Project Case Study

Clarinox, Sending a clear signal - Case study written by RMIT

Background

Clarinox is a company specialising in wireless technology. The company had built its own website when it launched in 2001, and additions had been made on an ad hoc basis since then, resulting in a site that was untidy and confusing. The site was also heavy with technical terms, and was difficult for a non-technical person to understand. This was an obstacle to Clarinox’s business development because the site was often not comprehensible to business managers with the financial power to engage the company’s services. As Clarinox is a company that works with IT it was important that its website present a professional image and display technical competence.

Design Brief

The main tasks confronting NeoPurple was to restructure the site and give it a new look, while catering for different users and making the text less intimidating. The brief was a broad one, and packed with subtle challenges. The site had to be informative enough for engineers with a high degree of software literacy, while being accessible to nontechnical people. It required a look that was clean and professional, without being too dry. And it would need to explain what Clarinox does, clearly and succinctly.

NeoPurple sat down with Clarinox’s team to brainstorm ideas. Questions that were addressed included what Clarinox does, who was their target market, would the website cater for new and regular visitors, and what Clarinox wanted visitors to do when they used the site. NeoPurple came up with ideas that were eventually incorporated into the site, while other features were developed collaboratively.

NeoPurple’s approach was to pare back the information and make it flow better, using a less-is more philosophy. The target audience was divided into two sectors, engineers and managers, with separate messages and language to be developed for each. It was decided that each sector would be targeted directly via panels on the homepage. NeoPurple suggested that the nature of Clarinox’s business could most easily be communicated graphically, via an animated illustration on the homepage.

Graphics

Clarinox described their business as the creation of the ‘the intelligence inside the machine’. The eureka moment came when the NeoPurple team came up with the term ‘digital intelligence’ as a tagline …the idea that drove the approach, as it was thought to appeal to hardware and software developers, and to business managers alike.

The design incorporated a green textured surface resembling a blackboard with rough chalk markings and a clean white circuit diagram. As the site loads, an animated graphic begins to move through the circuit, first resembling a sound wave, then a set of binary code, and finally an electronic impulse. As the impulse reaches the end of the circuit, it points to a space where an android-like human head appears with a series of circuit boards or microchips whooshing up through it.

The graphic represents a one-step solution to the problem of describing Clarinox’s business. The challenge was to represent the cross between hardware, software and firmware in addition to RF and wireless technology. The blackboard adds a balancing tactile element to a site that is otherwise stark and scientific. A section of the blackboard including the circuitry diagram is featured at the top of all but one of the other pages, giving the site a visual  consistency.

Text

The homepage features three introduction boxes, two of which target key audiences. The first, titled ‘What we do’, is aimed at engineers, and links through to a single page of information about the company’s capabilities and products. The second box, titled ‘Why us?’ is aimed at managers and links to a page with the headline ‘…’to get to market quicker’. The page emphasises Clarinox’s ability to provide products that service markets quickly, putting clients ahead of the competition in the fast-changing world of IT. The third box, titled ‘What’s New?’ leads to a page that lists news about Clarinox and contains links to white papers and discussion forums. These elements give a touch of softness to a site that by its nature needs to be scientific and dry. The site has a techie feel with an edge of humanness – the round edges take the hard edges off and the drop shadows give a floating feel and a bit of depth.

The colour scheme was based on Clarinox’s business stationery, using greens and whites to create a sense of cool efficiency, with sparing use of an orange-tinged red for page headers. White is the predominating colour, creating a lab feel, but softened by graduated greys and subtle borders. With the main messages about the company’s role and competencies made easily accessible on the homepage and introductory pages, the heavier technical information is kept out of obvious view on pages labelled ‘Products’, ‘Services’, ‘Support’, Downloads’ and ‘Case Studies’. These pages are nevertheless accessible from anywhere on the site via a conventional lineup of links at the top of each page. Although the site was reasonably complex to build, navigation is simple and logical. The ‘What’s New’ section is a readymade place for Clarinox to add new information to the site, in a space that’s accessible from the homepage.

Clarinox uses the ‘What’s New’ section to post its own white papers, which other system developers can comment on. Clarinox has found that this has allowed the start of an online community, both by generating dialogue within the industry and by giving visitors a reason to come back to the site.

Application Builder

To address the problem of information overload, NeoPurple came up with the idea of an application builder. Accessed via a graphic on the homepage, the device is essentially a questionnaire which begins by asking what type of wireless system the client wishes to build - for example mobile computing, smart warehouse, automatic meter reading or digital signage. The client then navigates through four more steps, at each stage using a drop down menu to choose an operating system, a processor, a wireless technology and a hardware configuration. By clicking on the ‘Next’ button at the bottom of the page, the client accesses an email page, enabling them to send their enquiry to Clarinox.

By using drop down menus the page eliminates the need for long, confusing lists of system configurations. Instead, the user is presented with a logical sequence that is clean looking and easy to navigate. The graphics on the page distinguish it from the other, information-based pages on the site. The blackboard runs across the top of the page but instead of a circuitry diagram it uses a line graphic suggesting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, adding a playful explanatory element.

To the left of the application builder, another blackboard contains tabbed boxes similar to those on the homepage but configured to resemble a flow chart. The text in the boxes reflects the sequence of steps used by the application builder, reinforcing the logic and simplicity of the device. Rather than alienating the user with surplus information, the application builder serves as a call to action, motivating the client to contact the company with an enquiry that can be handled quickly and easily.

Content Management

While Clarinox had originally wanted the entire site to be built by NeoPurple, it was agreed it would be better to create a series of templates that Clarinox could then populate with its own copy.

Clarinox are very pleased with the flexibility of the system. Although it meant more work for Clarinox at the time, the incorporation of a Content Management System (CMS) means that Clarinox can upload fresh material without having to rewrite the site’s code. That includes foreign language versions. The site already has a Chinese incarnation, accessed instantly via a homepage drop down, and translations in Turkish, Japanese and Korean are in the pipeline. For a SME like Clarinox, the ability to update the site easily is essential.
 
Summary

Clarinox has a site that it can easily manage on its own, and that presents an image consistent with its business. Inappropriate enquiries have almost completely stopped, while the site is now attracting more business enquiries and developing a critical mass of visiting experts. “We’ve got less information but people are finding it now,” says Clarinox’s CEO. “We’re getting more of the enquiries that we want to be getting.”

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