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The Wombats - At the Liverpool Echo Arena 08
The Wombats - At the Liverpool Echo Arena 08
The WOMBATS are an awesome pop / rock / punk / indie band from Liverpool, UK who have had all their brand, album and marketing designed by the talented guys over at mercydesign.co.uk, who’ve now teamed up with m’self and Behind Design to do web stuff for it and that …
I’ve only been lucky enough to meet Dan (drummer) a couple of times, and haven’t met the other boys in the band (Murph and Tord), but Dan seems like a well sound chap – typical friendly cheeky scouser – and Doug and Joe say that both Murph and Tord are groovy chickens also: very funny and down to earth. So that’s all good.
I was lucky enough to live, study, laugh, cry, drink and, yer know – stuff, with Joe and Doug from Mercy back in our wild un-tamed uni days at Liverpool Art School, and – to be honest – it’s about time that we got together and collaborated on a project. It’s been great and really took me back to the ‘Graphics Arts’ days. Joe and Doug approach their work with vigour and enthusiasm much like they did during uni, with their design and solutions focused on building strong ideas, the way it should be – a focus that is often drowned by process and/or ‘trends’ (especially on the web).
OK. Now onto the design of the site itself:
One thing we were all up against right from the start was a really rather tight lead-time on the project, and also a very tight budget. But we were all agreed that we must follow a good solid game-plan in order to provide a good solution – so lots of late nights ahoy from all concerned! Let’s number the main stages:
The site plan and architecture was planned by myself, based on: the existing site, other successful band websites (reference to Arctic Monkeys and Bloc Party), and a combination of thoughts and ideas by myself, Doug, ‘Elk’ at Warner Music and also Graham at behinddesign (from a programmatical stand-point).
The initial layout concept was the brain-child of Doug at mercy, who supplied a rough main template layout and also ‘mood board’. This was important for the Mercy guys to do, as they are the ones who’ve had the biggest exposure to the overall feel of the band and what they are all about, through all the design work they have done thus far. They were involved with the band when no one knew them from ‘Adam’. We also needed to carry through the ‘brand’ and graphical style, that had already been established in the print marketing, through into the web.
My role was to pull these initial ideas together and add some of my own ideas. It’s something that I got into quite quickly, as the grungy hand-rendered style is something that I have experience translating into web many times before, on sites such as my own (this, my in progress re-design, and also my .co.uk site).
As per usual, I designed a couple of web visuals of the main pages for the client to sign-off before build (based on Doug’s ideas), and, as always, I designed them to be as close as possible (to near pixel perfection) as the design would display as a html page, so that the client had a good idea of what to expect. Very important for the smooth running of a project. Especially one with such a tight deadline. The last thing you want to be doing is back-tracking during the mark-up / programming stage of development.
4. XHTML and CSS build:
Next up I had to build all the pages using web standards XHTML and CSS. One thing I did do with this project is make heavy use of transparent .pngs. This has meant quite a few crappy hacks in my ie6 stylesheet but, tbh, I’m really past caring when it comes to ie6. It’s a slowly dying browser and the quicker it becomes totally redundant the better. The important thing is that the site still looks and works decently in ie6.
I’d almost set my own brief of designing something that was quite unique, whilst still showing a good awareness of our current ‘web environment’ in terms of mark-up and also user experience.
I wanted it to be web2.0 without the cliched visual style. This is something that I feel is missing in many bands websites. Many of the sites out there may look aesthetically cool, and, indeed, get the traffic and do the job, but they all seem to lean heavily on little bits of flash and that ‘fixed-height-in-the-middle’ look that we all know can often hold back a site in terms of growth. None of them, to be fair, are cliched in terms of a look, but they do seem to do all the same things using all the same methods. It’s almost as if it’s like: “Oh, ‘such and such’ are a big and good band, therefore their website must also be great. Let’s follow their lead” Whereas, more often than not, in terms of a bands website as a web2.0 aware and savvy application, many just seem to miss the boat.
The new Wombats website may not be entirely there yet, but it’s certainly on the way and has the potential to perhaps be one of the first to fully embrace the benefits of web2.0 thinking (like I said, we’ve only had 3 weeks so far!). Hopefully, anyway.
One thing that helps give the design something different to others it that none of the elements of the design have been digitally rendered: Each navigational word has been hand rendered by Jon Greenbank – the chap responsible for the Logo and also many of the great album cover illustrations, the ‘card-back’ was created using card and paint in the Mercy studio, and so it goes on – the only ‘computerised’ reference is the html content itself and also a few other touches etc.
The site also makes good use of social marketing with user interaction in the womblog , and also with gig reviews and gallery photos that can be added by visitors to the site. The site also integrates the band’s own TWITTER updates. I may be wrong, but I think that this may well be the first high profile band to do this. Could be very interesting to see if this feature really takes off. It brings an unprecedented level of personalisation to the site, with members of the band able to update content on the site using a mobile phone whilst on stage performing. I’ve ‘got wood’ just thinking about it!
Once all the dummy templates for each page were complete, it was then over to Graham at behinddesign to program a bespoke CMS for the pages. I won’t go into that too much as it’s not really my expertise, but it’s all working dandy.
All this in 3 weeks! Pats on the back for all me thinks!
Anyways, get over there and have a look – both in terms of the site design and also the ‘bats glorious sounds! I’d be interested to hear your reaction and thoughts on it all …
Oh. Also. Talking of Liverpool music and bands: check out Wave Machines, Soft Toy Emergency and The Delta Fiasco. Unsigned but certainly not ‘un-good’ (although ‘the fiasco’ may now be signed – not sure??)