Unpacking the Independent Creative Agency Website

I say “the” because in my experience browsing the websites of smaller, creative, digital, what-have-you agencies, I’ve found these websites to be similarly beautiful. I can’t attest to the validity of the following statement, but I will assume that smaller agencies tend to have more leniency and freedom in designing their websites to be more *fun* and *obscure*. This week, I decided to take a look around Tom, Dick & Harry’s website (it bothers me so much that the agency decided to exclude the oxford comma, but the ampersand does help).

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TDH brands itself primarily as “Chicago’s craft agency,” which I learned from its “Elevator Speech” page. The term “craft” is really reflected in the earthy, kind of retro design of the website. My first impressions of the home page were good ones. I found the top navigation to be equally good-looking and user-friendly, given that all of the links are cleverly stacked and arranged in black boxes, each of which turn orange upon hovering over them. The boxes all have their own designs, integrating the website’s black, orange, and beige color palette. Each link also has its own clever name. Rather than the typical “About Us” and “Media/Press” titles, TDH’s navigation bar provides more playful names like “Elevator Speech” (as I mentioned before) and “Soapbox” (their name for their agency news page). It took me a few seconds to decipher some of the more obscure link names (e.g. Soapbox), but not so long that I found myself confused about how to get where.

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This navigation bar consistently remains at the top of the website, no matter what page you’re on. I found that comforting given the obscurity of the rest of the content on the site. I think the sheer size of the boxes making up the navigation bar provided a clear hierarchy for the viewer: these are the components that the agency wants us to see first. Not to mention, the stark black color of the boxes distinguishes the navigation bar from the rest of the page, giving the page components their own defined spaces.

I mentioned the hovering earlier, but I do want to harp on this because it was my favorite part of the website. I think TDH’s website has the potential to be really confusing, but it uses the hover feature to really clear things up for the viewer. During my own visit to this site, I found myself relying heavily on the orange hover color to tell where my mouse was, and to tell which artistic components were clickable (AKA links). This was one of Krug’s guidelines to website usability, and I found it the most helpful when accessing the different pages.

Lastly, the simplicity of the website as a whole was really pleasing to the eye. There was no clutter whatsoever, save for the navigation bar and some swipe-across images on the home page. The little noise on the home page (which came in the place of large images such as the one below) may have deviated from Krug’s guidelines, but you tell me if this looks that noisy:

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Overall, I had a great experience visiting this website, and the simplicity of it made me stick around for a while. I think more agencies should consider taking the “simplicity” approach–it made the whole experience seem a lot less overwhelming.

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