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By Michael Schneider

Jay Chung, president and CEO of Infinity Studios LLC, sat at his computer one day in April, 2005 and opened an email containing new images of his company’s website sent to him by Michael Schneider, president of Fluidesign. The proofs were exactly what he envisioned when he hired the Los Angeles-based creative branding and web development agency to redesign the website for Infinity, an Asian graphic novel and animation publisher based in Richmond, California. The look was appealing to Infinity’s audience; there was content that would garner repeat visitors, and it was easy to update and change.

In late 2004, Chung began planning the redesign the Infinity Studios website. Complex websites weren’t commonplace in his field at the time, but Chung wanted it to be informational and important to the community without being pushy or too sales-oriented. The site needed to support distributors, such as comic book stores, yet offer an ecommerce system capable of supplying customers directly.

He began his search with the keyword “web design” on Google. Fluidesign was one of the first hits. “I met with many agencies, but at the end of the search I remembered Fluidesign even though they weren’t the cheapest,” Chung says. Infinity executives visited to discuss expectations and ideas. Many other agencies sent their recommendations via email with no personal contact or attempt to learn about the business. “(Fluidesign’s) staff was between the ages of 22 and 30, they were interested in the industry and I thought they would put in the extra effort. Plus, I liked their work,” Chung said.

After Fluidesign was commissioned, the firm began the re-branding process with research of Infinity’s target market--Asian animation aficionados. It skewed toward 13 to 27 year-old males. The design team visited distributors, conventions, fan sites, exhibits and other venues to explore the community’s art and interests. Research showed the audience spent a lot of time online. This meant that it impress them would require an extra effort.

Fluidesign decided on a visually complex flash website with many visual add-ons that would allow the site to “play” with the users as they navigate. For instance, the masthead of the website has a design that will revolve around the cursor, the submenus are animated to dance up and down as the user selects them and book covers and graphics enlarge when scrolled over.

“Attention to detail makes a website enjoyable,” Schneider said. “If users have fun and leave with the idea that there is more to see, they will return.” Distinct colors and fonts were chosen based on research. Chung was surprised by the choices. “I never imagined the colors would work, but everyone loved it so much that we now use the palette in all aspects of our company.”

As the new site neared completion, the design team agreed that the old logo felt sorely out of place. Fluidesign decided to update it even though they weren’t commissioned to do so. The logo was given to the client free of charge because it wasn’t in the estimate--and the desire to make everything work.

Since the site’s primary goal was to inform, Fluidesign created and prominently placed news and recommendation in sections such as the “Hot Box.” In these sections Infinity can showcase favorite products that may not have received a lot of attention.

The firm also programmed the back-end of the website to be easily customizable by the Infinity staff. The “Hot Box” and news sections needed to be frequently updated and changed, so Infinity wanted a system that was quick and simple enough to use without programming expertise.

Since the new Infinity Studios went live in April 2005, the company has had a lot of positive feedback from distributors, who say the new site does a great job of building interest in upcoming titles. Chung has also seen a large jump in the number of visitors coming from distributors’ websites and an increase in repeat visitors.

In the past year, the site has undergone a few major updates, including the addition of a new feature that allows visitors to view pages before purchasing and to read entire books online. In Asia, large compendiums of graphic novels are released as a way to build interest in titles. This web component was added to make up for the lack of compendiums in the American market. This feature also boosts interest in titles that are mid-series. Chung says that sales decrease 30 percent for every title released in a series because people are hesitant to buy a book if they haven’t read the previous volumes. The feature combats this by enabling customers to read past volumes online.

Michael Schneider is the President of Fluidesign
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