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Complete Website Overhaul

for Phaneuf Funeral Homes & Crematorium

Site: www.phaneuf.net Built by: Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications, Manchester, NH Launched: November 2016

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Our client, Phaneuf Funeral Homes & Crematorium was at one time on the leading edge of technology, being one of the first funeral homes in the country to move online. Unfortunately, the site still looked like it was 2005, and the evolution of web design – and how people have come to use websites – had completely passed them by.

Through the years, content was simply “bolted on,” with anything deemed important being added to the home page. There were vestiges of things that once worked, with video animation of the company owner strolling onto the home page and addressing the visitor, and a video “host” popping up (or intruding, depending on your point of view) on internal pages.

THE TIME HAD COME FOR A NEW SITE.

There are a couple web development companies that serve the funeral industry and – while they may have been ahead of the curve in 2002 – their technology has fallen behind in recent years. Even newer sites on these platforms don’t adhere to Google best practices for search engine optimization, making sites on these platforms harder for prospects to discover. The old Phaneuf website was built on one of those platforms, hamstringing any effort to execute good, strategic marketing.

Our Web Design Philosophy

We don’t create websites just so a company has one. Instead, we focus on implementing best practices throughout every aspect of website development and design, keeping in mind the big picture always. We believe that a website is more than just an address, it’s an expression of your business values and brand personality. It’s a place to educate and inform visitors, and to inspire them to take action. But none of that happens if people can’t find your site.

While this site is beautifully designed, we are prouder of the way it was built: with an eye to Google’s imperatives; with specific audiences in mind; with built-in lead generation throughout; and, with an intuitive navigation.

How We Did It

Here’s how we used the skills and expertise of our entire team to design and build this website:

Strategically Developed Platform
The old site was built on a third-party platform, which means that as soon as you stop paying that company, your website goes away completely. There is nothing for you to take with you when you leave. The new site was built using WordPress, the platform that’s said to power almost 30 percent of the world’s websites. This means that the code isn’t likely to go out of date quickly; it gets updated regularly. And, instead of worrying about potential access and ownership issues down the line, Phaneuf can be assured that they have access to each and every file contained on their site, regardless of the marketing partner they choose to work with.

The platform also makes it easy for the client to make updates to their site, without requiring assistance from, or the expense of, a developer. This empowers the client to be involved in the evolution of their website over time.

Reorganized Navigation to Better Serve Visitors

The old website was exceedingly difficult to navigate, resulting in an awful experience for the user. The site employed an excessively deep navigation. We started from scratch, organized the universe of content that needed to be available to visitors and made significant improvements to the navigation, resulting in a more organized and user-friendly site.

Old phaneuf navigation
Old site navigation

The current site uses a mega menu, typically employed in e-commerce sites, to better organize the number of pages and allow for marketing and merchandising opportunities. By better organizing the site, we made the experience of visiting the site more intuitive for the user. The result is that information is both easier to find, and to digest.


New site mega menu

The new navigation gives easy, clear and intuitive paths through the site for the three main audiences looking for information: people looking for obituary or funeral service information; people who have experienced or are about to experience the loss of a loved one and are looking for information on services and merchandise; and, people looking for information about pre-planning their funeral services.

Improved SEO and Fixed Tracking Codes
The old site’s URL structure wasn’t at all SEO friendly, which, in practical terms, means that Google doesn’t know what the site is about and, therefore, can’t serve it up as an answer to a searcher’s question. The blog wasn’t being indexed by Google, which means it was essentially invisible online, and to those people searching for answers to questions about end-of-life issues.

Poor page URLs
Examples of Old URLs

We crafted all URLs on the new site in accordance with SEO best practices, and spent time improving on-page optimization.

The original website also didn’t include properly functioning tracking codes to capture valuable data. We improved the analytics setup, and fixed tracking codes to ensure they collect user data, allowing the client to make business decisions based on actionable business intelligence moving forward.

Modernized Design, Tailored to the Audience(s)
New mobile friendly pagesThe old site featured a wildly outdated design. We redesigned the site so that it was more familiar, and relatable, to modern web users. The old site also used a truncated m. version to serve mobile users. We designed and built the new site from the phone up, building responsiveness into its DNA so that, no matter what screen it’s viewed on, it works.

The new site takes into consideration the age group the bulk of the visitors; most are over 50. Hence, we gave purposeful attention to font size and contrast. The font size was increased and contrast was improved. Body copy on the previous site was 14 pixels. We increased it to 16 pixels and added additional line spacing, which allows for a better viewing experience. Navigation content on the old site was a mere 11 pixels. We increased that to 17 pixels for better readability for aging eyes.

Refocused Messaging and Updated Content
The business serves multiple audiences: people seeking obituaries or service details, people who have just lost a loved one, and people seeking to pre-plan services. As mentioned above, the new site was built with these three audiences in mind and information, resources and details were provided for each. Obituaries and a funeral-service calendar are on the home page, with details available on interior pages. We built separate sections for burial and cremation, with each section including educational resources as well as information on both the company’s services. A resource section called “After a Loss” was built to serve people who had experienced a loss directly, as well as friends, family and other mourners. A pre-planning section allows those people considering planning their final wishes to learn the hows and whys, and to download resources or make an appointment with a pre-planning counselor. And, for those interested in the company, we included a robust About section with history, awards and accolades, should a visitor want that credibility-building information.

Video is one of the top design/UX trends for 2017, and continues to increase in importance as a marketing tool. We felt that using a video montage instead of rotating banner images on the home page allowed for a better representation of the business, and makes the site more personal and engaging for viewers.

Better site page organization
Old and new pre-planning sections

Enhanced Lead Generation
While the old site included some forms, they were all bottom of the funnel offers, which didn’t allow us to attract, grow and ultimately nurture leads at various stages of the buying journey. And, the forms that did exist did not feed data into an email marketing system, disconnecting them from marketing efforts.

WordPress, used in conjunction with Gravity Forms, gave us much more flexibility and allowed us to create more robust and strategic lead generation opportunities throughout the site, resulting in more effective lead capture.

There are calls-to-action on every page of the site, with relevancy to the page content. Some link to downloadable assets; some link to newsletter subscription or blog notification forms. Landing pages are utilized for downloadable resources and those are promoted throughout the site as well as via Google and Facebook advertising.


Landing page comparison

Added Unique and Convenient Functionality
We utilized a plugin to query and import available data from an XML feed provided by Tributes.com. We parsed this data into a custom post type for obituaries, as well as into a popular WordPress event management system. Combined with a faceted search plugin, we are able to display the obituary posts such that they are sortable by date or name, filterable by location and date of death, and searchable by keyword. The system also allows us to display the most recent obituaries on the home page and location-specific obituaries on each location page (the company has four funeral home locations). By pulling the data into the event management system, we can display upcoming funeral services in an event list as well as a calendar view, allowing visitors to easily see what services are coming up.

The chat function is powered by a third-party and was brought over from the old site. Interestingly, a good deal of the chat sessions previously were about finding information on the website; chat transcripts since the site was launched show a remarkable decrease in people not being able to find something on the website.

Phaneuf site obituaries

Enhanced obituary sorting and filtering

Phaneuf.net is a remarkable example of what can be accomplished when web design and development best practices are employed, and a team of experienced professionals put their heads together to accomplish a challenging goal. We are enormously proud of this website and we hope you will agree that it is first class.