WE'RE A TECHNOLOGY COMPANY. That might seem to imply that we take specifications from the customer, and turn those specifications into software. We’ve had many clients who also thought that’s what we’d be doing. But we’ve learned along the way that that’s not how we deliver the most value, because it’s not the most important thing most clients need.
We know that nobody can look at a blank whiteboard and fill it with the perfect structure for a website. We know that you won’t know how it feels to use an interactive feature until you’ve seen it in action with real data. In short, we know that change is inevitable in the development process, and we embrace it. Our proposals won’t talk about page counts, but rather about information to be conveyed. Our proposals won’t talk about functional requirements for features, but rather about user experiences to be delivered.
For some projects, such as a straightforward website redesign for a well-established brand with mature e-commerce offerings and a network of providers handling social media, digital advertising, and search engine optimization, we can create a proposal based on the company’s rich understanding of their online strategy and what they know is succeeding and what they know needs to be improved. But for others, such as start-ups, or re-brandings, or projects with inexplicit goals, it’s imperative that we start with a focus on determining the digital strategy for the task at hand.
We practice strict test-driven development, so your code is always covered by an automated test suite. This means that most bugs are avoided up front, and any problems that are found later will get covered by a new test so that they never come back. Each new tested feature that we add into your product is in a state that is ready to be deployed for you to examine and test internally.
If you’re creating something that you intend to last, we’ll design it for you. But first, we will help you answer the important questions that inform a good design:
Editorial questions around your content
Experience questions around your users, content delivery, design patterns
Structural questions around information architecture
Process questions around delivery and maintenance of your content
When your developers know what structure is required for the content they’re storing, they can build delivery systems that support the functional and editorial needs you’ve outlined.
Agile is not only a method of project management, it describes the approach we take to building great products for our clients. We first develop a deep background knowledge of your current operational status and a careful understanding of your goals. We document our discoveries and articulate a clear path to success — one which we channel through the mandates of creating a consistent but flexible design language, developing to standards, and testing feature integration every step of the way. Our flexibility facilitates reassessment and adaptation to ensure we meet your expectations and goals. This approach has served us well through a variety of custom website, app, and web app projects and we are confident it will diligently serve your project as well.
Our principal’s background and training is in computer security, and security is a critical and persistent part of everything we do. Your company cannot afford to have its own or its user’s private data stolen. If your product handles sensitive data, rest assured we employ the best security practices in everything we do, every step of the way. Security is a process and a product of discipline, and not something that can be added on later.
We build products for you, not for us. This means that everything is engineered to be handed-off to your team whenever you like: everything is fully documented and ready for deployment. We don't believe in lock-in. We do believe in happy clients, and we know that the best way to keep you coming back is to be sure that you’re not forced to.
That doesn’t mean that we won’t be there for you when you need us. We have clients that prefer to leave some measure of maintenance in our hands rather than hire in-house developers and security specialists. The choice is yours.
In this context, competitive research refers to technology, not products. We’re not as knowledgeable about the products you’re developing as you are, so we defer to your analysis of how the competition’s offerings stack up against yours. But we are experts in technology, so we can look at user experiences, including across platforms and mediums, in order to assess baseline user expectations as well as opportunities to stand out. We find this competitive analysis to be particularly helpful early on in the process: seeing how different competitors approach the technical aspects of the online presence can give you a lot of insight into what will or won’t work for you. These can serve as inspiration during the design process, and can also help us going down paths that turn out to be dead ends.
We can often make educated guesses about what will work best, but sometimes a little bit of research can yield insights that will greatly improve effective decision making. Audience research can be simple, discrete tasks to answer specific questions, such as “How does our target audience search for products like ours?” or “What kind of information does our target audience find most engaging?” In order to answer these questions we can either conduct active data gathering or passive data gathering, depending on the required specificity as well as the availability of information. For high-fidelity information when we have access to representative audience members, we can conduct (in decreasing degree of investment) in-person interviews, phone interviews, online usability testing, or even website polls. For more generic information we can collect information passively (while often gathering a larger sample size) by collecting customer service conversations, performing social listening, analyzing keyword trends, or performing website search analysis.
Our work with a variety of organizations has involved maintaining an understanding of a variety of regulatory requirements. While we would never substitute our judgement for your in-house experts when it comes to regulatory compliance, we can provide feedback when it is possible that seemingly innocuous requests for changes to the website might run afoul of regulatory compliance. Our areas of understanding are:
Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rules
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA)
Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA)
Content strategy is a process we can help with, rather than a product we can sell you. But the means to determine the path can be achieved through a process that’s been developed and refined in the web development industry over the last decade. Throughout the years we’ve seen many projects suffer due to a lack of clear strategy: when the goal is clear (“redesign the website”, “launch a blog”, etc) it’s tempting to dive right in and get it done. A few months after the project is completed, however, we often find that the ongoing success of the project becomes hampered by the lack of a clear strategy. The website looks good, but is difficult to update in a way that reflects the ongoing evolution of the organization. The creative work being done in advertising feels completely disconnected from the website it connects people to. The blog hasn’t been updated in months because there isn’t a plan for what kind of posts it needs, nor time allocated on anyone’s individual schedule to write the posts.
Developing a content strategy can feel like a journey, and journeys are best undertaken with a map to guide the way. For established organizations, the Content Ecosystem Map can illustrate an intricate web of documents and databases that have built up over the years, as well as the complicated set of relationships that govern how content flows (or often does not flow) between them. And if you’re planning a startup you have a different set of challenges: your map may contain a few rich pools of information, but may also reveal empty areas that need to be filled in.
One common risk that occurs when creating a new website, social media presence, and/or advertising campaign is that not everyone on the team may know who is responsible for different kinds of content throughout their lifecycle. This can cause problems when the wrong person may be tasked with creating a certain piece of content, or the content may not be submitted to the right person for approval, or people who need to act on content (e.g. for reporting on engagement) may never be informed that something new has been published. A content governance framework documents the roles and responsibilities for the lifecycle of your content.
The most important thing that an editorial calendar may provide you is not, in fact, the coordination of messaging in advance. The most important thing it provides is a central repository for organizing your responses when plans change. For example, once you’ve learned that a competitive brand has plans to introduce a new product that competes directly with your own heretofore unique offering, you may decide to shift some plans in order to shore up your defenses. In the past we’ve seen companies take action only in their product offerings, or only in their advertising, or only on social media. But your competition will probably have a comprehensive strategy for their new product, so you need to have a coordinated response.
We also stay current with the latest tools to make sure we take advantages of advances in tooling so that we work efficiently for you. That might mean behind-the-scenes processes such as continuous integration and continuous deployment, or it might be a deliverable such as design system documentation that's generated from the same code that powers your website.
We code to web standards first, and deal with browser compatibility second. This helps us ensure graceful degradation on less-capable platforms, while enabling the best possible forward-compatibility for the future. And we design determinedly for accessibility. We want our products to be accessible to the widest possible range of abilities. Even if your company is not compelled to provide an accessible product, we still adhere to many of the current standards and guidelines. And if you must comply with standards set out in WCAG 2.0, we can meet that spec as well.