A welcoming entrance at Osterstraße 7

My wife and I have seen many businesses pop up in downtown Kaiserslautern over the years. We love seeing entrepreneurs put their heart and soul into building something up, and always wish them the best. By now we can usually tell at first glance, after a few visits or within a few weeks if a place will last or not. It’s all in the details and the feeling we get when we walk in.

When we first strolled into Café Susann shortly after they opened in September 2016, the vibe was just right. The décor was bright, warm and natural. The staff was friendly and genuine. There was a little spot for kids to draw, play and read books. A few issues of Kinfolk along with similar magazines and books were stacked neatly on the beautiful table by the front window. The care and attention to detail in creating such a comfortable atmosphere was evident–and the coffee & homemade käsekuchen (my vice) didn’t disappoint one bit.

We knew Café Susann would be around for a very long time.

Since then, we’ve made countless visits and it’s become our favorite spot for coffee downtown. When the owner Maike Susann Gemba approached me about redesigning the website last year, I was honored and excited to play a part in the vision of a thriving small business that I believed in. Coincidentally, the café opened around the same time I took my own leap into full-time entrepreneurship.

When our schedules finally aligned in May, Maike expressed a strong desire to overhaul the website with a design that fit more with her personal taste and the soul of the café. Rather than going with the brown/black/white variations that are typical with café and high-end restaurant brand identities, she favored a clean, minimalist style that still offered substance. Makes sense as it fits perfectly with the overall energy of the space.

Brainstorming & Rebuilding

The previous website was a quick attempt to establish Café Susann’s web presence when they opened. It was adequate, but as the business matured rapidly over the past two years, she knew it was time for a long-term design strategy. There were also a few technical & business issues that needed to be addressed such as:

  • No SSL security
  • Not optimized for SEO
  • No mobile responsiveness
  • UX (user experience) issues; navigation was not intuitive, particularly for the blog
  • A manual reservation process (currently taking reservations via Facebook, Instagram, phone & in-person)

With the large US military & international student presence in Kaiserslautern and surrounding areas, a multilingual site was a must. Each blog post, and nearly all of the Instagram and Facebook posts were in German and English. On the previous website that was a great short-term solution, but for technical and design purposes, having separate pages is the professional long-term solution for the brand.

Since the translations were already done, that made it MUCH easier to set up the English posts properly. Many thanks to Maike’s social media manager (and baker extraordinaire) Janna Uhry-Gant (IG: @ganzuhry) for her hard work.

For the build, we agreed to stick with the WordPress platform (best for future expansion) and started from a single blank page using X Theme. Having no previous WordPress experience, Maike was a little worried about how to manage the site afterwards. Throughout the design process I was able to explain the basics and she quickly learned how to make updates to text and images on her own. It also helps that X Theme is very intuitive.

The collaboration resulted in a website for Café Susann that Maike absolutely loves and has received lots of positive feedback on since its formal launch on 10 July.

A summary of the details & improvements:

  • Clean, fluid design
  • Fully mobile-responsive
  • SSL security
  • Images renamed and keyworded for search engine optimization
  • Domain migration
  • Multilingual Translation (German & English) using WPML
  • Addition of a guestbook solution
  • Mailchimp Newsletter Setup
  • GDPR-compliant Google Analytics setup
  • Imprint, Cookie Notice & Privacy Policy in both languages through iUbenda (also for GDPR compliance)
  • Migration of over 200 blog posts
  • Addition of the café menus
  • Multiple links out to local partners

We’re still working to decide on the best streamlined reservation solution (possibly with Orderbird, OpenTable, or Reserve) to direct all online inquiries to a single point. Phone and in-person reservations are still necessary, but reducing the online traffic to a single calendar that the entire team can track will free up time and mental energy to focus on other parts of the business.

It’s a true honor and pleasure to support one of my favorite small businesses and our favorite café in Kaiserslautern. We had a great time working on this project and couldn’t be happier about the results. Check Café Susann’s new website at www.cafesusann.de, and follow them on Instagram & Facebook. Be sure to pay them a visit if you’re ever in Kaiserslautern!

Credit: All photos courtesy of Café Susann