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The Charles 2.0

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They say it takes a village, and with the launch of Charles 2.0 – it was vital that every team member at The Charles was involved from the get-go. Designing an agency website is no easy task, and in all honesty it’s probably one of the most labor-intensive projects that any digital agency will ever undertake. We wanted a site with the most accurate representation of our personality, our philosophy, our culture and most importantly our work.

As a full-service agency, it’s often difficult to single-handedly categorize the amount of work that goes into just one project. Take for example the recent relaunch of NYC-based fashion designer Misha Nonoo. While, on the outset, it’s easy to label the project as an E-commerce website design and development project, when the reality was much, much more. From developing brand messaging and visual identity to content production, art direction, event production, and even a comprehensive social media strategy. Thus, the total sum of all of the elements of our projects always equals a much more comprehensive initiative.

“Throughout the creative process, it became really clear that we not only needed to showcase the work — but also how we got there,” says Aaron Edwards, CEO. “It was during an interview with a creative industry blog that we realized just how committed we are to our clients and their businesses. Sam and I turned to each other, almost like an “ah-ha moment,” and were like — we always go ‘One Step Further. For us, that was the defining moment in terms of our approach to the process and our passion for what we do.”

The agency mantra immediately resonated with The Charles team who became obsessed with how we would and could portray that sentiment visually. “It just made sense immediately,” says Sam Wilkes, Associate Art Director. “We started brainstorming pretty much right away on how we could showcase that concept and communicate it with the energy we all felt at that moment.”

Going ‘One Step Further’ felt like the best way of describing the common thread found in everything we do at The Charles. It was this realization that inspired The Charles team to design and develop a feature we hadn’t seen on a case study before: annotations.

“When we originally designed Charles 2.0, we set out to showcase the work in a more traditional way, with just photos, infographics and text,” says Samantha Edwards, Creative Director. “But, as we started to implement the actual content, we realized that we were missing intricate details that were integral to the final outcome. It was also really important for us to get team-wide input, because who better to describe the project features than the team that created them. Projects at The Charles tend to involve multiple team members, who not only do the actual work, but contribute throughout the entire process — from the Developers to the Designers. I’m a huge fan of long-format reads and especially love the annotations tool on Medium, so it made complete sense to introduce that concept to The Charles case studies.”

The result is a journey through the textures and streets of New York City and our neighborhood from a walker’s POV. “The idea to portray the multiple personalities at The Charles, in addition to ‘the streets that we stomp,’ was a no brainer,” says Shao Yen Chiang, Lead Visual Designer. “It was clear from the outset that we wanted to do something different — not just show smiley, happy employees sitting at their desks or writing on a whiteboard. You can get that at Being at The Charles, we wanted to take the alternative route.”

The most impressive features of the site are made possible thanks to behind-the-scenes sorcery, courtesy of The Charles Development Team. This site was the Development Team’s chance to flex their collective muscle without detracting from a seamless user experience. “We didn’t want to just build another agency website,” says Chad Humphrey, Developer. “We sandboxed with the Creative Team from the get-go to come up with ideas that we’ve been wanting to implement, but haven’t quite had the right opportunity.” There are the obvious features, like the presence of HTML5 video on nearly every page, and there are the more subtle ones, like a global feature that enhances how content loads into view using CSS animations and JavaScript to track scroll events.

From the second the user lands on The Charles, they can see the result of constant collaboration between the Creative and Development teams. Even things as simple as page transitions were built using AJAX and PushStates so that when the user clicks a link, the page URL changes, but they never leave the page. Video and imagery produced in-house is brought to life using precise JavaScript and Web Video, delivering an immersive landing experience that truly embodies The Charles’ manifesto. We even used Craft to build out a custom CMS (Content Management System) that allows for modular entries, allowing for dynamic content and layout types without further dev work down the line.

Our new website is less of a makeover and more of a definitive milestone marking the next chapter of The Charles’ story. More grown-up, but just as hungry. Established in our field, but still as experimental and explorative as ever. Ready to tackle our next big project with more resources and even more gusto. The Charles 2.0.