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Legwork Studio talks about skateboarding, their new award winning work for Airwalk and gives you an inside look at how the agency operates.

Legwork Studio is a small, full-service creative studio in Denver, CO. We are a group of friends that come from a diverse background. We are artists, we are musicians, we are computer nerds. One thing that we all have in common is that we grew up skateboarding in some form or another. And as we continue to grow, our sweet skateboarding skills are being replaced by sweet business skills. It’s inevitable, you get older. That’s how it works. But the philosophy that we learned from the skateboarding lifestyle has never changed. We work hard, we stay humble, we aren’t afraid to try new things and we do our best to stay involved in the sport that we all love. This made the new Airwalk website a perfect fit for our agency.

As with most projects that we take on, we had the choice to make this website Flash or JavaScript. We don’t take sides on this issue. We all come from a Flash background and will use whatever makes sense for the project. This time, we decided to go with JavaScript. There were several key factors that contributed to this decision. The old site was a legacy Flash site that, in many ways, didn’t work the way Airwalk’s audience used the web. In addition, they were looking for a big SEO push with the concurrent launch of their new online store. We know, SEO is the big buzzword surrounding JavaScript sites these days. But, specifically, we thought that putting more content on one page (in this case entire sections) with best practices (e.g. search engine friendly urls, strong meta in heading tags, etc) would really help keyword rankings and retention. It would also be naive to say that this approach isn’t super trendy right now. This project gave us a great example for our book.

The back-end of this site was the most challenging aspect. We knew it had to be a custom built CMS because Airwalk needed the capability for people all over the world to add region- specific content, while maintaining the ability to almost completely redesign the site out of the CMS. At Legwork, we use the Model View Controller (MVC) design pattern. The separation of data management, design and development works great for our small team. The framework we started with completely failed. It was one of those frameworks that tried so hard to be MVC that they forgot to be flexible. (Joins across several junctions integrated with an ACL in a super limited SQL environment? No thanks.)

So, about halfway through the project on a random Monday, we’re winding up our day with thoughts of how the hell we are going to get this to work. We look around the room (we all sit in one big room here.) And suddenly it occurs to us: for the first time as a company we are going to have to start over on a project. We stayed all night, ditched the old framework and started fresh with Codeigniter. We couldn’t be happier with this choice. We were able to do everything in a super-clean, MVC style while having the full control over the gnarly database that this site required.

What was the outcome? Well, for starters our plan to go with XHTML/JavaScript has proved to be one of the biggest wins for the project. The site has generated more buzz than anything we have previously been involved in. It has been featured in Web Designer and .Net magazines. It has already won several industry awards, including FWA Shortlist and SOTD! Traffic is up over 100%. It also turns out that we were right about our ideas regarding SEO. Previously buried keywords have jumped up several pages and the average time spent on the site is an unprecedented 2 minutes 30 seconds. In the end, the client has much more dynamic product that can reach more people on more devices. Traffic is up and so are sales, that’s the real win.

These days going big probably means staying half the night to crush out some sweet JavaScript instead of a righteous 360 flip down nine. (Who are we kidding, we were never that good.) But, when we get to work on a brand that keeps us in touch with the lifestyle that we all grew to love, we’re ok with that. Thomas Edison said “what you are will show in what you do.” If you ever get an opportunity like this one, take those words to heart and work your ass off. You’ll be as glad as the rest of us (who get to see the final product) that you did.


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