BL&T No. 176: Reflecting on the Barrel Website Redesign Process

Agency Leadership

This post originally appeared in my newsletter, Borrowed, Learned, & Thought. BL&T is sent weekly on Mondays. In every edition, I share lessons learned in agency leadership, life, and e-commerce. This post does not include all the details shared in the newsletter sent via email. Subscribe here.


"Clarify your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Note: this doesn’t mean you should revamp your entire positioning (at least, not as a “quick” win). Instead, the tactic is about ensuring your website and other marketing materials align with what you’re telling people in sales calls and emails."

From "Work Less, Earn More: How to Escape the Daily Grind of Agency Ownership" by Karl Sakas [Book]


The new Barrel website is live!

In my announcement on LinkedIn on Friday, I likened the redesign process to a snowy NYC commute. Living there, I conveniently put the process of trekking through the snow into the office out of my mind until it came each year. I soon found myself gearing up for the cold, navigating snow-covered streets, and then stepping into the almost tropical climate of a packed subway car.

Of course, launching a new website is exciting, unlike a slushy commute, but each time we do it, I tend to underestimate how much effort goes into getting it done. This redesign was no different.

While we updated and tweaked our last website over the four years since launch, we evolved our new business materials more significantly. Improvements ranged from refining our positioning around Shopify e-commerce, honing in on our services, enhancing our case studies to show client results, showcasing our collaboration with tech partners, and other improvements. The gap between these materials and our website became increasingly evident over the last year. It was starting to feel like the story of the cobbler's shoes—he's too busy with everyone else's to take care of his own.

Our initial plan for the redesign was simple: bring our new business materials to life in website form. Yet, as we began that process, it seemed like a good time to introduce a new look. Refreshing our brand has been a tradition with past redesigns—why stop now, right?

I initially thought we might be able to salvage our current Webflow build but quickly abandoned that idea for two reasons:

  • First, it had become a bit of a mess. With many designers contributing over the years, the site was at a point where making one change often broke something else. It's a common misconception with "no-code" platforms that such issues don't occur, but you're still working with classes and styles. Adding bloat and over-complicating the build is easy to do.
  • Second, I was excited about the opportunity to architect the site differently, leveraging some newer Webflow features, like editable components.

According to my Figma file, the journey began about six months ago. It could be best described as a side hustle or passion project, with periods of intense inspiration and collaborative sprints—interspersed with moments where progress seemed slow.

Despite the non-linear ride, I'll look back on the experience positively. I'm proud of what we accomplished and happy to see it live. With that in mind, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a moment and reflect on our approach to the redesign as a reference for whenever we decide to embark on the next one.


1—"Why" as a guiding light: You can make websites for clients all day, but it is never the same when it's your own. Establishing a clear purpose was an important guiding light throughout the project, from making decisions on content to look and feel. At a high level, it was about refining our positioning, articulating our services more clearly, and evolving our image. Other objectives included an improved CMS and mobile experience.

2—Start with content: Our previous work on new business materials proved to be a helpful starting point. Beginning with this content – refining and adapting it – laid the groundwork for the entire project. Although Barrel CEO and I iterated quite a bit, this approach streamlined our design process and ensured we hit our objectives.

3—Independent design exploration efficiency: Barrel CEO Peter and I typically work on the website's look and feel together from the start. We started this way, but progress was slow, with me squeezing in work between other priorities. I talked to Peter, and we decided I'd explore design independently for a while and then come back when I had something more refined for input. I used Figma to establish a loose design system, then worked directly in Webflow to design and build the bulk of the templates. This approach sped up the process and made my collaboration with Peter more focused and productive.

Design exploration in Figma.

4—Collaboration in later stages: In past redesigns, involving multiple people early on seemed logical but often complicated the process. Our team was pretty booked anyway, so I waited until the website had a solid structure before involving more hands, which proved super effective. Christine, our Design Director, was instrumental in the later stages, injecting new life and energy into the project. She became my partner-in-crime, working tirelessly on creating content and organizing tasks with her team.

5—Launch, then refine: In mid-December, Peter wisely suggested we commit to a launch date. Much like publishing my writing, I've learned not to get so precious about creative work, so despite the list of tasks left to do, we agreed to go live in January and made it happen. That doesn't mean it was "perfect," though! We quietly launched two weeks ago. Since then, we've made more tweaks, gathered feedback, lightly restructured pages, added new case studies, and improved the mobile experience further. We all know websites are living and breathing things. I'm glad we committed to going live and didn't waste time obsessing over details.

I'm super happy with where we've landed with the new website. It's a testament to our team's hard work and reflection of how our business has evolved. With a more scalable system built out, I look forward to iterating on the website as we grow and change as an agency. We've already got plenty in the roadmap!

Special thanks to our small but mighty team: Peter for his perspective and collaboration, Christine for her leadership and dedication, Wes for a smooth launch, Hannah and Rachel for their creativity, and everyone else who helped us get across the finish line.

Here's to the next chapter of!


What's a recent project worth reflecting on? How might taking this time help my future self?

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