Christopher Dowson | Studio
Wharf Cottage Kennels
Case Study: Branding, Graphic design, Web design, Web development, Retired projects
Wharf Cottage Kennels and Cattery, based in the Derbyshire countrside, had recently been taken over by new owners, Jenny and David, and as part of the modernisation and overhaul of the site is was decided that a new branding and a new website were both very much required, with a timeframe of 3 months so that bookings could start being taken through the site in January of 2015.
Given the nature of the business, the catchment area would only be within the surrounding few miles of the premises and so the website didn't have to be universal in scope or approach - it could be incredibly focused and optimised for Tibshelf and Alfreton.
The branding was to be approachable and reinforce the idea of happy pets, but most importantly not use pawprints anywhere. A quick scan of competitors' sites revealed paw prints to the go-to motif, and it just seemed lazy to continue that motif on this site.
One of the cornerstones of how I approach design is to question everything and presume nothing. Just because a competitor does something is no reason to have it on your site - how do you know it even works for them? Did they just copy it from another website?
The website had to be easy to navigate and - more importantly - easy to update.
Grabbing a pencil and paper, I started to sketch out the general shape of a Scottie dog. I don't tend to sketch my logo designs, but this just felt like the right way to go. After a few minutes I'd worked out a pleasingly caricatured shape, with a podgy tummy and short legs and brought this into Adobe Illustrator to begin refining it into the dog motif.
I also incorporated a cat figure into the motif to represent the cattery side of the business. It also had the added bonus of having the cat appear to be "protected" by the dog - reinforcing that Wharf Cottage is a safe place to bring your pets. I chose a more playful, stylised cat which Jenny really liked.
A warm grey and cream colourscheme was chosen for the printed stationery and initial brand collateral as it conveyed a sense of warmth and friendliness, although as evidenced by the website colourscheme it's flexible enough to work with any combination of colours, and allows the colours used to fit the circumstances
When building the site (in ExpressionEngine, naturally), I took care to ensure that the site was as local-search friendly as possible.
Through the use of additional meta data and Google's rich data snippets (where additional markup is added to elements on the page to specify exactly what they do) I was able to add the latitude/longitude co-ordinates of the kennels - allowing it to be accurately shown on a map, the opening times - which Google will pick up and display next to the listing - and the general contact information.
This all helps Wharf Cottage Kennels to rank well for its preferred local search terms. As the focus is on the locality, more general terms aren't high priority.
The site is responsive (as is the requirement at the moment for all sites to rank well) and is built using my own framework - Raygun. I chose this over existing solutions such as Bootstrap and Foundation as I have written it to be as lean and stripped back as possible.
Instead of overwhelming the user with lots of information about the history of the company, the site pushes home the benefits of booking your pets in to Wharf Cottage. This approach is, I believe, fundamental in providing a relevant and focused user journey on any website - especially a sales-focused one like Wharf Cottage. Every user has the potential to become a booking, and so the emphasis has to be on making their mind up for them.
I had worked with Wharf Cottage's third partner - Tim Brealey - during my tenure at Heart Internet (where he was a Director at the time) and I had worked with the team there on a complete overhaul of their website (a huge job), and so they knew that my skills were more than up to the task at hand.
Jenny and Dave also really liked my previous logo work and were confident that I'd be able to produce a branding for them which was just as appealing as the rest of my portfolio.
As I'm sure you'll agree, they weren't wrong!