This week on the Boagworld Show we talk about mobile development and value based pricing with Jonathan Stark.
Paul: Hello! Welcome to boagworld.com the podcast related both in designing, developing, and running websites on a daily basis. My name is Paul, and joining me today is Marcus of the Lillington clan and Leigh of the Howells tribe. I tried to think of another word rather than clan.
Leigh: You could’ve just said clan again. It would have been fine.
Paul: No, no. Hello Leigh.
Leigh: Hello! I’m brought to you today by Porterhouse Steakhouse, the best steak in the Winchester area.
Marcus: Oh, you’re trying to get a free one.
Paul: Leigh, are you reacting to the introduction of advertising on this podcast? Because that’s what’s going on here.
Leigh: I don’t like advertising.
Paul: I don’t like advertising either. But no –
Leigh: I do like steaks.
Paul: I like money, which is why I like advertising.
Leigh: No, I – See, I stopped you.
Paul: I think so. If the things that you’re promoting are stuff that people haven’t heard off before, or don’t know much about, that’s fine. Well, I have problem with advertising on podcast, it’s actually a bit weird. It’s where you have the same advertiser time and time and time again.
Leigh: Yes, yes, over and over again. I skipped past those acts because I’ve just heard it. It was scripted, it’s the same thing.
Leigh: And it’s usually for one or two big, well-known companies I’ve already mentioned.
Paul: Yes, it was the audible.com, squarespace.com.
Leigh: Okay, you’ve mentioned them.
Paul: I don’t care. I know I’m not getting paid for either of them.
Leigh: I like them both, but I don’t want to hear the same thing over and over again.
Paul: No. Well, I think we’re probably going to be mixing up a bit more often
Paul: I think the most you’ll ever hear from one will be about five weeks. Which –
Marcus: Hello! By the way I’m thinking of Paul here –
Paul: Oh you, really? Really, really, really.
Marcus: I’m really brave just being here. I’m going to spread illness to us all.
Paul: Great, great, that’s wonderful, thank you Marcus.
Marcus: I’ve opted my friend.
Paul: So, why did you – Well, I mean knowing him, why did you pick Porterhouse Steak? And so, is there any reason for that?
Leigh: Of course, there was because that’s where we’re going tonight.
Marcus: Yes. Oh yes. Oh yes.
Leigh: It’s a very, very rare occasions because I actually get to eat meat.
Leigh: Yum, yum, yum, so I am really looking forward to it.
Paul: What are you going to have? What steak are you going to have?
Leigh: I don’t care however Marcus says.
Paul: Well, Marcus you are – What are you having tonight?
Leigh: I do not check the menu in any restaurant. Whatever Marcus will have, I’ll just have that, because he always picks really well.
Paul: I’ll just see. I’ll have whatever he tells me then. What are we having tonight, Marcus?
Leigh: What are we having?
Marcus: The big rib-eye.
Paul: Big rib-eye
Leigh: I think that’s what we’ll be having.
Marcus: There are two sizes of rib eye, get the big one.
Paul: Why, why go for the big one?
Leigh: Because there’s more of it, not the small one.
Paul: Stupid. Right, okay, that put me in my place
Leigh: What sauce are you having?
Paul: Are we really discussing this now on the podcast? I suppose I started it, carry on.
Marcus: It’s a no. Not too, I don’t mind about it, I thought that the red wine sauce, that’s a good one, the gravy type of sauce.
Leigh: Very nice.
Paul: So is this – What is this? Is this a Christmas stew or is it my leaving this?
Leigh: It was, it was a Christmas stew but it’s now – it’s more of a farewell thing.
Paul: Oh! I’m expecting a massive present.
Marcus: It is very big actually, your present.
Paul: Is it physically big or valued big? I want a laptop.
Marcus: I can’t tell you.
Paul: I want a small little gadget that costs a freaking fortune.
Marcus: It’s really big.
Paul: Oh, shocks!
Leigh: You have a guardian angel.
Paul: You built me a motor home. We’ve already built – just bought one of those.
Marcus: No, not that big.
Paul: So, should we talk about my motor home?
Marcus: No. I’m a nice man.
Leigh: No, actually it is relevant.
Paul: No not really but, go for any way. I was listening to this –
Leigh: You never stopped us in the past.
Paul: – You know Chris Coyier and Dave… I can’t remember Dave’s second name?
Leigh: Yes, they shocked all people.
Marcus: I listen to them every week.
Paul: Making the show notes to shock talk. So, they interviewed Vitaly Friedman.
Leigh: Ah, yes.
Paul: That was a live thing. I was listening to a live one. I don’t think he’s going to ask.
Leigh: Oh, I know wasn’t going to ask.
Paul: So, – and of course Vitaly, he sold his apartment. He has no home, and he now just travels continually, which is kind of really cool.
Leigh: Very scary if you burn your home into the ditch, and then you haven’t got a home.
Marcus: There’s some courage from them.
Paul: Yes, a new guy. You’ve got families, which he doesn’t have.
And one of the people that I’m doing this mentorship program with, they are a couple that do design and development while they’re continually traveling as well. They’re in Thailand at the moment, so I hate them. Every time I put Skype down after talking to them, I swear about them because they’ve got such a nice lifestyle.
Leigh: Oh yes, always there’s ups and downs, or that kind of thing.
Leigh: You missed a train, and we have some pretty harsh realities as well.
Paul: Oh yes, yes, yes. Sure. This is one of the boring ass people say that, “Oh, It’s not as good as it sounds.” but good for them for living there, I think it’s brilliant.
Leigh: Yes, It was brilliant
Marcus: Absolutely, but I know I wouldn’t like it. So –
Leigh: Well, you don’t like traveling that much, do you? I bet you’re a homeboy.
Marcus: I like going on a holiday, but don’t want to go away for months and months on end.
Paul: Oh! See, I’m with you.
Leigh: Home is about a different – quoting Jeremy Clarkson there.
Paul: Oh, for crying out loud.
Marcus: Leigh, once in a while he does actually say something quite good which is, “Home is not your house, home is your friends.” And it’s where your friends are.
Leigh: Ah, that’s why I like traveling.
Leigh: I got no friends. You said that with such a truism.
Marcus: I mean yes. It might be a family or whatever. The people you want to be with, the people you made connections.
Leigh: You got loads of mates in your current living town, don’t you?
Marcus: Yes, but that’s in 25 years. What do you expect?
Leigh: And you’ve got lots of online virtual friends.
Marcus: I don’t really like people from the start.
Leigh: Well, yes. So that’s not a problem for me.
Marcus: I’d really miss that.
Marcus: Why would you go away for a year and miss all your friends?
Leigh: Because it’s such an amazing world to see, and we work in an industry where we can do that –
Leigh: – and I think it’s a huge honor and a huge privilege, and that’s why I’m so excited about my new motor home.
Marcus: I know, it’s really exciting and I would jump at a chance too if I could.
Paul: But you’ve got kids that are still at school, you’ve got a wife that works, that kind of thing.
Leigh: Yes, they’ll be fine.
Marcus: Still, you’re on your own, leave.
Paul: Just leave them. Leave them. They’re stopping you meet – so you know, fifth blow, you might have been. Now, on its own is a good reason to move on. So we talked about steak, and we’ve talked about motor homes. We could talk about web design. Should we talk about web design? What we’ll be covering in the show? Sorry, I’ve thrown you now with this radical idea that we kind of talk about.
Leigh: Tell us about this “web design”.
Paul: Well, obviously I don’t know anything about it which is why we have guests on the show.
Leigh: That’s the theme of this series.
Paul: Yes, fill in the gaps in Paul’s ignorance. So, we got Jonathan Stark on this week. And the problem, you might not come across Jonathan, you’re pulling faces
Leigh: No, I know the name I can’t think why.
Paul: He’s a very smart cookie. And he knows a lot about mobile development and that kind of stuff. So we’ve got a bit of a weird one. this week – the interview – because I wanted to talk to him about mobile development but in the kind of correspondents, we had about coming on the show, we got on to the subject of value based pricing. Have you come across the term, value based pricing?
Marcus: It’s conning – trying to con your clients basically. Its paying more
Paul: It’s not being constrained by an hourly rate, because in theory you can only grow to a certain size because you only got so many hours in the day
Leigh: I heard someone earlier, in whatever I was listening to, say “You can’t put a price on an idea.”
Leigh: So is it kind of that sort of premise?
Marcus: It’s basically trying to come to a deal with whoever you’re working with, like
basically saying, “If I do this for you, I think it’s worth X . Do you agree?”
Leigh: No, we’re going to spend 100 hours doing it or whatever.
Paul: So it’s like coming out with a knight logo in 20 minutes, you wouldn’t want to be paid for 20 minutes of pay. You’d want to be well-paid.
Leigh: I pay for the value and the idea you’ve added
Paul: So value added pricing
Leigh: It’s similar to, I guess the way advertising agencies liked to be paid along the lines of
give us a load of money and we’ll make you a load of money.
Marcus: That’s the kind of way of thinking.
Leigh: Kind of make sense
Paul: So which is very cool, so we even got Jonathan on the show which is brilliant because it was a really good interview, really interesting, and I’m sure you will enjoy it. But before we get on to that interview, we need to mention our first sponsor. Are you ready for this? Are you excited about this?
Leigh: I can’t wait that.
Paul: Because I know you’re enthusiastic.
Leigh: Do you have a script?
Paul: No I don’t. I don’t. Do you know, actually every single one of the sponsors I worked with so far, have been like, “Yes, we’d love to support the show!” And I’m like, “So, what do you want me to say?"
Leigh: “I don’t know.”
Paul: And do you want a specific URL, so you can track how much traffic?
Leigh: Oh, I haven’t thought of that.
Paul: So, they’ve been really cool.
Leigh: Do you charge for that consultancy?
Paul: Yes, obviously. That goes off of my bill. I charge for everything now. I haven’t got time to go to the toilet anymore, because that’s not billable.
So anyway, “Template Monster”, are providing this week’s transcription again, and we’ve talked about them quite a lot. But it’s amazing you think you’ve covered everything. Then I discovered all these other things. None of which that you told me. All these stuff I just kind of discovered for myself.
They offer free templates, which is really useful because the first – you’re buying these templates – I mean, they’re not very expensive templates, but –
Marcus: No, they vary.
Paul: If you acquire a small business and you’re not doing very much and et cetera, you can fill a lot of money. So they give you these free ones you can download so you know what you’re going to get, and you can try them out. So you can go along to their website and download that and try it out for yourself. So that’s a really great thing.
They also – this is a nice thing that I didn’t know you could do, right? So if you’re going to have a template design, I know you could get very opinionated and recently did in a blog post on this idea of template and design.
Leigh: I’ve started with many templates. It’s been what we do. How much time you got, that can be useful.
Paul: Yes, but linking the shown notes to Leigh’s post on this kind of subject, because it’s quite interesting but one of the things you can do is if you got one template, you can actually buy exclusive rights for that template –
Leigh: Yes. Yes.
Paul: – which I like. Now, obviously someone might have bought that before but you can stop anybody ever buying it again. Does that make sense?
Leigh: Oh, yes, yes, yes.
Paul: Because obviously they can’t retrospect if we take the template away.
Leigh: Sorry, we need it back, someone bought it.
Paul: But you can get exclusive rights going forward, which is cool. They have a live chat and facilities where you can ask questions and get help and advice. And it’s so scary the number of templates they’ve got! It’s actually intimidating, right? They got all these categories with all these different templates and I’m going to set next week, Marcus is going to have a challenge, and if you’re on the show as well, you can have the challenge as well. I’m trying to think of a type of business, that doesn’t – Well, Leigh, what’s that?
Leigh: Obviously, next week. That’s in two hours.
Paul: Oh, yes, yes, we’re recording that softly, anyway, together, together. But they’ve got a really good filtering system where you can say things like, “I’m designing a band’s website and I want a template is a WordPress theme and I need it to be responsive. [I need it like now or again? 0:12:07.1],” so exactly out, which is really cool. So that’s Template Monster, check them out at templatemonster.com. No referral URL, because they don’t care, apparently.
Leigh: Yes, you could do that.
Leigh: You could do that.
Paul: I could do, I could do. I shall set that one up for our other sponsor because I’m her [unintelligible 12:24.0]. Everybody’s just so labour –
Marcus: Yes, whatever.
Paul: Just let me give you my name, which is lovely of them. I like them. So, anyway, let’s move on to Jonathan’s interview Sorry about that rambling. Are you allowed to criticize your sponsors?
Leigh: I’ve not heard many people do that.
Leigh: I think it’s a good approach?
Paul: No, I might be doing it wrong? You listen to a lot of podcasts can you teach me how to do this? Okay, let’s listen to Jonathan’s interview.
Interview with Jonathan Stark
Paul: Okay, so, good to have you on the show, Jonathan. Thank you for coming and being with us today.
Jonathan: My pleasure.
Paul: Is this the first time we’ve had you on?
Jonathan: I’m a little bit nervous actually. You guys are like my podcast heroes.
Paul: Well, then you need to get yourself some new heroes. That’s fairly no.
Marcus: Hello Jonathan, Marcus here too.
Paul: Oh no one cares that you’re here, Marcus. You turned up for some of the interviews. You don’t for others. John Hicks, who I interviewed last week, otherwise known as this morning, because I’ve done two today. He was deeply hurt. You didn’t bothered turning up.
Paul: Yes, he cried.
Marcus: I don’t believe a word of it.
Paul: So Jonathan, you are extra special because Marcus has turned up.
Jonathan: Why not?
Paul: But truth be known, he’s actually only interested in half the conversation. Because you cannot –
Jonathan: Because [unintelligible] on the show, right?
Paul: That’s very true.
Marcus: Half is actually quite generous, but can we start with a bit I ingested in? And then, I can brush off.
Paul: Is that what you’re going to do?
Marcus: No, that is not what I’m going to do. I’m recording the interview so at least this one might sound good.
Paul: Okay I had a few problems. But scoldings won’t work well. Who is it that –? Who’s one went badly?
Paul: Who was I talking?
Marcus: Kristina Halvorson.
Paul: Yes, for some reason, it’s decided to switch microphones. Skype – basically I unplugged my proper microphone by accident.
Marcus: By accident?
Paul: Well, it just got knocked, the cable got knocked. It came out. And Skype didn’t tell me this. It just decided just switch to the next microphone in the list. That’s my excuse now, I’m sticking to it.
Anyway, Jonathan doesn’t care about these technical problems, and neither do our listeners. So we’ve got you understand – Here’s the thing, dear listeners. The reason this is such a complicated interview is because we had every intentions to getting Jonathan on to talk about mobile because that’s his area of expertise, okay? And we wanted him and still want him to push us over the subject of mobile to go a little bit deeper. Because obviously we do mobile stuff but we don’t do a lot of – we certainly don’t do native mobile stuff. Most of the stuff we do is responsive and there are different kind of levels of responsiveness. So, we want him to correct us and tell us all the thing we’re doing wrong with mobile,
But while we were kind of back and forthing on email about this, we also got into the issue of value based pricing. Now, I don’t know if you ever come across this but I’ll let Jonathan explain it in a minute. And at this point, we got into this really interesting back and forth or email about value based pricing and the idea of it. I know Marcus is far from convinced over it. Jonathan does it. It’s his bread and butter, so we’re going to get a little bit of an argument going over that to start with, so that Marcus can bug off.
Marcus: I’m not going anywhere. That was my kind of attempted humor.
Paul: Yes. You know that doesn’t work from your jokes.
Marcus: No, you don’t get humor, do you?
Paul: Oh it’s my fault, is it?
Marcus: Everything is your fault.
Paul: Okay, Jonathan, would you like to explain to people like Marcus who think they know what value based pricing is what it really is? Well, how would you describe value based pricing?
Jonathan: Sure, I mean on the surface, its’ really pretty straight forward. You just present a client with a fixed bid for some work. Like the way that you buy a college course or training class or something like that.
Jonathan: Of course, it’s simple as that because you have to figure out how not to get killed. How do you prevent scope creeps? How do you come out with the price in the first place when we all know that as you go through a course of a project, all sorts of things happen that you didn’t think of in the first place, or maybe the spec wasn’t very well defined at the beginning. So, there’s a whole sort of DNA that you have to engrain into your business to deal with all that stuff. Because at its root, what you’re doing as the expert, you’re taking in all the risk, and the client is insulated from the risk. Because you give them a price and that’s’ the price, no change orders, nothing. No sign off, nothing like that.
Paul: So basically, you’re moving away entirely from the time based hour model of calculating how much a project is worth based on how many hours you recon you’re going to put in it, and instead base it on what?
Jonathan: You have to base it on something, right? So you base it on – I really do two things. First, I have conversations with the client and I do actually think through – okay, how long might this take me. Can I do this in three months or is this a two week project, is this a year-long project?
I get a rough feeling for how much effort it’s going to take. And then I think, “I can’t do this for less than x amount of dollars because I won’t be able to keep the lights on.”
Jonathan: So I figure out what the floor is for me, and say, “Okay, that’s the floor.” So then I think and the numbers are usually kind of high. Someone wants you for three months exclusively, that’s actually a lot of money. So then what I do is I essentially talk with the client and I say – I sort of ask them to convince me that there’s some season for them to spend that money on me.
Why are you going to spend six figures for a six month project when you could just hire two people to solve the problem that you have. And they say, “Well, we thought of that, but we can’t do that because x, y, and z,“ or ”If we did that we’d have to move to larger offices because we don’t have room for two more people," whatever.
And so then in the conversations of people as they – as you drill into why they want the project done, you start to get a sense of the impact that it’s going to have on their organization. And basically, we’re talking about business. So it always boils down to some kind of financial goal or personal goal.
People want to not be, they don’t want to be working 10-hour days every day. They don’t want to be working their employees that hard or maybe they just want to increase sales or maybe they just want to decrease abandoned shopping carts. Whatever it is, they got some goals and those goals can be mapped to a rough dollar figure. So then, you think, oh well, these people are going to – this business is going to greatly benefit from this work. If I just charge a small percentage of the potential benefit, then of course, they’re going to say yes, let’s do it. And if that smaller slice is bigger that my floor, then everybody’s happy.
Paul: Yes, yes. So essentially what you’re talking about is – the trick is, the difficult bit is mapping, is placing some kind of financial return on the work that you’re doing. It’s turning it into some kind of hard numbers, because only once you’ve got those hard numbers can you say, “Okay, even though if I look just my cost even though this might be a 5 grand project, if we take 10% of the value that it’s going to generate from this company, I can be charging 20 grand instead. That’s the fundamental thing, isn’t it?
Marcus: Yes, it’s putting a value on the improvement that the work you’re going to do for that company or organization. And yes, that could be tough.
Jonathan: It’s not the hardest part.
Jonathan: It’d be hard if you had to get down to an exact number, but rough numbers are fine.
Jonathan: You can tell. So, here’s the thing if you can’t tell, if you have no sense at least an order of magnitude level of what the benefits to the company is, then you shouldn’t start the project anyway because you don’t even know what the goal is, or how you’re going to measure that you reached the goal.
So, when you’re in conversation with the client, one of the things I’ll often ask is, “If this is a homerun, how are we going to know?” and they’ll say, “Oh well, if it is a homerun, then a homerun would be like 50% decrease in shopping cart abandonment.”
“Okay, how much is that happening now?” Etcetera, etcetera.
Paul: But the problem with that… I’m doing a Marcus’ arguments for him. He’s not responsible enough to talk for himself. That’s fine if it’s an e-commerce site. But if it’s something like, for example is we talked of – yes.
Jonathan: Sure, I won’t work with someone unless I know I can deliver a massive customer satisfaction. I want the happiest customers ever. Because that just turns into more work.
Jonathan: So I won’t start a project with somebody unless I know how to provide that customer satisfaction. And that includes knowing what their goals are, and those are always going to map back to some kind of goal that you can put a value on, a rough value.
Because I’m not talking about – if they’re going to make a million dollar on the first year, or they’re going to not have to fire a longtime employee, or there’s definitely a squishy stuff out there but you can get a back-of-a napkin kind of feel for how much would it cost to hire someone to go to the legal process. You can figure stuff out. I usually shoot for a 10% slice of the value. So if they’re going to make a hundred thousand dollars, I only want – I’ll give them a quote for 10.
Jonathan: So even if I’m totally off, if I’m way wrong in either direction, it’s still fine. It’s still an awesome investment for them.
Paul: Yes, I guess the problem – it very much depends on your client base, doesn’t it?
Jonathan: Oh yes.
Paul: Because for example, which came up in the email, we do a lot of work in the higher education sector. If you say take a university, sure, you can map a value quite easily on – okay, they’re hoping to redo their website which will attract x percentage of additional students. Students are each worth so much to them;+ therefore, we get an idea of how much additional revenue. But those kinds of larger projects for larger institutions often have many different balancing goals in them.
So for example, working on a university website is not just about student. Currently, it’s also about research standing, right? So the higher, the better the perception is of them as an institution, the more grants that they’re going to win that leads to more research projects or alumni. If their website demonstrates well, the works that they’re doing for the community and the wider world around, then they might get given a legacy. But those kinds of other things are totally unmappable and unpredictable. And there are so many of them that it would be very hard to put a dollar figure on a redesign of the university website. Do you see what I mean?
Jonathan: Yes, there are two things going on there. One is that higher ed in government is the same way. Higher ed and government are the same way. They have a really defined procurement process, and it’s really hard to get them to agree to anything that’s not hourly because they want to compare apples to apples against everyone else who’s bidding.
Marcus: This is my main point here. We want to get the opportunity to have the conversation in the first place maybe on subsequent projects, but not on the first one.
Paul: But then there’s a conversation there that needs to happen.
Jonathan: Yes, with different clients.
Marcus: You can’t get updated with the people though. That’s the problem you’ve got with procurement –
Paul: And this is why I think I’ve got a bigger problem but this isn’t something necessary on today during the podcast. But I’m becoming more and more disillusioned with procurement process. It’s full stop. I actually am beginning to reach the point where I don’t think it is worth Headscape’s effort to go through those kinds of procurement processes. I thought we ought to just find new clients,
Jonathan: [Laughs] A path into this approach is to try it with one new client and attempt to attract someone who is more amenable to a 10 x return on the investment. It is tricky though, I admit. My entire business is oriented around this approach. In 2006, I was working for a boutique software development firm. I was the VP, it was all my job. I worked my way up. I used to be a developer, and then I ended up managing 10 or 12 developers. And my whole life was like fighting with clients over invoices, making sure that invoices went out every week, and whipping developers to log their hours and creating tools that made it easier to log hours and running reports and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Things were okay, but there was a really tight year, a long story, but there was a tight year and there was a possibility that we’re going to lay someone off. And so, I’m looking at the list of people and we had one developer who is amazing. He was absolutely unreal. But he was the most expensive developer in annual salary, and he was so fast that he would burn through clients, He would finish projects so fast, that he wasn’t actually making us any money.
And then we had another developer who is a junior person, who we paid half of what we pay the first person. We’re billing him out of the same rate. He took forever to do projects, but he had an amazing ability to keep customers happy. He was a very personable, charming guy and I was like, “I’m going to have to lay off the good developer because the junior developer is making us like four times as much money.”
It’s just a cognitive dissonance. I must be thinking something wrong. So it went through and people will say, Oh we should bail out the better developer higher rates, but you really can’t do that. It’s really complicated to do that because then clients start asking for a specific developer, it gets really difficult to manage resources. So suddenly, I realize I’m like, "Oh the problem is hourly billing. And as soon as I realized that, I said to my boss who was the founder, I went through that whole story and he got it. But he couldn’t envision how it would work because everything in the business from the marketing, and advertising, and operations, and systems were all engrained in hourly billing approach. So he couldn’t get there mentally.
So I left and started a business from scratch and oriented everything to the value based models, so it was much easier for me than it would be for a lot of people who are trying to sort of turn the ship. But the way to do it is to try to attract, start trying to attract clients that are going to be amenable to this approach and try it on one project. It’s still tricky because you do have a cultural and organizational inertia around hourly mentality. But as a developer, you instantly feel the difference. All of a sudden, you’re like, “Oh, it’s okay for me to finish this super-fast.”
And all of a sudden, because the clients wants everything done – like faster is better for the client, and if faster is better for you, then your goals are all aligned.
Paul: I guess we probably realistically fall somewhere in between. We use hourly rates to calculate how long projects take, or how much we charge projects, should I say. But if somebody does work quicker, we still were charging a fixed rate. So, we still charge that fixed rate. Sometimes, with some clients, we will also charge them more because we know that the project is going to be –
[Audio break 0:30:19.5 – 0:30:23.4]
Paul: – with us or we will charge more because its particularly challenging and business critical thing to them. So we may not sit down and necessarily calculate the value of every project in the way you described it but I think our culture is not one of focused deadly on hourly billing. It’s interesting, isn’t it? Like all things, there’s probably a middle ground that you have to fit in with your particular organization.
Jonathan: Yes, I supposed so. I want to just quickly point out something that you started to mention earlier which is that you said you listed up a whole bunch of things in higher ed that are tough to put a value on, but the client actually can do it, no problem. It’s tough for us to do it. The higher ed example is tricky because there are so many people involved. It’s like who’s money is this?
Jonathan: But if you’re approaching a normal business, let’s say retail organization, that’s my niche. But if you’re going into any kind of company that’s – I want to say organized like you know what I mean, modern I guess, it doesn’t have as much red tape; then they can easily put a value on even squishy things. And then, you can use that as like “Okay, we –” You can do it but I’m a little – when you just said middle ground, it makes it – makes me a little nervous.
Paul: Yes, well, okay. That’s always the way with you, purists.
There’s a lot of squishy stuff to it, but it’s doable because the numbers are so beneficial to the client, and they love it. They love it. Imagine, never fighting over an invoice. Imagine, never fighting over a chain request. It’s just like, everybody in the room wants the thing done fast and meet the goals. It’s great. It’s like all of the sudden, you’re like, “Oh, wow! I’m really a partner with the client now. Mentally and emotionally, I was before but when your butt’s on the line, all of a sudden, you’re partnered [laughs]. Paul: Yes.
Paul: I think a lot of it for us comes down to the type of clients we work with, because we work with all those clients that you wouldn’t touch – higher education, government, – those kinds of organizations. Value based pricing would work in the charity sector which we do work with, so I could imagine using it there absolutely.
Marcus: The numbers, I mean another thing is that’d be quite difficult because they’re obviously – let’s say were going to redesign a website, which is the majority of the projects we’d work on. There are many projects where we will do one tiny part of redesigning that website. It might just be an initial consultancy piece. And again, I’m really struggling with how the –
Jonathan: Yes, I know what you mean.
Marcus: – you put value on that just on – as doing review.
Marcus: Of course it brings value but until you’ve done the review, you don’t know what the value it’s going to bring.
Jonathan: Right, and sometimes you do get hired. And sometimes, you do get approached to just do something like a pair of hands. So like I mentor people on how to do this and I got a question the other day from one of the guys and he was like, “This client wants me to fix his integration with the MailChimp API.” and so he tried to turn it around and be like ’’Oh, okay.“ He tried to turn it into a value conversation like what’s that going to mean for your organization. He’s like, ”I don’t need a psychiatrist. I just need a MailChimp API working.
Jonathan: [Laughs] Yes, yes.
Marcus: And sometimes, they just need a pair of hands. Sometimes, they just need a task done. And I would take really two approaches there. One, just hand the work off to someone else who is doing hourly. Or if I really want the client and I think that it’s not a big enough chunk of work to warrant a quote, I’d just do it.
Marcus: I’d just speak, “Oh, l’d just do it.” And no big deal. So I’ll either hand it off or just do a pro bono, or it’s a big enough piece of work that is worth quoting. So, you have those 3 options. But you’re right, I mean Marcus is right, that there are certain things that just don’t apply to you. When I talk about it I’m specifically talking about software projects like a website redesign or like a big project.
Marcus: Yes. Sure.
Paul: We ’re going to have to move on unfortunately
Marcus: We are. Move on.
Paul: The reason we’re going to have to move on is because Jonathan said the words Marcus is right.
Paul: So I obviously now got to kill that conversation entirely.
Marcus: No, in fact, you’ve highlighted that and made a big deal out of it.
Paul: I’ve now made a big deal of it. Yes, I should have just shut up. I could have bLeighped it out like swearing or something, which in my book, it is. We can move on seamlessly which is that you said one of the things that this applies to is software development, so what are you mainly doing these days? Is that mobile software development in your case? You seem to be writing and talking about mobile. So what kind of things are you doing in that fit?
Jonathan: I do strategy training and ad hoc consulting for retail brands around mobile.
Jonathan: So I do do some development but it’s very much – to keep me honest in my other work. It’s not a primary – because if you just doing strategy work for two years, like things change so fast, like you would just be parroting yourself from two years ago, and things might not actually – you might be wrong.
And then, I sort of take that knowledge and expertise into strategy engagements work, like I said, training today. I do a lot of mobile web training and a huge advocate of mobile first responsive design, progressive enhancements. It pains me to see web developers thinking, “Oh maybe I should – Maybe the web is – that I should go over to iOS.” Making a career change based on that just horrifies me.
The web is so amazing for in general but it’s also perfectly suited for this crazy device landscape that’s been thrust upon us. It’s perfect for it. So, it drives me crazy to see people say like, "Oh, I’m just going to learn a whole new skillset and go over to iOS and just do – I have nothing against iOS but to make a career change based on thinking that you’re going to make a million dollars in the app store, something like that is horrifying to me.
Paul: So, in terms of your clients, I do by the way 110% totally, completely, utterly agree with that. I think the great thing about the web is its flexibility and platforms all come and go. And the web is something that can be delivered to such a range of devices or screen sizes. But I’m quite interested in what you advise clients in terms of things like apps and that kind of stuff, because what’s to know there is, do you advise clients that maybe they should actually think about having a native app over a responsive website?
Jonathan: Right. Usually, anything that’s really memory-intensive for example augmented reality, – – a mobile device is not going to handle anything that’s super memory-intensive. But that said, I usually go through a process with clients when we’re trying to figure out what direction to go. Generally, it’s all about my default. So, I default to a whole bunch of positions; and then, we have a conversation. And if they talk me out of my default, then that’s fine. They’ve good reason. Maybe it’s a business reason or maybe they’ve got some kind of legacy systems that won’t support the way I want to do it or would normally do things.
And so, okay. We can make exceptions and go down this path into something that I wouldn’t normally do out of the gate. If we’re doing it consciously and with reasons and with a plan to perhaps undo that later or fix that problem later – So to give you a more specific example, someone will come to me and say, “We want to create a mobile experience.” So you usually say, “We want to create an app.” And I’ll be like,“ Okay, why ?” And they say, "Oh, because we want to maximize engagement.
They have obvious reasons and they’re usually a little bit naive because it’s a new thing for them. They don’t do it full time. They haven’t been doing it full development since 2007. So I’ll say, “Okay. There’s a bunch of ways that we could do this. Each has pros and cons. And what I would default to is doing it as a mobile web app. This is my default.” I’m not going to say this everytime but I would say,“ Okay. Let’s see if we can do this as a web app. Is there anything about this project that wouldn’t work as a web app?”
And so, we go through the spec and their goals, and all that. And if there’s something that won’t work, for example, the CML just insists that it has to be in an app store. It has to be in iTunes. It has to be in Google Play because they have numbers that indicate that that’s what their customers are looking – The customers are in there looking for an app from this retail brand and there’s no app there but they’re finding the competitors and it’s driving the CML crazy.
So, okay. You can’t put a website in the app store. What about a PhoneGap approach? Or like a hybrid app approach?" Would that solve the problem, and it gives you tons of great advantages? You still get all that flexibility. You can still write responsively and with progressive enhancement. You could put it in the store. You could host the same files most likely and they would work also as a website. But you get that packaged to app store experience.
And if they say, "Oh, well. We tried PhoneGap and there’s this one piece in there where we want to do barcode scanning and it’s too long key. Actually, PhoneGap is pretty good at barcode scanning, but whatever. If there’s something in there where they want to overlay data on the camera, you’re not going to do a nice job on that instead of PhoneGap.
So I said, "Okay, you’ve convinced me that you need to go native but be aware that if you’re going to go native, you’re only going to get one platform which will almost certainly be iOS, which is tiny fraction of the market in terms of market share. People will argue that it’s the part of the market that you want because they spend money more.
So, yes. Okay. You do need a native app. So you’re either going to sacrifice a whole bunch of reach or you’re going to develop two or three native applications in parallel and to keep the code basis in sync. So if you got bugs in Android Version and bugs in the iOS version, you have to keep those two teams in sync so that the releases are reasonably the same; otherwise, your Android people get really annoyed that the iOS app is so much better. You don’t want to create a bad branding situation. So, you just have a lot more working, you have to spend a lot more money to make that wonderful experience that basically all retail brands want.
Paul: You talk about mobile web apps there. Where was the line between – one end to the spectrum you’ve got – well obviously, a website where you do absolutely nothing to it, but let’s move along a bit from that. So, in one end of the spectrum, you’ve got responsive design – a site that responds from whatever device it’s being viewed on. The other end of the spectrum, you’ve got a native app that’s running on a device. Then, you’ve got things like PhoneGap that’s in the middle. Is there a –I guess what I’m getting at – is there still a place on that spectrum for a separate mobile website, or would you always recommend the responsive design approach these days?
Jonathan: Oh, like an m.site?
Paul: No, not necessar – Yes, maybe, that kind – Yes, that kind of thing.
Jonathan: [Laughs] No . yes,
Paul: No, yes. I’m flailing around a little bit because I just think, sometimes with a responsive site, for example you might be building – There’s a difference between a responsive website, in my view and I might be wrong, and a kind of task-based, web-based app, if that makes sense.
Jonathan: Jeremy Keith would be whipping you with –
Paul: I know he would.
Jonathan: I disagree with Jeremy on this.
Jonathan: I think there is a difference between a mobile website and a mobile web app. And the fact that it’s difficult to articulate what it is a failing of our language not the fact that it doesn’t exist. And people will say, well, Facebook, is that an app or site? And I would say, well, Facebook is bigger than both of those things, it’s an entire system. It’s an entire platform. I reject the notion of that question.
Paul: The premise.
Paul: Yes, I would agree with that.
Jonathan: But that doesn’t change the fact that there is a difference between a web app and a website. That’s why there are two different words for it. For example, a website usually doesn’t have a bug tracker, a website doesn’t always have a login. I would argue that anything with a login isn’t a website.
Paul: Is it not really – does it not come down that it is basic, in my view, a website is primarily content driven, a web app is primarily task driven.
Jonathan: I think that’s a good way to look at it, yes. Another way to look at it is, do I want Google to index this?
Paul: Yes, that’s a good idea. Yes, I like that way of viewing it. Because I’m really glad you’re saying that, because now I feel a bit braver to stand up to Jeremy Keith, which is always a good thing.
Jonathan: Yes. Jeremy is the one person who has ever changed my mind during an argument, in my entire life.
Jonathan: We were debating something and I was like, “Oh, wait a minute, you are right.”
Paul: I’ve never heard that term before, I was going to say.
Marcus: What do you mean by that?
Jonathan: Okay, so the BBC popularized this approach that I’m a huge fan of, which they call the “cut the mustard test”. And this is a great approach. I’ve done it in a ton of projects, and it works amazingly well. It’s amazing how well a website or a web app will work across a massive range of devices. The idea is, you determine what your core content or feature set is. Say, okay, these are the things without which this app or site is worthless. And you create those. You do the markup. You do the CSS. You get a nice, essentially static design going. Then you say, "Okay, that is going to work on everything all the way back to a Kindle One e-reader.
And what you end up doing is, that shifts all of your development effort into working on polishing the experience in working on the fun phones, lik4 the good phones instead of the reverse, which is what people tend to want to do, and even I used to do this. Like you want to build the sexy version first, and then you try and figure out how to degrade gracefully on to older phones into nightmare.
Paul: Marcus, are you following all this?
Paul: Yes, I thought so. Essentially, the thing that you need to know is we’re doing it right, because that’s exactly how we do things as well.
Marcus: Yes, I’m aware of that.
Paul: Oh, see? It’s good. I like to patronise Marcus, at least once per interview.
Marcus: I had a question halfway through there, but it’s completely gone out my mind.
Paul: Senility setting in, that’s what that is.
Paul: So, yes, I mean –
Marcus: I know what it was.
Paul: Oh, good then.
Marcus: It was more of a statement. Cut the Mustard is a band. But I –
Paul: Oh, for crying out loud. That was it. That’s what you wanted to add?
Marcus: I knew you’d like that. Yes, they’re really good actually but I’m not sure. They have been around for a while, but there you go. It’s a phrase, isn’t it? I’m not exactly sure what it means but look it up. Carry on talking, Paul.
Paul: I imagine it involves cutting the mustard. Actually, I think we’re kind of coming to the end of things really, because I’ve set myself for these interviews a limit of forty minutes because I could talk forever, because I learn so much. And really, this should have been two separate interviews, shouldn’t it? Jonathan, we need to get you on a future podcast to talk in more depth about a bunch of these areas. Where can people find out about what you’re doing and learn some more about both this kind of value based pricing and the kind of mobile side of things? Where should we point people?
Jonathan: The best is place is jonathanstark.com. You can find out pretty much anything you want about me. I’m not sure when this is going to go live but right now, I’ve got the CSS on my site turned off.
Paul: Oh, well [laughs]. Having fun, are you?
Jonathan: Yes, I’m doing a live – I’m going to redesign my site from scratch live. I’ll stream my desktop.
Paul: Yes, that’s good.
Paul: Awesome. Or if you’re European, “The Niche Podcast”.
Paul: Just saying. I’m just saying, that’s all.
Marcus: But you talk like a normal person, Paul.
Paul: Shut up, Marcus. This won’t go out until January, so your website should be back up and running by then in its glory. Although to be honest, do you remember what they used to do at Go Naked! day? We don’t do that anymore, do we?
Jonathan: Yes, I do remember that.
Paul: Where everybody used to turn off their CSS for a day.
Jonathan: Well, it wouldn’t work now. Everybody’s – The markup is such a mess.
Paul: I know. Young people today, they don’t know how to do these things.
Jonathan: These kids, unbelievable.
Paul: So – and that’s as you breathe, Jonathan, and really, really interesting conversation, very encouraging on the mobile side of things that perhaps we’re doing better than we thought over that one. Value based pricing, we just need to replace all our clients. So if you’re one of our clients listening to this today, we no longer want to work with you.
Paul: How to build a business –
Jonathan: My work is done here.
Paul: Yes, you totally destroyed our business …
Marcus: I would say it’s okay.
Marcus: We’re fine. No worries.
Paul: All right, Jonathan, thank you so much for joining us and hopefully we’ll speak to you again before too long.
Jonathan: Anytime, I’d love to.
Marcus: Thank you, bye.
Paul: All right. So, that was great to hear from Jonathan. He’s a great bloke. He’s invited me to – He has this chat room where they discuss value based pricing and it’s just me going [buzzing sound].
Marcus: I’m recording all the time.
He’s quite your fan. Of course he’s in Slack as well. I love Slack.
Marcus: Everyone loves Slack.
Paul: Slack is awesome. Link the show notes to Slack.
Marcus: Oh, I was trying to think of the –
Paul: We need to get them as a sponsor.
Leigh: Oh, it’s just the thing we use before.
Leigh: Yes. Link in the show notes to HipChat.
Leigh: But I can’t remember why they’re different’ because HipChat –
Paul: They know! That’s the trouble.
Leigh: But I can’t remember why.
Marcus: This Slack is called Slack.
Paul: Slack had a bit of a nicer interface.
Marcus/Leigh: But only a bit.
Paul: Yes, I know. Why is [crosstalk 0:54:21.6]? Yes.
Leigh: I don’t know. I don’t know what –
Marcus: I think it’s purely the name.
Paul: They just created the right mindset.
Marcus: Yes, I’m slacking.
Leigh: Or is it the integration with sort of Twitter and things.
Paul: It does have very good integration. That is true.
Leigh: Because I was just thinking how annoyed they must be that everyone’s going on about Slack “Oh, we did this first. And it’s really good too.”
Marcus: That’s like the Microsoft spin. I read an article about how Microsoft had been first retied with pretty much everything – touchscreen devices, Mac in 2000, the mouse, I think was there as well, and then obviously that kind of – caught on, but they did it way before anyone else. Everyone said this is rubbish. And then, everyone did it.
Paul: They didn’t work through the mouse. You’re showing your ignorance.
Marcus: But they’ve done something with holograms.
Leigh: Oh, yes, the new Windows 10 integration.
Marcus: Windows 10 lets you interact with holograms.
Leigh: And then 3D-print the hologram as well.
Paul: Do you mean the virtual reality headset they’ve been doing partial?
Leigh: Apparently, I don’t know why this is relevant, why do I say this? Obviously, I’m ill and I’m just saying stuff.
Paul: Have you read anything more about this Microsoft – the new Spartan, their new Internet Explorer replacement?
Leigh: Oh yes, their starting-from-scratch browser. It sounds quite interesting.
Paul: But it’s really wonderful. We’re really excited and all and yes, that will be a huge step for – It’s not like Internet Explorer is going to go away, isn’t it?
Leigh: It’s not. No, because it’s still going to be provided on Windows 10, I think.
Paul: Recently, I was recently with a client, a big organization. And I said, “Oh, you can find that on my website. II went to my website and it was awful, looked terrible. It’s just the HTML basically, and ”Oh yes, that’s because we’re using IE7.
Paul: For crying out loud. Anyway. Right.
Leigh: Is that your only contribution?
Paul: So Marcus, right?
Leigh: You have to be animated now.
Paul: I think we’re going to do your joke first because I don’t want – I really like this product – the sponsoring the joke, right? So if your joke is not good enough, I’m not going to associate them with it, because I really like these guys, I use their product all the time, and I don’t want people to think it’s a [expletive] product because your joke’s [expletive].
Marcus: Well, if the joke doesn’t work, it’s your fault.
Paul: Why is it my fault?
Marcus: Because you have to interact. Pressure’s on then. All from Sam Elliott. Thank you.
Paul: Why can’t Leigh –?
Marcus: – straight man.
Leigh: You’ll see why.
Paul: Okay. Hang on, hang on, I don’t like the sound of this. Go on then.
Marcus: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Paul: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Marcus: To get to the idiot’s house. Knock, knock.
Paul: No, I’m not taking part in this.
Leigh: I think I know what’s coming next.
Paul: Okay. Who’s there?
Marcus: The chicken!
Leigh: Oh, I thought you were going to do a chicken impression.
Paul: That actually – No, that is not a good joke. So, is there a joke worthy of Buffer. We need to decide.
Marcus: Ah, we all laughed.
Paul: I didn’t laugh!
Marcus: We all laughed.
Paul: I didn’t laugh. All right, so Marcus’ joke this week is sponsored by Buffer, seriously.
Leigh: What happened to Perch? Was that a one joke sponsor?
Paul: No, two jokes.
Leigh: Oh, sorry.
Paul: You’re one show out, because one has been released since we have recorded this –
Paul: Yes, they’re just trying – got you very sensible, actually. Of all our sponsors, they’re the most sensible, even though they were the first to sponsor Marcus’ joke.
Leigh: Doing a beta sponsorship.
Paul: Yes, they test it out, and they – You don’t jump in without testing.
Leigh: Very sensible.
Paul: Oh, just Rachel’s awesome. Anyway –
Marcus: Doing a beta test.
Paul: Anyway, since we’re talking about Buffer, we’re now giving free publicity to Perch.
Leigh: Here you go. The best value for you.
Marcus: We’re so rubbish.
Paul: Right. I love Buffer. It’s one of my favoritest apps in the world. Leigh, you, and I are using it.
Leigh: I’ve always loved Buffer. I just wish they’d be able to get the buffer.com domain because I keep typing it, and I keep going to some engineering company or whatever it is. It’s bufferapp.com.
Paul: No, don’t say that URL, because got to give a special – Right?
Paul: Now, that doesn’t work. You don’t just give two wrong URLs. Anyway, so just in case you haven’t come across Buffer, it’s for scheduling social media updates, but what makes it vastly superior to all the other ones out there, that schedule social media updates and posts into multiple social networks is that you don’t have to pick a time. So you don’t have that situation of going, you can do, if you want to, you know having the situation of going, "Okay, so I put one out at 10 o’clock, the next one ought to go out at twelve. And then, another one at –
You don’t have any of that. All you do is you set up a schedule. You then add as many things as you want to your Buffer queue and it pushes them out based on that set schedule, which is absolutely wonderful and I love because I don’t know about you, but I sit at the end of the day and do a lot of reading, all in one go. And I look at all those different things. I see all these cool links. And if it wasn’t for Buffer, once a day, everyone in my twitter screen would absolutely hate me, as I push out all these links on someone’s face.
Marcus: They hate you anyway.
Paul: They do, which is good. It’s also got really good analytics. Do you use analytics?
Paul: You haven’t found the analytics tab, have you?
Leigh: I just assume that nothing I have ever tweeted via Buffer will ever been popular.
Paul: The analytics are really good. It will give you top tweet. It will tell you which ones are particularly good and, best of all, it’s got superb – the iOS apps are great. You’re not on iOS. What it’s like on –?
Marcus: I’m on all platforms. I use it to send from iOS, but I don’t think I’ve actually been to the app recently.
Paul: So you don’t have the app installed?
Marcus: I probably do. But I tend to just use the kind of [crosstalk 1:00:28.6] –
Paul: Oh, the sharing thing.
Marcus: Yes, the sharing thing. Yes.
Paul: Which is really nice, and it’s got – and of course loads of applications got it built-in as well, like Feedly, PopKick – yes.
Marcus: All those kinds of things, which makes it easier for sharing as well.
Paul: And the new sharing thing in iOS is so great.
Leigh: Yes, it works really well.
Marcus: So that’s really cool.
Paul: So that is buffer.com. Then the URL that we want you to go to rather than the ones that Leigh said, so that the people in Buffer can know, not that they cared, but so I can tell them how many of you have gone to check out their lovely app is boagworld.com/buffer.
Paul: See what I did there?
Paul: Hence, I can track the data as well.
Leigh: Yes, cool
Paul: Right, so there we go. That is Buffer. We’ve done the podcast. Now, that’s finished.
Marcus: So we can go.
Paul: So, we can go. It’s not steak time yet.
Leigh: More advertising maybe?
Paul: No, I think – It feels like a lot of advertising to us, because we haven’t had a half an hour interview in the middle of –
Leigh: This is true. And I, advertising in the interview talking to you.
Paul: No, if the interview is advertising-free – But if you want to send me money, feel free to do that, boagworld.com/advertise.
Leigh: By just giving an account?
Paul: I was just going to – yes, it’s good. Anyway, that’s the end of the show then, I guess.