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image of Taeke Reijenga

Last month, the inaugural Automattic Design Awards were held in Nashville, Tennessee, alongside WordCamp US. We were able to chat with the winners of the three categories ‘Best Style’, ‘Best Site’ and ‘Best Solution’. For today’s post, we spoke to ‘Best Style’ winner Taeke Reijenga from Level Level.

Level Level creates fully accessible websites that help brands better connect with their clients and makes them stand out. Incorporating the user-experience as part of their workflow, the team at Level Level pride themselves in ensuring the multilingual platforms they build are easy to maintain.

We chatted to Taeke about creating the Level Level site, the awards, WordCamp US, and more. Take a look at what he had to say.

level-level's homepage
Source: level-level.com
So when it came to accessibility testing, Level Level had scores of 100/100 – that’s amazing! How important was it for you to obtain such consistent scores?

Well we have an in-house Senior Accessibility Consultant, so it’s easier to impose it on ourselves to have every project that we deliver to be fully accessible. It’s something that’s really important to consider. It shouldn’t be considered as an add-on or a box that you tick. It should be the bare minimum of any good web project.

We wanted to make sure that at every stage of the project, from the concept phase, to the design phase and even down to the hosting, Level Level had to be accessible.

Are there any sites in particular that you draw inspiration from? Do you ever see a site and think “that’s a good idea, we could do something similar”?

Not really. About two years ago, we decided to embark on a rebrand project. We wanted to show the world that we’re a bold company, and just, out-there, you know? So we started a design sprint to see on a strategic level how we were going to best get that message across. It took some time because we truly knew that we could achieve something great. At the end of the day, we’re experts and companies hire us for our expertise. We all interact as a team when we’re working on these cool project and really think about what our clients and their end-users want.

So yeah, the redesign came quite naturally, there was no exact source of inspiration but since it’s been live, we’ve received lots of positive feedback.

A big project such as this is collaborative – was there any part of the process that you and your team enjoyed the most?

Well, I think that’s what we enjoyed the most was the team effort and working together. By the time it was finished, there wasn’t a single person at Level Level who didn’t touch the project, which of course, as a team that’s a really good thing.

For us, accessibility was kind of an obvious, but the Gutenberg part really gave us an opportunity to get our hands on something new. However, with Gutenberg, every time they came out with an update, it either broke stuff or made content disappear, which naturally made a lot of people frustrated. So I think that’s something we’re really proud of – dealing with the ongoing process of Gutenberg getting improved whilst we were trying to build a project.

screenshot of level-levels team page
Source: level-level.com/about-us/
I think you should be proud! At the Automattic Design Awards, they said your site had fully embraced Gutenberg! So, how do you feel about it now that it’s live?

Well at first, just like a lot of the WordPress community, we were quite sceptical of it cos we thought WordPress wasn’t quite ready. But you know, the Internet didn’t break, the world kept spinning, nothing really happened when it went live. Now that we’ve got experience with it, I would say that we feel more confident using it and see that it does have a lot of potential. I think if the project was right, we would consider using it for some client’s websites.

In the ‘Best Style’ category, the Automattic Design Awards were looking for sites that were accessible, beautiful and fast. How did it feel be crowned the winner that therefore incorporated these things?

The whole team and I were really proud. We were working on it ’til super late as well, making videos demonstrating how the blocks worked. In fact, we submitted it just 10 minutes before the deadline. It ticked all the boxes. It was accessible, Gutenberg ready and filled all of the requirements. So, we did feel that we could possibly have the chance of winning, but of course you don’t know how many projects were submitted.

We didn’t just want to show what we could do, we made sure that we focused on the end-user as well. After all, it’s about coming up with solutions for them.

So final question, how did you find going to WordCamp US? Were there any particular highlights?

Well winning the awards for ‘Best Style’ was a highlight for sure, but also just being in the US. This was only the second time that I had been to America, and going to Nashville was a real experience. I think that WordCamp US was also different to any other WordCamp that I had been to before and I loved that.

I think what I enjoy the most though is the whole social aspect of WordCamp. It’s not just about the talks and the swag bags. I loved talking to people who I don’t usually get to see and who have had a strong impact in the WordPress community and also meeting people that I’ve talked to on Twitter for 6-8 years now.

WordCamp US and the Automattic Design Awards were amazing events that brought together members of the WordPress community from all over the world. Thank you to Taeke who took the time to share with us his experience. Next week, we’ll be speaking to ‘Best Solution’ winner, Rich Tabour about his win for Block Gallery.