Digital Strategy, Design, & Development

We design and develop digital experiences that customers actually want to use.

Hard Candy Shell is a New York-based agency partnering with the leading brands in ecommerce, media + entertainment and B2B to create digital products that make businesses successful. Our services include research, strategy, design + branding, UX/UI and development.

 
$50,000+
 
$200 - $300 / hr
 
10 - 49
 Founded
2007
Show all +
New York, NY
headquarters

Portfolio

Key clients: 

Disney, The New York Post, NBC, Foursquare, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Barclay's, YETI Coolers, Jetsetter, Discovery Channel, Bloomberg, Brooklyn Brewery, Rent The Runway, eBay, Of A Kind, EA Sports.

Of A Kind

A content + ecommerce experience for Of A Kind

YETI Coolers

A reimagined ecommerce experience for YETi Coolers.

The New York Post

Redesign of The New York Post digital experience.

Reviews

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Website Redesign & UX for Fashion Site

"They lead with revenue and business growth in mind."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
4.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
Confidential
 
2011 - 2015
Project summary: 

Hard Candy Shell conducted several revamps of an emerging fashion platform, providing branding and logo updates and integrating e-commerce functionality and editorial fashion content through a sleek UX/UI.

The Reviewer
 
11-50 Employees
 
Greater New York City Area
Co-Founder, Emerging Fashion Site
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

The updated website catalyzed growing business exposure and attracted positive feedback from visitors due to its exceptional performance and aesthetic. Hard Candy Shell’s thoughtful feedback, deadline-focused workflow, and impressive industry awareness forged a strong partnership. 

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

I'm the founder of a brand that sells clothing pieces and shares stories of emerging designers and makers.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Hard Candy Shell?

We were trying to perfect the integration of e-commerce and content for our website. We had an existing site already but needed a refresh of our web design and better functionality. We asked Hard Candy Shell to manage a redesign in order to meet our business goals and solve the challenge of integrating e-commerce and editorial fashion. 

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

Hard Candy Shell started by exploring our business and identifying pain points and priorities to make sure that they aligned with our goals. Then, we engaged them for a full-scale redesign—a complete rethinking of the layout and, to some extent, our branding as well. They updated our logo by adding an element and helped us think about our brand in a different and nuanced way, but they didn't do any marketing. At that point, they were only doing design; I think they expanded into working on the backend as well. We met weekly, and they would present designs and iterate based on our feedback.

For the first project we worked on, they didn't do any development. They focused on designs and handed them over to our development agency. I can't remember if we had 2 or 3 separate engagements with them in total.

I don’t know how many people from Hard Candy Shell worked on our account. I know we had both UX and design experts. Some or all of them had some sort of technical expertise to understand the capabilities they were designing towards.

How did you come to work with Hard Candy Shell?

We knew them socially at first and had conversations about our business. We were impressed by their understanding of what it was and what it could be. Hard Candy Shell had a strong reputation in UX design, and we felt that a big challenge of our site involved the UX. When we reached out for assistance, we knew that their company leads really understood what we were trying to do with our business and believed in it.

How much have you invested with Hard Candy Shell?

I don't remember what we paid them for the first project in 2011, and I don’t want to share that information.

What is the status of this engagement?

Our partnership began sometime in 2011. It's been a while since our last project in 2015. Our company was acquired, so our tech needs changed. We needed to go with an agency that could do design, backend, and frontend development. I think that Hard Candy Shell may offer all those services now, but they didn't at the time. 

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or impact of the engagement?

Our business has grown. We've definitely received positive feedback on the design and functionality of the website.

How did Hard Candy Shell perform from a project management standpoint?

We worked with various project managers on different projects over the course of our partnership, and some were easier to work with than others.

What did you find most impressive about Hard Candy Shell?

They're really strong in UX and design compared to their competitors. I think they're really thoughtful about our business and making it more successful through their work on the website. They lead with revenue and business growth in mind.

Are there any areas Hard Candy Shell could improve?

In general, I like working with an agency who can do design, frontend, and backend development because it makes coordination simpler from the client’s side. I don't know if Hard Candy Shell does that now, but when we worked with them in the past, they didn't, and I thought that complicated the workflow. 

5.0
Overall Score
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
  • 4.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer

UX/UI Redesign of Event Management Website

"They were adaptive to our needs and to our process and really met our expectations."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
5.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$200,000 to $999,999
 
Nov. 2016 - May 2017
Project summary: 

Hard Candy Shell prepared a cohesive vision and product strategy to define evolving business goals, conducting comprehensive research of the platform and its stakeholders for pre-integration prototypes.

The Reviewer
 
201-500 Employees
 
Norwalk, Connecticut
Travers Humble
Director of Product, etouches
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

Previews of Hard Candy Shell’s UX/UI designs drew excitement and renewed interest from existing customers, forecasting a positive reception to the updated SaaS platform. The team’s accessibility, friendly demeanor, and momentum-generating deliverables made the engagement successful.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

I’m the director of product management at etouches, a B2B software-as-a-service [SaaS] platform that offers technology for event planners. Our global platform allows event managers to register attendees and host events. Then, we offer extensive follow-up services with data and analysis of those events. I’m responsible for the execution of our product strategies. 

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Hard Candy Shell?

We have been around for about 9 years, so our platform represents that growth. In that time, we’ve seen tremendous expansion from a business perspective, but also from a platform and functionalities standpoint. One of the areas where we believed the system needed to evolve required an improved user experience [UX], user interface [UI], and overall design. We didn’t have the in-house resources to complete this project, so we looked outside to groups that could provide a future strategy for our platform and product, as well as put together a new style guide, design, and look and feel. 

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

The process was a 2-phased approach. The first exercise was about vision and strategy, and the second phase was modernizing our current platform.

Initially, we asked Hard Candy Shell to do a preliminary assessment of our platform, meet with stakeholders throughout the organization, and work with some key customers who were long-time contributors. The output was a high-level vision of where we could go as a company, which involved research analysis of where we stood in the marketplace compared to competitors, and insight from our customers regarding what they liked and didn’t like about the platform. Hard Candy Shell also provided an overall vision of how etouches as a platform should evolve in order to stay modern and progressive in the market. We held weekly reviews to assess what they'd learned and put together, and concluded with an executive presentation to discuss the results.

In the second phase, they actually took the elements that were introduced via the vision and converted them into practical short-term design elements and patterns (e.g. screens, mockups, and prototypes) that we could apply to our platform. They helped us take these future projections and adapt them our current experience. We worked on a weekly basis to review the screens and to make sure that we received a comprehensive collection of assets for us to apply.

We elected to have our internal team integrate the new designs. Hard Candy Shell provided us with some CSS and other assets.

What are some of the new features on the site?

The design has a lot of immediate value by introducing a consistent library of user experience and design elements. Today, our product is inconsistent and not really cohesive with the way we present functionality to the user across different areas of the system. With the new design, we now have standards that we can apply to the entire product that will produce a more consistent experience. With regard to the vision and the strategy, the current product requires us to know where every element lives within the tool and explicitly navigate the system in order to get the job done. It is a very task-driven experience to use our system, host an event, prepare an event, run an event, and analyze the success of the event.

We’re heading toward a more data-driven, suggestive experience; instead of the navigation being so explicitly available, it is now implied through suggestive system intelligence. It shows where you are in the management of your current event and what you need to do next in order to maximize the event, prepare it, and execute it. It’s a completely new experience for our customers, and it’s unique in the industry to offer this type of product. That’s the ultimate long-term vision of what Hard Candy Shell put together for us.

How many resources have been assigned to your project?

Kevin [Founder and CEO, Hard Candy Shell] was the primary relationship manager and the lead of the project, but we also had a chief strategist involved. We had a UX expert, 2 technical leaders, and a project manager.

How did you come to work with Hard Candy Shell?

My boss and I worked together to accumulate a pool of potential partners. We just accumulated that group through word of mouth and research. I contacted the groups and attended interviews with those we were considering. We narrowed the selection to 2 firms and asked them to give presentations. As an executive group, we elected to go with Hard Candy Shell.

How much have you invested with Hard Candy Shell?

I believe our budget was around $200,000 for the complete project.

What is the status of this engagement?

We started our relationship in November of 2016, and it concluded in late May of 2017. 

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or impact of the engagement?

We don’t have any metrics yet because we haven’t actually applied any of the work. In that sense, it is still a work in progress. Subjectively, the customers who have seen previews of what we’re working on seem to be very excited about it.

How did Hard Candy Shell perform from a project management standpoint?

Their accessibility was outstanding. We leveraged modern tools like Slack. We didn’t have to wait for more than 10–15 minutes for a response. Also, if clients are laid back, they can be laid back. We are fairly casual in our approach, and we found a way to work well together. They were adaptive to our needs and our process and really met our expectations.

What did you find most impressive about Hard Candy Shell?

I appreciated their candor and general demeanor. They seemed very reasonable. They were outstanding at listening to a variety of stakeholders. They didn’t overreact or respond with emotion, they respected everybody’s input and gave professional responses. I think that’s a big plus when working with outside groups. Our CEO really appreciated the time they took to learn our business, and it was evident throughout the project that they did a really great job of understanding the event management industry and some of our challenges. The quality of the work, the strategy, and the vision they put together was great too, although some would say internally that it wasn’t anything new. But, it really solidified the existing thought that we were on the right track. They created something that aligned directly with where we already believed we needed to go.

Are there any areas Hard Candy Shell could improve?

No, they were a great partner. They were open, accommodating, and fun to work with. Generally, everyone who engaged with them understood that as well. All of our expectations were met. We’ll know more once we start integrating their work. It has been a very successful project, and everyone walked away pleased with the exercise and the partnership. 

5.0
Overall Score We enjoyed the exercise, the quality of their work, and engaging with their personalities. We are happy with the output.
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    They met the deadlines. If anything, we were delinquent in our deadlines, but they were adaptive to our timelines and needs.
  • 5.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    It is hard to know the cost of alternatives, but they were competitive. The value and the quality of the work that we received for the money was good.
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    We thought they did a great job. They met our expectations. They took the time to understand our business and executed very well.
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer
    I absolutely recommend them.

Website for Brewery Event

"They’re exciting and fun to work with."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
4.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$50,000 to $199,999
 
Jan. - Mar. 2017
Project summary: 

Hard Candy Shell designed and developed a ticket-selling platform for a local cultural festival, infusing energy and creativity through social media integration, graphic-heavy content, and an engaging UX/UI.  

The Reviewer
 
51-200 Employees
 
Brooklyn, New York
Ben Hudson
Former Marketing Director, Brooklyn Brewery
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

The finished website has attracted positive feedback from visitors, many of whom appreciate its energetic, exciting look and feel. Hard Candy Shell’s rapid turnaround time, seamless project management, and dynamic personality made the engagement rewarding. 

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

I’m the former marketing director of Brooklyn Brewery. 

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Hard Candy Shell?

We refreshed the website for our keystone marketing promotion, which is a cultural festival called The Mash. It’s about the culture in Brooklyn and the creativity of the cities that the tour visits. Hard Candy Shell was tasked to bring the energy and fun of the festival to the web and ticket-buying experience. We wanted to show users how exciting the program is instead of telling them.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

They had to design and build a website that explained and sold tickets to the festival. We had a kickoff meeting where they explained their process and we shared about our brand and the festival. We met every week to look at the work they had completed and give feedback. We had a tight deadline, and they were able to meet the schedule weekly, which resulted in an on-time deliverable that was exactly what we asked for. The site was optimized for sharing and was integrated with Eventbrite for ticketing. They also integrated YouTube for video and Instagram for some of the photos.

Hard Candy Shell just starts building. They don’t do wireframes. We could start seeing the work immediately. The functionality was minimal at the start, but it’s still a website. They showed us individual pages as the project went along.

What were some of the new features for the site?

For past sites, we used so much text. It’s an unwieldy concept with a lot of ideas, and we felt the need to explain everything. With Hard Candy Shell, we created more of an energy on display with much less text. It’s a much smaller website.

How many resources have been assigned to your project?

We had a project manager, an engineer, a creative director, and Kevin [Founder and CEO, Hard Candy Shell] working on the project.

How did you come to work with Hard Candy Shell?

I asked for a recommendation from a friend of mine in the web world, and he mentioned Kevin. I met with Kevin, and then he came and met the team. I didn’t bid him against anybody else besides the previous company.

How much have you invested with Hard Candy Shell?

We spent $60,000 on the project.

What is the status of this engagement?

We started working with them in January of 2017, and the site was completed in March of 2017. 

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or impact of the engagement?

I can tell the site’s effective because we’re not seeing any drop-off, but I don’t have any hard numbers. We’ve gotten positive feedback from people who’ve seen the site. Users are able to understand things better and say the site looks exciting. They love the energy.

How did Hard Candy Shell perform from a project management standpoint?

The project was seamless. We used email to communicate.

What did you find most impressive about Hard Candy Shell?

They’re very creative and open to ideas. They’re exciting and fun to work with. Our team enjoys a healthy amount of joking, and they contributed to that as well. We don’t have boring meetings.

Are there any areas Hard Candy Shell could improve?

I have left the company, but I assume at the end of the project that our internal people looked at how the site behaved. They want to be sure that everything is usable for the customer.  

5.0
Overall Score We had a fun, energizing project, and the whole team felt proud of what we accomplished. It was a collaborative effort. We had plenty of criticisms about decisions along the way, and they turned that feedback into the right end result.
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    We had no issues. Everything happened in the way we expected.
  • 4.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    I can’t really compare them because I didn’t bid out the work.
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer

Site Redesign for Women's Lifestyle Media Co.

"They made sure that the final product accomplished exactly what we needed to accomplish."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
5.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
Confidential
 
Jan. - Mar. 2017
Project summary: 

Hard Candy Shell led a redesign of an outdated website for a media company. They helped with stakeholder research and user analytics, and focused on building a natural user journey through the content.

The Reviewer
 
11-50 Employees
 
New York, New York
Kate Barnett
President, Man Repeller
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

Hard Candy Shell is a goal-oriented team with a critical, helpful eye. They can lead a project, but also respond well to feedback. They’re superior in project management, particularly in accountability. They’re an understanding and supportive team that really captures a brand vision.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

I am the president of Man Repeller, a woman-centric media company started about eight years ago, initially as a fashion blog. We’ve since grown to a 20-person team and a global audience.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Hard Candy Shell?

We had a site which was aesthetically-fitting, but which had been built for the company we were three years ago. As our products and content have matured and grown along with the group, we needed to start the process of a redesign, so that the tech we had could support and match the quality of content we were publishing.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

We had a relatively quick turnaround time for the project. We walked Hard Candy Shell through our goals, namely being able to highlight our photography more and having a more intuitive way to guide people through the site. Readers would become lost in one area and hit a stopping point, so we wanted the ability to guide them in a way which felt more natural, and brought the right content to them based on what they were looking at.

We initially sat down with Kevin Kearney, their founder, and Meredith Schwartz, their director of strategy, and talked through the goals we had, our timeline and our budget. The first thing they did in this process was set up interviews with all major stakeholders. There was one-on-one time with each of them in order to understand what the specific goals were and to make sure that everyone on our team was on the same page.

From that point, we crafted the scope of work. Hard Candy Shell sat with us internally, but also went through our analytics, gaining a solid sense of how people were using the site.

They designed things on a staging site which, although not fully-coded, was complex enough so that we could see how each element would work. To me, this cut down on the crisis created by things looking or acting differently in the actual implementation, after the design stage.

We completely revamped the homepage. We had had a fairly basic blog feed, which was redesigned so that there would be a level of differentiation between different types of content (podcasts, videos or feature stories). Hard Candy Shell redesigned all our article pages, so that we have an arsenal of different types of pages for different types of content going up. They’re beautifully designed, and there was a lot of thought put into the details, coming from the initial meetings we had for understanding the brand.

We essentially wanted a site which worked well, and which had small, discrete areas of delight for users. One of the fun features on the site is that, when someone scrolls to the bottom, there will be an upside-down logo which, when clicked, will flip the entire page. This was not mission-critical in any way, but it contributes to our goal of having lightweight things throughout the site which can bring some personality to it.

How did you come to work with Hard Candy Shell?

We had gotten a few months deep with a freelance designer, and got to the hard realization that we weren’t getting where we needed to be. We reached out to a few other freelance designer/developers and agencies, interviewed them, talked through what we needed to accomplish and what the pricing was. Based on both recommendation and level of comfort with the agency, we went with Hard Candy Shell. It has literally been the best design process I’ve been a part of.

What is the status of this engagement?

We first got in touch with Hard Candy Shell in November 2016. The scope of work was signed off on the 30th of January, 2017. The delivery was made on March 1st. With the final delivery of code, we received style guides and manuals for the site, which allowed our team to keep building off of it.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?

There’s usually a two-to-three-week traffic dip for any redesign, for any number of reasons. We not only didn’t see that dip, but the month of going live has been our highest-traffic month to date. I kept looking at the analytics, wondering if something was broken or wrong. Hard Candy Shell set us up with a product which we can continue to use and build on. Instead of needing to go back to them with any questions like font hierarchies, everything was clearly laid out for us in the form of a helpful guide.

One of the things which I particularly appreciated in working with Hard Candy Shell was their balance of hearing everything we had to say, understanding our goals, and being able to lead in the best way for hitting those goals. At times, particularly when working with creatives with no background in tech, there’s a tendency to jump to what we might thing the solution is. With the relationship with Hard Candy Shell, it was wonderful being able to talk through that piece, and also know that they would critically think through how we got to that solution. If it wasn’t a logical solution, they were comfortable using their expertise for pushing back against our chosen solution, rather than the goals themselves. They made sure that the final product accomplished exactly what we needed to accomplish.

How did Hard Candy Shell perform from a project management standpoint?

After we agreed on a scope of work, we set up a rigorous schedule. We had a straightforward timeline which needed to be hit in order to receive the product we needed by the launch date. Everyone was clear on who was responsible for what, and in what timeframe. From then, we had weekly meetings reviewing each piece which had been designed based on the schedule, provided feedback, and committed to specific parts of the site, so that it didn’t get to one week before launch still needing to be reworked.

They performed excellently, both in the workflow laid out, as well as scheduling meetings and making sure that the right people participated at each one. They responded quickly to any email, and, since launch, Hard Candy Shell has continued to be available for any questions and tweaks. They’ve been supportive for any type of follow-up. Our director of business operations managed the relationship. For the rest of the team, it was a matter of attending meetings and providing feedback to our single point of contact, if there was anything outside of the meetings with Hard Candy Shell.

What did you find most impressive about Hard Candy Shell?

I found it unusual, and I really appreciated how much work was put upfront for really understanding our brand and goals. Hard Candy Shell grasped clearly what we were trying to accomplish. Not every element we saw was going to be a final part of the live site, but being able to see and talk through all the concepts which went behind each decision was a delight. It was unlike any experience I’ve had with a redesign.

Are there any areas Hard Candy Shell could improve?

No. I was really blown away with Hard Candy Shell.

5.0
Overall Score I and the founder of the company, as well as anyone else working with Hard Candy Shell, have been overall pleased with every element of the partnership.
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    This was one of the few experiences where it was made clear to us why all deadlines were necessary. Not only did they hit deadlines, they also made sure that everything was kept on-track internally, so we wouldn’t be the ones holding up the project.
  • 5.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    It was an investment for us, and it was absolutely worth it.
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    They were exceptional throughout the process.
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer
    I have and will continue to refer them.

Product Design for Cloud Communications Provider

"Our board is still talking about the work that Hard Candy Shell did."

Quality: 
4.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
2.5
Willing to refer: 
4.5
The Project
 
$50,000 to $199,999
 
Jan. - Apr. 2016
Project summary: 

Hard Candy Shell designed a web app for a cloud-based communications provider in the financial sector, prioritizing an intuitive UI/UX to help third-party users achieve a focused workflow. 

The Reviewer
 
51-200 Employees
 
New York, New York
Product Manager, Cloud Service Provider
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

Thanks to Hard Candy Shell’s technical insights, the pre-launch product has been met with full approval by every beta tester, forecasting strong interest in the final solution. The team’s smooth design process and constant accessibility created a productive engagement, justifying a steeper price point.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

We’re a cloud-based alternative for traditional trading torrents. Our product is mostly used in the financial industry. I’m a product manager. 

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Hard Candy Shell?

We were starting a new product and didn’t want to change the course of our parent product or our core product. We needed to take a look at the industry and how communication is done on and off the trading floor and build a product accordingly. That’s why we approached Hard Candy to propose the product design, the interface, and how the interactions would happen with the different features that the product would have. 

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

Hard Candy Shell helped us design the application, which is both web-based and mobile. It starts with a desktop application, but we’re thinking about a future product that will support mobile as well.

We worked with Hard Candy Shell back in January of 2016. It started as a 12-week project, but it got extended right away to a 15-week project because we wanted additional work to be completed. The 12-week process started with a preliminary phase of talking to the people at Hard Candy Shell and our clients. We had up to eight meetings with various clients that use our current product. In the weeks that followed, we mostly talked about the existing product and space, and by week six or seven—maybe even earlier than that—they were able to come up with a template and a design that they started to build on as they added features. That continued until the end of the project.

We had a dedicated project manager and another person; every week, we had a design review process. They presented new features or concepts, and we’d review them and offer suggestions. It would be a two-hour meeting, and we’d get back to them with whatever feedback we had within a day.

When we started the product, it didn’t have a name. They decided to name the project Elliot, which was apt at that time. It felt like a person you could relate to. One of the features of the product is the ability to talk to somebody within your organization. That’s the core function: being able to talk one-on-one or one-to-many and create that connection on the fly. They did it in a very intuitive way, so users who use a lot of consumer products like Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp would understand how to log into the application and use it. They took away the training part of getting used to a new product and made it more intuitive.

They presented a lot of concepts when they started the product design process. One of the concepts that stuck with me was focused communication and making people do better at their jobs. That stuck with the product.

How did you come to work with Hard Candy Shell?

We did some research, and a lot of people recommended Hard Candy Shell. We found reviews online from people with similar design challenges. They’d done similar projects before and had created products in the financial industry. We checked out a few of the products they’d done. They seemed dedicated to 12 weeks of working only on your product, whereas some of the other firms had shared resources. That helped us make the decision.

How much have you invested with Hard Candy Shell?

It was in the six-figure realm, a little below $200,000.

What is the status of this engagement?

We haven’t worked with them since that project, only because we’re a startup and we’ve had limited resources in terms of working on anything new. We’re still trying to get the project out. It’s still in the development phase, but I’m sure if there is a need to do any more work, they will be considered. 

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or impact of the engagement?

Everybody loves the product; they just want it in their hands. As the product manager, that’s my biggest challenge right now. Everyone who’s seen it has loved it. I can’t wait for this product to be launched.

How did Hard Candy Shell perform from a project management standpoint?

They were really great. They were very upfront if anything was getting delayed or if anything was not part of their plan. The project manager on their team, Lauren, was really great. Any time of the day I emailed her, she was responsive.

We had a board review, and they were supposed to present. I wasn’t sure what they were going to present, and I kept asking her, but she told me, “Don’t worry. It’ll be fine.” At the end of the day, it was fine; the board loved it. Our board is still talking about the work that Hard Candy Shell did. From a project management standpoint, they were really on par with all the work they said they were going to deliver.

What did you find most impressive about Hard Candy Shell?

They were very thoughtful. They tried to understand our space and our customers, and that was one of the best things. They got our product immediately. A lot of people use our core product and say they don’t know how to create a connection, but Hard Candy Shell gets the concept of it immediately. They know how to use it.

Are there any areas Hard Candy Shell could improve?

The only thing I would say is that they’re a design firm, and we work in the financial space. We had a lot of client meetings, and even though they’re very professional with their work, at some point I had to ask them to make sure that they show up in proper attire if we’re meeting with a bank or something like that. I think we had one bad meeting where the client was just asking why we were working with these people who don’t pay attention. I was just like, “Well, they're design people. They know what they need to do.”

4.5
Overall Score
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
  • 2.5 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    They were definitely valuable, but they were expensive. I really had to convince my management team to use them.
  • 4.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    They did really well. They delivered everything we asked for.
  • 4.5 NPS
    Willing to refer
    I’d definitely recommend them.

Website Redesign for New York Post

"Without a doubt, their design helped us grow our audience in a major way."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
4.5
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
Confidential
 
Jan. 2013 - Jan. 2015
Project summary: 

Hard Candy Shell conducted a full revamp of a major media website, taking the time to understand design goals and user consumption habits. The team assisted from conception to launch to final fixes. 

The Reviewer
 
501-1,000 Employees
 
New York, New York
Remy Stern
Chief Digital Officer, New York Post
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

The streamlined site’s new UI/UX design boosted audience numbers by over 400%, thanks to Hard Candy Shell’s creative problem-solving skills and anticipation of readers’ preferences. Their diligent workflow and ability to improve existing ideas contributed to a successful relationship.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

The New York Post is a media organization with a print newspaper and three different sites. We reach 40 million people a month across our various platforms. I am the chief digital officer.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Hard Candy Shell?

The Post website needed a complete redesign. So we had Hard Candy Shell start from scratch and worked together to develop a vision for how the site should look and function.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

Hard Candy Shell started out with 16 hours of stakeholder meetings. Lots of people had been frustrated about the design in the past and wanted to share their opinions and thoughts. They spent a lot of time with me and my team, but also across the company understanding what people wanted, what people didn’t like, what people were hoping for. We went through a number of rounds of designs. They have a lot of media and publishing experience. They really understood what was important to us. That was one of the reasons we worked with them to begin with. They understood news and how people consume news.

It was a large project. There were so many different sections and template types and they weren’t just designing The Post, they were also designing PageSix.com which we divided into a separate site. We worked very closely with them for about a year from conception to launch. They also helped post-launch on clean-up and fixing things. Hard Candy Shell gave us the PSDs that we passed on to our developers and our own team did the development. Kevin, who leads Hard Candy Shell, was very personally involved. Ryan was overseeing creative direction. We had a project manager and one or two designers. We were meeting frequently either here at our office or at their office. They are a small firm, which was important for us because we didn’t want to get lost working with a giant agency. With a small agency, everybody is participating and everybody is involved from the top down.

How did you come to work with Hard Candy Shell?

I knew Kevin previously and had worked with him previously. I trusted him and knew the work that they were capable of. We looked at some other agencies but a really small team was important. We also wanted a team that was accessible so that we could have frequent in-person meetings. We also wanted them to have a deep understanding of how users consume news content. Their track record of doing that for other publishers was really important. We did consider other providers but not seriously. It wasn’t a tough decision. From the beginning, Hard Candy Shell was the favorite.

What is the status of this engagement?

We started working with them in January of 2013, and The Post and Page Six launched in the fall of 2013. We worked on a couple of subsequent projects since then, and the relationship ended in January of 2015. If we had another big design project, I wouldn’t hesitate to call them, but at the moment, we don’t have any large projects.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?

We’ve had enormous success since the redesign. I think part of it is certainly related to the design and creating a fantastic user experience. We got incredible feedback and reviews. We’ve since grown our audience by more than four times. We can’t really just attribute it exclusively to the design because we made tons of changes on the technology side as well. But without a doubt, their design helped us grow our audience in a major way.

How did Hard Candy Shell perform from a project management standpoint?

They are incredibly diligent about hitting dates on a project plan. We were probably used to slipping a day here and a day there, but they are laser-focused on meeting deadlines. When they said that they were going to send something to us by a specific day they did. Sometimes they might have been frustrated that when we had to give them feedback, we didn’t stick as rigidly to the timeline. They are really good about managing expectations.

What did you find most impressive about Hard Candy Shell?

They are incredibly creative. I’m sure design agencies would all describe themselves as creative, but many of them tend to stick to the tried and true and things that have worked before. I think the Hard Candy Shell team really does think outside the box. We had lots of ideas and they came up with things that we tested that we didn’t use or we looked at and we didn’t like, but I think their creativity and willingness to rethink how something should be designed, how something should function, and how users interact with a specific element are excellent. 

Are there any areas Hard Candy Shell could improve?

Not really. We are a larger organization, so we could spend the money on great designers. In terms of pricing, I wouldn’t say they’re expensive, but you get what you pay for, and they’re not super cheap. If I were a small company, I probably couldn’t afford to work with them.

5.0
Overall Score We were delighted.
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    They were among the best we’ve ever worked with in that regard.
  • 4.5 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    They were expensive but well worth the cost.
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    They do exceptional work. We were impressed every time.
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer

User Research & Design for Travel Discount Website

"They’re very smart people and you can tell they work together well as a group to come up with a solution that is best."

Quality: 
4.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
4.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$200,000 to $999,999
 
Nov. 2014 - July 2016
Project summary: 

Hard Candy Shell helped a travel site with user research, UX, and web design. The team provided a combination of style guides, mood boards, and interactive prototypes to the internal engineering team.

The Reviewer
 
201-500 Employees
 
New York, New York
Melissa Schulte
Product Director, Travelzoo
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

Hard Candy Shell excels in determining the right solution and proving it. The team is communicative and steadfast with timelines. While this means few iterations can be requested, it keeps the project on track. Hard Candy Shell needed direction in some cases, but they delivered quality work.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

Travelzoo is a travel and leisure deal site. We procure, negotiate, and publish deals related to travel and things you would do when traveling such as restaurants, spas, golf, etc. We provide deals on airfare, car rental, hotels, cruises, and packages. I’m product director and I focus on the website.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Hard Candy Shell?

We knew our current website wasn’t user-friendly for people to find content. Originally, our site was made when sites were used more as a directory. As we shifted to where we wanted our members to pull content, we realized that the current information architecture was really complicated and reflected more of our internal business instead of something that was cohesive and easy to search and find. We also wanted to modernize the site in general. We had a separate mDot site that was mobile-optimized and we had a desktop version of the site. We spend a lot of time and money on beautiful photography and that wasn’t featured on our site at all. We hired Hard Candy Shell to help us with user research, UX, and visual design to make a responsive website.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

Hard Candy was engaged with Travelzoo before I joined the company. Most recently we worked with them on the new website. The first phase we engaged them for was the research. Our deliverables were developing behavior modes. We wanted to identify the people who come to our site. They did a PowerPoint deck that was a description of the main behavior modes that people are in when they’re visiting Travelzoo. For example, a person may be a schedule slave, such as a mother who has multiple kids in different schools which have spring break during a certain week. We looked at each behavior mode from the perspective of what, where, and when. A schedule slave may be pretty open on where they want to go but definitely more decided on when.

Then we had other modes such as the experience planner which is someone who might want to plan a golf outing with their buddies sometime in the spring. They’re more open to when, but the what is decided. The where is more open but it’s dependent on the weather for golfing, etc. There were also more technical deliverables where they showed the layout they were proposing for the site.

We took those proposals and did a lot of our own work along with working with other firms that were doing surveys and capturing other information about our users. We decided to move forward with visual design work with Hard Candy Shell. For those deliverables, we identified the high priority pages of the site and the objectives of each of them. For example, we decided what we wanted on our home page and our Top 20 page. Top 20 is our flagship product which is a weekly list we send to all of our members of the top 20 deals for the week. We also worked on our product pages on the e-commerce site. Hard Candy Shell delivered wireframes of what those would look like. We also had deliverables that were like mood boards where they presented a number of different options for font styles and color schemes, etc. We decided what we liked best and moved on to the actual visual design of the page. We have an internal engineering team that we handed the designs over to. Hard Candy provided the style guide and the engineers worked off of those prototypes. The actual designs were interactive prototypes because it was a responsive site so you could see all the different break points.

How did you come to work with Hard Candy Shell?

I put out an RFP and we invited 10 firms that responded. We narrowed our selection down to 2 firms. One of the firms was more of a research firm. They did usability testing and surveying, etc. and we wanted to work with them on that piece of it. We were more impressed with Hard Candy’s visual portfolio.

How much have you invested with Hard Candy Shell?

We spent approximately $500,000 over the course of our relationship.

What is the status of this engagement?

We started working with them in November 2014 and we launched to a small set of users in July 2016. We’re still rolling out to some of our smaller site additions like Asia. We’ve been live in the US since October 2016. Once we had the style guide solidified, we brought most of the work to our internal team. Once Hard Candy built the prototypes for the high priority pages, that was the end of our contract. We did reengage with them later on with a few things we wanted to iterate on. We will continue to work with them if we need help with designs, but at this point, we’re in optimization mode.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?

Our clients are the people we’re negotiating deals with, including hotels, restaurants, cruise lines, vacation packagers, etc. They have been overwhelmingly happy about how we present their company better. We have a business around tourism where we put pages together for a specific state that may pay us to do email marketing and build a landing page that has deals for that state. We may do emails or social media blasts to promote that specific state. We have a few clients that wouldn’t work with us in the past because of the design of those landing pages but have now signed contracts with us. That was a big win for us.

In general, we saw user satisfaction increase. We got a lot of good feedback from users saying they really liked the imagery. One of the ways we make money is that we sell on a per-click basis for some of our deals. We may have a deal that we’re driving traffic to. We negotiate a landing page and promote it and the number of clicks they get to that page is what they pay us for. We’ve seen the clicks on the pages increase overall which resulted in revenue increases. None of our purchase or booking conversions were negatively impacted. As we’ve iterated on that since launch, we’ve actually improved conversion.

How did Hard Candy Shell perform from a project management standpoint?

There was a lot of good communication. We talked 3 or 4 times a week. As the lead on our end, I worked directly with the lead from their project team. We talked regularly. There was never a time where I felt I wasn’t getting responses. There were some times where visual designs were not quite what we wanted and we wanted to iterate more on it. But Hard Candy is very strict about timelines and needing to have X amount of iterations defined early while we were planning the project. There was not a lot of flexibility in being able to tweak what had been done. On the other hand, I respect that because that means we were always delivering on time. Hard Candy is always open to work with us further on things but it wasn’t an endless iterative process which probably was frustrating for my bosses. I understand that it was important to manage the project properly.

What did you find most impressive about Hard Candy Shell?

Hard Candy is very competent in what their solution is. They’re very smart people and you can tell they work together well as a group to come up with a solution that is best. When they present it, they’re very confident that that’s the right solution. I think that is really powerful especially with designs when there are a lot of opinions involved. When you have a client who is not a UX professional making suggestions to the vendor, it’s not always good for the vendor to take that advice. Hard Candy did a good job of sticking to what they believed to be the best solution for the problems they came up with.

Are there any areas Hard Candy Shell could improve?

One area was the deliverable on the style sheet. What I wanted to hand over to my engineers was a very detailed, technical deliverable that said, in this case, this should be styled in this way. They gave us something more high-level with just general colors and fonts that should be used. We went back a couple of times and asked for more detail and they never really got to the level of technical detail that we were looking for. It ended up being acceptable, but it took more work for our internal designers to revise that so our engineers could work with it. This might not be an issue for companies that have engineers that are more familiar with frontend work. We have a unique case where very few of our engineers were experienced in frontend web design work. It was probably just a mismatch in expertise on both ends and we needed to bridge that gap internally.

4.5
Overall Score
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    They’re very good at meeting deadlines.
  • 4.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    They are expensive but I think it’s quality work.
  • 4.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    The technical detail in the deliverables wasn’t always what we were expecting.
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer
    I would definitely recommend them.

Website & UX Redesign for YETI

"They were always recalibrating to our needs."

Quality: 
4.5
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
n/a
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
Confidential
 
June 2015 - June 2016
Project summary: 

Hard Candy Shell handled site branding and UX for an outdoor product company. They worked with an existing outsourced partnership for development and implementation, but otherwise took charge of the redesign.

The Reviewer
 
201-500 Employees
 
Austin, Texas
Trish Olives
Creative Services Manager, YETI
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

Where Hard Candy Shell excels is in deep understanding of brand goals. They’re flexible, without trying to push over-the-top ideas. They build off existing material and effectively improve UX from there. At some milestones, they could have improved communication, but they are timely and upfront.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

YETI is an outdoor product company. We make hard and soft goods for the outdoor space. I lead creative internally, and I’m part of the agency creative relationships as well.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Hard Candy Shell?

We were in dire need of a website update. We were basically an e-commerce site. We wanted to put a really strong infusion of brand in there, and have it be interwoven. We wanted the branding and e-commerce sections to feel like one thing.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

We did an initial discovery period where they could dive as deep into the brand as they wanted. We brought their whole team on-site, and they spent two days with different stakeholders in the company, going over the brand, the products, and what we’re about as a company. We then sent them off to iterate. We asked them to do the UI/UX and the visual design, and then partner with a development agency that we already used for implementation.

We’re based in Austin, Texas, and Hard Candy Shell is in New York. Our director of digital and I went up to New York for the first round of creative review. We looked at color palettes, typography, and some UX concepts. We made our initial decision, so they could get rolling on it. We had weekly design review calls, which were an hour or two, and they walked us through where they were on everything. We gave them approvals and feedback, and they continued to iterate. That went on for quite a while, as it was a few sections or pages at a time.

How did you come to work with Hard Candy Shell?

For the redesign, we were going strictly external. We did an RFP process. I had known about their agency for a while, and they seemed to really understand what we were trying to do. We also had worked with a broker of some sort. I wasn’t part of that conversation, but he connected us with one other agency. To pick between the two of them, we went to New York and met with both agencies, did an interview process, and made our decision from there.

We ultimately went with Hard Candy Shell because they seemed to understand what we were trying to do. They weren’t interested in reinventing the wheel with us or giving us more brand and marketing direction than we were looking for. We have an agency of record and strong marketing leadership, so it was really that they could execute and improve on what we were already doing digitally.

What is the status of this engagement?

We started talking to them in March of 2015, and we kicked off the project in June of that year. The site launched in June of 2016 and we continued working with them for a while after that on minor fixes, but the relationship is now ended.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?

We had launched a really high production value series of videos. We were producing a lot of content. The site they created gave us a place to house all that content for engagement purposes, which we didn’t have before at all. It was definitely driving clicks to the site.

It was a phenomenal improvement from where we were, without a doubt. The site really reflected the premium nature of our products, which wasn’t the case with our previous website.

How did Hard Candy Shell perform from a project management standpoint?

They did really well. They were always very aware of the timelines, deadlines, and different milestones. They created a lot of those milestones and adhered to them, even when we were a difficult client. They were very upfront with us. If we asked for a change or update that was out of scope, they let us know immediately. There were no surprises that way. We drew the project out longer than intended, to get the best possible results, and they were onboard with that. They were always recalibrating to our needs.

What did you find most impressive about Hard Candy Shell?

I liked how they work on one project at a time, and everyone gets deep into one brand. That kind of attention is very beneficial. Everyone is focused on YETI for that timeframe. It’s nice to have their full attention.

Are there any areas Hard Candy Shell could improve?

There were some limitations on the development side between their main tech person and our long-term development partner. There could have been better communication on those limitations early, which would have made the end portion of the project run smoother.

4.0
Overall Score There were some difficulties with the distance, but they were certainly focused on our needs and worked hard to accomplish the goals.
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
  • N/A Cost
    Value / within estimates
  • 4.5 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    They were really effective in the discovery period, which made for a great end result.
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer

Logo & Web Design for Travel Rewards Site

"The new logo is worlds better than the dated logo that we had before."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
4.5
Willing to refer: 
4.5
The Project
 
Confidential
 
June 2016 - Jan. 2017
Project summary: 

Hard Candy Shell designed a sleek, modern website to capture the unique brand of a travel site. They also redesigned the logo to match changing brand expectations.

The Reviewer
 
1-10 Employees
 
New York, New York
COO, Travel Media Website
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

Hard Candy Shell had a thorough understanding of the desired brand identity. The site received positive feedback. One highlight was the working HTML/CCS mockups that gave a feel for their work.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

We’re a leader in the travel media space. We help people optimize their travel through credit cards, loyalty programs, and points, and we reach 3.5 million people every month. I’m the COO.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Hard Candy Shell?

We had a dated website, a simple reverse chronological WordPress. It was fine for someone’s side blog but wasn’t really suitable for a real business reaching millions of people each month.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

There were actually two projects: the redesign and then the rebranding. In regards to the redesign, it was complete, a total redo. We had partnered with them and another technology partner on the backend to do the actual development. There were a few phases. The first phase was a discovery phase: they looked at what our competitors were doing and interviewed readers and non-readers who were interested in the space. They came back with a very comprehensive strategy plan where they said, “We looked at all of this, we looked at you, and here is what we think your North Star should be going forward.” And then from that, there was the redesign itself.

One of the things that I like about Kevin and the Hard Candy Shell team is that they don’t work on flat compositions. Their mocks are fully functional HTML and CSS. You can look at it as a mobile user or on a desktop. I think it’s very easy to see something pretty on a page but to play and actually interact with it really helps to determine how useful it would be. Through the redesign process, we’d meet mostly at their offices every two weeks, and they’d show us the section of the site they’d done recently, and we’d give feedback. Some months later, we had a new beautiful site.

The rebranding came after the redesign because we liked working with them so much for the redesign. Our old logo had served the company fine for several years but it was starting to look dated and very Pan Am. It had a plane, some cursive, and a blue sky. But once we had this new beautiful redesigned website, we found that the old logo looked silly in the new website. We had worked with some other people to try and do a quick and dirty rebranding, but we weren’t really happy with how that had worked. Hard Candy Shell was so familiar with our brand and who we were that they were a natural fit for the rebranding project itself.

It was about five or six people from Hard Candy Shell working on the redesign. There was Kevin, the CEO, project manager, strategist, and a handful of designers.

How did you come to work with Hard Candy Shell?

I’ve known Kevin for a number of years, just from the New York media world, but we still did a proper RFP process. We put together an RFP and sent it to four firms. Two of the firms came for in-person interviews with our team. From looking at the extent to which we felt that a firm got us, Hard Candy Shell was a natural fit because of their experience and how we gelled with them.

What is the status of this engagement?

It feels like a million years ago, but realistically it was early June 2016. The site launched in early 2017. They built it and designed it and then a different firm built out the tech part of the website. They were keeping their eye on it, but their heavy lifting was done. Again, we did do the rebranding at the same time as the development, but the projects were unrelated.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?

The biggest metric I have is that the project went great and we’re all really happy with it. Things didn’t go down. Nothing crazy happened. There weren’t riots in the streets. There were very few reader complaints. There’s more to come; we haven’t even rolled out all the things they built yet. It was a very big change—it’s a pretty big deal to go overnight from a dated WordPress blog to something that looks so much newer and cleaner. The fact that no one talks about it is actually a good thing. It’s not like we’re asking, “Do we really like this? Is this right? Should we have done this differently?” It was pretty seamless from that end.

Rebranding is always tricky. Our CEO is the founder. He started this thing a bunch of years ago so it’s all very personal to him. But he was super pleased with the results, and we were all pleased with the direction. The new logo is worlds better than the dated logo that we had before.

How did Hard Candy Shell perform from a project management standpoint?

I thought they were great. We weren’t always the quickest at giving feedback, but Lauren, the project manager, was always on the ball and persistent but not overwhelming. It's a delicate balance that she did very well with. We had Slack that she’d be in sometimes, but we mostly kept in touch through email.

What did you find most impressive about Hard Candy Shell?

I think they have a really unique reputation in the crowded New York media world. They did a really good job of understanding and personifying the brand. Our brand is very different from other media brands, and that’s something I think they got.

Are there any areas Hard Candy Shell could improve?

I don’t really have anything specifically. We’re just happy with how seamless everything was.

5.0
Overall Score
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
  • 4.5 Cost
    Value / within estimates
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
  • 4.5 NPS
    Willing to refer

UX Design for B2B Infrastructure Company

"They’re awesome. They’re the people you want to work with all the time."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
4.5
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$200,000 to $999,999
 
2007-2014
Project summary: 

Hard Candy Shell performed user research, created wireframes, and was involved in the development of two news websites and one additional site.

The Reviewer
 
11-50 employees
 
New York City, New York
Nathan Richardson
Founder, Trade It, Inc.
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

The first project resulted in a 20% increase in consumer retention. Hard Candy Shell consistently over performed and was always on time. The client considers them a valuable strategic partner rather than a just design resource.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

Trade It is a B2B infrastructure company for financial technology. I am the CEO.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with Hard Candy Shell?

I’ve worked with them on three different occasions. In each instance, I was looking to have a strategic partner to help me understand the future of where our site and/or mobile sites were going and how to best design them, have the best user interface, have the most up-to-date navigation, and the most well-informed user feedback oriented site.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

In each case, they helped us to understand what our requirements acutely were and how to understand what problem we were solving for. They went back and did some research and came back to us with a set of frameworks in order to think through how to come up with solutions for our challenge. In two of those instances, it was news organizations that were trying reach influences who read and consume a lot of information. In each of those cases, they helped us to identify not only the right presentation for a site that had breaking news but also the right navigation and the right structure to package everything in so that we didn’t lose users but rather gained users that came back more often. I was not a full stakeholder in the middle one, but on the first one, I was the CEO of the company, and on the last one, I was the lead for the project. In both of those cases, they were four well-known news organizations. One was a company that was bought by the Guardian and the other was for Bloomberg Media. They were brought in at the beginning for not only ideation but for customer research, as well as doing a lot of the development work.

How did you come to work with Hard Candy Shell?

We looked and talked to a number of different agencies in each instance. We came to the conclusion that they had the deepest experience and expertise in the subject that we were covering, which was breaking news and information.

How much have you invested with Hard Candy Shell?

I don’t remember. It wasn’t Craigslist for designers. The first project was under $200,000. The latest one was over $200,000.

What is the status of this engagement?

Our first project was in 2007. I worked with them until 2014.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?

I think we saw a 20% lift in retention on the first project. I left before the completion of the second project. For the middle project, I was not the key stakeholder and I don’t have the metrics for that either. As far as the retention, we were losing people. They would come, look at something, and leave. But with the redesign, we were trying to capture them to stay and do more with us, and they did. The users we had were an influencer group of people in a specific industry, and they were much more likely to stick around and read because Hard Candy Shell gave them a structure to discover more and to spend more time with us.

How did Hard Candy Shell perform from a project management standpoint?

Impeccably. We held them up at times. They were always on or ahead of schedule and incredibly proactive in hitting timelines and pushing us to complete our end of the work that needed to be done. There were some people using Basecamp. I was not.

What did you find most impressive about Hard Candy Shell?

They are seasoned professionals who have incredible expertise. They understand how to drive an online business probably better than anyone you’re going to encounter. So don’t look at them as design. Look at them as a strategic partner. They don’t toot their own horn a lot. There are a lot of “internet Jesus’” out there in the design space who think they can save your business with design, and Hard Candy Shell does not fall into that camp. They get the work done and they’re very good at it.

Are there any areas Hard Candy Shell could improve?

No. They’re great. They’re awesome. They’re the people you want to work with all the time. You wish they were in your office all the time.

5.0
Overall Score I’m a repeat customer.
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    Understand that they’re a service provider.
  • 4.5 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    They’re incredibly competent and the best you can get. If you want the best, then you shouldn’t cut corners and not pay them.
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    Over performed every time.
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer