If you don’t already follow The B Word on instagram, first of all, WHAT ROCK ARE YOU LIVING UNDER? And second of all: go follow her now. Brianna McDonnell is a plus size fashion influencer who got her start on Instagram a few years ago and sustained her growth on TikTok during the pandemic, which is where I met her and got acquainted.
She has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Bustle, the Huffington Post, InStyle, Refinery29, and more as “someone to watch in the fashion space”, so, when she DM’ed me on Instagram in late 2020 to work on her personal website, I was thrilled. But when she came BACK after that launch to hire me for her big B Word blog overhaul, I was beyond honored.
Brianna McDonnell is the entire package: bombshell model, creative director, and performing artist, which makes her the perfect candidate to be the face of a plus size fashion influencer media empire. The B Word started out as a personal blog. Fashion, styling, travel, and personal growth tips that cater to her younger millennial audience of other badass women. But in 2020, Brianna knew it was time for the B Word to grow into her new vision: the plus size version of Buzzfeed.
However, her website needed a huge upgrade first. Brianna was still on WordPress, and her site featured a blog template she had been using for a few years already. It was pink (very on brand for her, as you’ll continue to see), but it was also hard to navigate.
And apart from the design and overall vibe, it was missing her updated media. If you follow her on IG, you know that this queen produces multiple high-quality fashion film shoots a year. I knew right away that footage needed a more prominent place to live on the website.
Goals & Deliverables
Since most of Brianna’s blog income comes from ads, the main goal of the website was to keep people scrolling. However, she also wanted the website to serve as a portfolio for companies to hire her for media and creative direction.
Our Goals Included:
- Provide free, and valuable fashion & lifestyle content to her massive following
- Keep her audience engaged and scrolling
- Peak the interest of media companies, press outlets, and more for media & creative direction
- Grow the brand into a collective brand and divorce it from her personal brand
- Stay visually consistent with the color palettes she had already established
- Give the website a new visual life: in our case, early 2000’s locker aesthetic
- Establish even more brand trust and authority in her space
To meet these goals, we planned a medium-but-mighty website build that followed a Watch // Listen // Read structure.
Brianna’s brand has a loooootttttt of colors going on. (It’s perfect for her, and I die for it, but when you’re a website designer, you start to worry if you’ll be able to do them justice!) Apart from the colors, she has years of styled photoshoot content—all with completely different creative directions, vibes, coloring, and overall visual feel. Combine these photos with her brand colors and video content and it can be very overwhelming. So, I knew I’d need to focus on simplifying the design as much as possible in order to let her content shine.
Another challenge was the growth of the B Word as a media company. In order to divorce this website from Brianna’s personal brand, I knew I’d need to find a way to feature the ~collective~ at every chance I could. This meant building out new & different content sections to feature the “we” over the “I”.
One of my favorite things about design is that it can solve so many challenges and problems. Here are a few of the design solutions I implemented to give this plus size fashion influencer website a new life as a full-on business brand.
Establish Collective Authority by Featuring Press
On the old B Word Blog website, you had to go ~searching~ to find out where Brianna has been featured. Not anymore! I wanted to make sure that one of the first things the audience sees upon viewing this new website is just how badass and accomplished the B Word already is. So, coupling their press bar with their vision statement and group imagery was the solution, and it absolutely does its job.
Prove Cultural Relevance with Social Comments
Since social media is such a huge part of The B Word’s brand, it was important to bring that into the site. We were able to do that by featuring an auto-scrolling bar of instagram and TikTok comments, demonstrating just how much people adore The B Word. Check it out on this page, it’s my favorite thing ever.
In addition to proving cultural relevance, I’m obsessed with featuring some scroll-stopping movement on a website. When done well, video, auto-rotating testimonials & comments, and other transition effects give a website a fresh, innovative, and invigorating feel. Highly reccommend.
Introduce a Trendy and Nostalgic Aesthetic
The besssssst part about this project was getting to live my early 2000’s dreams. Brianna and I decided that the best way to target her ideal millennial audience here in 2022 was to throw it back (visually) to the Myspace days, where the most important thing was picking your top 8 and making sure your theme was on point.
(Sidebar: like many website designers my age, this is where I learned how to code.)
I brought this vision to life by making each blog post look like a myspace pop-up bar. I also added little drawn star and diamond graphics to give us that doodling-in-your-notebook-during-Sex-Ed feel. (And if you didn’t do this, who even are you!)
Our Favorite Parts
Apart from, well, all of it, here are a few of my absolute favorite sections of the new-and-improved B Word Blog.
Vision Statement Repeating Sections
On some websites, repeating your vision or mission statement might be a great idea. Since The B Word is led by their vision (and it’s a big one), I wanted to make sure that our users knew it too, no matter where they landed. This section is featured on every main blog page to drill home what the whole point is. Amidst the cute outfits, beauty recommendations, and gorgeous models posing, there’s something bigger at play.
The Discreet Contact Page
In most websites I design, the contact page is the be-all-end-all. 99% of the time, we want people to inquire, apply, or start their project with us. However, in the B Word’s Case, since the blog is focused on providing free content to a large viewership, we needed to pull the contact page from the main navigation. (And if you’re like, Sarah, what? Why?—just go check out Buzzfeed, Refinery29, Everygirl, or any other similar website. You can find contact info in the footer, but with so many viewers, the goal isn’t to have contact. Also, like, imagine having thousands of people contacting you constantly… It’s a no from me!)
So, we ended up putting the contact page in the footer and keeping it relatively simple. This way, if a big brand wants to reach out, they’ll know where to look, but Brianna won’t get inundated with random people emailing her constantly.
Plus Size Fashion Influencer Blog Launch: The Outcome
Brianna was so, so ecstatic with the end result of The B Word’s new website. Shortly after it was soft-launched, Brianna was featured in an article in Teen Vogue entitled “What Will It Take for Broadway to Embrace Size Inclusivity?”
And while any other success we were able to track by metrics has yet to be measured (she is gearing up for the big launch in 2022), I just know this site will serve her and her audience the content we so desperately need in this world. I’m so excited to see it take shape.
If you’re bringing a new idea into this world and need a home on the internet to help you do so, I would love to help you with a custom website project. Cannot wait to chat.
Additional Credits & Collaborators
Branding (logos & color palette) by Dame Studio // Creative Direction and Photography by Brianna McDonnell & Team
Hey, I'm Sarah Kleist.
Brand builder, website designer, and performing artist on a mission to help creatives and business owners step into their digital spotlight.
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