COLAB's Year in Review: Exciting Progress, Innovation, and Self Improvement (2023)

Ralph Otto author photo
Ralph Otto Director of Product

Without a doubt, 2023 was a year of progress at COLAB. We doubled down on our values, collaborating to accommodate difficult delivery schedules, having more authentic team discussions, making intentional choices on what to prioritize, stretching ourselves creatively to find new solutions, and maintaining our grit to get all the work done. We made it through and are very excited about what we were able to deliver for our clients.

We had eight major launches last year including several major releases on top of those launches. We experimented a ton with AI, largely supplementing our brains with robot brains. We also iterated our internal processes, adopting some of our experiments as best practice.

2023 progress graphic including multiple website screenshots

Launches

It’s a delight to take a step back and look at the variety of work done over the past year. We deployed eight new sites across various industries: education, technology, energy, healthcare, finance, mining, nonprofit, and transportation. We executed dozens of iterations for existing sites, from professional service websites to event websites. 

This year highlighted a niche we excel in: working with companies post-merger to combine products and services into a single experience. We demonstrated this on several engagements this year, where our output is a unified entity and a scalable platform that will serve the organization for many years.

We’re still working on the case studies, but below are previews of some of our work from the last year.

Luck Companies

We helped celebrate Luck Companies’s 100th anniversary with a microsite dedicated to its history and amazing employees. This locally headquartered company is far more than the aggregate products it’s known for. Visit 100 Years of Powering Possibilities 

ICCU - Idaho Central Credit Union

We launched the redesign of Idaho’s largest credit union: ICCU. We were delighted to see that this work, combined with our client’s marketing efforts, yielded 26% more loan applications 🙌! See our case study on the work. Visit ICCU 

Dominion Energy Solutions

Dominion’s green energy offerings launched under the name Dominion Energy Solutions towards the early parts of the year, with a major design iteration launched by the end of the year. Visit Dominion Energy Solutions 

Appily

The rebranded launch of a resource site for those embarking on their college journey. Appily’s colorful redesign was fun to work on with our excellent and driven contacts at the organization. Visit Appily

The Richmond Forum

This local nonprofit, aspiring to build nation-wide awareness, organizes programs featuring an incredible lineup of speakers. We are very proud to help support The Richmond Forum’s digital platform as a sponsor of their speaker archive. Visit The Richmond Forum

Circana launched after the merger between NPD Group and IRI Worldwide, creating a consumer research powerhouse. We launched V1 of their website in the fall and immediately started iterating to build out additional features and make improvements. Visit Circana

Evolent’s rebrand combined several existing companies into a single entity, all focused on achieving better healthcare outcomes. We launched a landing page early in the year and deployed the entire site by the end of the year. Visit Evolent

The launch of a new brand powering corporate relocations across the globe. We launched We Solve’s landing page first and then rolled out the whole site later. Visit We Solve

Innovation

There was lots of experimentation this past year (there always is), but below are the highlights of our creativity 🧪.

We worked diligently on an internal beta product that streamlines the design and development of sites built on WordPress and Drupal. This system will allow us to concentrate on providing more custom value to clients as we develop our own standard offerings for content management.

We regularly discussed new technology, with AI being a vast topic. While working on the most effective ways to leverage AI, we experimented throughout our practices. This included generating text content for design mockups, proof of concept code for prototyping, and content ideation for some of our marketing. I promise you this is not AI writing…but it may have helped create an outline.

We leaned into our tool configuration, modifying our project management and documentation software to work better together. We experimented with different agile practices and team roles to learn about what methods of work… well… work.

We released version 2 of the COLAB Resource Center, a custom site we create for each of our clients to have full transparency into the status of their work, timeline and budget, see what’s next, and review deliverables. We look forward to analyzing usage and getting feedback to understand how we can improve it in 2024.

Recognition

We received some recognition in 2023 that we’re particularly proud of. First up, COLAB was a Webby Award honoree for our design and development of the Hot97.com website. For those in the agency world, you know this is a huge achievement! “The Webby Awards is the Internet’s most respected symbol of success. The 27th Annual Webby Awards received nearly 14,000 entries from all 50 states and over 70 countries worldwide.”

ICIC IC100

We also landed the ICIC Inner City 100 list, representing the 100 fastest-growing inner city businesses across the country. We take tremendous pride in having a positive impact on our local community.

Self Improvement

We launched version 6 of our website early last year with a more grown-up look and feel. We added 5 case studies, published 25 blog posts, and reworked 20 pages. This was huge for us! If you’ve ever heard of the phrase “the cobbler’s children have no shoes,” there is no more appropriate example than an agency’s website. That being said, we’ve committed ourselves to doing better in 2024.

We reshuffled our teams to improve team capacity, skill diversity, and overall deliverability. We also branded each team as a mythical beast (above). Within each team, we continued to practice a version of Agile that balances speed of delivery with team health. We dedicated more resources to improving team health as our research shows that this leads to a better quality of work and life (aligns with the proof we’ve seen in the four-day workweek).

We modified our best practices to better capture written documentation beyond project artifacts like documentation that lives inside of sitemaps, wireframes, and our project management tools. We also updated our internal standards and process documentation for internal use.

We added more definitions to our point of view on constant improvement (version two of our stance on WebOps). We started rolling out these updates on our website to clarify and simplify our messaging. Sounds easy enough, but as any branding agency will tell you: “It is not.”

What’s Next?

Upon reflecting on all that has been accomplished in the past year, what our team and our clients have achieved is staggering. We are proud of our accomplishments and can’t wait to share more in the coming months 🎉.

We look forward to continuing to make progress in 2024. We have several new client engagements and existing client initiatives that we are excited to get underway. There are a variety of operational improvements staged, and we have some cherry-picked experiments that we’re going to test out this year.

Thank you to all of our clients who have trusted and supported us 😍. We will continue to push on your behalf to deliver great work that moves the needle for your organizations!

Contact us if you’re just learning about us and would like to learn more about how we can help your organization.