Hardcore Ecommerce

This week on the Boagworld web show talk about hardcore ecommerce with Matt Curry and building websites when the pressure is on.

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Paul Boag:
This week on the Boagworld Web show we talk about hardcore e-commerce with Matt Curry and building websites when the pressure is on.

Hello and welcome to boagworld.com, the podcast for all those involved in designing, developing and running websites on a daily basis. I’m Paul and joining me as always is Marcus. Hello, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Hello, Paul. You sound a bit strange today.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I’m a little bit poorly today so people need to lower their expectations.

Marcus Lillington:
Is this going to be the shortest podcast ever?

Paul Boag:
Well, fortunately it includes a very long interview…

Marcus Lillington:
Ah, right. Good.

Paul Boag:
…which I did when I was feeling well. So that’s good.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes that is good and that’s it. So we’ll just move straight on to the interview?

Paul Boag:
Bloody well feels like it, I tell you. It’s your fault.

Marcus Lillington:
Why is it my fault?

Paul Boag:
Well, I will tell you why. It’s because we were due to do the interview – sorry the – see this is the problem. We were due to do the podcast yesterday, weren’t we?

Marcus Lillington:
We were.

Paul Boag:
And I felt better yesterday than I do today and what happened?

Marcus Lillington:
We went out for lunch.

Paul Boag:
No, you moved the podcast.

Marcus Lillington:
We went out for lunch with Andy and Jeremy from Clearleft, which was nice.

Paul Boag:
Oh, they are really – just know, I was thinking about that afterwards – because we did, they drove all the way up from Brighton to come see us, which was really nice of them because it’s a quite long way…

Marcus Lillington:
It is.

Paul Boag:
…and I was just thinking how lovely it was really. You know, we are competitors and we sat around that lunch table—didn’t we?—and we just shared all of our woes and all the good things and the bad things with our business and they were so open and honest with us.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. They always have been, we always have been and that’s just a healthy way of looking at the world really.

Paul Boag:
Oh no, it’s just really nice. I’m really proud to be in an industry that’s like that.

Marcus Lillington:
Not all like that Paul.

Paul Boag:
Sorry?

Marcus Lillington:
It’s not all like that.

Paul Boag:
No, they’re not. I know.

Marcus Lillington:
But they are and we are. We are really nice.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Well, I just – yeah, but they’ve always been like it as well. I remember, I was talking – we were talking yesterday about when I have my first ever speaking gig, which was in Orlando, Florida. Wow, what a way to start kind of thing. And I was really quite nervous because Andy and Jeremy were both at that conference and I was a bit in awe of them at the time. And they were speaking at it too and they were just so nice and so welcoming and everybody always is. I’m yet to meet a major arsehole.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m desperately trying to think of one.

Paul Boag:
I’m sure there are.

Marcus Lillington:
I can’t think of any either, but yes.

Paul Boag:
There are, I mean there are. There are I know because I’ve heard horror stories, but generally speaking I’m really impressed with people in the Web community and it’s one of the things I love most about my job is the fact that – oh I’m having a right loving. I think it’s because I’m ill.

Marcus Lillington:
You are, you’ve been – but you were moaning about not doing the podcast yesterday and I’ve steered you beautifully into a lovey, lovey land area.

Paul Boag:
Yes, you have actually. I’m feeling much happier about the world now. I think perhaps my cold and flu medicine is kicking in.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, that’s good stuff.

Paul Boag:
Before the end of the show I will be going oh, Marcus, I love you too.

Marcus Lillington:
No, that’s too much.

Paul Boag:
Yes, it would be. So God, seriously my nose is dribbling right now. I’m going to need to find a tissue. There is nothing for it, sorry.

Marcus Lillington:
I repeat what I just said: that’s too much.

Paul Boag:
That’s too much, is it? I can’t carry on till I’ve blown my nose.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. I will search for a joke then. I will talk about …

Paul Boag:
Yeah, hang on – but no, you’re supposed to fill in and speak while I’m blowing my nose, hang on a minute.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, yeah I’m talking about searching for a joke. I’ve still got to go back to the previous list of wonderful child-like jokes.

Paul Boag:
See that is a massively ineffective tissue. All tissues are not made equal, are they?

Marcus Lillington:
Hanky is what you need.

Paul Boag:
Yes, that’s true. Although talking about all tissues not being made equal. Have you ever seen – have you ever noticed Kleenex, right? If you get a box of Kleenex, they do this really great thing and this is good usability okay…

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, yes I love all that stuff.

Paul Boag:
When you get to the bottom of a box of Kleenex, down to the last I don’t know 10, half a dozen or whatever, they change color. So you know that you’ve got to the bottom of the box.

Marcus Lillington:
What about an interim leaf like they do on cigarette papers, that says you have 10 left?

Paul Boag:
No, they don’t do that. It just changes the color.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m just saying, is that a better usability or what?

Paul Boag:
Yes, I think that’s better because I had never noticed that it did this.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh right. Yes, that’s my point. What does this mean? They’re different, oh I better not touch them.

Paul Boag:
Yes, they look – and also they’ve – I’ll put a link in the show notes to a picture of this. They’ve got this kind of nicotine kind of brownie kind of gone off slightly look about them.

Marcus Lillington:
Maybe that’s what they should do with cigarette papers. That would be more appropriate, wouldn’t it?

Paul Boag:
Yeah. It would be. So really Kleenex needs to swap with cigarettes …

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, there you go.

Paul Boag:
… and vice versa. Let me show you a picture, where are you? You’re in Skype.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m in Skype.

Paul Boag:
There you go. If you look at that, you can see it. It’s very cool.

Marcus Lillington:
But no one else can. Oh they can if they’ve got the notes.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I’m going to put it in the show notes. That’s fine. So it’s those little design delighters like that, little things like that, just always really impress me.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I agree.

Paul Boag:
So there we go. In fact, see even my cold I can turn around into usability and design stuff. That’s how good I am at this.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, Paul. You are so good.

Paul Boag:
Can I talk about another random thing I’m really excited about?

Marcus Lillington:
Go on then.

Paul Boag:
Have you ever seen that camera—what’s it called?—Lutro, Lytro. Lytro, I think it is.

Marcus Lillington:
A camera?

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
No, I’ve never heard of it.

Paul Boag:
Lytro camera. But basically what it does is it – it takes the entire light spectrum, right. So it records the direction lights going in as well, so what that basically means is it doesn’t take photographs like a normal camera, it takes the entire light field which means you can refocus the photograph after it has been taken. Very, very cool. But it’s always been a bit of a kind of novelty.

Marcus Lillington:
But hang on thought. Didn’t Adobe come up with something where you can do that?

Paul Boag:
Yes. With software afterwards, it’s cheating. It’s not as good.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. Okay.

Paul Boag:
This does it properly.

Marcus Lillington:
Right.

Paul Boag:
They kind of fake it in software by essentially taking a photograph with a massive depth of field and then allowing you to kind of blur stuff out effectively. Well this camera takes the whole light field. And it’s been really good except that it was just a kind of point and shoot camera, so it didn’t have any – the kind of professional stuff that if you’re even vaguely into photography, you want; things like an optical zoom and that kind of stuff. But they’ve now just produced a DSLR version that looks stunning and I want it.

Marcus Lillington:
Where, show me. Is it on Amazon?

Paul Boag:
You want that as well? Okay link in the show notes to that as well. I’m just showing you random stuff from my Evernote collection. Actually if …

Marcus Lillington:
That looks like Batman’s camera.

Paul Boag:
It does look like Batman’s camera. Even better if you go to this URL.

Marcus Lillington:
This is great radio as ever.

Paul Boag:
It is. That ones got actually a thing where you can play with refocusing and you can see how it works. It’s about half way down the page. I’ll link in the show notes so people can have a play. So I’ve got serious gadget envy.

Marcus Lillington:
How much is one of these?

Paul Boag:
Don’t worry about the price. Prices aren’t important when we’re talking about quality gadgets like this.

Marcus Lillington:
How much is it?

Paul Boag:
I think it’s about ₤890.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh not the end of the world then. You can spend way more than that on a DSLR.

Paul Boag:
Exactly. I thought – okay, it’s not a full DSR; it’s more like one of these bridge cameras you get.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, which I’ve got.

Paul Boag:
So it’s an expensive bridge camera but, even so, I didn’t think it was unreasonable.

Marcus Lillington:
No. Nothing is unreasonable when it comes to gadgets Paul, as you know.

Paul Boag:
This is very true. I do feel it’s about time I got a new gadget.

Marcus Lillington:
I haven’t bought anything for ages. Mind you I want a new guitar.

Paul Boag:
Do you?

Marcus Lillington:
That’s not a gadget.

Paul Boag:
Well it kind of it is. Don’t you think? Things like – it’s that still boys with toys things.

Marcus Lillington:
It kind of it is but it’s made by a craftsman out of bendy wood. It’s not really, it’s not got any – well it’s got a little tiny bit of electronics in it I suppose.

Paul Boag:
But it’s not – I don’t think that’s really it. I think it’s things – a gadget in my mind is something you can’t really justify, right. That is my definition of a gadget.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, so if I had no guitars, I could justify one, but I’ve got more than one.

Paul Boag:
Yes, exactly.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve actually got two acoustics and I want another one.

Paul Boag:
Exactly. Absolutely pointless. You so don’t need that.

Marcus Lillington:
But it’s not pointless, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Look it’s – no, it’s not because it brings you pleasure.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So it has kind of got a point there.

Marcus Lillington:
There is – there are other weak arguments that I could give for it.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. It’s like Chris and bikes. It’s the same with bikes, isn’t it? He wants to buy a bike. It’s really – it was really weird, we were up in London and he walk past a bike shop and I’ve never—because Chris is quite he is a dour Scot isn’t it basically—it was the first time in how many years we’ve worked together that I saw him sincerely drooling over something. It was quite nice because I always thought that I was the small child and Chris was the grown up, but I got to see Chris’s child-like character. It was good, it was encouraging. Anyway should we …

Marcus Lillington:
I’d walk straight past obviously.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I just …

Marcus Lillington:
Bikes are for what you go to the pub on basically, that’s it.

Paul Boag:
I love it. I love it. That’s the best definition of a bike I’ve ever heard.

Marcus Lillington:
They’re very important, but why you’d spend thousands of pounds on one is beyond me.

Paul Boag:
Well, you’d get to the pub quicker, I don’t know.

Marcus Lillington:
Maybe. Yes, I suppose.

Paul Boag:
But then it’s more of a disaster when you fall off of it, coming back and scratch it.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I would be worried that someone would steal it as well.

Paul Boag:
Yes, that’s the trouble.

Marcus Lillington:
Anyway, yes.

Paul Boag:
I never did ask whether—when Chris fell off his bike and broke his hip—whether he – I can’t believe, I just still can’t go over that and the whole conversation yesterday about him being old enough to go to Saga just made me cry with laughter.

Marcus Lillington:
He wasn’t having it, was he?

Paul Boag:
No he wasn’t. He was not happy that he is now a Saga grade. Anyway I never did ask him whether he damaged his bike when he fell off and broke his hip.

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know to be honest.

Paul Boag:
I think we should take concern. I’m sure he was more worried about his bike than he was his hip.

Marcus Lillington:
Possibly. Don’t know.

Paul Boag:
So do we want to talk about this week’s show?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, talk about this week’s show.

Paul Boag:
It’s good. There you go. That’s all you need to know. It actually is a good one. So we’ve got an interview that you weren’t involved in.

Marcus Lillington:
Correct.

Paul Boag:
Which is an interview with Matt Curry: from Lovehoney. Now Matt Curry: is an interesting one. The most – I would say the most fascinating career path of anybody on the planet. I dare anybody to suggest a more bizarre career path.

Marcus Lillington:
Mine.

Paul Boag:
Sorry?

Marcus Lillington:
Mine.

Paul Boag:
Yes, no actually yes. Yeah, no that is a fair point actually. But he went from selling frozen ready meals to the over 80s on an e-commerce site to now selling sex toys for all ages.

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely.

Paul Boag:
So there we go. So – but it’s a really interesting interview because it’s – well, you will listen to it in a minute. So we’re going to do that. So we’re going to talk about Matt Curry and the stuff that he has been up to there. Then—what else are we doing?— we’re also going to have a chat– well, we’re not going to chat, we’re going to talk about a website called exploregeography.net, which is a website that was built in very short timeframes and I want to talk about that a little bit, because I think that’s really interesting.

Marcus Lillington:
Cool.

Paul Boag:
So let’s kick off then with the interview with Matt Curry. Settle in. This will take a while.

Matt Curry from Love Honey

Matt Curry
Matt Curry is the ecommerce manager at sex toy company Love Honey.

Paul Boag:
Okay, so joining me on this episode we have got Matt Curry. Hello Matt.

Matt Curry:
Hello, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Wow! It’s been a long time.

Matt Curry:
It’s been forever: forever and ever.

Paul Boag:
You’ve become like super famous, your organization has taken off, you’re just in another league now, aren’t you?

Matt Curry:
I don’t know if I’ve become super famous.

Paul Boag:
Hang on a minute. Who is on TV?

Matt Curry:
Oh yes, on TV, but not just me. You’ve got everyone else as well.

Paul Boag:
I’m sure in reality the whole TV series is about you.

Matt Curry:
Well, I did try to make that happen but sadly the editor had other ideas.

Paul Boag:
Right. Before we get too much on, I should say that Matt has been on the podcast before. We used to work together years ago when he was at Wiltshire Farm Foods. But Matt, tell us a little bit about what you do now because it’s a bit of a jump from selling ready meals to old people.

Matt Curry:
Frozen food to old people. Right. I am now Director of e-commerce for the Lovehoney Group. And the Lovehoney Group comprises several companies, the biggest of which is Lovehoney in the U.K., which is the U.K’s largest online retailer of adult toys and lingerie. And there’re also other businesses. We push very much into international, so we’ve got lovehoney.com, lovehoney.com.au. As of two weeks ago we have lovehoney.de, soon to have lovehoney.fr. We also part-run a business called BlueBella, which is sort of an online social sharing, social selling party plan business, but there is a large wholesale business within that as well. And we also run Coco de Mer, which is a very upscale, luxury erotic boutique that’s based in Covent Garden, in London.

Paul Boag:
Wow! So that has grown so much since I last spoke to you.

Matt Curry:
Yes. There is a lot, a lot of businesses that somehow I am now responsible for.

Paul Boag:
So – and they’ve just made a TV Show about you guys?

Matt Curry:
This is the second TV Show.

Paul Boag:
Oh, is it?

Matt Curry:
Yes, we had a show called More Sex Please, We’re British on Channel Four. And if you search for More Sex Please, We’re British on 4oD, you will see it. But the new show is actually a series—a six episode series—called Frisky Business that goes out Wednesdays 10 pm on Lifetime and it’s repeated ad nauseum. So as long as you’re watching Lifetime in the evening, you’re bound to see it.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I have to – I’ve watched some trailers of it, it looked quite funny, and I saw a little interview with you that made me smile.

Matt Curry:
It is very, very funny a series. I’m not in it that much, which is probably why it’s funny, but our customer care team essentially had cameras trained on them throughout the entire working day for several months and they turned that into a TV Show

Paul Boag:
Well, one can only imagine the kind of calls that you guys get.

Matt Curry:
Oh, absolutely.

Paul Boag:
In the one video that I saw, the little clip I saw was one of your customer care team reading out an email that or an item had been returned and it had a note with it – my wife opened the box, picked it up, slapped me round the face and put it back. It has been unused.

Matt Curry:
So I’m returning it. I mean that’s fair enough.

Paul Boag:
So I just, I mean, what a fabulous sector to be involved in and there must be so many stories and so much you could talk about.

Matt Curry:
Oh yes. I mean, you can dine off on this. I mean, you get desensitized for want of a better word …

Paul Boag:
Yes, sure.

Matt Curry:
… to the subject matter. Ultimately, I mean, it could be anything that you’re selling. Yes, it is of a sensitive nature, but part of kind of the Lovehoney brand is to move this whole world away from kind of nasty pornographic very bosomed women on boxes into a more kind of health and well being sort of area.

And so say if you go – Lovehoney also has a large wholesale and retailer arm so if you go into boots you will see one of our ranges called Swoon, which is this really lovely kind of retro styled toy range and you wouldn’t even know what the function of the product was unless you kind of took it out of the box. And so that’s kind of where we’re trying to move this industry into and there is some resistance from the rest of the industry because they all come from this kind of slightly pornographic background. Even Ann Summers, you know, it has essentially the Gold Group behind it which is a porn business.

And so, yes – and so we’re trying to kind of go it alone into this brave new world of sexual well being. And so part of – well, it’s not really my job, part of our business’ job is to normalize a lot of this and to make it deemed as accessible and normal as buying a toothbrush or a hair dryer. If you’ve seen our recent TV ads, they’re the most boring adverts known to mankind. They are these couples just talking and you could – for the first 15 seconds you’d think it’s a dating website until they suddenly say yes, it’s the only place we buy sex toys from. Then we go what? But it’s a very kind of plain, non-salacious TV advert because that’s how we sell ourselves.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely, which I think is great. I mean, I was looking around your site a minute ago just before I did the interview and you’ve got a Fifty Shades of Grey line on there and looking at the packaging and everything, it’s very stylish. It’s not what you expect.

Matt Curry:
Fifty Shades is an interesting thing for us. So back in the heyday of Fifty Shades, which was pretty much from March to August 2012, the whole kind of licensing that came from our site search. So we do a thing called ‘failed search reporting’. So if you search for something on the site and the site doesn’t show you anything, so it can’t find anything that matches, that ends up in a report each week. And so we started seeing more of these terms like Fifty Shades of Grey and Jiggle Balls. And so …

Paul Boag:
I don’t even want to know what Jiggle Balls are. I can probably guess.

Matt Curry:
Okay. What are these things that people are searching for? And we kind of we jumped on it very, very, very quickly. So much so that, after Amazon, we were the second site in the U.K. to even stock the book. And so from then we kind of thought, let’s-, this is going to be a big thing. People are-, this is going to introduce a lot of our world to the general public, let’s license it. And so we got – we now have the worldwide licensing rights, for Fifty Shades of Grey.

Paul Boag:
Wow!

Matt Curry:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Because I mean that’s the thing that’s always impress me about you is, that how much you stay on top of analytics. So things like having a no search results report coming in every week, I mean that’s the kind of thing that, especially on an e-commerce site, is so, so important, isn’t it? Because it effectively tells you what your customers are after.

Matt Curry:
Oh, absolutely. I mean, there is this horrible, horrible term coined by Alex in Ted Baker called searchandizing. Urgh, it’s horrible. But basically this idea that – if you look at how much the revenue of your site comes from on-site search, people that use site search tend to convert about four times better. So you shouldn’t be surprised if a good kind of 30% of your entire revenue for an e-commerce site comes from search. Yet the number of people who just, essentially, ignore it or don’t look at the analytics: I would like to look at; if someone is searching for a term a) should I send them to results, or should I send them to a specific category within the site, because that’s probably a better – that will have all the facets, it will have the merchandising, it will have the guides, that’s a better place for them. Or are there related terms that I should show? The more-, should I show them a special offer? How is that specific term converting? That’s what you need to be looking at. And so you need to be looking at not just your top 20 or 100 terms, but look at your long tail as well.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely. One of the first questions that I really wanted to ask you, because we haven’t actually gotten on to the interview yet. Well we’ve done a bit about you. But one of the first questions I was going to ask is: what the biggest challenge is that you’re facing as an e-commerce manager? But I’m going to go ahead and guess that at the moment of pretty much – pretty high on your ranting list has got to be this parental controls at the ISP level, is that a fair guess?

Matt Curry:
Not super duper. To be honest with you

Paul Boag:
Oh really?

Matt Curry:
A) because there is not much you can do about it. So you can rant and you can jump and scream as much as you like, but the ISP, yes if you complain, all your complaints essentially go into a black hole. The best we can do is point to others and say: well you’re letting them through, this is an unfair playground. And that’s essentially been our strategy and when the initial consultation went up, both me and Vanessa Gold from– who is the MD of Ann Summers wrote this kind of really long reply saying, “this shouldn’t go in – this is nonsense. The Pirate Bay block didn’t affect torrent rates at all. Any kid with knowledge of a private VPN can get around this stuff, why are you doing this?” Of course, that gets completely ignored.

Paul Boag:
Yes, because it doesn’t make good politics. It’s much …

Matt Curry:
Absolutely. Essentially all they care is “Tories stop kiddie porn” being on the front of the Daily Mail.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Matt Curry:
That’s all that matters. So us screaming and shouting isn’t going to do much about it, our best option is to be good essentially. So that the more we legitimize ourselves, the less we’re considered to be adult content.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Matt Curry:
You know ultimately there will be products that we sell that are highly anatomical and its very true that minors should not see this stuff. So I’m not particularly against a block. What I’d prefer is that the opt-in-, well it’s been an opt-in rather than an opt out. But the mechanism for saying, “well I want to look at this” was less of a hoop to jump through.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely.

Matt Curry:
Our brand is very much about couples – if you look at our homepage, all our photography is a couple and the people in the photography is actually a couple.

Paul Boag:
Oh really? Oh that’s nice.

Matt Curry:
Yes. Jamie and Nadal. And so we know that we get a lot of co-browsing – 75% of our customers are in relationship and 25% of those will browse the site together. And so we need to make sure that if people do want to access our site and purchase products of this nature, that they are able to. If they can’t, then we have other ways. We are the first adult company to partner with Amazon. So for example you can buy Lovehoney products on Amazon.

Paul Boag:
Oh, I didn’t know that.

Matt Curry:
Yes, yes, yes. So if you go into the section “Well-Being”, I think it’s called, area of Amazon, there is a big thing saying “Have you seen Frisky Business? Buy the products now”. And then – and so that’s why we always a retail-line, where you can buy our products in Boots and Superdrugs and all sorts of places. So if you can’t get to the website for whatever reason, or you don’t want to purchase from an adult toys website, there are other opportunities available for you.

Paul Boag:
So now I can purchase stuff from Lovehoney on Amazon and you will never know?

Matt Curry:
We will know about it because we have to send it to you.

Paul Boag:
Oh damn. So I can’t secretly purchase stuff without you, that flag of “Oh Paul Boag:’s bought something”?

Matt Curry:
If it says fulfilled by Amazon, that means its FBA, so it’s sitting in an Amazon warehouse somewhere with a great opaque bag over it. So it’s fine. Amazon, you think from the size of Amazon that they know what they’re doing, but working with Amazon for several months now, they’re just as useless as everybody else.

Paul Boag:
It’s so funny how often that comes up. I remember once talking to Gerald Spool who did some work with Amazon doing some usability testing and there was one particular feature. And he really couldn’t understand why Amazon had done it the way that they had. So he said, “Can I see that the user-testing on this system, as to why you’ve taken this approach, because I’m really confused by it”. “There isn’t any, we saw it on somebody else’s site and thought it was a good idea”.

Matt Curry:
Absolutely. They’re making – I’m sure there is somewhere in California, a technician who knows how the giant black box that runs Amazon actually works. Any– Luxembourg; they have their little silo of the little bit that they look after, no idea about the rest of it.

Paul Boag:
Yes. It’s fascinating isn’t it? Okay, so if that’s not the biggest problem, what is the biggest challenge you face?

Matt Curry:
Scaling, I would say. Scaling workflow. Which is a very boring answer.

Paul Boag:
No, that’s fair enough. Could you explain what you mean by that?

Matt Curry:
So for example we now have an ever extend– ever expanding portfolio of sites. So every addition of site that gets bolted on, essentially is an increase in the workflow. So take for example lovehoney.de, which is a completely translated site, a new product for us comes into the workflow that has to be: a) it needs to get reviews, so that needs to go out to the people who handle reviews, it needs to get trans-. First thing is the product description, that then needs to get translated. Offer graphics then need to be created and those need to be translated for new offer graphics for lovehoney.de.

Paul Boag:
Sorry, offer graphics what …?

Matt Curry:
Offer graphic, so a new product comes in …

Paul Boag:
Oh you mean one of these kind of banner-y, ad-y kind of …?

Matt Curry:
Yes, exactly. So if something comes in and it’s an introductory thing, so 20% off this widget, for the first week or whatever. And so we will create that for .co.uk, .com, .com.au and then it will have to go off to an agency we use called ‘locaria’ to be translated into clicken hier fuer den widget minus zwanzig prozent.

Paul Boag:
I’m impressed. Well done Matt.

Matt Curry:
Vielen Dank and so – and then that has come back into creative to then… And so there is this big old workflow and so it’s essentially scaling that, without scaling the number of people, because that – the whole point of adding new sites and businesses is to get economies of scale.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely.

Matt Curry:
And so what we find ourselves issues with, is trying to keep the team roughly the same size, whilst adding all this extra work in. It’s tough, especially when you look at something like trading. So the merchandizing team will look at what products are selling across what sites, what particular brands need pushes into what direction. And every new site essentially adds 20% of their work load. So you then have to think: right, do I get another trading person in, do I separate out into category management, do I take some of their work away and create an email marketing team? There’s lots of ways to juggle and slice the workflow and so that is my issue at the moment. Trying to add more sites that will increase revenue without increasing the headcount.

Paul Boag:
So how do you work that out? Is it- are there experts you could go to, to get advice on this kind of stuff, or are you just – are you forging new territory here?

Matt Curry:
Back of a napkin. We rarely forge new territory here at Lovehoney. We look all shiny and new and innovative, but really we see who else is doing it first. So I’m big friends with Matt Lawson, who’s the head of conversion for Appliances Online, or AO as they’re better known now and his team is massive. He has got 100s of people working for him and rightly so, because they make tons of money. And so I– I tend to look to him about what – how he has divided up his team. And he has got an interesting way where he essentially has created teams by device; he will have a conversion manager for mobile and a developer for mobile and an analyst for mobile. I sort of struggle here to get a journey analyst. And I really want a journey analyst, but that’s a hard sell to my bosses essentially.

Paul Boag:
I mean the problem with dividing it via devices, I mean I know that several other organizations do that. A lot of, I think Twitter takes that approach and some other people do as well, is that moving between devices, that a user might move through multiple devices.

Matt Curry:
Absolutely. And you would expect so a certain-, the moment you start doing television advertising, it becomes very apparent that people will– people are lazy fundamentally. And so they will check out your site on their mobile or their tablet and then later on, perhaps when they’re more likely to want purchase and so enter in their credit card details, they will do that on desktop. And so our job is to come up with some fangled way of tracking all this, which isn’t – which really isn’t easy. I mean we’re currently implementing universal analytics here. I mean we don’t really have a tag management solution at the moment. So we’re putting in a date, this might be quite technical.

Paul Boag:
That’s okay, carry on.

Matt Curry:
We are in the midst of putting in a data layer that will work across all our third-party agencies, so they can all pick and choose from the-, what’s available in this data layer. That will then feed into GTM which will then feed into analytics. So the plan is; you perform any action on your mobile phone that we can tie to an email address. So if you add it your wish list, or get to the first step of the check out or create an account or whatever, that will be tied to an email address. You then, in any form, enter that email address on another device, those two experiences will be linked.

Paul Boag:
And one presumes as well, if you’ve previously entered an email address on another device and its dropped cookie or whatever else?

Matt Curry:
Yes and so that cookie will essentially infinitely refresh the moment– if you go from one device to another device and then back to the original device, that will all refresh back to the original ID we have given you.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Matt Curry:
And that’s the only way we can figure out its tracking.

Paul Boag:
I know, I mean, it is a massive problem. This kind of, falling between devices, is a guy called Josh Clarke, I will put a link in the show notes to him, does this fascinating talk about over coming that problem of, how we move from one device to another and how we need to get to a world, where you can see a product that you like on your iPhone and kind of almost throw it across onto your desktop and it to appear there. And there’s some really interesting stuff being done in this area, but there’s still so far to go.

Matt Curry:
Oh, absolutely. And for your kind of, your Mom ‘n’ Pop e-commerce stores are capable of using that technology. It won’t be – it might be fine for Amazon, but not everyone shops on Amazon all the time.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely. So okay, so you’ve talked about some of the challenges you’re facing, what about… you’ve been – how long you’ve been at Lovehoney now?

Matt Curry:
3.5 years.

Paul Boag:
Is it really?

Matt Curry:
I know, it feels like much longer doesn’t it? It feels like forever.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Just the old Wiltshire farm food day seems like another lifetime?

Matt Curry:
Oh it really does. You compare this business- Wiltshire Farm, the online version of Wiltshire Farm, was essentially two people. And it is funny, you’re sending over the questions as– tell us about the websites you run. And I so often to ask myself, do I really run a website? It doesn’t feel like it.

Paul Boag:
No, you’re running an ecosystem in effect.

Matt Curry:
Essentially yes, there’s 50 other people essentially run this website. It’s a completely different world. Absolutely, complete different world where all I do essentially – I do a lot of testing, because testing falls under the remit of e-commerce. I do a lot of analysis, but the meat and bones of what my old Wiltshire Farm job was, which was essentially visual merchandising and email marketing, I barely touch nowadays, because there are people who do it way better than I ever could.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Well that’s so often the case isn’t it. I think as your career moves on, you move on as well, you take on new responsibilities, new people come in that do what you did before so much better. It’s like – why that – damn them. And they’re all young and full of energy as well, which makes you hate them all the more. You know, I’ve long since stopped calling myself a designer, because it’s just a joke calling myself a designer now. So what would you say you’ve learnt over those 3.5 years? What’s the big thing that’s stuck with you the most, other than an unnatural amount about sex toys?

Matt Curry:
Oh yes, that’s true. The Daily Mail, I think it was Daily Mail, said I’m the UK’s foremost expert on sex toys, which is always nice to know. Please don’t ask me any questions. What would I say-, firstly let things go and …

Paul Boag:
Okay. What do you – give me an example of what you mean by that?

Matt Curry:
Simple thing actually – talking about Google Analytics, I do very little on Google Analytics nowadays.

Paul Boag:
Oh really?

Matt Curry:
I can still click about and I’m really good at forensic analytics. But I rarely do it nowadays because there are people who are much better than I am at it. So let things go, especially the whole – what’s the point being a manager if you’re also doing, essentially. If you’re going to be a manager of a website, manage it. Don’t do it, because otherwise it would just be a mess. And understand that people-, a) people can be better than you at doing stuff, they just need some idea about what to look at first. And so you should be giving them guidance and prioritization and workflow. Always – be a slave to workflow, because workflow is great. What else, what else would I have learned?

Paul Boag:
It’s really interesting you say that, about-, you talking about managing people. I actually think – and that the people we manage are actually more competent than we are in their specialist areas. And this has become a really big thing for me that, in the old industrial market, back in the day, your staff were low skilled, low paid and low motivated and so they needed someone to manage them, to sit on top of them and make them do what they need to do. Now we kind of live in a world where people are highly motivated, well paid and incredibly competent in their specialist areas – far more so than their managers. So in some senses I don’t think they need managers as much as they need leaders: people to facilitate them, to encourage them, to enable them to do their job better.

Matt Curry:
Yes. So part of my job is to make sure all the team: a) know the benefits of what they have achieved. So we have launched lovehoney.de. That has doubled the conversion rates of German purchasers from lovehoney, this is now going to make us X hundred thousand up to a million or whatever a year, well done everyone.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Matt Curry:
So giving them some live action there, giving them ideas about prioritization, because people when they work in their little silos, they can get hung up on something that needs fixing or “well if I just try this little thing” but that not be essentially a time suck and a fraction of the bigger picture. So for example, the last thing you want to do is be arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, essentially, and saying “well if I move this up here and”. Sometimes you can get this with testing. You can sort of do micro-testing which-. No one has ever solved anything from micro-testing and the whole world Google-tested 9 billion shades of blue, it’s probably apocryphal and testing will never deliver you a magic bullet ever, ever. And so people can get hung up on this stuff and so you need to give some direction, give them idea of prioritization and what will get the biggest bang for their buck. They may have an issue with technical debt. And so if there’s technical debt they need to get that fixed then and there because otherwise it will just get bigger and bigger and weigh them down and they’ll be paralyzed by the end of it. But it’s the idea of, “let’s look at this thing”, giving you an example – abandoned baskets. We had an abandoned baskets campaign: sent out three days after you’d abandoned the session for some random reason, it was a text based email. The whole process sucked. You can then look at industry statistics, so look at e-consultancy and they say, “right, you should be able to recover 30% of your basket abandonments. Look how much that is going to get for you”. And for us, the pure abandoned baskets campaign alone will make more money than a couple of our sites.

Paul Boag:
Wow.

Undefined
So, what are you going to do first? Are you going to look at homepage merchandizing for a minor site, or are you going to fix your abandoned baskets campaign?

Paul Boag:
Yes, prioritization seems to be something that so many people struck with. This idea of just basic, really basic stuff. What is the low hanging fruit, what is going to make you the biggest return on investment and doing that first. It’s not complicated and is it?

Matt Curry:
It really isn’t. You don’t need a complex formula, it’s just a feeling in your gut. Will this make you more money than that thing? If yes, do it.

Paul Boag:
There we go, profound advice from Matt Curry: there. We joke but people need to hear it, it’s amazing. So I mean, moving on from that, do you guys use a lot outside contractors to different bits and bobs or do you try and do most stuff in-house these days?

Matt Curry:
We are incredibly insular here and slightly arrogant as well, in that we think we can do everything. So we tend to only go to outside agencies when it’s something involving complex mathematics.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Matt Curry:
So we currently use three agencies now, crikey! So three agencies, so the first one we use is ‘Forward’, based in Camden, and they essentially do our PPC. Because PPC essentially is, people might come in say, well you need creative ad-word copy: no it’s algorithms. All PPC is algorithms, waiting and figuring out ROI and lifetime value and then churning it all through a massive computer. So Forward handle all of that for us. We then have ‘Peerius’, oh four agencies, crikey! ‘Peerius’ who do all our behavioral stuff, so people who looked at this actually meant to buy that and when they bought that, they also did this, and then two weeks they came to look at that and we should actually show them this when they get on the homepage next time. That sort of intelligent behavioral stuff. Then we have SLI, who do our site search. So it is essentially dynamic re-ranking based on click propensity, which is what they’d call it. I would say sorting it by what people do actually want to buy. So you search for something generic and inoffensive and we show you stuff and then some of that stuff might be so freaky weird that you’re going to click on it, just because you’re curious but you have no intent to buy it. Other stuff you actually click ‘add to basket’. And so it’ll re-rank the results for that search based upon what people actually buy.

Paul Boag:
Okay, that’s good.

Matt Curry:
And then we have ‘Maximizer’, who are our testing platform. We used to use VWO, back in the day, but VWO can be very limited at times. I know they’ve just released a new version. And we also kept on getting failures in-, we do a lot of double A, double B testing of a sort and we kept on getting lots of failures of tests where in, say a variant B, would be both the winner and the loser of a test with confidence. We tried the saying of ‘what you’re testing is of so little value that there is no real winner’. But we would test massive big redesigns. So I sort of lost faith in the statistical capability of VWO there.

Paul Boag:
VWO: you mean visual web optimizer?

Matt Curry:
Yes, although they’ve actually now rebranded to VWO because that’s what everyone calls them.

Paul Boag:
Right, okay.

Matt Curry:
And so then we tried lots of other tools, we looked at SiteSpect, looked at Autonomy, which was somewhat disastrous, and then finally settled with Maximizer.

Paul Boag:
Okay. So design development all of that sits in house, so what kind of team have you got doing that kind of thing now?

Matt Curry:
In terms of the dev team, I need to mentally calculate in my head, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 ,10, 11. 11 of them dev. And but then not all of them are actually developers. So you’ve got a QA person, someone who is purely looking at server optimization, someone who looks at the lease and the GitHub, then you’ve got specific database people, the actual-. Then you’ve got to split it into the front-end and back-end, then we have a specific CSS person. Our platform, and you might want to hold yourself, is ColdFusion. That blast you felt was from the part. Yes, our platform is ColdFusion and so all developers developing ColdFusion and getting ColdFusion developers is like gold dust, gold dust nowadays. So if you’re listening to this and you’re a ColdFusion developer and you want to move to Bath: there’s free sex toys every Friday, come work for us please, visit lovehoney.co.uk/jobs

Paul Boag:
Link in the show notes. I love the idea of free sex toy Friday, you’re not going to get that perk in many places, are you?

Matt Curry:
You really aren’t. Yes, sex toy Friday, there is a big staff area in our warehouse, where anything whether the box is slightly dented, or we’ve had to take it out the box to photograph or whatever; and then it just a matter of free-for-all.

Paul Boag:
Ah, joy.

Matt Curry:
And nobody questions anything.

Paul Boag:
But no, you wouldn’t, would you?

Matt Curry:
No.

Paul Boag:
Like you say, it’s like any situation, you become-, it just is the norm, isn’t it? It’s what you do.

Matt Curry:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So last question, because we’ve unsurprising run massively over time. What is the next big thing for you guys, where are you focusing, certainly from the e-commerce side of things?

Matt Curry:
From the e-commerce side, I would say: well international, obviously. After France the next territory for me will probably be Sweden, Brazil and South Korea.

Paul Boag:
Yes, how are you picking where you are focusing next. Based on current sales?

Matt Curry:
Based on market size, presence of competition, current sales, all – there’s about 20 odd factors all in all.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Matt Curry:
And then you have to think about-, these are dedicated sites. Then you have to think about, what is the kind of the middle ground of support of these countries? Do you go with a specific translated landing page? Do you just have translated help? There’s lots of varying levels of international support and so you have to think, “right, so I’ve got my strategic sites, which will be translated for the destination country. You will have my tactical sites which will be ones that I want to partly support and then you’ll have rest of worlds”. And as long as you have a delivery solution for rest of world, that’s fine until the market gets to where you want it to be, and then it moves up the triangle.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Matt Curry:
And then South Korea I am just obsessed by. They have this Singles Day. They’re sort of present in China as well. So Singles Day is sort of like our Valentine’s Day.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Matt Curry:
But you buy your single friends presents. Yes, and some of those presents are sex toys and it’s huge, singles day is huge. It’s bigger than Black Friday, yes it’s massive and that is a large pie that I want a tasty slice of. So that’s one of my obsessions at the moment.

Paul Boag:
That sounds very interesting. Have you looked at the China market?

Matt Curry:
China is difficult, this is the thing.

Paul Boag:
Yes, also the thing that I’ve learned about China recently is that, so much of e-commerce happens on these massive platforms.

Matt Curry:
Oh, yes, totally.

Paul Boag:
And I hadn’t realized that. I thought, like in the West here, you set up lovehoney.china, but it’s not. You take a place on the equivalent of Facebook really, or Facebook – eBay combined isn’t it?

Matt Curry:
Yes, exactly, which is actually easier to some extent. The purchase has been translated for you. But there’s all, essentially, it’s fine if you’re going into Beijing or Shenzhen or somewhere like that. I mean Shenzhen – why bother even shipping it to us first!? We’ll just take it directly from the factory. But a lot of China is rural. So you need to think: a) are you going to support that in the first place? You might be thinking, well it’s the same as the UPS model and there’s a guy in a van. It’s not, it’s a guy on a bike with a little cart behind him. It is a completely different world and so it’s not one you enter lightly. I mean we’re looking at Brazil at the moment and the easiest entry point into Brazil for us is ‘Mercadolivre’, which is essentially Brazilian eBay.

Paul Boag:
Ah, right okay.

Matt Curry:
And so you get listed on that, then you can look at what is actually selling in that market, because it might not be your core product that sells, it might be something completely different. And then you figure out, is this worth specifically targeting?

Paul Boag:
Wow.

Matt Curry:
Yes, it’s exciting.

Paul Boag:
It is exciting. Wow, Matt it’s always just an enormous pleasure. You’ve kind of moved in this very different direction to me – I am not talking about the subject matter, but I am talking in terms of the skill-sets and areas of interest. And every time I talk to you it’s like, “oh, there is this huge area that I didn’t really know existed and that there is always other stuff going on”, so it’s always fascinating to-, because we don’t do a lot of e-commerce work to be honest. So it is fascinating to hear all of that side of things.

Matt Curry:
It’s a whole new world.

Paul Boag:
It is and it’s certainly very different to some of the other interviews we’ve done. So thank you for coming on the show and we’ll get you back on before too long.

Matt Curry:
Oh, lovely, thank you very much.

Explore Geography

Explore Geography
Explore Geography shows what is possible within strict constants

Visit Explore Geography

Paul Boag:
Alright, so I know you haven’t actually got to listen to this interview Marcus, sorry about that but…

Marcus Lillington:
Couldn’t be bothered.

Paul Boag:
I can’t, I just can’t face sitting here while you listen to that. I’ve got better things to do with my life.

Marcus Lillington:
You’re just making out that you’re ill again aren’t you?

Paul Boag:
I’ve got to get back to bed, that’s it today, I’m done.

Marcus Lillington:
No you’re not.

Paul Boag:
That phone call with Cyndy. Cyndy understands my pain, she loves me.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Maybe, a little bit.

Paul Boag:
A little bit, she tolerates me, let’s go with that. So, yes, one of the things that I really liked about the interview with Matt: now everybody else has just listened to it, but I am going to repeat what he said for your benefit Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Thanks.

Paul Boag:
Which is, he talked about that fact that they – he gets a report every week of ‘no results’ on his search engine, right? So if somebody types in something that comes back with nothing, he gets a report of that.

Marcus Lillington:
That must be a really annoying report, you must get a whole lot of rubbish and misspellings in it.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. But one thing he noticed was that Fifty Shades of Grey kept coming up, right? You know, the book. And this was before Fifty Shades of Grey was really big, but obviously it was beginning to take off. And he was able to go and then buy the worldwide rights to produce sex toys for Fifty Shades of Grey, because he saw a trend emerge, that that was something people wanted. He was able to provide it and then as he said in the interview, outside of Amazon, he was the first person to sell it online as a book.

Marcus Lillington:
Really.

Paul Boag:
Yes, yes. Because he picked it up so quickly and what really impressed me about that, as a subject, was this idea that digital can shape your product and your businesses. When we talk about digital transformation, which is obviously what I talk about in my book and is the in thing at the moment. It’s not just what you can do with digital to enhance your existing business, it’s the fact…

Marcus Lillington:
It’s what digital can do for you.

Paul Boag:
Yes. It is, it’s how digital can shape your business and change your business and I get really quite excited about this, because digital does provide us with a kind of customer feedback loop that is unknown of before. Before digital there is no way that Matt would have got such immediate feedback on what his customers wanted and be able to do such a – really be able to then provide that and meet users’ specifics needs. It always used to be, “we’ve got this product, how do we convince people to buy that product?” That is traditional marketing. But now it’s become, “we’ve got this audience, what is that they want and how can we provide that?” And I think that is a really quite fundamental shift that, I don’t think a lot of businesses have got their head around the fact that that’s happened. You know what I mean?

Marcus Lillington:
Focused selling. That’s what it is.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely. I mean another great example of somebody that failed to do that, would be the music industry. Napster came along and demonstrated really clearly to the music industry that people didn’t want to go the high street to buy their CDs and they didn’t even want to buy entire albums, they wanted to buy individual songs. And they had that really clearly demonstrated to them and yet what they did instead was resist that and sue Napster out of- into oblivion. And then they let Apple walk in with iTunes and steal their money, so to speak. So it’s really important to use digital as a way of finding out what your consumers want and providing the appropriate solution. That out of everything – I mean Matt’s brilliant isn’t he? You’ve listened to Matt before, you’ve had him on the podcast before and he always is full of really great advice. But that was the one that really stood out to me, the way that it could shape your products. So it was a really great interview, I really enjoyed it.

Marcus Lillington:
Cool. What’s next Uncle Paul?

Paul Boag:
What’s next? Next is our featured project of the week.

Marcus Lillington:
I ought to actually have a look at this then?

Paul Boag:
Yes, it’s worth. What you want to do is read the description in the show notes because the site itself is a great site, don’t get me wrong. But it’s a not a site, so much, as the process that the site was created by that I am really quite excited about. But before we get into that, I do want to say, we need more projects, right? We need your projects too, dear listener, and I am talking about some web app or some side project that you’ve done. I am talking about real work that you did within real constraints in the real world. You might feel like it’s a boring site, right, it might not be something that you’re particularly excited about in the sense of, “this is something I want to show off to the world”. You might even be embarrassed by the site itself.

But if there is some story behind it of, “this site came out shit because of this, this and this”, or “yes, this isn’t the most ground-breaking site, but it had this particular audience that made it interesting”, or whatever it is, I really want to know because I want to feature that kind of stuff on the show. So if you’ve got a site like that, go to boagworld.com/featured-projects and you can– yes, let us know about them there. I’ll put a link in the show notes as well. Okay, so this week’s project is from Jeff and Jeff has produced a site called exploregeography.net. So if you go check it out, it’s a pretty nice site. There is nothing really to fault about it. It’s responsive, it does what it says on the tin.

Marcus Lillington:
It doesn’t say what it is though. I don’t know that it is.

Paul Boag:
No it doesn’t actually, that is…

Marcus Lillington:
It’s a global resource but what sort of resource?

Paul Boag:
Well, it’s about GCSEs, AS and A2s, whatever A2 level qualifications is. So if you do a search on some geography related stuff, you will find a whole selection of articles and news about that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, it brings together external content, doesn’t it?

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Rather than – what I originally thought it was sort of like exercises for geography students but it’s not, it’s sort of a news aggregator.

Paul Boag:
Yes, essentially.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, I understand now.

Paul Boag:
I mean I am not claiming a ground-breaking site and Jeff’s not claiming that either but what makes this site interesting is he produced it and he intended to produce it from the very beginning in 20 hours. That was the amount of time he set himself to produce this website, alright.

Marcus Lillington:
Very good. Excuse me.

Paul Boag:
And that is what I found really interesting about this project. So it’s a project that he did – his client was his wife which just sounds terrifying to me. I can’t imagine anything worse in terms of possibly having the worst client in the world and so he had – not that I know his wife, his wife might be lovely. Not that I’m implying my wife isn’t, in case…

Marcus Lillington:
I think you were.

Paul Boag:
Well, she never listens to this. She would make a terrible client. Well, at least a terrible client for me.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So, he was working within this constraint. So essentially it was a project he was doing for his wife and he didn’t want it – obviously he had to fit it in around his real life and they’ve got kids and they didn’t want it to impact home life. So he said okay I am going to do this, I am going to only spend 20 hours in making this happen and that included everything from creating the brand, right the way through to designing the site, through to getting the content in. He didn’t do the content—his wife does the content—but to get the whole thing in place: 20 hours, that’s how long he had.

Marcus Lillington:
So he didn’t do the content in 20 hours though, did she?

Paul Boag:
Well I imagine there was some initial content put in and then it’s kind of – it’s grown over time is what I am guessing

Marcus Lillington:
Because that would be…

Paul Boag:
Phenomenal.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Yes, no I am not suggesting she did that. So…

Marcus Lillington:
Paul is dying. Quick break.

Paul Boag:
Sorry more phloem and disgustingness. We won’t talk about it. So he’s written a blog post that I’ll link to in the show notes about the kind of rules he set for himself and how he did it and all the rest of it and he’s got – he said he wanted to do it once the kids had gone to bed but he didn’t want to be up until 3 in the morning so he said I can never work later than 10:30 at night. So he basically was only working between about 8 and 10…

Marcus Lillington:
I can’t work at all in the evenings any more.

Paul Boag:
Sorry.

Marcus Lillington:
I just can’t work in the evenings. It used to be my favorite time…

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
This morning I got up at 6 because I got to catch up on stuff. I am turning into the opposite of what I used to be.

Paul Boag:
That’s really weird.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, don’t get me wrong, I don’t particularly like getting up at 6 AM but I can get on with it whereas 10 o’clock at night I am just like…

Paul Boag:
Why are you telling me this?

Marcus Lillington:
Because it was relevant to what you were talking about.

Paul Boag:
It wasn’t relevant.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, it was.

Paul Boag:
It was just what he was doing. Nobody cares about your sleeping habit. Did you build a website in 20 hours?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes they do. No.

Paul Boag:
No. So there: shush.

Marcus Lillington:
But no one cares about your sleep patterns either, Paul, and you’re always talking about them. That shut you up.

Paul Boag:
I am not playing any more. I don’t want to play this game. I want my ball back.

Marcus Lillington:
Carry on, as you were.

Paul Boag:
Yes. So and he’s done it – he didn’t just jump into the project, he set his business objectives, he identified his audience and he’s really – he did it as a proper project but he did it all in the 20 hours. Now why am I talking about this? I am not just talking about it because oh, 20 hours, well done, what an achievement. It’s a word press site; he’s not just built a Four Square – not a Four Square, a Square Space website. It’s a proper site, bespoke, designed from scratch. The reason I am talking about it is because I think it identifies that having more time doesn’t always equal a better product which I think is an important lesson. I think sometimes actually having too much time can damage a product. It can lead to you picking over it and endlessly debating stuff and almost overdoing it. So that’s one point that I want to draw out of it. Your silence says you disagree, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
I disagree.

Paul Boag:
Okay. Why do you disagree?

Marcus Lillington:
Because I think the best design is designed where you’re not saying you’ve got 2 days to this or you’ve got four hours, the budget is tight. I think the best design work – the design work that come – when you do notice all the little things and you add delighters and all that kind of thing, I think, comes out of giving, maybe not totally free reign because I do think that deadlines are a good thing, but I think that the more you pay the better you get basically in life.

Paul Boag:
Yes. I can’t disagree with that. In fact, I posted exactly those words relatively recently so link in the show notes to that. But in the same breath I have seen designers ruin a design from working on it too long. And I’ve done it myself but by picking over stuff, by pontificating too much and also there is an element as well that the more time you have the more stakeholders you talk to, the more committees are formed, the longer decision making takes and that side of things. Do you see what I mean?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, yes.

Paul Boag:
So there is balance in there absolutely and you were right to pull me up on it but I think there is something to be said from – that constraints are not a bad thing and I think having some constraints to work with, and time of which is one of them, is something that can be as beneficial as it can be detrimental at times.

The other thing that I wanted to bring up is the fact that he’s made this site responsive, okay? There is this perception that I think some of us in the design community are touting is that to make a site responsive is a lot of additional work, that it’s time consuming and expensive, okay. Again this is one of those areas where yes, it can be and justifiably so. If you start into optimizing images and messing around with typography a lot, if you’re really going to get the most out of creating a site responsively then absolutely it is going to get time consuming and expensive but equally it is possible to create a responsive site that is better than nothing, very quickly, very cheaply and very easily. So that was another point that I wanted to raise.

I also think it’s amazing how much you can get done if you get – you have a small team with clear objectives from the start rather than woolly objectives, woolly target audience and lots of stakeholders.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. Yes, definitely, I mean often designs are ruined by more and more people being involved rather than designers pontificating over it.

Paul Boag:
And the final thing I wanted to get across here, the final reason that I love this project is because I am hoping it will encourage bigger organizations, people like our kind of clients to go “let’s build a prototype, let’s throw something together in wordpress, in 20 hours, put it out there and see what happens,” right? It’s not going to have cross-browser support, it’s not going to be accessible, it’s not going to integrate with our backend systems but let’s put something out there and see what happens, see how people respond to it, just invest 20 hours in making that happen. Without any committees, without anything deciding what to do, what not to do.

And do you know the amazing thing with that is – I mean that’s exactly how alpha.gov.uk started, how the .gov.uk project started with that – and I think that makes an enormous difference doing that. We did that when we were working on the University of Strathclyde and—do you know what?—we largely managed to completely bypass any of the design politics from multiple stakeholders because they saw a working site, they could have a play with and suddenly all those fears and all those endless debates about design largely evaporated. Now we refined the design, we improved the design, obviously, because 20 hours isn’t long for a site of that importance, but we skipped a lot of the initial pain points and problems by just kind of putting something out there, letting real users play with it and try it. You just completely change the attitude.

So this is why I am talking about this project because it shows the potential and power of creating something quickly and I hope that some people that are listening to this kind of see that doing things quickly and dirtily sometimes can be the right thing to do. So yes, that’s what I really wanted to say on that.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s very good.

Paul Boag:
Profound wisdom I feel. Always.

Marcus Lillington:
Again. Every week.

Paul Boag:
I know. It’s amazing how I keep the quality so high even when I am suffering so badly. I am obviously close to death.

Marcus Lillington:
You don’t sound as bad as you did at the start.

Paul Boag:
No, I kind of, my voice…

Marcus Lillington:
Voice casting is good for you, obviously.

Paul Boag:
Yes, my voice has improved as it’s gone along, hasn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely.

Paul Boag:
That’s good. Right, okay, I think that about wraps up this week’s show, doesn’t it really?

Marcus Lillington:
It does.

Paul Boag:
It’s really weird this whole having an interview in the middle of it because it feels like a really short show for us.

Marcus Lillington:
But it’s not.

Paul Boag:
No, I know. Okay, Marcus, tell us an amazing joke.

Marcus Lillington:
Thanks again to Nick Johnson-Hill for his child-like jokes that are really up my street. I used to be addicted to soap but I am clean now. My friend is addicted to break fluid, he says he can stop anytime he wants. And my brother used to be addicted to the hokey cokey but then he turned himself around.

Paul Boag:
Three absolutely classic and wonderful jokes. This guy is my new hero. What’s his name?

Marcus Lillington:
Nick Johnson-Hill.

Paul Boag:
Nick Johnson-Hill I hereby knight you a knight to the Boagworld realm.

Marcus Lillington:
Wow, I think that’s three now, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
I know, I think it’s four actually. I don’t know. I’ve lost track. Who cares, it doesn’t mean anything. Hey I tell you something. Ze Frank made me laugh this morning. You know Ze Frank, do you?

Marcus Lillington:
I know of him.

Paul Boag:
Yes. I’m not saying is he your best mate. He said something really this morning, this is a joke for you to go away and enjoy, right? And I promise you it will bring a smile to you face and the joke is this: next time you are on Twitter, look at people’s profile pictures, okay, and those profile pictures and imagine that that picture is taken just after they swallow a dog turd. It really works, it’s incredible. Some of them are so funny with the faces that people are pulling, if you imagine they just tasted a dog turd. I will tell you the best one at the moment is Andy Clark’s picture on Twitter; it’s just is perfect for that particular scenario.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ll check that out, Paul. That’s for that, I really appreciate it.

Paul Boag:
Anyway there you go. Alright, well thank you very much for listening to this week’s show, I think you’ve learned something about my type of humor and I hope you will join us again next week when we will have another incredible interview and another amazing project.

Marcus Lillington:
Bye.

Headscape

Boagworld