Boagworld Show S06E06

Web & Digital Advice

Digital and web advice from Headscape and the addled brain of Paul Boag... tell me more

Paul Boag Posted by: Paul Boag On Thursday, 23rd May, 2013

Library overload, research and marketing

This week on the boagworld web design podcast, we ask how best to integrate research into your projects, how to market your web app and are we using too many frameworks and libraries?

Season 6:
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Paul Boag:
This week on the Boagworld web design podcast we ask how best to integrate research into our projects, how to market our web apps and are we using too many frameworks and libraries?

It’s too cold to do the podcast today, Marcus, I’m sorry.

Marcus Lillington:
I thought you died there for a minute.

Paul Boag:
It’s so cold!

Marcus Lillington:
It’s not that bad!

Paul Boag:
It’s cold at home as well.

Marcus Lillington:
So you haven’t warmed up at all?

Paul Boag:
We’ve got no heating; in fact we’ve got no boiler in our house. So we’ve no hot water, no heating. It’s just turning into a nightmare.

Marcus Lillington:
Anyway, you can’t complain.

Paul Boag:
Why?

Marcus Lillington:
Because you’re going away on a jolly for the next couple of days.

Paul Boag:
No, I’ve already been by the time this is coming out. And I’m not going away on a jolly; I work very hard when I go to Future of Web Design. Not only am I doing …

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I wanted to go and I would have been on a jolly.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, you would have been on a jolly. I do stuff while I’m there.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I can’t. I’ve got to say no. It is a bit sad.

Paul Boag:
Aww, we are just so busy.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Because we’re just so great and everybody wants to work with us, we’re that popular.

Marcus Lillington:
Which is fine and that something. Sometimes you can’t do what you want to do.

Paul Boag:
Dear listener, if you… That is really funny, I was listening to a commencement speech from one of these kind of art degree type things and it was a graduation – you know how you always have a guest person come in? And this guy just gave the best speech ever, because he basically said life is full of mundane, repetitive, boring shit.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s really crap kids, yeah?

Paul Boag:
Yeah, that’s the sense of…

Marcus Lillington:
Enjoy yourself.

Paul Boag:
Actually, it was a really, really good talk he gave. I will put a link in the show notes because it’s actually superb. But anyway that’s beside the point. What I was going to say is if you have a multimillion pound project of really high profile exciting stuff and you want to work with us, I’m sorry, but we can’t work with you at the moment. We’re too busy.

David Foster Wallace was asked to give the commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College.

Marcus Lillington:
Pardon me? Yes, we can. We can. We can always do exciting, yeah!

Paul Boag:
This is Marcus. Marcus the salesman. Although he is the one that’s really busy doing consultancy work. So there you go.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s true. But I don’t mind.

Paul Boag:
When can we take on new work, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve gone really salesy! What’s going on?! It depends what it is. Probably …

Paul Boag:
No, this multimillion pound really cool job, when can we take that on?

Marcus Lillington:
August.

Paul Boag:
August. So there you go, you’ve heard it here first guys. If you want to give us multimillion pounds, we don’t want it until August. So there we go.

Marcus Lillington:
So, what are you talking about? Sorry, what did you talk about at [ph] Fode (3:25) last week?

Paul Boag:
It does screw your head doesn’t it? Well, I’ve agreed to sit on a UX panel and I don’t know what that’s about at all. I’m doing design clinics where people come and ask you questions. So, I’ve got no idea what that’s about either. Are you picking up a recurring trend here?

Marcus Lillington:
You don’t know anything.

Paul Boag:
No, but then I’m doing my proper talk. Which is going to be, interestingly, on the subject of one of our questions today, which is kind of research-y – no, actually it’s not to do with the question, now I think about it. No, what I’m going to talk about is how at the moment as web designers we really do about a quarter of what I think our job should be.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
That we mainly do implementation, builds, that kind of stuff. And that actually we should also be doing strategy, governance, and monitoring an iteration that you work. And I talk about how to make that happen. It’s really a kind of call to arms of ‘stop waiting for senior management to give you direction because it’s never going to happen’.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, Okay, that’s cool

Paul Boag:
Do it yourself.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s going to be good. Is it called – what was it, ‘Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness’?

Paul Boag:
I have that in the talk, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. And I’ve found out who said that. Don’t ask me her name because I can’t remember, Gracie Somebody, a very cool lady, very cool lady, who did all kinds of amazing stuff.

Marcus Lillington:
We have been saying that to clients for years though, ‘just do it’.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Just do it, wait to see who complains.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And they never do.

Paul Boag:
No. But I’m going to be saying it from a stage.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, so it’s different.

Paul Boag:
So that makes it different… No, it doesn’t, absolutely not. So, I’m going to say it again, but more enthusiastically …

Marcus Lillington:
Fine.

Paul Boag:
… and see what happens. It is something I’m increasingly enthusiastic about and I really believe it, I really believe that – ‘if not us, who?’, you know that phrase, which – I was really disappointed to find out where that phrase came from because you always have to look up your sources for these, because it just make the slides bit more interesting, when you show a picture of the person who said it.

Marcus Lillington:
From a film? Or – my guess is completely wrong?

Paul Boag:
Ronald Reagan said it.

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag:
I know that is quite depressing because I quite like the phrase.

Marcus Lillington:
A clever person wrote it for him.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
That feel – make you feel better?

Paul Boag:
A good speechwriter. Yeah, so I kind of – it’s this attitude. Well, senior management don’t understand enough about the web. Marketeers only see the web as doing one particular thing, which is marketing, when it does a lot more than that. And business consultants really are not – they’re not tech savvy enough, they’re not web savvy enough. And I think it’s only us as web designers that really recognize the problem, and so it’s really kind of only us that can at least instigate the discussion. I’m not suggesting that we kind of have to fix it all, but that we need to kind of explain that websites are not online brochures, you can’t just shove them online and walk away from it. So that’s what I’m going to be talking about, which will be cool.

Marcus Lillington:
Cool.

Paul Boag:
Really the good bit about Future Web Design as you have said is meeting up with people and …

Marcus Lillington:
Speaker’s Dinner.

Paul Boag:
Speaker’s Dinner. I’m looking forward to that tonight, which is why I have to leave Marcus in the lurch.

Marcus Lillington:
That was good last year, I enjoyed that. And I was looking forward to it this year, but I’m working Paul, not jollying.

Paul Boag:
Although why you should get to go considering you’re not a speaker?

Marcus Lillington:
No, no well …

Paul Boag:
It’s all nepotism, people. It’s a corrupt system I should boycott it.

Marcus Lillington:
But I was kind of a speaker last year.

Paul Boag:
Oh yeah, you did a bit of a workshop.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I did. So it wasn’t completely – yeah, I wasn’t just tagging along when you’re coattail is pulled. I would have been this year.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, that’s true. And I went to a lot of effort to get you a free ticket, a free invite. Do you know I should give – I should have, if I – if this podcast hadn’t come out after the event, I could have given away your ticket on the show, couldn’t I?

Marcus Lillington:
You could have done.

Paul Boag:
We will have to start doing stuff like that. We don’t give away enough to our listeners.

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
I get loads of kind of offers of ‘hey, give your listeners 10% off’ and it’s like ‘oh, screw you, that’s just marketing, basically’.

Marcus Lillington:
Of course it is.

Paul Boag:
But I can get freebies as well sometimes; perhaps I will have to start doing that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, and if it is something that people might actually want, then hey, why not?

Paul Boag:
Although personally I prefer to keep the good ones to myself. So don’t stick your coffee out, Marcus. Anyway, shall we talk about web design-y stuff?

Marcus Lillington:
Go on then.

Paul Boag:
Well, we have been kind of, we’ve been talking about what I’m going to talk about – nom that’s confusing, what I have talked about.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s a web design conference. And that’s about …

Paul Boag:
Much more exciting was Doctor Who this week, but anyway …

Marcus Lillington:
I’m going to buy a greenhouse. There you go. I’ve been looking at greenhouses.

Paul Boag:
We’re just so… It’s like we try – I try to move it onto web design, but I then got distracted by Doctor Who and you randomly start talking about greenhouses. And now I’ve just taken off my new glasses and that’s made me think about that and how cool I look now. Do I look cooler with my new glasses?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, Paul, you look so cool.

Paul Boag:
Thank you.

Marcus Lillington:
Do you believe me?

Paul Boag:
Yes. I choose to believe you. So, why are you buying a new – is this really what people listen in to listen to?

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve never had a greenhouse, so this is quite exciting.

Paul Boag:
Why do you want a greenhouse?

Marcus Lillington:
So I can grow tomatoes and chilies and peppers and stuff like that.

Paul Boag:
Five minute wonder.

Marcus Lillington:
It might be. I don’t think so though. I actually don’t think so.

Paul Boag:
You think you could turn into a green-thumbed …

Marcus Lillington:
I will be the next Alan Titchmarsh. How do you say his name?

Paul Boag:
Tit maybe…

Marcus Lillington:
Oh yeah, we had chickens, but they all died and I wanted – eventually. One of them was really old.

Paul Boag:
Oh it wasn’t like you killed them all then?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, they lasted two weeks.

Paul Boag:
‘We never fed them’.

Marcus Lillington:
No, no. One of them, she was nearly 10, so that’s really old for a chicken, but anyway, and I said to her, my wife, ‘I would love to get some more chickens’, and she said ‘well, let’s get a greenhouse’ and I thought ‘ooh yeah’. So now I’m looking at them, and they’re quite expensive.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I imagine they probably are.

Marcus Lillington:
And really difficult to put up, but I’m quite looking forward to that. I put together an IKEA Wardrobe, because like you know you think ‘ooh I can do that – that looks alright, and it’s really cheap’ and then you have to put it together and you know why it’s really cheap. If you ever get the big massive two meter wide by two meter tall sliding mirror one, trust me, you will be crying. It’s the most difficult things to put together ever.

Paul Boag:
See, I just wouldn’t do that.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s unbelievable, it’s like ‘you’ve got to be joking. I’ve got to try and get this little tiny thing in there?’, and this is while you’re carrying three tons of weight at the time, trying to get it to slide in between that slot. Not that slot! That slot there! You know, it’s just unbelievable. You just wouldn’t do that?

Paul Boag:
Do you think people are enjoying this conversation?

Marcus Lillington:
I reckon they’re enjoying it more than web design.

Paul Boag:
I think that’s just a reflection on you, rather than them.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, that maybe, okay.

Paul Boag:
Yes, so we’ve talked about plumbing, glasses, greenhouses, Doctor Who very briefly, although not enough in my opinion.

Marcus Lillington:
Talk about Doctor Who if you like, just I don’t watch it.

Paul Boag:
How do you not?

Marcus Lillington:
My wife does.

Paul Boag:
It’s so good. You know Neil Gaiman?

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
Oh come on, call yourself a Sci-Fi reader? Neil Gaiman is one of the best Sci-Fi writers in the world.

Marcus Lillington:
Never heard of him.

Paul Boag:
No way?

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
That is incredible – that really surprises me.

Marcus Lillington:
Is it some new kid on the block?

Paul Boag:
No, no he is like The Man.

Marcus Lillington:
No, he is not.

Paul Boag:
He is!

Marcus Lillington:
He’s so not!

Paul Boag:
Right. There are people …

Marcus Lillington:
Is he more famous than, I don’t know, Alastair Reynolds or…?

Paul Boag:
As famous, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
If you’re listening to this podcast and you – either you have to have post whether you’ve heard of Neil Gaiman or not. We have to do a poll. Actually, I can’t be bothered to set one up.

Marcus Lillington:
You read a lot of people – and Reynolds is a good example. He has written probably 30 books, so it takes you that long just to read all the stuff and obviously I’m …

Paul Boag:
Yeah, Neil Gaiman is a bit like that.

Marcus Lillington:
I read everything Iain Banks has ever written, Sci-Fi and not Sci-Fi.

Paul Boag:
Right. Check out some Neil Gaiman, seriously. I think you’d like it. But the reason I bring him up is because he wrote this week’s Doctor Who episode …

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, okay.

Paul Boag:
… and he actually wrote another one, which was absolutely superb as well, which is when the TARDIS became a person, which was a brilliant episode …

Marcus Lillington:
Cool.

Paul Boag:
… watching the doctor and the TARDIS interacting. But anyway that’s all a huge tangent, let’s talk about web design.

Are there too many frameworks and libraries?

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. This week, Paul has chosen no questions that are audio questions. And the first one I have to read is really quite long and hard.

Paul Boag:
And it’s got complicated words in. Right, see if you can get through this without hesitation, deviation, or repetition.

Marcus Lillington:
Not a chance, but here we do… From Nick Thawley:

I would like to ask, at what point the number of JS frameworks/libraries gets too much? I appreciate that the web has to move forward and new things to experiment with are great. However, every time I pick up .net there is an example project with a new framework or library, core JavaScript, jQuery, CoffeeScript, Mootools, Dojo, Node.js, Angular.JS etcetera…’ I didn’t read that properly, but anyway… ‘…are we fragmenting that development too much where in a few years we will have sites littered with JS frameworks that have bitten the dust. Shouldn’t we have a consensus (I realize that wouldn’t be easy) and take a few frameworks forward and the people who currently create their own frameworks get involved with the chosen few and improve them so that we have a smaller number of top frameworks? While its bad enough for us that have been in the industry for 15 plus years to keep on top of it. It must be even harder for uni and college leavers to make up their mind on what to learn and which will survive?

Paul Boag:
Good question. And I have to say …

Marcus Lillington:
BETAMAX and VHS isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
Yes, Marcus, that’s exactly what it is like.

Marcus Lillington:
Nobody knows what that is any more do they?

Paul Boag:
No, and apparently someone told me – was it you who told me there was a third format? I think, Chris.

Marcus Lillington:
It wasn’t me.

Paul Boag:
So, Chris, there was a third format apparently, nobody had ever heard of, and about three people used.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, it was weird that the Betamax was the better quality one and it lost.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
That was always the odd thing from that.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, absolutely. I had Betamax. We were a Betamax family. Only because we won a free Betamax camcorder, but that’s another story.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
I still can’t get over you don’t know about Neil Gaiman, it’s really weird.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ll go and have a read about that while you talk about this.

Paul Boag:
Look him up on Wikipedia. Good guy. Yeah, I thought this was a really good question, Nick. And yeah, I would be really interested to hear what other people think. So go along to boagworld.com/season/6 select this episode and post in the comments, because I can kind of see both sides of the argument here. Yes, I entirely understand what you’re saying Nick. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we had a smaller number of libraries and frameworks? But on the flipside of it, they all do slightly different things and they’re working slightly different ways and the trouble is – not a trouble, one of the glories about the web is that there is so many different ways of doing things. There is no right or wrong way, there are different approaches you can use in different environments for different projects, but even more than that, there is just dependent on who you are and your personality and the way you like to work.

So something like jQuery is great, if you’re a kind of designer because it’s very accessible, it’s very easy to understand, it’s very much like CSS and you kind of already get that, while there are other frameworks out there that much more developer and object-oriented and work more in the way those kind of people think and I’m kind of fine with that.

I think the challenge as you say is to work out what’s going to last and what’s going to be there for the long-term, but even then does it really matter? Does it matter if you have to move from one framework to another or at some stage in the future? It’s not like these frameworks stop working at any point. If you build your website right, it’s going to be just as forward compatible as it is backward compatible, it should stand its test of time and also let’s face it, a website isn’t going to stay the same for any length of time anyway. It shouldn’t do. It should be evolving and changing.

So as soon as new frameworks and libraries come along, you can switch one out and put another one in, and it shouldn’t be devastating on the kind of website and the way website is constructed. And for you and your personal career, I think, to be honest, suck it up. That is the way the web is. Things do change at a massive rate and new things and better things come along the whole time and that’s the other element about frameworks and libraries is that it’s almost like evolution, it’s survival of the fittest and the best.

Marcus Lillington:
But isn’t it a case of we aren’t talking about massive relearning here anyway?

Paul Boag:
No, not necessarily. You could compare SaaS with Less for example, which are two different ways of compiling CSS – pre-compilers of CSS, and very similar in a lot of ways. You could easy – in fact, you could pretty much start writing Less in SaaS and not even change particularly and then you add in extra bits that SaaS offers that Less doesn’t etcetera. So, yeah, to some extent, they are pretty interchangeable.

But I think it’s also – it’s this thing, with variety and numerous different things comes innovation, comes new ways of thinking, comes different ways of approaching things and when something comes along that is new and gets a big following behind it, then great, then that’s obviously a good solution and one dies off because it is not keeping up and whatever. So in terms of kind of where to put your money, so to speak, I always – I am a great believer of being slightly behind the curve.

Everybody talks about being on the cutting edge, we’ve got to be on the cutting edge or the bleeding edge. I think it just gets more and more silly, doesn’t it? I’m actually – I like to be one step behind that. I like to see where certain key people are going. I look at where some people in the industry, what they are using, what tools they’re starting to adopt and then I go okay, so it looks like these guys know their stuff, these guys are normally pretty good judges of where things are going, so I’m going to follow them. And you kind of follow slightly behind that leading edge.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s because we are a commercial outfit.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
We have to do that. We can’t be spending all our days experimenting with this, that and the other. We need to – if we did that, we wouldn’t have time to do any work.

Paul Boag:
Exactly. But also on top of that, I think some people are naturally better at predicting where things are going to go. And I can look at a piece of technology and maybe get very excited about it, but I can’t necessarily predict whether that is going to work for the longer term. So I like to see where things are moving and kind of follow the crowd to some extent. And sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t, but most of the time it does.

Whether it’s any harder for somebody – I actually – right at the end, he says, it’s bad enough for those of us who have been in the industry for 15 plus years, it must be even harder for uni and college leavers. I actually don’t agree with that. I think in some degree, it’s easier because if you came out of university now, I think it would be pretty obvious once you’ve got your CSS, HTML in place, you’re probably going to look at jQuery because that’s the kind of the very dominant one at the moment and they’re not looking – they’re not worrying so much about long-term as perhaps we were, because we’ve seen things come and go, if that makes sense.

But they come and go over quite a long period of time, relatively speaking. So I think for me the key is not be too influenced by what’s in the latest .net magazine or what’s on the latest Smashing magazine thing. I look for things that come up again and again and again. If I hear about a new JavaScript library a half-dozen to a dozen times then I start paying attention to it. If I’m just reading one article in .net magazine, it’s like oh, that looks vaguely interesting, but I will come back to that when I hear a lot more of it.

You get a lot of that as well with things like new CSS techniques. For example in CSS3 there is all these new layout techniques to lay out designs and you read about all these articles on it and stuff and then when you dig into it a little bit deeper, it’s like well, yeah, but it only supports IE10 and okay, that’s going to be really cool, but not yet. It’s that knowing when to jump and when to invest in things rather than the amount. I think the trouble is if it all narrowed down to like just a handful of these things, I think we’d lose the pace of innovation that we have got and although the pace of innovation is painful, it’s what keeps the web exciting as an industry to work in.

And I think when you only have a few of these, you’d think that all the innovation happens in one place, but it takes a lot of collaboration and agreement, things like jQuery have become so big now with so many people working on them that everything is very well considered and that leads to a really robust product, but you also want people doing something a bit silly and off the wall at the side of that, which will then the good bits of that will get rolled into something like jQuery and the bad bits will get quietly dropped. But you need kind of people off at the edges doing stuff as well.

Marcus Lillington:
I was going to say the only thing – the only thing where I say that maybe this kind of argument maybe does have some – carry some weight is when you’re talking about backend development and should I be choosing .net or should I be choosing PHP, that kind of thing, because that really is – they’re quite different. I don’t know how you would make that choice, I’m just …

Paul Boag:
Well, I mean, yeah. You think about the people that vested their lives in cold fusion.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
And that slot, it’s not completely gone away, but it’s largely gone away, it’s become an edge case. I think if you asked a good developer, they would say actually it’s not as big a jump as you think it is going from one to the other, because they’re all roughly – they’ve got similarities and if you can learn one language, you can learn multiple languages. But yeah, I do take your point. I mean, there are some things that are harder to transition between than others. But in terms of certainly frameworks, I’ve got – I almost prefer to take the best of multiple frameworks, almost roll my own really. But I’ve got no problem with people using frameworks if they want to, but yeah, it’s interesting. I don’t think it’s that big a deal, Nick, and I would just say pick something, but remain agile. Pick stuff that’s in the mainstream; don’t pick anything too out on the edge. Look at the size of the community behind it is always a good thing, number of people contributing to it, how active the forums are around it.

If they’ve got active forums, if they’ve got lots of people using it, if it’s been used on some big high profile sites, if it works in the way you work and it’s compatible with the way you work, then you’re probably heading in the right direction and give it a go. And again, don’t even consider anything that hasn’t popped into your field of vision multiple times before you go for it, don’t jump just because you read something in a .net magazine article. At least not for commercial sites. Sure, have a play around with it, but I wouldn’t use it for anything serious. Think that kind of answers the question, doesn’t it really? Shall we move on?

How do Headscape use research in projects?

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. Next question is from Harrison Brown.

How do Headscape use research in projects? I’ve heard a lot about how important it is, no one seems to actually say what they do and what effect it has on projects. I would love to do it, but don’t know where to start.

Paul Boag:
Good question. So what do we do, Marcus? Go on, you can answer this one.

Marcus Lillington:
We do all sort of things, we do – and we don’t always do the same thing either.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
We do stakeholder interviews, that’s something we done for years and years. We’ve tried various different types of research, ways of researching into our new clients, if you like, some of which we’ve dropped over the years and – but the one that – one thing that seems to stay pretty consistent is this idea of talking to people who have a stake in the website, which could be – which is usually quite senior people and we interview them individually rather than getting them round the table. Although sometimes I’ll do individual stakeholder interviews and a stakeholder workshop, and very occasionally I’ll just do a stakeholder workshop. It’s a budgetary thing usually. It’s better to have – I would argue, it’s better to have a stakeholder workshop than nothing at all.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
But the problem with getting, I don’t know, 20 people who are all quite senior in an organization round a table, then it tends to become skewed towards two or three people in the room, rather than everyone getting their say. I remember seeing – who was it? I want to say Leah Buley from Adaptive Path, but it wasn’t. It was somebody who worked for Happy Cog and they were –basically, I was watching them talk at South by Southwest years ago and they said they know when a stakeholder interview is going to be valuable when the person gets up and shuts the door.

Paul Boag:
I thought it was you that first said that.

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
You stole it from somewhere else, because you use that line a lot.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, yeah, I’m repeating it now. Because basically a stakeholder interview, you always have to make sure that you tell people that it’s confidential. Obviously what they say isn’t, but they said it is confidential and hopefully they will open up and give you the information you need to make sure that we end up building the right thing in the end. And that’s what it’s all about, that’s why you do research because we can quite easily go in and go, well, we know about this – who are we working at the moment? We’re working for the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the Chelsea Pensioners. We could go in there and go, okay, this is what you need, we’re going to base the design on our view of what the Chelsea Pensioners are, we’re going to redesign your site and we’re going to tell you what your – how you should style your content and what the kind of voice should be and all those kind of things.

And we might get it right, but we might not, and that’s the point of research. And if you do your research properly and you kind of look into things deeply enough and you get a wide enough swathe of opinion, then chances are you’re going to get it right first time, rather than not and that’s what lots of designers are always moaning about, people who build websites going, oh well, my client doesn’t understand me and I keep getting things thrown back and it’s like well, chances are that you didn’t ask them what they wanted or what they – or you didn’t question them enough to kind of read between the lines because often that’s what’s required to work out what – how you’re going to get it done, because that’s what it is, often you are dealing with politics, you’re dealing with one person in the organization wants X, while the other person wants Y and actually what we need is a mixture of the two. So if you can get them to talk to, then you are on to a winner usually.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. I mean, stakeholder interviews are great for so many reasons. I mean, that’s not the only thing –

Marcus Lillington:
There’s more to it than that. There is a lot more to it.

Paul Boag:
Harrison, I actually wrote a blog post on this ages ago. I’ll put a link in the show notes, but just for your reference, it’s boagworld.com/businesss-strategy/research and it’s the best ways to research your next web project and actually now, this is a little bit out of date because we do other stuff that’s not in here, but we have got an expert review, which basically is us looking through the site and writing a report. If you want more information on what goes into an expert review, I’ve written a thing on that as well and you can find that link in the show notes again, but you can find it at boagworld.com/questions/site-review.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s actually a slightly misleading term, I always think, because it’s not just a review, it’s a review and recommendations.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
And our recommendations, because I talked about us being able to go in and have an idea, are normally pretty good because we have a lot of experience.

Paul Boag:
We are damn good at it. We’re so good.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, we’re so good. What it gives is …

Paul Boag:
Which is why we can’t take on that multimillion pound project until at least August.

Marcus Lillington:
Because we come out with a bunch of recommendations, we can use those recommendations as kind of a test bit, talk to stakeholders. We think blah blah blah, what do you think? So, yeah.

Paul Boag:
So it’s the expert review, we do heuristic reviews.

Marcus Lillington:
They’re kind of, yeah, bundled together now.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Actually, they’re bundled into competitor reviews, tend to be. We will work out a bunch of heuristics that are relevant to the client which is – I don’t know, what’s an example?

Paul Boag:
Things like …

Marcus Lillington:
Home page impact, that’s a heuristic.

Paul Boag:
Or how accessible your webs – how accessible the site is or how well the search works, that kind of thing.

Marcus Lillington:
A good thing we’re doing lately is picking that and I don’t know half a dozen competitor sites and measure the site you’re working on and all these competitors and you can actually kind of say that competitor A, you’re beating them at this heuristic, but they’re beating you with the other one and I think it actually – it comes out with something a lot more useful, I think, than just measuring against heuristics for the site on its own.

Paul Boag:
Yes. The content – the only thing is a competitor review, which is the next thing I have got in this article, can be very time consuming.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
As I know at the moment, as I’m trying to work through one with Chris at the minute.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, there is two sorts. There is the one I just described, which is the time-consuming, we’ve got 50 heuristics and we are going to look at seven sites and that’s just – and a little bit of opinion, a measurement, we kind of measure between 1 and 5.

Paul Boag:
1 and 5. Well, we started rating the sites, so say if there’s six sites, you rate them from 1 to 6.

Marcus Lillington:
But equally you can do a side of A4.

Paul Boag:
Yes, you could do.

Marcus Lillington:
You can just look at them and go, this one’s nice and shiny. The next one isn’t.

Paul Boag:
But it is not very …

Marcus Lillington:
But that’s more opinion-based than heuristics-based.

Paul Boag:
Then there’s the analytics review, which is where you get – dig into Google Analytics and me and Marcus won’t have a lot to say on that, because that’s Chris’s baby and he is very good at it.

Marcus Lillington:
I tend to – whenever I do analytics, I just look at homepage and I tend to look at all of the links from the homepage because you can spend – analytics go on forever. And I just find it fascinating just where people are going and how popular the links are from the homepage and you can spend days looking at that.

Paul Boag:
Just at that. What I think – yeah, the way – I’ve talked to Chris about how he does it and it’s quite nice actually. What he does is he decides on certain questions he wants to answer before he looks at it. And I think that helps a lot and he goes in and answer those questions, but then it will spring other questions up, but having that starting point rather than okay, let’s open Google Analytics and look at the default points. So he does all of that kind of stuff. So those are the key ones that I cover in that article.

Marcus Lillington:
They’re kind of the things that we will do about – they’re our analysis of the existing site and its competitors.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Then we’ll talk to stakeholders to get that kind of people of powers’ opinion and then we’ll also talk to users as well, often through surveys because it’s hard to actually talk to users.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, the surveying you can do, we’re running some surveys at the moment. One of the things I have started doing with the surveys, which I quite like, is taking the user stories model that is used by gov.uk.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. I’m just about to kick off a survey for RSPB doing this and I am going to hate you, aren’t I?

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m going to hate you with an absolute passion.

Paul Boag:
The reason that – right, okay, so this is the problem with this, it’s a great idea in principle. I’m doing it for the first time as well with Strathclyde University. So what – a user story basically I think – have we talked about this on the show before?

Marcus Lillington:
I can’t remember.

Paul Boag:
I get confused. But basically, it is a little tool that helps you when you’re kind of building a site to make sure that you can meet users’ needs. So a user’s story might be I am a type of person, so I’m a prospective student, I’ll used Strathclyde as I’m working on that. I want to and then the task you want to do, I want to look at information on physics courses because and then you say because ultimately I want – and then you put the goal basically, so my goal is to decide whether Strathclyde University is appropriate for me to go and study physics at.

So you create a load of these is the idea. Well, it occurred me to that if you’re doing a survey, we could get users to fill these blanks in and kind of make their own user stories, which is obviously a great idea in principle. The downside of it of course is that other than that initial I am where you can put a whole lot of different target audiences because you kind of know the target audiences. The other two fields are open fields.

So what that means is that you have to go through, I mean, I just had a quick glance. We’d had like the Strathclyde one up for like 10 minutes or something, it wasn’t very long and already I had like 239 entries and I’m thinking I have got go through all of those and kind of group them, because everybody will word things in slightly different ways, but essentially be saying the same thing. So you’ve kind of got to group those together, so working through them afterwards is going to be a bitch, but I actually think it’s going to be a – it’s a really useful way, better way.

Marcus Lillington:
It better be, that’s all I can say.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, but why we’re trying it on two sites simultaneously and didn’t just do it on one first, but you were enthusiastic about the idea. I didn’t push the approach.

Marcus Lillington:
No, I’m blaming you.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, I know you are, but it is not my fault.

Marcus Lillington:
And it will be your fault, Paul.

Paul Boag:
So surveys are great. We do things like – then obviously there’s testing, there’s design testing and I recently posted about how to test aesthetics, link in the show notes for that as well and then there is usability testing and that kind of stuff. So there’s loads you can do.

Marcus Lillington:
There’s loads, basically.

Paul Boag:
And then of course we get into the other side of things, which is kind of still research, but it’s kind of more recommendations out of it, which is the whole governance side which I’ve been talking about at Future of Web Design. And actually, there is a link you can go and check out stuff on that as well, link in the show notes too, boagworld.com/governance and I’ve now created a fancy page that kind of sums that up, which looks – it has got all the articles I have written on governance stuff, about some policies and creating roadmaps of where the company is going to go and all of that kind of stuff and also has my talk from Future of Web Design in there.

So there’s loads to check out there and I’m intending to grow that page over time and introduce other stuff on to it as well. So it will be worth bookmarking that one and keeping a note on it every now and again.

So yes, there is loads you can do, Harrison, and in terms of where to start, I think the things I would start on personally is just a very simple expert review. You going and spending time looking at their site, looking at the – probably their competition as well, and making note of what you think is good and what you think is bad. That’s where we started in the very early days, that was the first type of research we did, which in hindsight seems a bit kind of basic and a bit kind of our opinions, but when you’ve being working in web design 10 years or whatever, that opinion is valid and I think spending a bit of time on that at the beginning of a project is very much worthwhile. But the other thing beyond that is I would suggest creating those – talking to users and talking to stakeholders is invaluable, if you can get a bit of time to do that, even if it’s just over the phone.

Marcus Lillington:
And all of this has to happen before you put pen to paper, if you like, or open the Photoshop.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, yes, absolutely before you start the design process.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s the point.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Otherwise it’s not research, otherwise it’s – well, I suppose it is, but …

Paul Boag:
So no, because not everything we’ve talked about – some of the stuff, I mean, we mentioned for example usability and design testing …

Marcus Lillington:
That’s true, yes.

Paul Boag:
… which aren’t really research, I suppose you could argue, and the governance stuff, again, you could argue perhaps it isn’t research. It’s something that is a deliverable really, more than it is a research part, but certainly doing the discovery phase upfront before you kick off is really worthwhile.

The other thing that I’d recommend which we’ve – we do a lot of now is we will do a discovery phase as our initial engagement with the client. So essentially we don’t – they don’t hire us to do a web design project, they hire us to do this discovery phase, a research phase. And then our deliverables out of that will essentially be expert review, might be some personas, for example, that’s another thing you would deliver maybe, and your analytics review. You could deliver your heuristic review, but also maybe a brief for the next phase and then they can choose either to commission you for that second phase if they have liked working with you and everything’s gone well on that smaller project, or alternatively they can put it out to tender.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
So, it’s a good initial engagement because it’s a small little project. It gives the client a chance to get to know you, it defines the brief better, it equips you better to do the project if you go on to do it. Gives the client a better brief if they decide to go to someone else and it’s worked really well working that way, hasn’t it? I think a lot of people have kind of liked that idea.

Marcus Lillington:
Definitely.

Paul Boag:
Okay, so hopefully that answers your question, Harrison. We shall move on.

How to do online guerrilla marketing?

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. Final question from Jason. Jason doesn’t have a surname.

Paul Boag:
No, he didn’t give me a surname.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Any suggestions for me from you on the best ways to market a new subscription-based online business? Any personal advice, reads, posts, podcasts or a good outlined process that you’d recommend for me to begin my marketing?

Paul Boag:
Good question. And probably we’re the worst people in the world to ask that.

Marcus Lillington:
Was just going to say, I haven’t got a clue.

Paul Boag:
We had a good go at it, didn’t we, with Get Sign Off and failed miserably. So, interesting. I included this on the show, because I think whatever you’re marketing, whether you’re marketing yourself and your personal brand, whether you’re marketing your web app, whether you’re marketing your agency, I think there are certain approaches you can use that in my opinion work well, or certainly have worked well for me. And I think a lot of it – in my opinion marketing has to – successful online marketing has to offer more than ‘hey, look at our service; this is great.’

Marcus Lillington:
You’ve got to go and drive Rolls Royce into a swimming pool or something haven’t you? To get on the news. ‘Hire a PR agency.’

Paul Boag:
Yeah – oh no, don’t do that. I think that can work if you got the budget to do it. It does work. But a lot of us don’t have the budget and if we’ve been developing a little web app on the side or whatever it’s very hard to fund the budget for that kind of thing.

Marcus Lillington:
Well wouldn’t we do what we’re doing now?

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s what we did do and it wasn’t – I don’t think the marketing of what was it called, Get Sign Off, was the problem, it just took too long to develop that.

Paul Boag:
Yes, the moment had passed and that was the big thing.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. Do what we do, there you go.

Paul Boag:
But let’s break that down. What is it we do? How do we get to the situation where we can’t take on another multi-million pound project until August? Sorry I was just – I’m in sales mode today, I don’t know. Anyway, how did we become so incredibly popular and successful? I think you know the things – we’ve done exactly that; we don’t talk about Headscape the whole time. We talk about –

Marcus Lillington:
Nope. We talk about greenhouses.

Paul Boag:
Yes, we do.

Marcus Lillington:
And lack of heating.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, an important issue such as that. No, we share knowledge. And I often – the way – because I run a workshop on guerrilla marketing and I ought to actually find that because that’s – that would be really useful and give me lot of ideas of what to include on this discussion, which I will probably should have brought up beforehand, shouldn’t I really?

Marcus Lillington:
You probably should have done.

Paul Boag:
Yes, the key is to talk around the product rather than about the product, right. So, in our case our product is web design services, so we talk around that product. So we talk about how to run your website successfully, things like that, all right. Instead of saying how great we are, we kind of demonstrate our knowledge. So let’s say if your application was a budgeting app, all right, then what you do is you talk about budgeting, you talk about finances, you talk about managing your money, talk about getting out of debt, paying off credit cards, saving for pensions, all those kinds of things that people struggle with…

Marcus Lillington:
Boring.

Paul Boag:
…rather than talking directly about your product. And your product will come in to it from time to time. But I think then what you’re doing is you’re creating a community around related issues about the product rather than – because nobody’s going to like ‘hey, yes I want to be spammed on a regular basis that you’ve upgraded to version 2.1 of your software and it’s now got widgets in it.’ But they will subscribe to maybe a blog about web design or running a successful website. So I mean that’s kind of part of my attitude …

Marcus Lillington:
Or saving for a pension. Really?

Paul Boag:
Well people do, yes, because you don’t think …

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I know. Because I don’t care.

Paul Boag:
No, you don’t think about the future, doesn’t mean other people don’t.

Marcus Lillington:
Got to live for today, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Yes but to live to today you need money to be able to do that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, so you work.

Paul Boag:
Okay. I mean, I use – I’ve got budgeting app called YNAB, which is You Need A Budget and I’ll link in the show notes actually to that.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
And they have a blog associated with it and actually it’s a really good blog. I quite enjoy it actually. It’s a lot of time it’s just kind of little hints and tips and it’s not as boring as ‘you need to get a pension, it’s not a guilt kind of trip, but it’s just kind of ways to keep your receipts or just little – I’m not really saying. In fact what I’m going to do is I’m going to bring up the website.

Marcus Lillington:
‘Ways to keep your receipts.’ Yay!

Paul Boag:
Let’s actually have a look at what their blog has got on at the moment. My brain went dead when I tried to come up with it. Blog here we go. Let’s have a look, let’s see if it is or isn’t … yeah things like ‘it’s probably a good idea to make – go to the supermarket, do your supermarket run on foot rather than in the car because you’ll buy less’, right.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s not good advice, because you’ll come back and you’ll go ‘oh, no I didn’t buy that and now my dinner party is ruined.’

Paul Boag:
Don’t be ridiculous. Keep Monopoly money out of your budget and about how certain money doesn’t need to go in your budget, other things can. Five questions my mom asked me about getting started with their product, so they have talked about their product as well. Why most serious budgeters neglect their biggest category and just talking about some of the categories that go into blogging. They do a podcast as well, why – how not to worry about money. So you get the kind of idea. There’s some stuff in there, it’s probably not the best subject to select for Marcus as he so doesn’t give a shit, but it’s quite interesting.

But I think – so talking around your product, but I think beyond that you’ve got to find a voice that you’ll kind of – to stand out of the crowd. You’ve got to be confident about your product, you’ve got to really believe in your product, you’ve got to be passionate about it and get excited about it. I mean the example I will use for this is Gary Vaynerchuk with Winelibrary TV. There are hundreds of –

Marcus Lillington:
See now that’s something that I’m interested in.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. And essentially he just sells wine. That’s what he does.

Marcus Lillington:
And he just talks – but the whole thing that goes around about growing it and drinking it obviously, but the kind of – it’s associated with being sociable and your friends, just like this great thing that everyone. That’s something I would happily listen to someone …

Paul Boag:
To subscribe to.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
And somebody that, I mean there’s thousands, hundreds of thousands of wine sellers out there, but Gary talks with such passion and excitement about the wines, that actually I’ve got no real interest in wine, but I like listening to Gary, because he’s passionate and enthusiastic. And the other thing is he’s opinionated. So he will say ‘no this wine’s shit, don’t listen to other people say about it, I think it’s really rubbish, it’s overpriced’ you know and that kind of stuff. And I think that makes a big difference and that kind of helps build an audience. And the other thing that I like about him and I think we do this quite well as well, is we’re human. Do you know what I mean? So we could be, come on and all professional and we’re going to talk about web design and this is the strategy you should use and be all –

Marcus Lillington:
And use silly voices as well.

Paul Boag:
Yes, use silly voices. But actually people like people and they like to be engaged and they like to feel – people buy from people. And for example there are products I use –again actually YNAB’s is a really good example of that, right. When I write to – I submitted a bug once to YNAB and the owner writes back to me. And actually Rachel Andrew and Drew McLellan who run Perch a kind of tiny little content management system – linked to Perch – they don’t want to grow any bigger because they want to be the ones that are doing the support. They want to be the people that are there talking to their customers. And I think that goes a long way to kind of really engaging with people. Another great example of a bigger thing which is quite impersonal that’s kind of tried to add that human element in, is MOO. Do you know MOO Cards?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, yeah.

Paul Boag:
Link to MOO Cards. And they have this, when you place an order, essentially you’re ordering business cards. I mean they make it a bit fancier than that but that’s really what you’re doing. So you’re doing business cards and essentially you lay it all out on the website, it goes straight to a bit of software that then goes to the printing machine and then it churns out – There’s no human involved in it. But what they do to get around that is they send you this e-mail, which is from Little MOO. And Little MOO is their software and ‘hello I’m Little MOO, I’m the computer that kind of does it’

And it’s just great. When I had something go wrong with my order once, and I got this e-mail that said ‘hi, I’m Little MOO, we’ve spoken before. I’m the piece of software that manages your order at MOO. I’ve done a very bad thing.’ And it’s like you’re can’t get angry at this thing, because it’s got character and it’s got a tone of voice. Mail Chimp is another great example of that.

What else have I got? Yeah so it’s this whole thing of kind of talking around your product. In fact, do you know what, I’ll stop there because we could go on forever on this, but I will put a link in the show notes to the slides of my presentation on online guerilla marketing 101. Hopefully they kind of make some sense without all the kind of notes and waffle that goes around them. But it’s about being human, it’s about being passionate, it’s about being enthusiastic, it’s talking around your product, it’s building a community of people that are enthusiastic about it, because they will share it. In the same way as I’ve just sat here and I’ve talked about Perch and how great that is, I’ve talked about YNAB and how great that is, I’ve talked about Gary Vaynerchuk and how great he is, all of that is examples of viral marketing where the – it’s been passed word of mouth, just because people are enthusiastic. And I like to think that people go out there and do that with us as well – well I know they do, which is why we’re now up to six listeners rather than the three. So, it proves that it works, which is great.

All right, so hopefully that was a little bit of help to you Jason. Yeah I think that’s about it, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
It is, yes.

Paul Boag:
Joke.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, you – who was the joke from today? Because it was…

Paul Boag:
I think it was Jason actually. It was one of the people that submitted a question today.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
Let me see if I can find out who it is. I didn’t realize we were actually going to use that joke.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s right, I remembered it, Paul, I can do it.

Paul Boag:
I want to – yes, it was from Jason.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. Thank you, Jason. This is my kind of joke. What you call a seagull flying across the bay?

Paul Boag:
I know the answer, so I can’t say. What is a seagull flying across the bay?

Marcus Lillington:
A bay-gull [bagel].

Paul Boag:
I really liked that. It was a good one. Thank you, Jason. That tickled us. So hopefully that was your repayment for us answering your question or vice versa, one or the other. All right, thank you very much guys for listening, we will be back again next week with more of your questions. Keep them coming in by the way, we’re really enjoying them. You’ve been submitting some great stuff, thank you guys. We’ll speak to you again next week.

Marcus Lillington:
Bye.

Our sincere thanks to the guys at PodsInPrint for transcribing this show.

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