Why we do web design differently
When we started we tried to be like everyone else...
- Ask about the client's aims
- Write a proposal and provide a quote
- Set up contracts
- Start the design process
- Meet the deadline.
It's exactly what you would expect from a professional project-based design service. But we began to wonder if this approach was harking back to the days of printed design. We remembered...
We started by making websites for ourselves
With our own projects we thought:
- We knew what we wanted. Yet, new possibilities arose as the creative process started. Then, everything needed to change. Our websites took on a life of their own.
- We had clear business targets. Yet, we did not fully understand our digital marketing opportunities for them to be well tuned.
- We had a clear budget. Yet, we were always wrong. We spent according to how our efforts were rewarded, the opportunities that appeared and how the web changed.
When we started we only had a superficial understanding of the web and our online competition. We could not see the "sales funnels" of others, their content marketing strategy and SEO. We did not understand how conversion techniques were subtly built into their designs. How psychology was used to reach a type of visitor and lead them down a particular user journey.
Until we started the process of forming our own online strategy we only really saw web elements on pages that looked nice. We could not even decide on something as simple as how many pages we needed. Even now after over a decade of doing digital marketing, we are constantly learning new ways.
We would have been nightmare clients for most Agencies
Even with an extensive "discovery" period, we would have never quite covered what we needed to understand. Too abstract. Too much mumbo jumbo! Also, how much could a web agency understand our business in that time?
Even if an agency or freelancer was willing to constantly revise contracts, quotes and deadlines it would mean paying developer rates for admin work.
Yet, surely we were the best clients ever? We became completely sold on the idea that digital marketing is where we should be putting our efforts.
Three things happened for us as a web design company...
1. Realizing there was already a movement that thought the traditional way of building websites was problematic. In fact, the only website to win the prestigious Design of the Year award was the GOV.UK website They employed this alternative approach known as Agile.
In over-simplistic terms, Agile starts with the premise that a website (like software) is never finished. It lives (and dies) on the internet that is in a state of constant change. Build fast and keep iterating is the Agile way. It's the very opposite to the "plan well, stick to it and finish" approach of most project-based design.
( I like to compare Amazon to traditional book retailers, Netflix to Blockbusters and Apple to the music publishing industry. The success and failures seem not to have been about the availability of technology, but the willingness to keep adapting to it. )
2. The arrival of professional level page builders. Previously, almost every part of the design had to be agreed before the build started. Building usually meant hard coding to individual files. What could appear a simple visual change to a non-coder could mean redoing everything to a developer.
3. Hearing repeatedly how other design agencies struggled with scope creep, getting content and keeping projects on target. We felt these were indicators that traditional design processes were not flexible or targeted enough. The scope of many projects being too big to accommodate the full range of disciplines that could be involved in building a coherent online presence.
Moving Away from Project based Work
The above made us entirely rethink. We wanted to avoid the main problem with Agile which is you can't give a client a quote, yet we wanted clients to have the same opportunities we had for our own projects. We wanted to make it easier to dive in clueless as we did.
The solution for us was what became WP Corner Shop. A place where clients can get focused support to make incremental improvements in short bursts and have the freedom to do more for themselves in the long run.
Thanks to page builder technology we can build a perfectly decent site in 12 hours.
Clients can stop there if they want, but many will need to keep improving to compete online. That's not so easy if the entire budget has gone in perfecting the website that has not been subjected to a live audience.
The web is entirely unlike any other advertising medium. It's measurable in real time and never stays the same for a moment. We wanted our business to reflect this and support our client's long term competitive demands.