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Digital growth for international centre for contemporary art

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Pushing Spike Island’s digital strategy forwards with a site that supports future growth


Spike Island, an international centre for contemporary art, wanted a new WordPress site to better serve their audiences and team.

As an art gallery, public events venue, and home to a community of artists and creative businesses, Spike Island needed to simplify their complicated offering and launch an online shop.

Screenshot of the Spike Island WordPress website showing homepage

What the client wanted

  • Digital home for a vast archive of information
  • Multiple streams of their organisation presented appropriately to different audience groups
  • Design that represents the character of the brand
  • UX review and user friendly navigation to clearly signpost to a wide range of activities
  • Simple-to-update CMS with modular page builder
  • Different content types such as repeating or one-off events
  • Key visitor information displayed clearly, including details about how to visit and venue accessibility

The story

About Spike Island

Spike Island forms an important part of Bristol’s hub of creative and cultural activity. The Spike Island team were in need of a website design and development partner to help them implement a new digital strategy.

As an international centre for the development of contemporary art, they had big plans and visions for their website and wanted a partner who could help to deliver this.

We worked closely with Spike Island to identify how the website could streamline their processes and flourish as a beautiful online platform rich with information and resources.

We delivered a bespoke WordPress and WooCommerce platform delivering a new level of functionality and flexibility and bringing a new dimension to Spike Island’s digital strategy.


Deep dive and discovery

Atomic Smash collaborated with the marketing team at Spike Island to facilitate a deep dive into how the new website would best benefit the organisation and its users.

The programme of work involved:

Notes from workshop with Spike Island

How can we help?

Together we can explore your challenges and create a roadmap of improvements.

Digital design that meets aims and objectives

After drawing up a thorough set of requirements that reflected Spike Island’s aims and objectives, we created a functioning prototype of the new website in the form of a wireframe.

We tested the function of the new website with users and people from the visitor panel. This enabled us to:

  1. Gather valuable insights into how their users navigate online
  2. Discover what was important to them
  3. Find out what users would expect to find within certain sections of the website

After being provided the new brand guidelines by an external partner, we drew up a comprehensive digital style guide.

Our design approach goes beyond designing single templates, but incorporates an entire library of re-usable custom blocks and modules that can work across numerous pages. This supports sites to evolve over time.

The new visual identity provided by the branding agency gave us room to explore some playful approaches, such as the scrolling “See more” button that sits below exhibitions and events.

We wanted to ensure that the design was mobile first in its approach and also scored highly on accessibility by utilising high contrast colours and a clear, legible font.


Custom WordPress and WooCommerce design

We developed a bespoke WordPress and WooCommerce solution for Spike Island after uncovering the post types and templates to build into the information architecture of the website.

Our approach when developing large enterprise-ready websites is to focus on site speed, using a minimal number of third party plug-ins and a focus on accessibility.

The site allows for as much customisation as possible without making it too onerous to keep updated or to add new content.

Working with WordPress and WooCommerce allowed for total customisation of all the required areas and allowed us to streamline internal processes for the team around events, ticketing and shop sales.

“Their process is meticulous, patient and professional. We now have a website which serves our audiences and our team, whilst having so much potential for future growth.”

Jane Faram Strategic Communications Consultant, Spike Island
Team members Zoe and Julia stand in front of a metal background

Evolve and grow

We’ll support you to evolve your WordPress and WooCommerce platforms in line with your strategic goals.

Tailored calendar functionality for specific audience groups

We added calendar functionality for Spike Island Associates, a specific membership type, giving the organisation a way to better engage with this audience group within their community.

Spike Island activities reach a wide and diverse community including studio holders, associates, and the general public.

Tailored calendar functionality enables Spike Island to publish content for associates who have a membership with Spike Island, affording them access to a wider range of benefits and activities than what is available to the general public.

This functionality solved a particular organisational need by helping Spike Island speak to their community more effectively.

Screenshot of Spike Island WordPress site showing Spike Island Associates membership page

Diversifying content and reprioritising digital

During the pandemic, Spike Island closed its doors to the public temporarily. In response to this, the team at Spike Island wanted to make changes to the type of content they were putting out and embrace new ways to connect with their community. 

The website had previously focused on attracting people to visit by promoting exhibitions and events.

Rather than working only with physical gallery artworks, Spike Island started to commission digital artworks and we built out new content areas designed specifically to showcase these.

New taxonomies were added so that work could be tagged as digital. This was organised clearly and reflected visually to make it easy to filter.

Screenshot of the Spike Island WordPress website showing online programme

Continued support

Atomic Smash and Spike Island have a lasting relationship. We collaborate regularly to roadmap improvements for the website or examine analytics and review performance against a number of KPIs.

This close relationship ensures the website has capacity to continually evolve as the organisation moves further into the digital space.

“The team at Atomic Smash are an absolute pleasure to work with.”

Jane Faram Strategic Communications Consultant, Spike Island

Visit Spike Island’s website

What we achieved

Streamlining the process for managing new membership sign-ups including collecting monthly recurring direct debits

Supporting marketing efforts with improved social sharing snippets, optimisation and engagement tracking

eCommerce shop to pivot to online sales and diversify income streams while the gallery was closed to visitors

Flexible, usable backend to provide the team with faster and easier content management experience

Increased site speed with better performance resulting in improved organic search rankings

The last word

We have gained so much from our website project with them, and continue to benefit from their knowledge and approach to development of WordPress sites and their understanding of UX design, tracking engagement and eCommerce.

Jane Faram Strategic Communications Consultant, Spike Island
Piers looking at camera in front of an industrial backdrop

Tell us about your vision

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