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Pushing the boat out


As Heraclitus of Ephesus famously said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” Rivers, like people, go by familiar names and typically stay in familiar places, but they are constantly in motion and, therefore, constantly changing.

We tend to think of the web as being an ever-changing entity. Social media and modern web technologies focus on up-to-the-minute information; we crave what’s new and we know that the old data will always be a few clicks away if we need it. But redesigning a website can be daunting. When a client comes to us ready to make a change, we try to make the process as simple as possible. For the most part, client brands don’t undergo major shake-ups and they often like seeing the DNA of their current website on the site we’re eager to create for them.

But what happens when a client is not only unafraid of change, but enthusiastic about it? What happens when a client whose website hasn’t undergone a major update in years decides to “push the boat out” and embark on a new adventure?

The client was RiverBank, a $125 Million business and personal bank in Spokane, Washington. Their organization was rapidly changing, and they were excited to create something that was the complete opposite of their existing brand. They called on Trabian to help.

Testing the waters

An old website on the left-hand side with white and tan and blue buttons; on the right, the new wesbite, with high-contrast black and purple and teal and lots of eye-catching images.
A side-by-side comparison of the old RiverBank website (left) and the new one (right).

Even as the bank expanded its community footprint and took on more clients and customers, its website was stagnant, with dated imagery and a subdued color palette. From the beginning, the RiverBank team made it perfectly clear that this new site needed to be bold and eye-catching. The goal was a site that people would tell their friends and family about, a site that made RiverBank easy to remember. “Remarkable” is not a word often associated with bank website design, but RiverBank wouldn’t accept anything less.

“We felt Trabian listened to what our vision was and executed that in their design and creation of our new website,” said Chris Davis, Vice President and Digital Solutions Officer at RiverBank. “The Project team was easy to work with and gave us the creative freedom to explore our own thoughts and ideas but always provided their input and direction when needed or requested to help us achieve the perfect site.”

The project started with a thorough review of the content on the existing site and then we came up with a list of questions and suggestions for the client. The content audit is one of the most important portions of the redesign process, as it takes stock of what the client has, what they care about, what they hope to avoid, and where our attention will do the most good as we plan on the styles, layouts, and imagery that will bring the site together.

A large collection of digital post-it notes with important information about a web project.
The FigJam board we used for content plotting/notes. FigJam is a great way to mind-map and collect information for large projects and clients find it easy to learn and to use.

RiverBank had recently concluded a major rebranding effort. Their new brand book would set the tone: dark, cool color schemes with an emphasis on funky geometric shapes and natural curves like the bends in a river. As we began the design process, one of the first goals we had was to seamlessly incorporate this look and feel into the new website and Canvas CMS.

RiverBank wanted to use river imagery on the homepage, but also stressed that they wanted to emphasize their tech-forward brand strategy. Aside from roaring rapids, one may not regularly associate a river as bold, much less modern and high-tech. Summer Brow, Senior Designer at Trabian, proposed a concept that could embrace both the natural beauty of a river with innovative technology: a custom video banner of the Spokane River.

RiverBank did not want to work with any kind of stock video — they wanted authentic footage of their own. With that in mind, they obtained stunning aerial footage of the Spokane area and we went to work to make something both visually compelling and lightweight enough that users could view the new site without feeling frustrated by a slow load time. Summer worked in concert with Rhea Rivera, the project’s lead developer to get the best balance of visual quality, impact, and speed.

All in the same boat

RiverBank and Trabian worked with a third-party vendor to create content for the new website. With multiple parties involved with content it became clear early on that having a “true north” would be important.

A priority was to create a streamlined place for the client and third parties to go to for content and important info. We utilized a single planning space (FigJam) and a single set of design files the client could reference (Sketch, by way of InVision) that allowed the teams to collaborate easily.

Trabian’s goal is to make the entire planning and design process as visible as possible allowing collaboration among all involved. Clients and their partner organizations can visit the project spaces to review, provide feedback and leave comments as a key part of the process. We encourage cross-talk across groups because we believe this level of teamwork produces the best results.

3D-rendered mockups of digital devices with the RiverBank website content on them.
RiverBank’s website on mobile, desktop, and tablet. The Web Development Team at Trabian works hard to make sure content looks good no matter the device.

What we learned

It’s not often a client comes to us asking for a site that’s a complete departure from the site they have at that moment, but RiverBank did just that. It was so much fun to work on this project for them and even more thrilling to see once it went live. As part of this website redesign, we learned three valuable things:

1. Don’t be afraid to take a big swing

RiverBank was eager to try something new and radically different. When presented with the opportunity to help them build it, we decided it was time for us to do the same. This project taught us that when we see the opportunity to put unconventional elements to work, we should take it (but always with an eye on accessibility and performance).

“We are very pleased with our new site and have received nothing but positive feedback from others,” said Chris.

2. Learn and adapt

As we worked through our planning phase, we tried our best to keep in mind what “happy path” scenarios we could fulfill for clients with the technology the bank already had and with the features that would be available to them with their new website. We also studied their site architecture carefully to try and find the optimal layouts for key content, as well as figure out how to optimize their menu design. Our goal was to create a website that would grow as the organization did.

3. Communication and coordination

When working with a client and an external content provider, it’s imperative that every party work together on the content and its implementation. We also saw the value of creating easily-accessible spaces where everyone involved can keep track of the work as it evolves. It can be difficult to get meetings at the right time for everyone involved, but the more transparent the process of gathering and implementing material for content is, the easier it is to put content together that works.

The team at RiverBank made this a fun and fascinating project and we can’t thank them enough for their imagination, collaboration, and boldness. We look forward to helping more clients push the boat out in the future and we can’t wait to see what great ideas come our way.

Ready for a Major Change? 

If your site has been stuck for ages, it's time to find a new way forward. Let Trabian help you with every aspect, from your branding and social media roll-out to your content to implementation and beyond. With Trabian, creating the online presence you've always dreamed of is smooth sailing. 

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