Like most industries out there, every few years a new series of buzzwords take over the digital world and we become fixated on measuring every piece of work against whatever is the latest popular neology. ‘Immersive experience’, ‘Clickability’, ‘Contextual marketing’, ‘Gamification’, ‘Programmatic’, the list goes on and on. Over the past three years our industry has become increasingly obsessed with the word ‘innovation’.
Like all buzzwords, innovation in and of itself is a genuinely important and exciting thing. Pushing the boundaries of creativity, technology and consumer expectations is at the heart of what all digital agencies are striving to achieve.
“The word ‘innovation’ is so overused now, I think it’s beginning to lose all meaning” Deepend’s Managing Director, Kath Blackham, said. “We need to start differentiating between those who just talk the talk and those who actually walk the walk.”
The past 20 years has thrown more challenges and adversity at the publishing industry than in the 100 years before it. But as fast as publishers are trying to change and adapt to the needs of the modern consumer, the pressure for them to rapidly evolve only continues to increase. To have any chance of remaining relevant in the years to come, there is a dire need for publishers to lead the charge in innovation rather than simply try to keep up.
“We consider ourselves really lucky to be working with so many clients who are genuinely pushing boundaries and becoming innovation leaders in their own right” Blackham said. “But it would be hard to pick one more so than Hardie Grant”.
At the end of 2012, the Deepend team had a fateful meeting with Nick Atkinson (Head of Digital, Hardie Grant) who threw out an intriguing challenge, to create the “Spotify of the cookbook world.”
Naysayers would have argued that the internet is already overflowing with food and recipe websites, so why would you invest in an already crowded marketplace? But that’s where true innovation lies — in seeing a gap, a need, an opportunity where others don’t. The differentiation between Hardie Grant’s concept and the plethora of recipe sites out there was that the content would be the best of the best. At its core, the concept was to digitise the physical cookbooks of the world’s best chefs and house them all in one highly responsive and flexible online environment.
But a simple concept is never simple to realise. Deepend had to build a highly flexible and robust platform which enabled users to sign-up seamlessly to a subscription based service. They also had to logically and cohesively search through tens of thousands of recipes, curate original content and above all else, create an engaging and beautiful interface. Leading the charge from Deepend’s team was Creative Director, Andrew Isaac.
“The new responsive nature of the web has freed content from being locked into preset grids and columns, opening up a massive range of possibilities for displaying and delivering content in new and exciting ways,” Isaac said.
Cooked defines itself by the fact that all content originated in a physically published format. It was vital to the visual success of the project that the design didn’t shy away from this, but rather embraced it.
One of the big challenges was to push the limits of contemporary responsive design in order to create a visual concept flexible enough to accommodate the content from hundreds of books — each with their own design, layout and recipe structure.
“The difficulty as a designer is to not fall into old patterns and find yourself being confined and constrained by what has come before. Trying to find a new way of creating content hierarchy and personalization that will stand the test of time is tricky to achieve.”
It was this strategic design approach that formed the structure of each page and created the three-column layout. The strength of this approach was that it took full advantage of the entire screen and enabled our user experience team to create fluid breakpoints across every element of the website. The end result is a seamless experience across every possible device, handheld mobile right up to large display screens.
The platform development of Cooked was immense. Built using Sitecore, Deepend’s technical team spent literally thousands of hours building the site to ensure the end result was highly extendable, robust and powerful.
Within the first month of launch, Cooked received more than 75,000 visits and has continued to go from strength to strength with every passing day with UK and US versions of the site due to launch soon. On top of this, it has won a multitude of awards, including the highly coveted Sitecore ‘Digital Innovator of the Year’ award for 2014.
“I believe that true innovation happens when you have all the elements working together,” says Blackham. “You can’t just rely on a great idea or great design or great technology. You need all of these elements working together right from the start. If you’ve got all of that right, the possibilities are endless.”