Good content always trumps good design online.

February 1, 2016 in Editorial

For quite a few years now i’ve been creating nothing but websites and digital strategies. I’ve been making so many I recently took a break mid-last year just to focus on my photography and film for a little while. I did this because as much as I have a love for all things tech & digital, turning into a non-stop factory of project creep, bug-fixing and late night calls started to take their toll. So rather then let the love die completely I pivoted what I was doing to focus on the content itself rather then the medium that delivers it.

It certainly wasn’t a sudden fascination by any stretch, i’ve been photographing virtually everything since I was just twelve years old. My first camera, with its insignificant sixteen megabyte memory card gave me an instant respect for what it was like to shoot on film. Being so physically limited by the tools I had meant I picked up great patience and focus on getting it right the first time instead of praying and spraying, a term photographers use to describe the use of holding down on the shutter button and hoping your camera picks up maybe one shot out of a dozen good ones.

Fast forwarding a few years to when I slowly crept towards becoming a full time freelancer and focussed on just making websites (this was when I was still in bridal gowns, of all industries) I was full of pep and enthusiasm for the limitless design possibilities that I had to create the most ultimate websites for my clients. I had rolled up my sleeves, dug deep into the design, flicking my mouse around creating wireframes to start a dialogue of what would become instant masterpieces. The design was done, the backend was friendly enough a six year old could edit the website in seconds, all it needed now was some beautiful, imaginative photos and words of wisdom to adorn the pages to win over even the most cynical of potential customers.

 “..if I could tell Ben from five years ago one thing, it would be to focus less on design and more on experience.”

It’s here where I hit a snag. I got to work, poured my coffee for the morning and whacked open my emails, eager to feast upon the content that would make the design sing, but what I got wasn’t magical. In fact, it was anything but whimsical or fantasmic. What I had clicked on just wasn’t going to work. The photos were so small the details of the bridal gowns were merely insignificant patterns of pale white pixels. Worse yet, the copy I had received was dull and unimaginative.

In hindsight, if I could tell Ben from five years ago one thing, it would be to focus less on design and more on experience. Essentially just like the saying suggests, you can polish a turd all you want but at the end of the day no-one’s going to want to go near it, and nothing was truer then the predicament I found myself time and time again in.

There’s a ramen joint I frequent often called Taro’s in the city. I did a review on his food just recently for OurWorlds, and it’s quite possibly up there with some of the best in the world. Taro himself is passionate and relentless in his pursuit to making the best possible dishes, he’s a Sake connoisseur and frequents Japan regularly to further hone in on his craft. His blog, which documents his food-based travels, discoveries and monthly specials garners a huge audience despite not evening having a mobile version for hungry customers on the go to read.

And really what the lesson here is blissfully simple. Passionate people with great stories will always trump jazzy PR messages sponsored by great design. That’s not to say you need to pick one or the other though. Having a website that really shines and makes an impact on your potential customers is really about having great content being shared “through” great design. It’s a greater then the sum of the parts affair, and when the design is so good all you see is a great story being told, well, that’s when you really see results with your digital strategy.

You only need to look at some of the world’s most clicked sites to see this at play. Take Apple’s website, for example. The beautiful imagery and handpicked copy is one thing but the design creates a whole new level to the story literally unfolding before your eyes. Just the act of strolling causes elegant leverage of modern web design to reveal smooth animation and design tricks all aimed to turn a great story of craftmentship into something that sells something more then just a product, it sells a way of being we all want to be a part of.

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So with this in mind, if you’re looking to dive deep into a new digital strategy this year i’d suggest one thing and one thing only and that’s to really engage people with a great story and not just a flashy website. Having a cool website is one thing, but if you’re a great brand full of passionate people & ideas then tapping into them and sharing it with the world will be the key to your success and not relying on digital trickery to get the job done.

We don’t work for free. Here’s why.

February 1, 2016 in Editorial

Nothing sums up my thoughts more clearly when people, brands and big business ask me to do work for free than the video below. Seriously, watch it in its entirety, from start to finish, and before you ask me again to work for free, let me touch on some things that’s worth noting.

First and foremost, I get really riled up on the topic of working for cheaper rates or for nothing at all because at the end of the day, just like any trade or profession, i’ve already spent literally tens of thousands of hours learning and refining my skills to deliver a great product to you, my most valued and beloved client. Just think, tens of thousands of hours i’ve spent photographing, filming and designing stuff that was admittedly amteur-ish junk and understanding why it’s actually junk before learning valuable lessons and building on them to create my own style and techniques that are unique to what I offer.

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The story of my life in a nutshell.

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There’s two sub-points worth bringing up with this. The first is this cute little cartoon. It basically sums it up sometimes. Yes, I can design your logo in 30 minutes, but it came with five years of trial and error before I knew what works and what doesn’t work. I studied typefaces and all the intricacies that make letters and the spaces between them pop, I studied cultural, social and psychological influences, techniques and history so I can understand what matters the most and how to go about designing it in a way that matters to the people who see your logo. I also learnt how to deliver a product in a professional manner so that the people you choose to print your logo on your pamphlets don’t have to charge you extra to fix my mistakes.

Also, just like any other business, I have hard costs. Those lenses that help me articulate the incredible passion that you share for what you do cost literally thousands of dollars. Plus there’s software, taxes, insurance, book-keepers, accountants, assistants, travel costs plus many, many more factors that come straight out of my pocket when i’m not charging you a cent to do what I do best.

“..if you’re a business offering a product to another business, you should be getting paid.”

So with all this in mind, why do people do it? Well the misnomer is that to get yourself out there or to show that your work is better then other competing agencies, you need to do some work for free to win the people over, right?

Let’s preface this all and say that while overwhelmingly you should never work free, there are some situations where doing some work for free, or even doing TFP work (trade for portfolio with models and other creators and artists) can not only be beneficial to networking your business to potential clients but can help you continue to refine your skills and get even better as a creator. There is no golden rule that dictates when you should and shouldn’t charge, but when it comes down to crunch time, if you’re a business offering a product to another business, you should be getting paid.

Oh, and businesses, just like any other industry, you do get what you paid for, so don’t ask your creatives a discount. I don’t ask for a discount on my coffee, nor do I ask for a discount from the man mowing my lawns or from my electricity supplier. If there’s someone you know who charges less then we do, fantastic, but in my mind you’ve found another option to go with and nothing more. To me, I will always work with clients who value and respect what I bring to the table. Just like any industry, price is never indicative of quality or results and that works both ways. I personally believe I offer a great product at a compelling price compared to competitors, and just like lawyers, or restaurants or even retail outlets, some may offer more for less, some maybe offer less for more, but it’s up to you to figure that out.

I write this not to rant to future potential customers and discourage them from wanting to work with us either. I wanted to write this so that if you were looking at us and wanted to work with us in the future, you should know that we value the people in our team just as much as we value earning a fair wage for great work and we hope that you share the same values too.