centernorth launched

Last month, we were contacted by Sharon Horowitz, who needed her website redesigned so she could launch her new business—CENTERNORTH—which is a technology and infotech advisory service (CIO and other C-level executive coaching, business strategy, leadership development, partnership services, and more). She had already spent lots of time and money with one of those web-based companies (Lo ... rks—and by web-based I mean they never actually meet clients face-to-face) that design a logo for you and for a lot more money, will also design a website for you.

I always thought this particular company did decent work, at least on logos, until Sharon showed me what they’d come up with. A logo with a really weak, calligraphic font with a swoosh no less. A really crappy website—the colors were good, but the only images I liked where the ones created with her mother’s artwork, but paired with some strange smoke stuff that in no way complemented the original paintings that were used. It was in no way standards-compliant and the tabbed navigation didn’t line up properly—very odd. The content was all in, but with loads of typos and weird spacings and mystery characters. The site looked dark and heavy, even though there was white space, it just wasn’t balanced. And there was no way to add to the site without having to re-do the coding (the navigation structure was weird, anyway, and not really appropriate).

But what was good is that most of the content was written, which is 75% of the battle in getting a site up.

We met Dr. Horowitz at a coffee shop and talked about what she had in mind, how she likes a more minimal look, and she later sent me more examples of the look that pleases her. Which is a look I happen to like a great deal. Since the company is a start-up, essentially (experienced team members who’ve worked together before, but not necessarily under the umbrella of one consultancy), the site needed to be easily scalable to add more topics, news, clients, and case studies; plus they needed a way to easily add new content as they built out the resources section.

So, of course, it made sense to use a content management system and, of course, the best one for the job is Expression Engine—that’s what we used. We have more content to get in, for the resources section. I love the art on this site, and I love the airiness. I thought about a background treatment, some brushwork or a good pattern, but the artwork is so strong I think anything else would just make it look too busy. Maybe not, but I like how it turned out without it. The content is also interesting, the case studies and research. I’m looking forward to reading the other papers that are going up over the next few days. All in all, it was very easy to work with Sharon on this site—I’m glad she had a strong vision for what she wanted as it made it much easier to put together. I know there will be some twitching and tweaking over the next few days, but the cms makes that fairly easy. It’s going to be fascinating to see how the business, and the site, evolves over the next few years.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/30/07 at 03:00 AM
  1. What a beautiful site!  I just loved it.  Eye-catching but most of all serene and a total feeling that this business can be trusted.

    Clever and beautiful!

    Posted by mary bishop  on  01/30  at  02:35 PM
  2. Looks very nice - kudos!

    I wonder, though: why, exactly, is Expression Engine the best CMS for the job?  Was it vetted against other CMS packages?  If so, why EE instead of others?

    Just curious, as the site looks quite spiffy.

    Posted by Rudi Riet  on  01/30  at  07:25 PM
  3. Rudi, over the past couple of years I’ve looked at a lot of different CMS packages—mostly packages that began life as blogging tools as these are the affordable ones. I even kicked the tires of a couple doing other installations (WordPress, TextPattern, Movable Type).

    My criteria are: the admin interface is fairly easy for a website owner to use, the backend build has to be easy for us to figure out, there has to be a lot of support, it has to be extendable, and it has to be affordable.

    Expression Engine fits the bill—it’s affordable, it’s easy for clients to use with just a bit of training (talk-throughs via the phone), support is astoundingly good, it’s extendable so that if you need it to do something that’s outside of the box you can, it’s customizable, it’s database-driven, it provides features built in (like search, mailing list tools, mass-mailing to your list tools, spam protection, etc.), and it makes it very easy to scale up or down.

    Did I say support is superb?

    I dabble in other cms packages as they come to my attention—what if there is something even better out there? WordPress would be my second choice, but as far as I can tell, it doesn’t do as much as EE. TextPattern was a nightmare to figure out (I initially did the now-defunct CT ChoiceVoice in TextPattern) with little user support. I’ve been using EE more and more successfully for a couple of years now and have learned quite a few tricks and ways of doing things and am still learning new stuff to apply as it evolves.

    Is EE perfect? Nope—there are still some irritating things such as the way it handles daylight savings time (not very well at all). Is it the best one out there that’s even remotely affordable for micro-businesses and start-ups? Absolutely. Is it overkill for some purposes? No—because you can turn off stuff you don’t need.

    Is there a freebie version to learn on? Yes—EE Core, absolutely free, though it doesn’t have the gallery or mailing list modules but is robust enough to whet your appetite for the real deal (which comes in two flavors: commercial and non-commercial—same package, different purposes).

    If you know of any others I should look at, please let me know—I’m always on the lookout ...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/30  at  07:59 PM
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