Gaining Competitive Advantage in a Tight Innovation Space

Optelian homepage

TBG & Optelian

Optelian is a North American tech company you may not be familiar with but likely powers brands you know. Optelian provides packet optical networking solutions to utility services, cable networks, universities, municipalities, and data storage centers (“the cloud”), among other infrastructures. Optical networking is an intensely competitive market with very tight technical innovation margins. Because most companies in this space sell similar products, they have to compete on other metrics, such as customer service and marketing.

Buying optical network switches is not an impulse decision; potential customers know exactly what they need by customer service and marketing force. The redesign of Optelian’s site—and the implementation of a CMS—was part of that transformation.

TBG's (The Berndt Group) challenge was to give Optelian a competitive advantage in the tight optical networking market, and to present the company as the sophisticated tech company it is. We did that first by taking as our design cues the theme of optics and the use of light; we had really interesting subject matter to work with. Partnering with Optelian and the Dalton Agency in Atlanta, we developed a new look for the company, as well as new content, and we also thoughtfully improved overall usability on the site.

Next we implemented Umbraco, an Open Source CMS that shares more capabilities with robust systems like Sitecore than it does with many Open Source systems such as WordPress. By installing Umbraco TBG was able to keep the cost relatively low for Optelian while simultaneously delivering all of the best features of using a CMS:

  • reusing content in many places throughout a site; 
  • using automated related links to drive users toward conversion; and 
  • delivering workflow and version control that are key to successful business operations.

The new design of the site, when combined with the behind-the-scenes efficiency of a CMS, gives Optelian a sophisticated digital presence that matches the highly competitive technical company it has evolved to become. Now when a customer is searching for packet networking cards or Ethernet aggregation cards, the more refined design works—in conjunction with the excellent customer service they already receive—to accurately frame Optelian as a leader in its field.

TBG has long experience in digital consulting for tech companies; we are proud Optelian recognized that and chose us as their Web vendor.

Design, Branding & Positioning

Design, Branding & Positioning

Because competitors sell similar products, Optelian’s brand positioning is critical to success. The company’s excellent customer service and rock steady integrity already helped Optelian compete on a wide playing field with larger, better known competitors. The new website needed to position the company online with the look-and-feel of a larger player in the market while maintaining and improving usability and constantly reinforcing Optelian’s brand characteristics, including:

  • Carrier grade
  • Agility
  • Speed
  • Specialization
  • Passion

TBG’s design strategy was to focus on light: particles, movement, shading, reflection, and refraction. We played down images of hardware and played up notions of people and outcomes. As part of the content strategy to articulate Optelian’s value proposition and set it apart from the competition, TBG recommended specific new messaging around carrier grade appropriateness, speed, technical specialization, and passion. Optelian’s new website is a fresh, sophisticated take on a growing tech company and helps it to level the playing field in which it competes. TBG’s use of sophisticated design, in conjunction with new branding, elevates Optelian to enable it to stand out as much for its digital presence as it already does for its stellar customer service.

Usability for All Audience Segments

Usability for All Audience Segments

Many experienced, highly technical users already knew exactly what content they needed upon arriving on the site. But the content was organized in a way that made it tedious to find, even on repeated visits. Products and services were also hard to find for first-time users—a problem for a company trying to compete in a large market. We devised an information architecture that combined both consumer-friendly content approachable by even a first-time user and also highly technical terms used by engineers. For many sites, the use of jargon is a usability problem because it creates an obstacle for novice users and impedes conversion. However, with so many Optelian users deeply knowledgeable about the products and platforms they require, we knew this dual-pronged approach would ensure all types of users get to the content they need—whether or not they knew what they came to the site looking for. Optelian’s content is much better organized overall, with technical and marketing content living side by side. The use of related links in context helps users see all of the content on a particular subject, which helps novice users understand the subject, even when they don’t know what they don’t know.

CMS Implementation

CMS Implementation

Optelian had no content management system to speak of, and it suffered from the typical challenges that arise from this scenario. Manual site updates were the provenance of the IT staff, who was overwhelmed by requests for changes. In addition, Optelian was missing out on opportunities for up-selling and cross-selling, or for re-marketing using thought leadership, by not having a related links strategy. TBG recommended Umbraco, an Open Source CMS, as Optelian’s new CMS. Umbraco has robust features that would bring Optelian on par with its competitors, such as complex workflows allowing distributed authoring, validation of user input, automated related links, and, perhaps most importantly, content items that are reusable throughout a site—diminishing the amount of attention and time a human must touch or think about that content. The new Optelian site is optimized for conversions with the use in multiple areas of a cohesive related links strategy intended to cross-sell or upsell where appropriate, to feature thought leadership and white papers in context with product and service content, and that shows a user the entire breadth of content on a given topic. In addition, the company’s staff is now freed up to spend more time solving strategic problems instead of worrying about the tactical problems of getting their Web content published.