177. Back in business

Paul Boag

On this week’s show: Paul and Marcus talk to Brett Welch about the business of web design, and Paul chats with Ryan Taylor about creating a buzz.

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Twitter post: Decided I like the boagworld podcast much more when @stanton and @ryanhavoc host it. Odd.

Oh right, I see! I’ll get my coat!

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The web font showdown

There has been a lot of exciting developments in the world of embeddable web fonts. It doesn’t look like it will be long before having custom fonts on our websites will be a reality.

We already have the likes of Cufon, which appears to be a huge improvement over the flash based sIFR technique. We also have Jeff Veen’s Typekit coming soon. This promises to give us access to a large number of fonts using nothing more than CSS font-face and some Javascript.

However, this week has also seen clearleft’s announcement of Font Deck, a direct competitor to Typekit. The rumour is that it will differ from Typekit because it will not rely on Javascript. Exactly how this will work is currently unclear. There is also a possibility it will use the same kind of caching approach Google Code offer for Javascript libraries. If it does this will significantly improve the perceived download speeds of fonts.

Although Font Deck is arriving a little late to the party, ultimately it will come down to who has the best selection of fonts. Until we know that there will be no clear winner.

That said, judging by an article on Think Vitamin, Typekit looks pretty impressive. The article demonstrates how Typekit will work and I have to say it looks very straightforward. Unsurprisingly for an application developed by Jeff Veen, it is incredibly well designed. However, it is not perfect. The demo page associated with the post shows a significant delay as custom fonts are loaded. Until that is complete the user sees a web safe font. Unless they seriously ramp up their server capability this delay could get even bigger as the popularity of their service increases. This might possibly be the opportunity that Font Deck needs to leapfrog their competition.

Moving design forward

Web design has come a long way from the grey backgrounds and blue and purple links of just a few short years ago. But where do we go from here? That is the topic tackled by Jennifer Farley in “Art Direction: Taking Web Design To The Next Level.”

As you will guess from the title, Jennifer’s answer is Art Direction. Art Direction is (among other things) the process of bringing together design and content. This is something sadly lacking in modern web design. Most websites are designed with little understanding of what content they will finally contain. Design is built around a series of templates integrated into a content management system. There is little customisation of the design to work with the content of each page.

Jennifer shares some examples of sites that endeavour to move beyond the template mentality and introduce real art direction. They are definitely worth looking at as they will inspire you to move beyond template design.

Jennifer’s article is not the only post that encourages a change in our approach to design. The other is a post from 37 Signals entitled “Stop following directions and start designing.” This post encourages designers to view feedback from the client as suggestions rather than solutions. The author writes…

When you’re getting direction from a client, manager, art director, etc., it is easy to fall into the mode of just following instructions. You get so caught up in getting it right that you forget to keep thinking about the problem.

Of course it is totally understandable to take the ideas of those that pay our bills as gospel. But we should also be reminded that those same people hired us for our expertise.

That is easy to say when you work for a company that does not have clients! That said, it is good advice and worth taking on board.

Being persuasive

My favourite post of the week is “50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.” Although not strictly to do with web design it provides a lot of advice that can be applied when trying to nudge users in a certain direction.

For example one of the techniques suggests personalising the herd effect. The herd effect is used regularly on websites as a way of nudging users to complete a particular call to action. For example it is not uncommon to see ‘popular products’ on ecommerce sites or ‘average donation values’ on charity sites. This is because we tend to be led by the crowd. If somebody else did something then we will too.

However, the post suggests taking this step one step further  by personalising the message. It cites an example from a hotel change…

The hotel sign in the bathroom informed the guests that many prior guests chose to be environmentally friendly by recycling their towels. However, when the message mentioned that majority of the guests who stayed in this specific room chose to be more environmentally conscious and reused their towels, towel recycling jumped 33%, even though the message was largely the same.

So instead of refering to popular products you would say “other users who bought this product also bought this”. This is a approach also used regularly by ecommerce sites like Amazon.

This is just one example from a massive list included in this post. It really has a wealth of knowledge that is applicable to almost all aspects of web design from information architecture to copywriting.

Continued confusion over HTML 5 and XHTML 2

The last few weeks have been full of discussion about HTML 5 and the demise of XHML 2. There seems to be a lot of division and confusion over what designers and developers should be doing. Should we be abandoning XHTML 1.0. and moving to HTML 4? Should we try and adopt HTML 5 even though it is in draft? Its all very confusing and I have to admit I’ve felt unsure myself.

Fortunately there are some very clever chappies giving out excellent advice. Jeremy Keith has written an excellent post on the subject, as has Bruce Lawson. Drew McLellan has also contributed some interesting points to the discussion.

The problem is that it is all pretty turgid stuff and a bit of pain to wade through. The good news is that you don’t have to. Brad Colbow has saved us from this pain by turning the whole discussion into a very easy to follow (and bueatifully designed) comic strip.

Extract from the comic strip

SO, if you want to know whether you should be closing your tags and whether you can start supporting HTML 5 now, then pop over to smashing magazine and take a look.

I won’t ruin the end, but I will say you won’t need to change the way you code.

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Interview: Brett Welch on the business of web desgin

Paul Boag: So joining me on the show is Brett Welch. Good to have you on the show.

Brett Welch: It`s good to be here.

Paul: Thank you for agreeing to do this on very short notice. Because I didn`t notice your talk. We`re still at Future of Web Design. I`m still interviewing people here. You’re going to get bored of me saying that cause I’m doing loads of them. I didn’t notice your talk on the line up so I almost missed you entirely and I didn’t hear you either. So I haven’t heard what you said. But I’ve had lots of people come up to me saying you are interviewing Brett right? He’s really good. So you obviously went down very well. Which is a good thing.

Brett: That’s a good thing yeah.

Paul: Because I missed it what did you talk about?

Brett: Okay. I talked about how designers can go beyond pushing pixels and start to create more effective website for their clients. So I talked about the business end of web design. Which you know a lot of the time gets ignored at conferences like this.

Paul: Sure does.

Brett: And I think it’s really important. Cause that’s where the money flows into their pockets. So when it comes to actually getting the client on board and that process. That’s a really important part that I thought needed talking about. I talked about how designers can do that and I used and acronym called BUSTA and I put a bit picture of Busta Rhymes up there because if you’re into rap and hip hop you’ll know the guy. Not that he’s had any hits recently. As far as I know. BUSTA stands for talk Business. Understand why they want to go online. Talk stragety. Talk business targets and set an Action plan.

Paul: Okay.

Brett: So there’s the B-U-S-T-A. Or in one sentence you can say. Businesses Understand Strategy Tactics and Action. So all together it sorta works as sort of a nice little coat hanger for your thinking. And the idea really is to start off by talking about a clients business. What do you do? How long have you been doing it? How do you sell what you sell? Sort of getting into the business owner’s mind a bit. I think that’s something that you need to do to set the tone of what you are going to talk about. It’s not about a pretty website. It’s about having something that actually is effective for the business owner. The next thing is really understanding what they are trying to achieve. That’s important because you may need to dial up their expectations or dial down their expectations.

Paul: Okay.

Brett: Sometimes people if they’ve read a few blogs. They’re thinking that they’re an expert. They’re thinking that they can take it to the next level really easily. Sometimes you need to slow that down a bit and say hold on. You’re not going to be Amazon overnight. You need to take it slow. Other guys are going to be a bit timid. I don’t really know much about bespoke stuff. That’s where you need to hold their hand a bit. Guide them to understanding how exicted they should be. So the next part is strategy. I made a big point about the fact that strategy is not dirty word. It’s really just about connecting the dots between their website and their business. It’s about understanding how you can achieve the goals you want to achieve. Through their website. The main thing about stragety is really helping them understand what they can achieve. and showing them how they can achieve it with concrete targets. That’s what where T comes in. T is your targets. There I think you need to set 3 to 5 concrete targets business targets that actually relate to things like revenues and customer leads. Things like, not traffic. I actually made a point of saying not traffic. Traffice doesn’t mean anything until you understand what your conversions are like. It’s great to say 1000 people came to my website. If you’re not actually getting leads out of that. That are captured in some sort of database or if you’re not making money out of the sales. It’s an empty number. Then finally was action. So you need to set some short, medium and long term goals. A plan. The tools. The what and the how really. How are you going to get there? I think that was a rough overview of what sort of B-U-S-T-A is all about.

Paul: Okay. So what are the benefits of using this kind of approach. As a freelancer say. Why do I need to worry about this kind of stuff?

Brett: I think that even the process, if you look at it from the other point of view, from the business owner’s point of view, it’s still an important one to go through. A lot of people don’t realize that you probably need a marketing plan for your website. Because how else are you going to get people to view it? It’s just like opening a bit store. You need to put in the same amount of effort and ongoing effort to get a result. So I think the why is really more effective websites. If you think about what you’re doing in a business oriented way what’s going to come out the other end is going to be a much more refined and polished representation of what you want to achieve. It’s going to work better for you. I think you get from a freelance point of view you get less arguements from clients. They say I don’t like that blue and you can say well that blue will get you better conversions.

Paul: Right so you’re going back to the stuff you established.

Brett: Exactly. You established already so you can link it back. Obviously you need to have a valid point. You can’t just make things up.

Paul: Well you can try.

Brett: You can try. The real key thing is you can close arguements off by, the silly ones anyway, saying ‘hey look this is better for these reasons.’ Trust me.

Paul: The way we often talk about it is it moves aways from personal opinion of like I don’t like this colour to well this colour comes out of this set of things that we agreed up front.

Brett: Exactly. It’s drawn from this business goal. Then the other ones are you get repeat business because you’ve set that action plan. You’ve got long term and medium term goals that they’re going to link back to you. So once your first sections done and they sort of say ‘This is working well.’ Then they go who’s the next person to talk to? Obviously the same person cause you’ve had them actually plan.

Paul: It’s interesting we went up to a pitch on Tuesday and it was for a small little job, a design job, and we went through this pitch and we outlined what we do. We got to a point in the pitch where we said ‘But if this is as far as you’re going to go don’t hire us.’ If you’re only looking in short term views of this immediate project then we’re not the right people for you. But here’s where we think you should be going over the long term. And I think ultimately that’s really beneficial. It means that your going to get that long term business that you’re talking about.

Brett: Absolutely. People want to know what’s next. I think being able to answer that question ‘What’s next?’ is really a key to making them come back to you when it’s time to implement what’s next.

Paul: How far do you think you can go on that line? We do a lot of work with public sector clients I remembe sitting in one meeting when they wanted to establish a 5 year plan for the website. Which to me seemed unrealistically far ahead. How far do you go with things like that?

Brett: If you can imagine 5 years ahead I think congratulations. I think that’s great. The main thing is not so much how far you can think ahead. I think it’s really the exercise of thinking ahead that is most valuable. Whether it’s a 6 month or 12 month or a 2 year or a 5 year plan. However far you can get that’s great cause you probably have a fantastic imagination. Right now Twitter is big in 5 years who knows what it’s going to be?

Paul: Exactly.

Brett: You can work those into your plan. It’s great to sort of skecth something rough out for as far as you can think ahead. I think it’s the exercise that makes the, it’s the process that makes it more effective and more polished. The outcome just becomes more effective in the wash.

Paul: What you don’t cover in that B-U-S-T-A analogy is, you don’t talk about user testing and user feedback as a tool to convince clients to do a particular thing. I’m guessing that’s part of your process as well.

Brett: Well I think that’s really important. It’s not specifically part of B-U-S-T-A cause usability…

Paul: Yeah it would ruin the whole…

Brett: I think that when you talk about two things Targets well three things Strategy Targets and Action. Those last two, if you’re going to achieve the targets you want to achieve then that’s where you need to, and the action plan, doing that testing and doing that side of things is a really important part of making sure you can achieve those goals. I’m a big fan of usability testing and I read your article on ThinkVitamin. What was it?

Paul: I don’t remember. I write so many of them I get confused.

Brett: It was like cheap usability…

Paul: Oh yes I remember that.

Brett: That was like fantastic and I like tweeted it. It’s the sort of thing that I’ve definitely fit in and the actions and the targets. Because targets are about conversions and actions are about how are you going to get those conversions. I think usability is really a big part in working out those conversions. It’s like supermarkets. They have the aisles and they put the products in the right places because they want the kid to scream about the cholocate at the last minute. It’s all well thought out and on a different level it is usability. It’s arranging things in a way so the client behaves in a way, or the customer behaves the way you want them to behave. So I think it’s an essential part of the process. I didn’t fit in talking about it.

Paul: You can only fit so much in.

Brett: That’s for sure.

Paul: It was very impressive that you did it in only 10 minutes. Obviously there are real benefits to using this approach in regards to convincing clients of stuff as we’ve already said. You know you can say well we’ve gone with this colour because of these reasons etcetra. Do you think there is also a value from a sales point of view in terms of up selling yourself and giving yourself more credibility and value?

Brett: Absolutely. That was final point that I didn’t manage to get to about why you’d follow a process like this. It’s simply higher profits. What I’m saying is nothing particularly new or ground breaking. It’s really just a simple process that helps you get your head around these things. So that you’re able to more effectively how valuable what you do is and basically end up with a more effective result which sort of is a feedback. If you do something, if you sound like you do something well you do something well. Then it sort of feeds back and they’ll tell their friends and it’s sort of a marketing for yourself. So I think that having that process really is just about being able to up sell and justify. The problem that we’ve got right now and I talked about this briefly in the talk as well, is that design is becoming a comodity. People view design as a comodity. That’s a real shame. It is about up selling. It’s about selling yourself, the value you have and effectively communicating what you do. In a way that puts you in the right light so that people are willing to pay the money for it.

Marcus: It also makes you seem like more of the expert.

Brett: That’s exactly it.

Marcus: We actually tell people who say we’re not doing this obviously we feel this is the right thing for your business to take this kind of consultative approach but it benefits us as well. We tell people upfront it’s a benefit to us as well. And they’re like oh okay I see this is helping everybody.

Brett: Yeah that’s right. I think there is two things, one of the key questions we have right now that every freelancer has to ask themselves is are you worth it? Are you worth your cost? I think the two things that are worth it are strategy. Being strategic and being an expert because experts know things that you don’t. If you can get both of those things into your pitch then whatever you do you’ve already put yourself on a different platter. I think that’s where you really, and we tell this to our designers, we have a large community of resellers for GoodBarry and we tell them all the time, we have training sessions, we always talk about making sure you really lay out what they want to do, how they want to do it, and link it back to their business so that they can really put themselves at that expert level and justify the price.

Paul: I think there is also an issue here of the fact that clients like to be reassured. That when you’re buying from somebody you want to be reassured that this person knows what they are doing.

Brett: It’s about trust.

Paul: Having a methodology and an approach that you work through and has all of the different things that you just outlined. I think gives you, it gives clients that reassuring feeling that these guys know what they are doing. They’ve got an approach and they always use this approach and are comfortable with that.

Brett: I think that it’s not just about the followig the process by wrote necissarily. It’s about, or each design or freelance person or agency has their own specialties. I think at a broad level you can follow it. But there are some parts where you may dig deeaper because that’s your real expertise area. These processes are meant to be used and bent. Adapted to whatever your situation is.

Paul: So where do you think the time is to start talking about these processes? Is it once the client as signed on the dotted line? You take them through or do you encourage people to be talking about this even at the pitch stage.

Brett: I think at the pitch stage. When you’re pitching you need to demonstrate, not necissarily tell them the name of your process what your following, the methodology. But start to go through the process and say look I want to talk about your business so lets do that. Then I want to understand why your going online. Then I want to talk with you about strategies we can use, and targets that work for you. Then we’re going to talk about how we’re going to achieve this. Just by setting out that roadmap I think you’re already putting yourself miles ahead of everybody else who’s gone right to what sort of colours do you like? I think right in the pitch stage. You don’t want to go into too much detail. I think you have to strike a balance between showing them that you know this stuff really well and that you can really help them achieve these things but also leaving enough behind the fence so that there is something they’re actually going to pay for. That’s the trick is that balance. I would always fall more on the side of making friends with the client and sort of making them understand the process and how great they can be. How effective they can be. Rather than holding too much back.

Paul: I think the other benefit talking about this, I don’t know what your attitude is towards this but, it’s actually quite a good arguement agains speculative design work as well. If you’re in a position where your talking to a client and they’re asking for speculative design you can almost say well in a way this isn’t the time to do it because I haven’t understood your business. We haven’t set targets. We haven’t got a strategy here. So you can take them through the logic of why it’s too early for me to start putting designs in front of you. Is that something you’d agree with?

Brett: Totally. I’m not sure what our official company stance would be. I don’t think we’ve really talked about it. On principle I definitely agree. In our reseller training we teach stuff like that. I would have to say that I, yeah I use 99designs as an example.

Paul: Oh that’s where Ryan’s comment. I heard Ryan’s comment right at the end.

Brett: I said designers if you want to see we broke it down we had millions of designs and millions of dollars put in there and you crunch the numbers and it works out that every design that is gone and done is worth $2.80. That’s lower than minimum wage. You can go work at McDonald’s and do better than that. I think that, yeah I’m not a fan personally of speculative design. I would generally say and what we teach our resellers as part of our training is saying don’t go with that. We want to go in and understand the business. Make sure that you get your head around what they want to do because your work needs to reflect that.

Paul: I realize I haven’t asked you about GoodBarry at all. What do you guys do? I haven’t come across you before.

Brett: We have a platform for running online businesses. When you’re going online these days business owners want to be able to run their website. Email marketing is more and more important. Selling products and hooking into Paypal and things like that is harder than it needs to be. Behind all that, having a CRM database that you can track your customers and save them in a central place when they sumbit a webform or interact with your site however they interact. We’ve got a platform that does all of that.

Paul: Wow!

Brett: Our system does everything that’s in sort of that realm. It’s great for web designers because they’re able to actually create any design and put it on the system. Use all of that functionality without doing any programming. So that’s sort of what we sell. We have a reseller program. That’s why we’re here. We get designers on board to become resellers of our product. Basically they use the product they get comissions. They get a whole bunch of training from us about how to make more money and how to, pratical training. How to be a reseller. We not only take you one as a resller we want you to be able to add value to your clients. And give you some ideas about how you can do that.

Paul: Interesting business model. Well thank you so much for coming on the show. That was really useful.

Brett: That was really fun.

Paul: It’s nice to hear some other people saying the things we rant on about week in and week out.

Marcus: That’s what we rant on about all the time.

Brett: Yeah I saw your talk at FOWD in New York.

Paul: Educating Clients to Say Yes.

Brett: It really struck a chord. It’s like this is what I am talking about. I think we’re definitly on the same page.

Paul: Excellent.

Thanks goes to Curtis McHale for transcribing this interview.

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Listeners feedback: Creating a buzz

Paul: So we’re going to do something a little bit different for the listener feedback section today and it’s come about because I was chatting with Ryan Taylor via IM and he asked a particular question and I nearly turned round to him and said “Ah, you can pay for one of my consultancy clinics for an answer to that question” but then I thought that might be a bit tight of me of me, so instead I thought, lets talk about that on the show because it’s a really good issue to discuss and its a different way of doing the listener feedback and I think we’ll probably do it with some other people in the future as well. So I have Ryan on the show, hello Ryan.

Ryan: Hello Paul.

Paul: Oh I’m so honoured to meet you, your the guy that does that podcast aren’t you?

Ryan: I am, I’m the one who makes sure it doesn’t sink like a lead weight.

Paul: It’s so exciting, I feel quite in owe of this amazing super start that I have on the show.

Ryan: *laughs*

Paul: Can I have your autograph?

Ryan: Of course, you’ll have to come up here though, I’m not coming down there.

Paul: That’s a bloody long way to go isn’t it? Can’t be bothered with that.

Ryan: Aye, you have us come down there often enough.

Paul: Yes this is true.

Ryan: *laughs*

Paul: But you live up north, it’s dangerous there.

Ryan: It’s not.

Paul: There’s wild animals and thugs and things.

Ryan: It’s all rumour and hearsay.

Paul: I see it on the news all the time.

Ryan: If you weren’t such southern softies you’d be alright.

Paul: And also isn’t there loads of pollution from the factories chucking out toxic gases and stuff.

Ryan: Yeah well you see though, if the ice caps melt and we flood, your going to go first because we’re higher up than you.

Paul: That is true. Yeah but whenever I think about the north I always have this image of a post apocalyptic barren waste land anyway so it’s all swings and roundabouts.

Ryan: That’s Scotland, you’re going too far north.

Paul: *laughs*

Ryan: *laughs*

Paul: Anyway, it’s really good to have you on the show. I actually listened to last weeks show which was sold waffle but very entertaining none the less.

Ryan: Well we try our best.

Paul: *laughs* It was good, I really enjoyed it. I particularly enjoyed the horrendous swearing after the outro music.

Ryan: Oh, Anna’s just so good at all the editing she does, it was constant throughout, I really feel sorry for her.

Paul: She worked hard on that one.

Ryan: I had to ring her up an apologies personally for that one.

Paul: *laughs*

Ryan: *laughs*

Paul: Yen, we were chatting on IM and you asked a question do you want to share what you asked? Or what the issue was?

Ryan: well, erm, as you know I’ve been recording my own series of video interviews called please start from the beginning and you were the first person I interviews.

Paul: ah, it was very boring. Have you started editing them down yet? Or have other people been more concise?

Ryan: they are getting long

Paul: oh shit really.

Ryan: I think Dan Rubin holds the record at 50 minutes

Paul: flip me!

Ryan: well has also been the most interesting interview, has also received the most hits and the most traffic.

Paul: really?

Ryan: yep, everybody likes to hear Mr. Rubin waffle

Paul: I Marcus should be pretty good when you get to do him because of his whole pop-star career.

Ryan: he keeps putting me off you know…everybody I can get hold of his the hardest one to nail down. I’ve been asking him since the weekend in June and I’ve done 10 interviews now and I just can’t nail him down.

Paul: So the basic principal of the show is that you ask people about their past and ask them how they got where they got.

Ryan: Yeh, its nothing technical it’s something a little different in that I want to know what people do now, what their job title is is the first question I ask, Because I think it’s interesting to hear about what peoples different job titles are because there are so many different bearings of the same thing in the industry. So I ask that first and discuss what they do now, and then ask them to go back to the beginning as per the title of the series and take me through their career path. All the experiences they had all the lucky breaks they had, achievements and so far it’s working out really well.

Paul: Cool

Ryan: Yeh, people seem to like talking about themselves.

Paul: yeh, it’s funny that. So as we were chatting, do you want to say what your question was, what was it you were getting at, what was it you wanted from me?

Ryan: the question was how can I kind of advertise the series a bit better, how can I get more people watching it. The uptake so far has been really good, I’ve had some really good feedback and people are kind of linking to it and spreading the word a little on twitter. But for a lonely guy like me with less than 400 followers it’s hard when I tweet and you’ve only got potentially 400 people that will see it. You know the number of people coming to the site is good it’s better than I’ve ever had, but I’d like more people seeing the videos and commenting and just spreading the word. Someone like yourself with 9000 followers it’s very easy for you to spread the word about thing and I was wondering how you built your way up with Boagworld? If I do something similar, starting from the beginning.

Paul: yeh, I think this is a problem most people have they’ve got some particular website or application or service that they are offering and wanting to build up a bit of a buzz. I’m not that high up the food chain if you compare me with Mr Carson or some of the guys over in America who seem to find it very easy to create buzz and excitement about products. But I guess I’ve picked up a few things that have worked for me. I think the first one is struck me is patience, you know you haven’t been doing it that long have you?

Ryan: Well no, not too long. So far we’ve released the 8th video and it’s been steady. The kind of traffic interest has been steady level, it’s not like a huge, it not going up every week. You know we release Monday and obviously get a surge of traffic on a Monday as everyone comes to visit. That tails of towards the end of the week and then the next Monday we get another surge of traffic and I suppose there is going to be more traffic with more interest of people who are more in the public eye. Like Ryan Carson for example. There will be a spike in traffic I would have thought. But everybody just seems to like everybody which is quite interesting. So it seems to be the same every Monday, there seems to be the same amount of traffic coming to watch that video. Despite whom the person is.

Paul: well that to some degree might be down to be how much the person interview is actually pimping what you have done. You’ve got a good model in the sense you’ve got a situation where your interview well known individuals which works really well as a technique because if they do mention it and push it themselves then it’s going to drive traffic to your site and hopefully get people hooked on the other ones. Erm, but ye hi mean that’s only kind of part of the equation actually. To be honest it was a long time before I actually saw much traffic on Boagworld at all. I mean I reckon it was over a year before I got much over the 400 / 600 subscriber numbers. So it was a long long time before anything really happened, you just really need to keep plugging away and releasing regularly and often. You’re on ITunes now aren’t you?

Ryan: yes, I finally got the series on ITunes and the uptake of that has been pretty good as well, you know people jumped on that straight away and that’s slowly increasing which is nice. Yeh searchable on iTunes and please start from the beginning.

Paul: this is sounding like a massive big plug for free start from the beginning; on the other hand it is also useful stuff for other people because other people are on the same kind of position. We’ve given one tip which is produce content which has got expert whom has a big following, because they are going to talk about it which is a good thing. I mean the other thing that I think a big part of it is, is your own reputation aswel. That (erm) it’s easier for me, if I launch something new … I don’t know let me say I started a new podcast or website it will be relatively easy for me to create some buzz around that because I’ve already got 9000 followers on twitter, because I already know other people and friendly with names that will actually promote it themselves, If I ask them too. So your own reputation matters quite a lot as well and your building up quite a good network of people you know, and don’t be afraid to ask those people to pimp it a little bit. This is where your really going to see the pay off from all the conferences and meeting and chatting with people. Because you’ve become a name that people are aware of, so there’s another tip. Take the time to build up your own personal brand and reputation and attend conferences, because people will take more of an interest in you. Take this week clear left have realised font-deck, now because it’s clea

Ryan: left that’s done it they’ve had far more publicity than some other web app that has just been launched, does that kind of make sense?

Ryan: yeh, yeh, absolutely. Erm I suppose it’s a bit like anything, your reputation again takes time doesn’t it. (

Paul: yeh) I have this slight fear of ramming it down some people throats, I want people to come visit the videos and participate without really feeling harassed into doing so. (

Paul: mmmm) So I don’t want to be tweeting all the time about it and things like that. I’ve been looking at some people who retweet and nearly everybody i’ve interviewed tweeted to say there is an interview there. So if and when people see that tweet they tend to click through, it’s for people who maybe miss that tweet. It seems to be that twitter is the main thing that is driving traffic to my site for my series, and I was wondering if there was anything else I could be doing to advertise it and get people to find it naturally?

Paul: That’s the trouble isn’t it with twitter, something will get missed because you’ve just got this stream of stuff. I think there are a few things to say on that before we move on to other things you could do. Erm, I will actually tweet about something multiple times but I will subtly different ways ok. So for example I will initially (say in your case this video) then later in the day I will I maybe quote some of the comments have been made on the video. I will refer back to it a couple of days later, you know i’ve been pleased with the level of traffic or whatever. Just in order to bring it up a few times so that’s one thing that I do. The other thing is pick your times for actually tweeting about it, and that’s where something like using bit.ly like where you can track traffic is really worthwhile. Erm, because that enables you to kind of monitor the different links that your tweeting out, and notice which time of day gets the best level of traffic for you. So for example in my case I know that if I tweet around about between 5 and 8 in the evening UK I will get the most click through on whatever I do. And the reason for that is the people in UK have just finished work and are at home having their T and are checking twitter whilst they are there. They’ve got time to look at stuff, but yet in America that are following me are just waking up and are around now and their traffic is added to it in addition. So thinking about when you twitter is quite important as well.

Ryan: well that’s interesting because i’ve been releasing the episodes around about 11.30 just before lunch so people could watch over lunch if they wanted to.

Paul: yeh but that doesn’t particularly support the American audience and that is a big audience. I mean you’ve been interviewing people in America as well so I think it’s more important for you (

Ryan: mmm). The other thing you might want to do is, the people that speak that you’ve got coming on the show I presume you write to them and email them when their show goes live…or at least you should do (

Ryan: yes I do). Right include in that the embed code, in case they want to put the video on their site, because that then enable them to have some content, it’s easy and quick to put up on their site and will give you more exposure. And it’s on their blog so it’s permanent, rather than twitter which disappear in time, so that maybe a good way of doing it. (How else can I do build buzz) I mean the other part of it is building the community as well. That is at the moment you’ve just got the early days, and you’ve got visitors (

Ryan: yeh) rather than actually a community. For example I now have people that come back to my site whatever I post. So I mean you want to look at building up that community in the comments and the stuff like that. You want to give people the opportunity and making people feel involved in it. So you do that by saying “hey who should I interview?”, or “what questions should I ask them?” erm, encourage people to put comments on the video maybe ask them questions in order to encourage that commenting. That’s always a good thing you can do. And then of course in addition that as well maybe run a competition where you get people to write in and suggest themselves, why you should interview them not just interview web celebs. Interview some ordinary designers as well, people that have been in the industry from the beginning but aren’t necessarily well-known names. So anything to kind of draw the community together, because once people feel like they are involved in you know Boagworld or from the beginning, once they feel like they’ve got an ownership in then they will start to promote it themselves and that’s where word-of-mouth recommendation really comes in because people are really enthusiastic about it.

Ryan: ok that’s a good idea; I have been trying to contact and target people not necessarily big. I know the majority of people i’ve been interviewing are web celebs i’ve been trying to get all different kinds of people and different kinds of profession in the industry. So I’m trying to get a copywriter and a journalist for industry, and all the different people and their takes on the industry and how they ended up getting involved in it. To try and get as much of a diverse catalogue of people as possible. So ye hi like that idea of getting people, because as you say people don’t have to be a web celeb or a big speaker or a speaker or an a-list person to have an interesting story of what they have been doing. So yeh I like that.

Paul: The other aspect to this is looking for influencer’s o those are individuals that have a big network and a lot of influence. Going back to say twitter for example a lot of people go on about you’ve got 9000 follower or 12000 followers or whatever. But actually the number of followers is less important than erm who is following you. And if you can kind of get at and influence (no wrong word) if you can get certain key influencers to mention your product or service or website then they will reach a much bigger audiences o for example you take someone like Jeremy Keith as a good example of this. His number of followers is actually less than mine yet the people that do follow him are in turn big influencers themselves, so he’s as much of a big influencer if that makes sense?

Ryan: yeh, it’s kind of quality over quantity

Paul: yeh, exactly, totally. Erm, what else? (Mumbling) could you do? … I mean the main thing is just a time thing it has to be said, you just have to keep plugging away being regular posting, not giving up on the project because a lot of people do that you know, especially with blogs. They do it for a while and they give up because they aren’t getting the returns they want out of it. And you know maybe try writing for things like smashing magazine or sitepoint or the webdesigners depot and write about career paths that are relevant to that what it is your doing. The guys at smashing magazine are always looking for new articles because they have this beast that needs feeding on a daily basis. I know you’ve tried to write some stuff for .net mag but I have to .net mag isn’t the best place to start because they are monthly publication which means they can be a lot more picky about what they have in. Also they are very reliant on big names, while you don’t care about the name it’s about this particular product. And actually have got less of a reach (fewer subscribers) than something like smashing magazine or webdesigners depot so I would try and go to write for some of them.

Ryan: mmm that’s another interesting idea, the whole idea from this series stemmed from the fog around job titles and you know how people just kind of pick a name for themselves, like yourself web strategist (

Paul: chuckles, yeh) you know it’s so ambiguous all the time and that’s where people starting out in the industry. That’s what it started off as; people don’t know what they want to be because there is no kind of defined roles.

Paul: that’s what we spoke about on last week’s show.

Ryan: absolutely that’s really where this started and that why I started putting this series together so the series is great that it’s self promotion of myself. But it started off from an interest and it still is, and I’m enjoying doing it because it interests me knowing about other people’s career paths and that’s why I like it. I want to interview interesting people that don’t necessarily have to be hugely popular people. So ye hi like that idea about writing about them, I think that will be the natural progression when i’ve got a few more interviews and bit more raw data to work with. An article about career paths will be something in the pipeline.

Paul: I mean the back log of material really important as well (

Ryan: yeah) , because I mean i’ve got people that start from show one that are still working their way through, and obviously that increased the number of hits and visitors, because people are going back episode after episode. The other thing you’ve got to think about which is the big problem that I had which is the one of getting it transcribed so that its good from a search engine point of view as well as an accessibility point of view. But you know that’s a big old challenge doing that until you’ve got a community like I’m fortunate enough to have that are helping out and supporting it, it’s really difficult to do that.

Ryan: absolutely.

Paul: but anyway I think at that point we ought to wrap it up else this will be the longest show ever recorded, but hopefully there was some useful stuff in there for you and other people. Giving you a little hint at how the consultancy clinics work.
I think I may like to do this again so if you have a web project or you want some advice on something whatever it is then write in to paul@boagworld.com and once in a while we’ll pick one and do an interview like this. What do you think good idea Ryan?

Ryan: yeh really good idea I think people will find it useful.

Thanks goes to Andy Kinsey for transcript this listeners question.

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