When you own a franchise for doggy daycare services it’s safe to say you want a bigger bark (at least online) than your competitors and your website shouldn’t bite. We think people who opt to buy into a franchise opportunity that provides various services for man’s best friend are a pretty special breed themselves. They offer helpful, relevant, and affordable services to proud pet owners in their local areas and they REALLY love dogs. Our kind of people! And sure, they can talk about the care and keeping of various breeds of dogs for days but ask them how to showcase the services they offer or the best way to streamline their navigation and they’ll probably draw a blank.
Central Bark is a company that offers services for our furry friends, including daycare, overnight stays, grooming, training, and other extras such as products, food, treats, toys, and even birthday parties at some locations!
Central Bark’s online presence had evolved over the years, from a basic, mostly utilitarian ‘database’ design to a sparse, cartoonish, outdated theme. As their brand grew, they tried to keep up with their website in a practical manner. But by 2019, their website had become a critical asset to their brand, and they realized their then-current design had multiple issues, including mobile usability for current and potential clients, reduced search engine optimization (findability) for the franchise location owners, as well as functionality for Headquarters staff and brand leadership.
For visitors, important information wasn’t prioritized, nothing really stood out, and finding specific details was cumbersome. HQ staff tried their best to provide their franchise owners the tools they needed to be successful as well as for their own team to be able to measure analytics and track growth, but with growth comes struggle. Bright Pink Agency had been providing development and technical support for Central Bark as needed for almost 10 years, so when they recognized they had to find new solutions, they reached out to us for a proposal.
Once we took a look at what they had in place, we got to work planning the overall strategy of the websites. We encouraged them to set up a mobile-first design for the main full-service website with pre-populated microsites for each location. This allows each location to stand on its own when it comes to local SEO, custom blog posts, and overall findability. By setting the sites up this way, brand leadership is able to retain control over the brand and have access to make the necessary updates and offer technical support. They can also access data from the backend and streamline the propagation of system-wide changes and set up new locations. This method also allows the location owners to customize their sites with their own images, local info, stories, and social media, and showcase their locations’ individual services in a meaningful way.
- Content Strategy
- UX & Prototyping
- Responsive Web Design and Development
- WordPress CMS Implementation, Including a WordPress Multisite Network
- Frontend Integration with GINGR for Customer Appointments
- User Testing
- Ongoing Site Optimization
- Improving user experiences for the consumer audience
- Improving flexibility for the locations while maintaining brand control from headquarters
- Increasing sales conversions with an intuitive mobile-first design
- Developing a fully-responsive WordPress Multisite CMS
- Carrying the Headquarters theme through to the new franchise websites within the WordPress Multisite network, preserving brand identity and driving content
Having provided technical support and development services for Central Bark, we already had gotten to know the client and their expectations. We knew that some of their franchise owners would have some strong opinions about potential changes and functionality.
However, as we discussed the overall plan and our collaborative approach, the whole world shut down, almost overnight, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Non-essential services closed their doors and waited for the storm to pass. Whole service industries suffered and many businesses closed their doors forever. Doggy daycare wouldn’t be very helpful if pet parents couldn’t leave their homes or go to work. Things truly looked uncertain. But as steps were taken across the nation to reopen, Central Bark’s client base was unshakeable. They brought their pups back and everyone breathed a masked sigh of relief. The planning of the new site was back on with renewed energy and interest.
We held a couple of informative sessions with the franchise owners to get an understanding of their view of this process, and the importance of this redesign and improvements. Some didn’t think it was necessary, while others didn’t want to see the changes as it was yet another learning curve.
But, as it turns out, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
After gaining an understanding of the parameters and integration requirements, we laid out the plan and the reasons “why.”
We worked with Central Bark’s marketing team and provided detailed wireframes prior to design, accounting for every text box and strategically placed image. Fields were blocked in and the strategy became visible.
We created interactive prototypes for each page to test the content flow and the theme. Every field was evaluated for usability.
The existing pages were reviewed in detail, in order to keep the things that worked and improve the things that didn’t. We wanted to showcase their facilities, staff, services, and localized information.
The headquarters team invited us to speak at their annual Convention and address the franchise owners directly, giving them a sneak peek at the objectives and the solutions we were offering. After that, we were able to conduct some interviews with a committee of owners to get more detailed feedback. Armed with their first-hand experiences and knowledge, we streamlined the design and functionality.
As we set to work designing the new site, we wanted to showcase the elements the brand had set forth in their recent rebranding efforts, including a modern new logo, a new tagline: “Whole Dog Care” and a brighter color palette.
Our design team collaborated closely with the Central Bark marketing department to streamline the content into easily scanned sections with eye-catching photos and pops of color against a clean white background. (We can’t take all the credit for such a great-looking site, though. How could anyone not melt at the gorgeous images of bright-eyed puppies and happy, wag-tailed dogs?)
The mobile-first design focused heavily on responsiveness for handheld device users but also is made to be very functional on a desktop. It was important to the client that their users have a relaxed experience on their site, where finding locations and important information was easy. We reorganized the website structure, placing the most critical information, such as finding a location, enrollment portal, and services front and center while still keeping other details such as Commitment to Safety and FAQs easily located but with a less cluttered feel.
Accessibility was also a top consideration in the new design of the site. Thought was put into every detail, including the font selections, size of headlines and text, colors, contrast, and the order and placement of the sections. All of the pieces were intentionally incorporated for easy accessibility for all users.
The Multisite Network
Once the headquarters site was designed, we applied several relevant pages to a multisite network of individual pages with their own URLs. The information that was carried through helps maintain the brand integrity and keep information consistent across all locations, however, having individual pages for each franchise location allows them each opportunity for unique content to rank higher locally, in their own areas. They are not competing with each other across the entire network. With their locations prominent, it’s easy for a visitor to decide if this specific store is right for them. Additionally, we set up the franchise websites with unique pages for services and pricing (as these vary by location,) a customizable About Us page with photos and achievement awards, their own social media feed, staff bios, and testimonials.
User Experience & Strategy
Once we had the design approved, we were able to implement it. Our Development team worked hard to get everything just right. Migration was done through the WordPress platform and completed in just a few short weeks. Each site was customized and prepared for launch. It was an exciting day when we set everything live!
After launch, the franchise owners enjoyed the bright new look of their individual sites and all the customizable features. The Central Bark leadership team was appreciative that they still had access to the analytics and data they needed, as well as being able to maintain the brand guidelines and propagate relevant content through the blog section to every location across the United States.