm really proud of the new site and the way it represents me, my work and the company itself. It feels like the right balance of including past achievements and content along with current work and aspirations too. I've got exciting plans for Fourth Wall Content and the new site is a solid foundation for putting those into practice. I have confidence the new site can grow as it needs to while being consistent where appropriate. I can focus on the content itself knowing the design and tech side is taken care of. It's also nice to have a site where I can showcase and give a nod to all of the fantastic people, teams and organisations I have worked with and continue to work with. The last two years have been a steep learning curve and the story of Fourth Wall Content includes far more people than just me. The new site is the latest chapter in that story and there's lots more to come.

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