Mobile App, high value projects and selecting an agency

This week on the Boagworld show we ask when to go responsive, how can you find higher value projects and where can you find reliable web agencies.

Play

Paul Boag:
This week on the Boagworld show, we ask when to go responsive, how to find higher value projects and where you can find a reliable web design agency.

Come on then, and let’s get this over with. Flipping…

Marcus Lillington:
20 minute podcast.

Paul Boag:
…20 minute podcast, flipping listeners, demanding that we do a podcast, so rude. Monday morning, 10 am. Marcus, you’re bad. This is your fault. I hope you’re ready to contribute a lot to this show.

Marcus Lillington:
Of course not. I’ve got to go to Scotland tomorrow. So that’s why, let’s get it done. Got to do this, then I’ve got to go to a meeting and then got to do that.

Paul Boag:
Shut up, I hate you.

Marcus Lillington:
Tell me a funny story, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Tell you a funny story?

Marcus Lillington:
No, no, actually don’t tell …

Paul Boag:
My life.

Marcus Lillington:
You took lots of pictures over the weekend?

Paul Boag:
I do. We went away. It was nice. What you do want – what do you want from me?

Marcus Lillington:
Down to an area of the country I quite like.

Paul Boag:
Dorset.

Marcus Lillington:
Where is it? Dorset? I thought it was Devon.

Paul Boag:
No, Dorset. Seatown in Dorset. Don’t argue, it says it’s Dorset.

Marcus Lillington:
Is it Seatown? I thought you were at Seaton.

Paul Boag:
No, I got it wrong. Well, my wife got it wrong.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh right. So you weren’t using –

Paul Boag:
She told me we were going to Seaton. We weren’t using – no.

Marcus Lillington:
You’re – yeah, because you were at Golden Cap, which is Charmouth way.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s definitely Dorset.

Paul Boag:
Exactly. That’s what I said.

Marcus Lillington:
Still very lovely.

Paul Boag:
It was.

Marcus Lillington:
Jurassic Coast.

Paul Boag:
Future of Web Design was quite fun as well.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
That was last week.

Marcus Lillington:
No, I didn’t go to that.

Paul Boag:
No, but I did, is my point. You’re interested in Dorset, but you don’t care about the web design conference that we could talk about on the web design podcast. No. In fact, it’s been established from Twitter now that we’re just supposed to be talking about recipes all the time, aren’t we?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, would you like my recipe for stuffing to go with chicken?

Paul Boag:
No, not in the slightest bit interested.

Marcus Lillington:
I bet you would like to eat it.

Paul Boag:
I would like to eat it, yes. I’m not interested in cooking, just consuming.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I’m interested in both. But yes, tell me about Future of Web Design, Paul.

Paul Boag:
It was good. There were web people there, they talked about web stuff. Right, let’s move on.

Marcus Lillington:
What was the general theme of this year?

Paul Boag:
There wasn’t really a theme. To be honest…

Marcus Lillington:
What are people talking about…

Paul Boag:
Stuff.

Marcus Lillington:
…in our industry, Paul?

Paul Boag:
Stuff. Do you want the honest answer?

Marcus Lillington:
They don’t know, do they?

Paul Boag:
I’ve no idea. I managed to sit in on about two presentations. I was just so busy with other stuff.

Marcus Lillington:
But no, but people were talking…

Paul Boag:
But I was bloody amazing.

Marcus Lillington:
… outside of the hall, was what I meant, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Oh me and – well, basically the only person I talked to – I was so antisocial this time. If you were at Future of Web Design and wanted to talk to me, I apologize profusely. I spent most of the time sitting in the hotel room working or talking to Rob Borley.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
About his Dootrix empire.

Marcus Lillington:
Fair enough.

Paul Boag:
Do you remember Rob, guys, from – he used to be on the show a lot.

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
… before he left.

Marcus Lillington:
He is dead to me.

Paul Boag:
He is dead. He left and now has a software company that builds enterprise level software. Do you know, most…

Marcus Lillington:
They build software.

Paul Boag:
Most of their projects are six figures plus, it’s so depressing.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, well, hey.

Paul Boag:
And he just seems to waltz around. A little like you, actually, that’s your job now.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, that’s right. I just keep complaining that I’ve got too much on, but I actually haven’t, nothing at all.

Paul Boag:
No, nothing. Nothing is happening.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I’m just kind of what should I do now? I know, I’m going to pretend to be busy. Again.

Paul Boag:
Yes. I always – at school when I used to be at school, there was this one teacher who would pretend to be busy and he would walk around with a clipboard …

Marcus Lillington:
That’s exact – all you need to do is carry something and that’s it.

Paul Boag:
Well, no, he had another trick, which was a really good one. He had a clipboard and his tie over his shoulder. I’m too busy to notice that I have a tie that’s flown back because I’ve been walking around so briskly everywhere.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
It’s a good trick.

Marcus Lillington:
Walk quickly carrying something.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
No one will ever bother you.

Paul Boag:
No. It’s wonderful, just kind of keep walking around in circles. Unfortunately I can’t do the tie trick, because I don’t own a tie.

Marcus Lillington:
I had to wear a tie the other day. Oh no, it was Saturday night; I went to a black tie do, with a bow tie and everything. Tied a bow tie; would you like to know how to tie a bow tie, Paul?

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
It’d be a hard thing to do on radio.

Paul Boag:
It’s – on an audio podcast, yeah. It’s not something I’m – not a skill I will ever need.

Marcus Lillington:
Are you sure?

Paul Boag:
I’m positive that at no point…

Marcus Lillington:
They’re tricky buggers.

Paul Boag:
At no point in my life will I tie a black bow tie.

Marcus Lillington:
No?

Paul Boag:
Do you own like a – the whole suit thing?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, of course.

Paul Boag:
Wow. That’s amazing. I never go anywhere posh enough.

Marcus Lillington:
I go probably two or three dos a year.

Paul Boag:
Really?

Marcus Lillington:
It’s being members of sports clubs, because – well, this was actually …

Paul Boag:
Well, this is why I have never experienced it.

Marcus Lillington:
Normally the dinner dance or the presentation will be a black tie do. Every year where I live there is a summer ball, which is always black tie and this was somebody’s 50th birthday party. Right laugh.

Paul Boag:
Well, apparently the .net awards …

Marcus Lillington:
I was poorly yesterday morning.

Paul Boag:
What’s that got to do with anything? Oh, because you had a hangover, right. You weren’t poorly. It was self-inflicted.

Marcus Lillington:
I was very, very, very poorly. I think I’d had a dodgy prawn.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, something like that, that gave you a really painful headache, yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m dying.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, exactly. No, apparently .net awards this year is black tie or posh anyway. So I’m not going obviously, because I would be out of place, but that’s apparently what they’re doing.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, but black tie for awards if you’re – you shouldn’t wear black tie if you’re cool.

Paul Boag:
Ah, yeah. And of course – but the problem is everybody that – like last time they did like a black tie thing at .net awards, everybody thinks they’re cool, so nobody turned up in black tie…

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly.

Paul Boag:
…which undermined the whole principle.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Anyway, where do we go from there?

Paul Boag:
I don’t care. Go home? How about that? I’d quite like that. Or we can talk about something web design related.

Marcus Lillington:
All right. Then go on.

Responsive vs mobile apps

Okay. First question from Bob Reid.

What are the top reasons to build an app rather than a responsive website? I understand this is not exactly an apples-to-apples question, but there are instances where, assuming you have a perfectly operational website, an app might provide a better solution for mobile access than the responsively designed website. What are the criteria for an app versus responsively – responsive web design website?

Bob Reid

Paul Boag:
I wrote an article on this. Let’s move on, next question.

Marcus Lillington:
You can at least put the link in the show notes.

Paul Boag:
Oh, yeah. Alright. I will do that. There you go Bob, answered your question. No, actually it was a brilliant article, one of the best I’ve ever written.

Marcus Lillington:
It was a brilliant article.

Paul Boag:
It was a brilliant article.

Marcus Lillington:
It was so brilliant, I can’t remember it.

Paul Boag:
Now I’ve got it up on screen so I can – essentially so I don’t have to think, I’m just going to read it back.

Marcus Lillington:
Can I just try and …

Paul Boag:
Are you ready for me to read it? Do you need an app in the App Store, should it be native or hybrid, what is the difference between a web app and a responsive website?

Marcus Lillington:
You sound like Siri.

Paul Boag:
The male version of Siri, I hope, not the …

Marcus Lillington:
They have a female version?

Paul Boag:
Yeah, the American version is female.

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag:
They get a sexy woman speaking to them, we get some toffee nosed bloke.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I mean, not that I ever use it, ever.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
Ever, ever, ever. Useless piece of rubbish.

Paul Boag:
No, there are rare occasions. What amuses me is for me the kind of the most …

Marcus Lillington:
Siri, can you hear what I’m saying? No, I haven’t got a lamppost at the end of the road. What?

Paul Boag:
The irony with Siri is that the one-time when you need your hands free in order to be able to…

Marcus Lillington:
Car.

Paul Boag:
…is in the car.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, it doesn’t work.

Paul Boag:
And yet it doesn’t understand you in the car.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I used to try and send texts. Funniest thing you could ever do actually, especially to your friends.

Paul Boag:
Yes. You need to stand in a quiet room and speak very slowly and clearly.

Marcus Lillington:
In your best newsreader voice.

Paul Boag:
Yes. And only then does it work. How did we get onto Siri? Oh, I sounded like that.

Marcus Lillington:
You sounded like Siri, yes.

Paul Boag:
In that monotone voice of mine. You were going to say something.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, you were ignoring me. I was going to try and answer the question because I’ve got no idea really.

Paul Boag:
Go on then.

Marcus Lillington:
You always should do a responsive website. There you go. That’s my answer. There is never a reason ever to do another one, unless you’ve got an app like Twitter or something.

Paul Boag:
They have a mobile app. So the thing is …

Marcus Lillington:
I was just being silly.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I know. And everybody that’s listening knows.

Marcus Lillington:
Knows that before I open my mouth.

Paul Boag:
Because they know not to expect anything else, Marcus, all six of them. We are at six now, aren’t we? I think we got up to six, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
At least.

Paul Boag:
So, actually, Bob – oh, I just love that name. I wish I was called Bob.

Marcus Lillington:
Bob. That’s a Not 9 o’clock News – no, it isn’t. It’s a –

Paul Boag:
Blackadder.

Marcus Lillington:
Blackadder, yes.

Paul Boag:
Bob, he fell in love with Bob, didn’t he?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. No one will know, will they?

Paul Boag:
Well, they will. No, Blackadder is quite big.

Marcus Lillington:
Was Blackadder – did it go to America?

Paul Boag:
I don’t know actually. That’s a very good question.

Marcus Lillington:
Series 2. It’s genius.

Paul Boag:
It’ll be on BBC America.

Marcus Lillington:
Bob.

Paul Boag:
Bob was in series 4 and 3. Bob was in all of them, except one.

Marcus Lillington:
She first appeared in series 2, the Elizabethan one.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, I will agree with that, but she reappeared in the – actually, she didn’t appear in 3, but she was in 4, definitely.

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag:
Yes, because there was a variety show – to get off the front lines, they had to put on a variety show.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, you’re right, yes.

Paul Boag:
And Baldrick dressed up as a girl and then Bob did it. And Bob was a less convincing girl than Baldrick was, even though he had a beard. That was very good. I will see if I can find a clip to put in the show notes.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s genius.

Paul Boag:
Well worth it. Anyway so Bob.

Marcus Lillington:
What?

Paul Boag:
Oh god. You don’t just have two options. It isn’t a matter of responsive design or app, it’s a little bit more complicated. In actual fact, in the article that I’ve written on the subject, I outlined four options. Are you ready for these?

Marcus Lillington:
Go on then.

Paul Boag:
So there’s a responsive website, native application, web application, and a hybrid application. So responsive website, to my mind is kind of my default position, right. So …

Marcus Lillington:
That’s kind of what I was sarcastically saying.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. So if a guy comes to us, by default, we make their website responsive. I think we do that on all websites now, do we?

Marcus Lillington:
Only one project working on at the moment that isn’t.

Paul Boag:
Oh, okay. What is that from – out of interest? They’re weren’t willing to pay.

Marcus Lillington:
No, it’s because we’re not doing the development and the developers…

Paul Boag:
Got confused?

Marcus Lillington:
No, no, it’s kind of like we’re using existing – we’re kind of reskinning the…

Paul Boag:
Oh, reskinning, okay. So it’s a bit more complicated. Fair enough. But normally that’s our kind of default position, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So the responsive website is really good for kind of information rich websites. So by that, I mean content heavy rather than application like. So the more document content orientated they are, the better they are for responsive site and they’re great for when users are looking to gather information rather than complete tasks, so to speak.

Then there’s your native app. Native apps are great, they’re the ones that physically run on the mobile device and are coded specifically for the operating system in the device, whether that be Android or iOS or whatever else. Now these are really good when you’ve got a specific task that somebody is trying to do and it’s a task that they do repeatedly on a regular basis.

So a great example of that is the Buffer app that we kind of consulted with a bit, which allows you to schedule updates to your various social media, Twitter, Facebook accounts et cetera. And so in that kind of situation then it makes sense to have a native app because you want it to be fast, you want it to be really responsive, you want it to maybe work offline. They also – native apps are really good if you want to be able to use certain functionality of the phone that isn’t available …

Marcus Lillington:
Like the camera, although that kind of works on hybrid apps, doesn’t it?

Paul Boag:
On hybrid it would do, yeah, but you can’t build a web-based app that uses the camera.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
But you could use a web-based app that can use the GPS for example. So there are some things that are available and some things that are not.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
Then there’s web applications. Now these are – they’re not responsive sites, but they are built entirely with HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and live entirely online. So these are – the example of these would be an application that allows you to complete a task, but where essentially you require online connectivity for it to work anyway and you have the advantage that it’s going to work across multiple operating systems, rather than just one.

So a case in point of that which we’ve done is the Blackpool Pleasure Beach mobile app, which is – really was just about booking tickets. So it had to be online to do it. It didn’t require any of the local functionality of the device. So therefore a separate mobile app makes sense.

Then there is the hybrid apps, which is probably the hardest to explain really. They’re kind of essentially native apps, but built with HTML, CSS and JavaScript. And by building them with web technology, it makes them quicker to develop and easier to publish across multiple platforms, but they do have a downside in terms of performance tends to not to be as good and they don’t – they lack the kind of unique design style of each platform if that makes sense.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
So often these are built with something like PhoneGap or something like that. But they can be quite – I think they’re really useful for proof of concepts. If you kind of want to show something working, they work great for that. I think they’re also good if you want something quick and dirty that isn’t going to be around for very long, but it’s – there are not that many occasions that I feel a hybrid app is appropriate for.

In terms of which is right for you, well, that kind of is based on your particular requirements, as I’ve kind of outlined. I think a good starting point is to ask yourself are users completing tasks or accessing information. If it’s the latter then responsive is almost certainly the way to go. If it’s the former, you need to ask whether speed and access to native features are important. If that’s the case, then you need either a native or hybrid app, otherwise a web application would be perfect. So, yeah that’s basically it. I will put a link in the show notes to this article and also a link to a presentation I gave called, what – stop obsessing over mobile apps where I kind of lay out all of this as well; you can watch that, if you so prefer. But yeah it’s a good question, Bob. I think a lot people are struggling to find – Bob, sorry I keep saying that – struggling to find the right way, but that’s kind of your options really these days.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, there is only one thing I would add with apps over mobile sites.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Because I think – there is one thing to add there, if – this is Apple really. If you’re – if you have got an eCommerce site or you’re looking to get donations, you’re a sort of charity site; if you’re – basically you have an issue with Apple, if you’re going to do it via – if you’re going to create an app …

Paul Boag:
Yes, of course.

Marcus Lillington:
… where you’re wanting to basically bring in money they demand a cut.

Paul Boag:
30% yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
A big cut, so, there is – it’s almost like well you probably don’t want to bother with an app at all in that case. You want to…

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
… you want to get people to get through their browser…

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
… on their device.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s about it really.

Paul Boag:
I mean there is a lot of misreceptions around, you know, a lot of people think oh, we have got to have a native app, but I actually think their uses are rarer than people think. I think there is a lot of apps in the App Store, which really shouldn’t be there. I think part of the problem is that people have this perception that oh, their users want instant access to their stuff all the time and that actually it’s really important. But it’s like all of these things like, you know, these various eCommerce, high street chains have all got their kind of native app, but I can’t help but come back and think, well how often do I really order from Top Shop? Do you know, I –

Marcus Lillington:
Well, never?

Paul Boag:
Yeah. But – but most of the time you’re making a purchase …

Marcus Lillington:
Frilly blouses, I can’t – I nearly couldn’t say that for a minute there, frilly blouses.

Paul Boag:
You know, most of the time you don’t – you maybe want to make a purchase once every six months, even once every three months maybe.

Marcus Lillington:
I would forget I had downloaded their app and – and I wouldn’t have downloaded – that’s the issue…

Paul Boag:
You wouldn’t, yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
One of the problems with these things, if it’s a – we were talking to universities – we do a lot of work with universities and we were having a conversation with them about native versus responsive sites and for prospective clients who are researching universities, they …

Paul Boag:
Students – prospective students.

Marcus Lillington:
Sorry, yes. Clients?

Paul Boag:
Yeah, I know what you mean.

Marcus Lillington:
Monday morning.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, exactly.

Marcus Lillington:
Prospective students; they are looking at 5 to 10 different universities, do you really expect them to go and download your app from the App Store? Not a chance. Whereas if you’ve already arrived and you’re a new student and you want to create, I don’t know, a booking facility for this is where your next lecture is, that’s really useful and that should be a native app.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
But of course they kind of see it the other way round. I think …

Paul Boag:
Yeah. Which is completely back to front.

Marcus Lillington:
I think they all – we are going to advertise via our new app…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
… which no one would ever download.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
But yeah, sorry.

Paul Boag:
So there you go. So – no, absolutely really good point, totally agree. Let’s move on.

High value projects

Okay so next up is an audio question, which Marcus described as frying eggs in the background. So the – apparently the audio is not perfect quality, up to Marcus’s high standard. If you’re going to submit an audio question, can you please make sure you go to a professional sound studio to get it done? So demanding. Chad I think your question is great. Let’s listen to it now.

This is Chad Warner from optimwise.com. How do you find higher budget clients and projects?

Chad Warner

Paul Boag:
So there you go. That’s to the point.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, that’s quite a tough one, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
To the point, but hard.

Marcus Lillington:
Work hard and be good at what you do.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
Swan around, carrying something.

Paul Boag:
Carrying – look busy. Yes, that’s precisely how you do that. Actually to some extent that is true. If you look busy, people think oh they must be good.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly. Yeah.

Paul Boag:
And they want to go and hire them.

Marcus Lillington:
Who wants to eat in an empty restaurant? Nobody.

Paul Boag:
Okay. So, when we started off our average project was what 5k?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, maybe. Yeah.

Paul Boag:
I am just trying to think about those early ones.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, yeah.

Paul Boag:
And then now what’s our average project, 30?

Marcus Lillington:
Half a million.

Paul Boag:
Half a million?

Marcus Lillington:
At least.

Paul Boag:
Now that’s how you do it. Just tell a lie. Tell everyone you make – your bigger project – between 30 and 50, I would have thought would be fairly average now.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So, how did we achieve that, Marcus? Go.

Marcus Lillington:
We do a podcast.

Paul Boag:
We do…

Marcus Lillington:
So you’ve got to – very simply you have got to broaden your reach. If you are – if you think to yourself, right I’m in a provincial town and I’m going to win all the businesses in my provincial town, then cool, but chances are you won’t be able to get higher value, bigger clients if you do that. You have go to make yourself appear to be non-provincial, that I am – global is maybe a bit big, but I will work with anyone in the UK or anyone in the State of Texas, I don’t know, make it up.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Or global

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
And I guess that’s how we’ve managed to go from a – smaller to larger projects. We have just kind of become more and more global. And if you have – if you work with companies like Nestle as we have done, you know, big U.S. law firms and the like then people go, oh, they work for those kind of people, then they must be worthy of my high budget project, so you get invited to more and more teddies – tenders – teddies? It really is tough this morning. More and more tenders of higher value. And the more – as I have always said, the more work you do or the more successful work you do, the more opportunities are going to come your way just through, you know, maths. You will get more people recommending you. If you do a good job more and more people will recommend you and that will kind of spread like wildfire.

Paul Boag:
I think it’s also to a degree talking and – talking about the kinds of problems that bigger clients face, because they do face different types of problems. It was when we started talking about strategy and politics and internal – I mean, a lot of the work we win is because we make it obvious on our site that we deal with complex projects and we actually mention internal politics as part of that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, and we –

Paul Boag:
And the number of times we win work because people go, oh, we have got so many internal politics problems we need someone to help us sort those out. So we actually – with bigger clients I think you win it not because you can build HTML or CSS or JavaScript but because you can solve the business problems associated with that.

Marcus Lillington:
I agree with that and I disagree with that.

Paul Boag:
Okay, go on.

Marcus Lillington:
We – I would agree with it now and I think we have got more clients like that because of what you just said. But initially that wasn’t the case. Initially it’s because we were – not ahead of the curve, but with the curve, so bigger clients will be – somebody within the bigger client will be going, why haven’t we got a web standards designed website.

Paul Boag:
Yes, that was the thing at a time.

Marcus Lillington:
And we are going – we do web standards design.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
So people hire you because you’re doing the latest thing, so you’re staying ahead of the curve, man.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. It is that.

Marcus Lillington:
So, it is a bit of both.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
But we won a lot of work for responsive web design – we still do.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
People are going, my big name site isn’t – it needs to be responsive, do you do that? And it’s amazing, we still get those kinds of inquiries, but they still come through.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. And I mean – and I – yeah I guess the kind of the reason that you do agree with me at the same time is because that’s the thing now, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
It’s the strategy and the – the additional…

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely, yeah. And because we’ve done work with these kind of bigger, more difficult, political clients, then we can go, we’ve done work with these, but it wasn’t the first thing though.

Paul Boag:
I mean it’s interesting that when I was at Future Web Design, I was talking about web governance and all this kind of stuff and I quoted a bit from Jonathan Kahn’s A List Apart post, I will put a link in the show notes to it. And he says this, “today the critical skills of a web professional aren’t technical. They are skills like advocacy, facilitation, diplomacy, pragmatism and patience. Technical skills still matter, but they don’t differentiate us in the market anymore and we can’t use them effectively without tackling organizational change. To be effective, we need to leave our comfort zones.” And that I think – that bit about leaving comfort zones and constantly looking for the next thing is so, so important. I mean, a great example of that is me at the moment, because I’m great example of everything, frankly.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. Absolutely, Paul.

Paul Boag:
What is it – it reminds me of seeing the latest Star Trek film where …

Marcus Lillington:
I haven’t seen that, yeah.

Paul Boag:
… Sherlock Holmes who isn’t Sherlock Holmes in the film goes …

Marcus Lillington:
Benedict.

Paul Boag:
Benedict, that’s his name, goes to Kirk, ‘I am better’ and Kirk says, ‘At what?’ And he replies, “At everything.” That’s me.

Marcus Lillington:
Benedict Cumberbatch, what a silly name.

Paul Boag:
That’s a really unfortunate name, isn’t it? But an amazing guy, I really like him. I saw him on – who is the funny guy? BBC evening – Graham Norton…

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
… saw him on Graham Norton. He was really very funny actually. Anyway that’s beside the point, what was I talking about? Oh yes, we leave our comfort zone.

Marcus Lillington:
How good you were.

Paul Boag:
How – what a great example of this I am.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Because at the moment it’s like, I’m reading a book on business strategy, so that I understand – yeah exactly, tediously boring, but actually quite a good book I will put a link in the show notes to it, okay. And I’m also reading about alternative ways of working to develop websites. So, I’m always trying to push the boundaries of how – what I have previously known. But so many people – web designers I see spend the whole time just kind of relearning technical skills. They’re reading yet another Smashing Magazine post on jQuery libraries or whatever, I have said this before in the show, but yeah, you need to broaden your offering, you need to broaden your knowledge base, if you’re going to attract bigger clients. And then you need to start talking about that. When I decided – when we – we started doing web standards I wrote posts about web standards. I mean, you’re saying you need a kind of portfolio of people – those kinds of clients ready, actually I don’t think you need to – you do, I think you just need to talk about it.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, we did and that was how we kind of started to do – before we moved into winning work with bigger clients because we could deal with their complexity, it was through – web standards was the first thing, the kind of first differentiator. You need to have a differentiator and you need to publish the fact that you have got a differentiator…

Paul Boag:
Yes. Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
… and chances are people will come a-knocking.

Paul Boag:
Yes. That was beautifully summed up actually. I like that. You need a differentiator and you need to publicize that. And it – but the differentiator needs to be relevant to the larger audience, I think, the larger scale client. If your differentiator is I work with Perch instead of WordPress, then that’s not going to get you bigger clients because neither of those are particularly …

Marcus Lillington:
No, but it could be technical. It’s not with us, but it could be, I work with, I don’t know, I’m making this up, Microsoft Dynamics.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Big, expensive stuff, you know. So, yeah.

Paul Boag:
Or SAP integration or – yeah. Yeah, it can be technical, I am not saying it can’t be technical, but it has got to be something relevant to the bigger audience you are trying to reach.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly.

Paul Boag:
Okay. I think we murdered that question. Let’s go on

How to select an agency

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. Next question, final question, from Jessie Burns.

What trusted and unbiased resources are there to find top web development companies? Any industry standard sites or organizations?

Jessie Burns

Paul Boag:
There is actually.

Marcus Lillington:
Is there?

Paul Boag:
There is, you have never – yeah. It’s headscape.co.uk.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, the reason why, I often – often? Sometimes people ask me, okay, you can’t do it, who should I go to? And I’m like – I don’t know.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. It’s true. There isn’t – I mean we do – there are agencies that we recommend.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, but – yeah they are probably of a similar bracket price-wise and it tends to be, who can you recommend who is a bit cheaper than you?

Paul Boag:
Yeah, well we know some freelancers that we offer to – sometimes.

Marcus Lillington:
There is one person that I recommend.

Paul Boag:
Who is that?

Marcus Lillington:
Ryan.

Paul Boag:
Oh Ryan?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Ryan Taylor.

Marcus Lillington:
Sometimes.

Paul Boag:
Link in the show notes.

Marcus Lillington:
But basically – but yeah I always feel a little bit uncomfortable about that because it’s kind of like …

Paul Boag:
He might be shit now since he has left us.

Marcus Lillington:
Or the client might not be a client that you want to recommend to someone?

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s like, oh, I don’t know.

Paul Boag:
That is for Ryan to work out. That’s fine.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Anyway I find it difficult.

Paul Boag:
It’s really – it is – there is – the answer is no. There is no –

Marcus Lillington:
And also –

Paul Boag:
It is a short question this, isn’t it? No.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, no.

Paul Boag:
We can make it last longer.

Marcus Lillington:
In other fields, I don’t know …

Paul Boag:
There is accreditation.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, but do you really trust accreditation?

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
Because basically someone has paid for it and there is a big – there is an organization that is making money out of people and forcing them to buy their accreditation.

Paul Boag:
And even if – yeah, even if the accreditation was valid in other industries, I don’t think it works in web design because web design changes so fast.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly.

Paul Boag:
How would you accredit people? It is – I think that is a bit of a kind of dead end, but I recognize from a client perspective, it’s really quite hard to find an agency…

Marcus Lillington:
Do you want me to show you how – how cynical I am, Paul?

Paul Boag:
I know how cynical you are. Go on.

Marcus Lillington:
If I see other agencies – because occasionally we will be up against other agencies for tenders and the like and if I see that they have got things like ISO 9001, I actually think that makes them worse than us.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. No, I don’t think that is cynical at all.

Marcus Lillington:
Because I think that they are thinking that well, to win work we have got to go through these massive fiery hoops or multiple fiery hoops and they are not concentrating on what they should be concentrating on.

Paul Boag:
No, I totally agree. I would have equal doubts if I saw our company.

Marcus Lillington:
But I would love to know because that doesn’t – that was a very, very cynical thing to say. And that doesn’t mean that any – every big agency out there who has been through this is rubbish, because of course they’re not. So, it would – we should have somebody here, we should have a third person here on this debate really.

Paul Boag:
Should we?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Who is the third person?

Marcus Lillington:
Well, someone that works for an agency that’s…

Paul Boag:
An ISO 9000 compliance?

Marcus Lillington:
I feel like I’m being unfair, but not completely unfair, I suppose.

Paul Boag:
I think it depends on the type of work as well. See that’s the other trouble, you can’t do accreditation, isn’t it? Is that it kind of – it’s purely dependent on the type of work as to what’s appropriate. So, if you’re, I don’t know, some mega huge conglomerate then you might need ISO 9000 compliance.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly.

Paul Boag:
And in which case an organization that’s got that is going to be vitally important to you. I just don’t think that is that common a scenario. I mean it’s interesting, it’s something that we’ve kind of talked about a lot over the years. In fact our 13th ever podcast was on choosing a web design company, did you know that?

Marcus Lillington:
I didn’t know that.

Paul Boag:
Link in the show notes to that. It’s horribly out date and completely irrelevant now. I ought to read a bit of it because it is just so funny. Right, this is how you pick web design agency in – when was it written?

Marcus Lillington:
Do you really have to do this?

Paul Boag:
2005. Are they a full-time web design company?

Marcus Lillington:
Rather than being print marketing for example. Okay, fair enough.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. That is still relevant. Okay. How many people are in the company? In other words are they big enough to be able to support the amount of work that you’ve got or are they a one-man band, which depends on what you want, okay.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s still relevant.

Paul Boag:
Okay. Let’s see how many of these are. What is their main – the main revenue of the company? In other words, are they making money out of being graphic designers or printers…

Marcus Lillington:
That’s the same thing.

Paul Boag:
Same question, wouldn’t worry. Do they charge for initial consultancy? Now this will be interesting as to whether what I thought back in 2005 that might be a bad thing. Some companies will try to charge you for initial consultancy or avoid engaging in project specification until the contract is signed and sealed. My advice is to avoid companies like this.

Marcus Lillington:
Really? Yes.

Paul Boag:
See now we’d – we’ve done a complete U-turn on that one, haven’t we? That’s interesting.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, we will do lots of free work for you.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, fascinating isn’t it. Can they build what you want? I was profound. Are you tied into them once your site is built, now that’s still relevant. What is their portfolio like and can you view the live sites because that was because that thing where people say yes, we’ve worked for BT, but what they’ve done is a tiny banner somewhere …

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah or somebody works for them now worked for BT 15 years ago and all that kind of thing.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Do they have clients willing to talk to you? That’s still very relevant. What is their charge out rate? Fair enough. What is their approach to project management? Fair enough. How will they build your site, are they using the latest web standards in 2005.

Marcus Lillington:
There you go.

Paul Boag:
And do they have long-term clients? That’s still a good sign actually if they’re working for people over the long-term then that’s always a good sign. But I also wrote about this in the website owner’s manual as well and I’m just trying to find the relevant section in that.

Marcus Lillington:
It will be all the same bad advice.

Paul Boag:
But it will be the same kind of stuff. So what’s our advice these days then?

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve just given it but I can’t remember what it was. What did I say earlier? I’ve switched off, I’ve gone onto jokes now.

Paul Boag:
What was the question? How to choose a web design agency.

Marcus Lillington:
Get a good recommendation. Full-stop.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, it is really. The recommendations. Yeah, actually I can’t think of anything to add to that, Marcus. That is such a perfect – once again you’ve cut through my waffle and you’ve got to the nub of the issue. So there we go. Yeah, but there is in answer to Jessie’s question, was it Jessie?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, Jessie.

Paul Boag:
There is no standard accreditation or anything like that and to be honest I think that’s the way it should be and yeah getting a recommendation from somebody else is the way to go. Failing that – in fact this is what I talk about in the website owner’s manual. My advice is a little better in the website owner’s manual than it was on that website because I did write that afterwards. Let me see if I can find it because it’s all coming back to me.

Marcus Lillington:
This is exciting for people listening, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
Fascinating. At least by the website owner’s manual I was saying still – ah, here we go, right. Selection criteria for narrowing the field, right. Recommended from a – yeah so the best to worst – worst to best, let’s do it that way. Random Google search: worst way to find a web design agency. Selected based on geography: bit better, but not a lot. It’s quite nice to have somebody handy, but …

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, if you’re in a big city then, well but then it’s not really an issue if you’re in a big city.

Paul Boag:
Selected based on the work in a similar sector: that helps. So, but that can be a downside as well, because especially is they’re – all they do is law sites or charity sites or whatever, they can become a bit of inward looking to just that sector. Select because they designed a site you like: bit better, that’s fair enough. Recommended in a forum or mailing list. So in other words you’ve seen them recommended online: that’s better. Recommended by a trade association because you do get some recommendations from trade associations, especially in America I think that’s a bit of a bigger thing than it is over here. And then finally recommended by a trusted contact, exactly what you said.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So, but I managed to say it in more words.

Marcus Lillington:
You did. Waffly, waffly, waffly.

Paul Boag:
Waffle, waffle, waffle. I wanted to keep the show short, I failed. Marcus, tell us a joke.

Marcus Lillington:
I have got lots and lots of jokes this week.

Paul Boag:
Oh, people have sent in loads, yay.

Marcus Lillington:
Particularly Ian Lasky.

Paul Boag:
Oh, Ian’s back. He’s finally managed to get through to you.

Marcus Lillington:
So I am going to use an Ian joke. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, this is one of many from Ian, so I have plenty of jokes for the rest of my life.

Paul Boag:
So no Marcus jokes. It is like when I said a couple of weeks ago – oh no it was in the newsletter, I didn’t tell you I said that. I said in our newsletter that we send out. We don’t want your work anymore, too busy.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
That’s what I said in the email. And then I thought I bet Marcus will get annoyed at me for saying that. Nobody listened anyway. Anyway carry on.

Marcus Lillington:
No one does. A cowboy walked into a bar and ordered a whisky. When the bartender delivered the drink the cowboy asked where is everybody? The bartender replied, they’ve gone to the hanging. Hanging? Who are they hanging? Brown paper Pete. The bartender replied, what kind of name is that, the cowboy asked. Well, said the bartender. He wears a brown paper hat, brown paper shirt, brown paper trousers and brown paper shoes. Weird guy said the cowboy. What are they hanging him for? Rustling, the bartender said.

Paul Boag:
That’s so bad. Where does Ian find these?

Marcus Lillington:
I love that, Ian. That’s my kind of joke.

Paul Boag:
Now this is probably – I’m probably going to regret this because I have probably already met the guy, but one day I want to meet Ian and shake him by the hand because he has been such a stalwart in the joke department.

Marcus Lillington:
In the joke department yes.

Paul Boag:
He is number one in our six listeners. All right. Thank you very much for joining us this week. We will be back again next week where we will talk about more of your questions. So keep sending them in. I have some questions but more already appreciated because then I can pick the best. Audio questions always wanted as normal. Check out show notes at boagworld.com/season/6/ and speak to you again next week. Bye, bye.

Marcus Lillington:
Bye.

Headscape

Boagworld