This week on the Boagworld Show we talk design history, the perfect CMS and handling support contracts.
Paul: Hello and welcome to Boagworld.com the podcast about all aspects of digital design, development and strategy. My name is Paul Boag and joining us on this week’s show is Andy Clarke, hello Andy.
Paul: Don’t try and be that cheerful this early in the morning. It’s unnatural.
Paul: G’day. Oh, don’t, we’ll get into that in a minute Andy, control yourself. Marcus Lillington…
Marcus: Happy birthday to me.
Andy: Ooo, happy birthday Marcus!
Marcus: It’s not really my birthday it’s Headscape’s birthday. Headscape is 15 today.
Andy: I take it all back!
Marcus: It’s cool huh!
Paul: Well, you know, whatever.
Marcus: Yeah, mate. A little bit.
Paul: Moved on, kind of you know… Headscape is so 2014.
Marcus: It’s so 2002 Paul.
Paul: Well yeah, when it started. I meant when I left. I think it was 2014 was’nt it? Oh I don’t know.
Marcus: Yeah, whatever. Anyway that was just my little nugget of something today.
Paul: No, yeah. That is very exciting I’m very pleased for you. Last year was the big one mind. 15 years feels much more significant doesn’t it.
Marcus: Yes it’s 15 this year. It’s 15 today.
Andy: Wake up Paul
Marcus: That’s what I said 15.
Paul: Did you?
Paul: Oh. See, I need to have a lie down. (Laughter) and Ryan Taylor.
Ryan: You said that with such a sigh! Do you want me to go?
Paul: Oh, no, no. It wasn’t you, it was just life.
Ryan: Jesus Christ. All right, okay.
Paul: No no, having you on the show is always a wonderful thing.
Ryan: You said that with such sincerity.
Paul: No, I meant it. I miss having you around Ryan.
Ryan: I haven’t gone anywhere.
Paul: Well, you have in the sense that, you know, you used to be at every conference. Although so did I. And neither of us are any more. Life is meaningless now, we are just trapped in our family lives, like prisoners of the mind. So sad.
Andy: What a fabulous podcast this is.
Paul: So, Sam Barnes isn’t joining us today. He was due to be on the show today but his cat is vomiting.
Andy: Oh, yet more good news then.
Paul: There you go.
Marcus: This is a real January podcast isn’t it.
Andy: This is going to be up-lifting. More up-lifting than any podcast has ever been.
Paul: And tomorrow as we are recording this on the 16th, Monday the 16th. Tomorrow Theresa May is announcing how we are going to have a hard Brexit. And in a couple of days Trump is going to be the President. So…
Ryan: I had to giggle this morning when I looked at the BBC News in the top story was “Britain is doing great after Brexit” and then the next story down was “pound drops in preparation for Theresa Mays speech.” So I thought your definition of great, mate, is really off.
Paul: So there we go. All is good with the world.
Andy: The pound is now worth less than, well, pretty much every currency in the world really. I think Mongolia…
Paul: I don’t reckon its less than, no it isn’t, that’s rubbish! You’re just making stuff up.
Andy: It’s worth less than the Mongolian tog-rog.
Paul: You were just making shit up now. Anyway,
Marcus: I’m going to Washington next week. So…
Paul: Oh, that’s exciting.
Marcus: I don’t know, it could be all Marshall law and stuff by the time I get there. We’ll see.
Andy: You’ll have to sell your car to afford a cup of coffee. Take some Mongolian tog-rogs with you. They are much more valuable.
Paul: So at the moment I just want to run away from the world. I think it’s winter, I think it’s winter that puts me in this mood. The fact that whenever you look out of the window in Britain you just see greyness don’t you. That’s all there is in Britain, gray. I live in the country side, you’d think it would be green. No, Gray. Everything is grey.
Marcus: I quite like winter.
Paul: Do you?
Marcus: Yeah, because it’s not always grey. Sometimes it’s fabulously sparkly. It was a bit like that Saturday morning.
Paul: No, but so rarely.
Marcus: No it’s not.
Paul: You want to go and live somewhere like Colorado. If you want proper seasons that’s where you go. You get snow in the winter, you get gorgeous spring times, you get hot summers, 300 days of sunshine across the year. Britain, grey. That’s all you get.
Marcus: Yeah, I’d quite like the grey, had it all my life. I’m used to it. Woody Allen used to come and film his films in his later life here because he liked the greyness of the skies. There you go, another little nugget for you today.
Paul: I think Andy has got the right idea. Because you’re running away to Australia aren’t you?
Andy: Yes, I am. Well you see I live in Wales which is, North Wales in particular, where…
Marcus: Dark grey.
Andy: Well yeah, exactly. What happens is roundabouts early October the cloud cover comes in and then it leaves about April. And literally there is this thick blanket of clouds over North Wales for the entire time in between. It’s like living in a nuclear winter.Remember those kind of like scary, protect and survive, duck and cover sort of promotional videos or whatever. Informational videos. About how to survive the nuclear holocaust. It’s like that.
Marcus: They were the ones where it told they told you to sit under the kitchen table, if I remember rightly.
Andy: Yes, yes, there was one in the 19…
Paul: Wasn’t there a cartoon?
Andy: Yes, there was. This was duck and cover. It was basically in the event of a nuclear bomb going off there would be this flash, and that would burn you. So in order to protect yourself you would duck and cover, cover with anything including your newspaper. Could be protection!
Paul: But also there was a really famous film in I think it was the 1980s called where the wind, when the wind blows. Did you see that?
Andy: Now that is… what a fabulously uplifting podcast this is…
Marcus: We are really going down, Ooo Yes.
Paul: That was an elderly couple who got caught up in a nuclear blast and just slowly died.
Andy: Yes, it was, I think he is called Raymond Briggs. He was the guy that did the snowman.
Marcus: And Hingis the bogeyman,
Paul: It’s just so funny that the guy that did the snowman did this kind of apocalyptic doom cartoon.
Andy: I think you can see it on YouTube because I watched it a couple of years ago. I was going through another depressive phase. And there was another one from about the same time which I’m trying to remember the name. Was it called the day… was it called the day after. Which was another, he says frantically googling, which was another kind of after the apocalypse film. And, oh dear.
Paul: This was the world that we grew up with.
Marcus: You see, Ryan doesn’t know any of this to do you? You were just a babe back then.
Ryan: What year are we talking?
Marcus: Ooo, early 80s.
Ryan: Yeah, I was just born.
Paul: This was my childhood, slightly more for the other two guys, but my childhood was growing up with this kind of constant nagging fear that any minute we were going to be nuked. And I was going to die of radiation poisoning. Weird.
Andy: Here we go, I found it. It was called the day after it was a 1983 television film. “It postulates a fictional war between NATO forces and the Warsaw pact that rapidly escalates into a full-scale nuclear exchange.”
Paul: Well what you are doing is the right idea Andy. You move to Australia you survive the nuclear holocaust and then live in Mad Max’s world.
Andy: I wasn’t a big fan of the last Mad Max film to be honest. I would rather live in Crocodile Dundee world.
Paul: Well yes I know. I think would all prefer not to have the nuclear post-apocalyptic Holocaust but it doesn’t always work that way does it.
Andy: Well no it doesn’t. Are you trying to conversation steer this conversation rather elegantly back to the topic of me going to Australia?
Paul: It’s not really a topic as such, it’s just more waffle but I am quite interested.
Marcus: When are you going Andy?
Andy: I am waiting for visas. So it could be any time in the next few weeks.
Ryan: Is this permanent?
Andy: Umm, it’s a six month contract. But obviously like all these things there’s an option to extend it on mutual agreement. So who knows. But I’m going to go to be head of design at a company in Sydney.
Paul: That’s very exciting
Andy: It is very exciting. I’ve wanted to live in Australia for a very long time so I think this is going to be a nice opportunity. And I’m really looking forward, actually, because of the year that we’ve just had, I’m really looking forward to actually having a job. Which I’m not just taking it lightly and thinking it’ll be a 9-to–5 easy ride. Not going to be like that at all but I’m actually looking forward to not having the daily stress of finding work, doing work and keeping people happy, blah, blah, blah, blah. You know, getting the money in and doing all that kind of stuff. So yes, very much looking forward to that.
Paul: I just like the idea of going somewhere new and trying something new for a while. Do you know what I mean? That’s just completely different life for just a little while to see what it’s like.
Andy: Yep, absolutely. And you know we are lucky because, unlike Ryan, our kids are a lot older. Well, we’ve only got the one. Well, one that I’m going to admit to. (Chuckles) He doesn’t listen to this podcast do you Alex?! But, you know he’s off doing his thing so we do have the freedom and the ability to go and do these kind of things. So I am really, really looking forward to it. I’m kind of in limbo land the moment because I got a couple of jobs on which I am trying to squeeze into the time before we go.
Marcus: Are you going to keep Stuff and Nonsense going?
Andy: Yes, actually. As far as the outside world is concerned nothing much is going to change. Sue is going to run it from Australia and we have got a really nice team of freelancers who are going to basically take over. And she is going to project manage it.
Paul: I think that sounds a brilliant idea.
Andy: And we’ve got some things like the style guide templates that I mentioned in the Christmas show. We should have those ready for sale in the next few weeks and she is going to be running that side of the business. Residual income, blah, blah, blah. So yes, that’s going to be what we are going to do.
Paul: Sounds like a smashing plan. Can I come and live in your basement?
Andy: You can definitely come.
Paul: But not live in your basement?.
Andy: We might not have a basement. I tell you what, it’s flipping, it might be a cardboard box. It is flipping expensive in Sydney.
Paul: Oh is it really, in Sydney.
Andy: I think it might even be the most expensive city in the world. So, a two bedroomed apartment, because we going to want to bedrooms for people coming out and staying. So, a two bedroomed department in the sort of areas that we are talking about. You know, fashionable, trendy, hipster areas. Will cost about $850 per week.
Marcus: What’s that in English?
Andy: Well, that’s about half. So about £450 a week.
Marcus: That’s not that expensive.
Paul: Well that’s not too bad.
Andy: Isn’t it?
Marcus: You wanted two-bedroom flat in the middle of London, Chelsea say. Two or three thousand a week.
Andy: Oh, I don’t know. You see last time I actually… Bloody hell. Last time I rented a flat was in Nottingham in 1988 and it cost me £50 a month.
Paul: (laughter) You might be slight out of date then Andy.
Paul: Just slightly. It sounded a lot when you said it in dollars but when I realised that you were not talking American dollars. That’s…
Andy: No, Aussie dollars.
Paul: Yeah, no. Suck it up, get over yourself.
Andy: So “ner”, Brexit.
Paul: Brexit. So let’s move on then. It’s probably time that we moved on from the misery and pain to talk about a sponsor.
Andy: Ooo, who is our sponsor this week Paul?
Paul: Same people as last week Andy, so that’s very boring for you. So I’m still going to speak at the awwwards conference. Nearly upon us now by the time this goes out. So your last opportunity to come and hear me speak and I’m hosting as well. Which always, sorry, this is on… the workshop days are on 1st February and the talks are on the second and third of February in London. Why I agreed to do this is quite beyond me because speaking, fine. Hosting an event… Have you ever hosted an event Andy? Have you ever been the M.C.?
Andy: Umm, have I. Yes, once.
Paul: I frigging hate it.
Andy: I didn’t enjoy it much either.
Paul: It’s hard work. Not only do you have to pay attention for the whole day but the worst part of it, right, is that you have to know the speakers names. And this just fills me with dread. So you’ve got some speakers you’ve got Brendan Dawes. I know Brendan great, no problem. Brendan Dawes who is a designer and does really cool artistic stuff as well. So he’s going to be speaking. But then you’ve got someone, here we go, called Keiichi Matsuda. I think, I mean the spelling…
Andy: Oh, I know him.
Paul: I mean is that vaguely right? How I said his name?
Andy: I don’t know. I just made that up. I have no idea who the person is.
Paul: So it’s K, E, I, I, C, H, I. I mean that his first name. And then M, A, T, S, U, D, A, is his second. I mean it looks like he’s an amazing guy he does hyperreality design. And film making. That sounds really artistic and cool. So I’m looking forward to hearing his stuff but I’ve got to say his name! And then the other one is Adrian, no, that’s all right and cope with Adrian. I reckon this is Zumbrunnen, Zumbrunnen?
Paul: Zumbrunnen, Zumbrunnen.
Marcus: Paul, Paul, why don’t you just ask them? How they pronounce their names?
Paul: Because the minute they say it back to me I then instantly forget.
Marcus: You go deaf. What?!
Paul: I do! Seriously. It’s like this trigger. So, Adrian Zumbrunnen who is a design tinkerer at Google. They’ve got some really interesting guys. I’m quite concerned that I’m speaking at this event. Because I am so dull in comparison to the rest of them.
Andy: That’s right.
Ryan: Why don’t you just make up superhero names for each one of them. You’ve got Superman already.
Paul: Oh, I love it.
Ryan: So you just get the first names and then give them a superhero last name but then do it with every one so that you’re not discriminating against anybody in particular.
Paul: Yeah, I love it. So anyway, or I could just call them speaker one, speaker two, speaker three,
Marcus: Or just Adrian.
Paul: Yeah, but that doesn’t help me with K,G.
Marcus: The other one!
Paul: K, E, I, I, C, H, I. I just give up.
Andy: Is this a sponsor read?
Paul: Yes, sorry it was. So yeah, there’s some of the speakers that are going to be there! It’s going to be good and if for no other reason to se me humiliate myself. You can get tickets with a discount code on Eventbrite by using Boagworld. So to find out more about that and to use that Boagworld event code to come and join us, go to Boag.world/joinme. So okay, that is that sponsor thank you Andy for getting me back on track there.
Round Table Discussion
Paul: In fact, Andy why don’t you kick it off with your book of the week?
Andy: Yes it is. It’s my book of the week. (long pause)
Andy: This is where you insert, yes, this is where you insert some kind of musical interlude, maybe.
Marcus: Really, okay.
Paul: I just clicked a button to do that but it didn’t work.
Andy: Perhaps like a little mini jingle.
Paul: No, it’s not working. (Music starts) No, that’s no good. That’s terrible.
Marcus: Sad music. Rather appropriate for today.
Paul: I don’t know how to stop it either. I think it goes on loop endlessly.
Andy: What a fabulous podcast.
Paul: Oh there we go. (Music ends)
Andy: Let me carry on, I was gonna speak over the music. So what I would like to do this series is to talk about a series of books that have been kind of inspiring me design-wise. Over the past kind of year or so. Because I’ve been spending quite a lot of money on books and magazines as I think I’ve mentioned. And last week I mentioned “The graphic language of Neville Brody.” Which I hope everybody went out and bought. Although it is quite hard to get hold of. Following on from that this week is quite an expensive book actually. It is £45 at the moment on Amazon but…
Marcus: My word!
Andy: It is well worth it. It is a monograph, is one of those nice phaidon monographs of another art director called Alexey Brodovitch and although I can still just about remember thinking about Neville Brody’s stuff for “The Face” back in the early 80s I am not old enough, despite what people might say, I am not old enough to remember Brodovitchs work because he was most famous for being a designer and art director at Harper’s Bazaar magazine. In 1934 to 1958. And not having a graphic design background a lot of this stuff is really new to me so I thought I would spend some money and pick up some books and this was one of them and I and absolutely obssessed with Brodovitchs work. There are some things in this book that I find just massively inspirational. Not only the work that he did and the layouts, the elegance, the beautiful layouts that he came up with for Harper’s Bazaar, but what’s really, really interesting is some of his sketches and workings out for the layouts. He had a particular approach where because the layout was so kind of intrinsically linked to the content of the page, that being written content and photography or illustration or something like that, he would start with the illustrations or start with the photography and then just literally scribble out lines where the blocks of content would be. And I think this is fascinating because what we tend to do in web design is we tend to, you know, pick a grid, something off-the-shelf usually. You know, 12 or 16 or 24, God forbid, columns. And then just kind of pour our content into it. And I think thats one of the reasons why we always just end up with similar looking layouts for everything. Whereas with this because he’s starting off with the art directed subject matter, these are layouts that have so much more energy to them. You know, they are so much more fluid. This approach is absolutely fascinating and the book is great. There’s more than just the Harpers Bazaar stuff but it’s the bizarre than just the Harper’s Bazaar stuff but it is the Bazaar that is, I think, some of the most interesting. I highly recommend it. It is called “Alexey Brodovitch”. It is by Kerry William Purcell and it is a Phaidon book and I think you should go out and buy it. There is a link in the show notes.
Paul: I think the other thing that is very interesting about work of that era is when you look at it it is very apparent that it is constrained by the technological limitations of the time. So you look at it and you know that this has been produced in the pre-computer era because it’s got almost a collage-y kind of feel to it. That in itself is, I think, quite an interesting lesson for us as we stand today that I think we think that we are not being constrained by technology, you know, by the inherent layout tools that have been available to us on the web but we very much are. I think we are going to look back at today in, you know, 50 years or whatever, and think how the work that we’ve produced today is very much being constrained by the layout tools that we’ve got. And that is why am so interested in what something like the grid is going to bring to us because it is going to allow us to do things that we haven’t previously been able to easily do. I think we are going to realise how perhaps mount narrow minded we were in our design layouts at this time. Because of the technology.
Andy: I couldn’t agree more.
Paul: So, there we go. That is Andy’s recommendation. That’s a good one Andy. I’ve only got vague memories of him. All I know is that he was involved with Bazaar. But I will definitely check out that book. You are re-inspiring my design childhood, well not my childhood, my design early years. It’s nice.
Andy: Well hopefully this is going to inspire other people to go out there and look outside the web. Next time you sit down to make a design don’t look for inspiration at what somebody else has done. You know, don’t follow some UX’s lead. Go out and buy some beautiful books about art direction.
Paul: Hmmm. You know, that’s always been true hasn’t it. It’s like I always used to like architecture for that kind of reason because you get some really interesting stuff from architecture. And the other thing, because I’m much more of an information designer rather than aa creative designer end that you do. I always used to be obsessed by signage. Everything from road signs to house numbers. House numbers I used to collect house numbers. Because of the different typography and the different textures. Look outside the web, absolutely. So from that let’s go more technical. Ryan, what have you got for us today?
Ryan: I don’t know which one to pick. I’ve got two things that I will try and pick one.
Paul: Well we have probably got time for both if you want because we are down Sam aren’t we.
Ryan: Okay, well they are both called Craft. Funnily enough. One is a CMS, seeing as I am the developer I am allowed to talk about developing. Have you guys heard of Craft?
Ryan: Craft CMS.
Paul: Yes, I think so.
Marcus: I can’t think where from.
Ryan: So CraftCMS, built by guys at a company called pixel and tonic and they… historically, they have built a couple of plug-ins for expression engine years ago. One was called matrix and one was called player. And these plug-ins were so good that if you installed expression engine you installed these two plug-ins because it just made expression engine better. Eventually they decided to build CMS around these two plug-ins. So we have been using this CMS ever since we started NoDivide and it still surprises me how many people I talk to that have just not heard of it yet. Because it has got a growing community of people who are using it and I absolutely love it. It is kind of this non-… Really flexible non-opinionated CMS. So it doesn’t force you to do your front end in any particular way. You can build all your templates statically and then just drop in. It uses a template and language called Twig so you just drop in your twig texts to plug your content into your template so it’s not… It doesn’t force you to do things in a certain way. It’s really un-opinionated. Unlike something like WordPress where you have got to then hack your templates up and put in your PHP stuff and do your loops and override WordPress’s default output and all that horrible stuff. It just doesn’t do any of that. So you have got all the flexibility of building all these really custom forms within the actual admin system so everything is really tailored exactly to how you need to structure the content on the page. It’s got like a live preview see so you can be editing your content on one side and actually see the page building itself up live. And then it is really easy to integrate, so it is really easy for developers, it is really easy for clients and we absolutely love it so I thought I’d mention that one today.
Paul: I am sitting here watching the little video loop thing that they have got on the homepage of it working. And I’ve got to say it looks kind of quite client friendly as well.
Paul: It’s not too intimidating is it.
Ryan: We’ve got… One of our clients is Charity Bank, so they are a bank that only work with charities that do loans and ISA’s specifically for charities. So they are not particularly tech savvy people, they are bankers. They use this and we kind of give them an intro into using it and thy’ll come back every now and again and ask how they can do this particular thing but they have just been away with it. They are absolutely fine with it. So the nice thing you can, as you build up these forms, obviously if you’re watching this little animation, as you are building up these forms you can put your title or your inputs and you can put descriptions in to explain what to do. And it’s got very… all the kind of… If you’re doing a blog you can break your content into little blocks and then drag and drop them to move your content around, for blog posts and stuff. It’s just really nice, really flexible. So I absolutely love it so I always recommend this to people. And this is what we always say we use with clients.
Paul: What it was built on?
Ryan: Its PHP but you don’t have to write any PHP to use it. So it’s just kind of powered by PHP. When you actually need templates it’s all Twig which is just an open source, again, PHP template language but obviously it’s just tagged. You don’t need to read or write PHP to do it. You can extend it by writing your own custom plug-ins. There are a few plug-ins out there that are really good for it and stuff. But yeah, if you’re not a PHP person it’s… I know some companies who are like Ruby on rails. And they build Ruby on rails products but they use Craft for their website because it is kind of the best CMS that we have found. They have got a first pipe plug-in as well called Craft Commerce so you can actually… It just extends the CMS into an e-commerce platform as well. Which we’ve not used yet actually but looks really good. It does multilingual out-of-the-box so you can create different multilingual versions of a particular page. Yes, it’s just got loads of really nice features. Like assets images, you when you upload images you can send them straight off to S3 so they are on your S3 storage. Lots of little features that are really just worth a look.
Paul: Ah, it is worth a look. What was the other one? That you had there.
Marcus: Hang on there, whoa, whoa, whoa.
Paul: Oh, sorry.
Marcus: Ryan, you mentioned that the community is growing. Is that many thousands or is it…
Ryan: I don’t know the exact number but I just know that they have a very active discussion forum so when you ask a question people get back to you. This is a paid CMS so there is a free version if you’re just using it for your own personal site. But it is licence based so their support as well, they get back to you usually within an hour. They are really quick. But they say, obviously, within 24 hours or 48-hour is or whatever it is. But they do get back to you really quick. There’s a website called straight up craft which has got loads of professionals on there so you sign up you put your name on there so people who are looking for a craft developer they can go on there and find you. And they also share plug-ins and kind of tutorials and tips and things like that on there. So that’s a good place to look if you are looking for craft person.
Marcus: The reason why was asking that is that business continuity is something that we… Whenever… Particularly… Most of our commercial clients want to know is “So what happens if you guys all get run over by a bus?” And obviously that’s one of the reasons why we moved away from our own proprietary system to Drupal because there are millions of Drupal agencies around the world who could pick up the work that we do. So that’s why I was just asking. What would happen if NoDivide were run over by a bus. Could somebody else pick up your work?
Ryan: Yes, absolutely. You know, that’s one of the things that we always assure our clients as well. And that’s why we use a more off-the-shelf CMS. But yes, there are people out there, there are a lot of people using this, there are people who have been fans of pixel and tonic before they actually built Craft because they loved the plug-ins that they made. So it’s been around a few years now but as I say there’s a site called Straight up craft which I am sure Paul will be able to link to in the show notes. And there’s a community there and people that you can, if the worst happens and NoDivide blows up or Headscape blows up or whatever blows up, I don’t know why we say blowup but you know, there are other people out there that you can use.
Paul: I’m looking at the community section on the main craft website and they’ve got meet ups all around the world. Which is quite encouraging. I guess the only concern, isn’t it, when you go with a commercial CMS like this is potentially how stable are they as a company if they went away, what would happen to the product. But the chances are if it’s got vibrant community behind it it gets open sourced and that’s a risk with any CMS. You never know for sure do you?
Ryan: You’ve also got to think though the lifetime of a website on any site. You’re only really worried for, in reality, you only really worried for maybe maximum of five years maybe.
Andy: No. No, no, no!! This was going to be my question to you Ryan. We’ve been running the Stuff and Nonsense website on Expression Engine for about the last 15 years. (Laughter) I’m sure it’s not quite that long but it’s been a long, long time. Originally when we started it was on Movable Type. Remember that kids?
Ryan: Yeah, yeah.
Paul: Oh, yeah.
Andy: And then we switched it to Expression engine when that became quite fashionable back in the early days. One of the reasons why I haven’t switched it to Craft or Perch or anything else is URLs. You know, I’ve got, I don’t blog as much as I used to, but back in the day I’ve got quite a lot of blog posts with URLs that have been nicely indexed by Google, et cetera, et cetera. And I don’t want to bugger that up. So switching to another CMS, it’s not just the implementation of a new design and maybe getting your content in there. It’s how do I maintain all of those URLs?
Ryan: Well, with something like Craft you can actually completely control the the slug structure so you just need to match, so you know if every URL actually leads to a blog post or something then you need to match the structure within Craft with whatever you’ve got currently got existing so that the URL is the same and then when you portal all your data across the URL should work fine.
Andy: So it uses the same kind of templates and group structure as Expression engine?
Paul: You can set it up to. It’s what he’s saying.
Ryan: You’ve got to… So yeah, maybe even more flexibility because you can… you’ve got kind of all these different sections types. You’ve got channels and singles, like single pages, channels, then structures. All these different ways of structuring your data so you just find the one that matches how you have historically had your posts and everything and then you just say what the URL is going to be. You can structure it. You got complete flexibility. It doesn’t force you to have a certain, again, like I say it’s un-opinionated so it doesn’t force you to say right this is the way your URL’s are. Lump it. You can do whatever you want.
Andy: What about things like the posts themselves. Would I be able to easily import all my stuff from Expression engine?
Ryan: Yes, there’s some import plug-ins which basically you would need to output them from Expression engine into something like a CSV file and then import them into Craft. And there’s like a plug-in where it will map across the… So when it creates a CSV file, obviously each kind of separation is a column and it will say which bits of data map to which fields in Craft and then it imports them in and pre-populates all your entries. You might have to go through and do a little bit of tweaking and filling in extra bits that you didn’t have before. Or, you just specifically say right, this is all the data I need and you build a form just for that and import it straight across so you are done. You know.
Andy: You know what, I don’t know why I’m asking because I’m not going to be doing it anyway. I should just hire you guys to do it for me!
Paul: Yeah, that’s the answer isn’t it Andy. I’ve got to say that’s the trouble with people in our position. I look at Boagworld and that website has been going for donkeys years and it’s got so much customisation. Some of which Ryan built, you know, that it’s almost quite intimidating the idea of moving it anywhere else. But sooner or later I know going to have to. Because like you say Ryan, something like WordPress which is what I am on, it is not the most flexible of content management systems and you seem like you spend a lot of your time fighting with the thing getting it to do what you wanted to do.
Ryan: I think that’s the core thing that I would have to say about Craft is the really nice thing about it is that it is so flexible and un-opinionated that you’re not fighting with it. It works with you. I’ve worked with a lot of CMS’s and I’ve reviewed a lot of CMSs and I just realised it’s nearly 6 years ago that I wrote a cover feature for net mag where I looked at 25 different CMSs and tryed to find a pro and con for each one of them. Never do that because that was just like “Oh” but yes, I’ve looked under the hood of a lot of CMS’s and this is the best one that I have found.
Paul: Cool, okay Ryan you think you’re going to need to save your other one because everybody had a lot of questions for you. So save the other one for next week. Which is fine. Marcus what have you got for us?
Marcus: Hello Paul. (Cough) Excuse me, I’ve got some coughing for you. I was asked in the Boagworld slack channel about how… Basically for some more information about how Headscape does support. We mentioned time banks on a previous podcast and somebody else said “can you tell me a little bit more about it.” And I thought “I know I’ll talk about it rather than write reams and reams in the slack channel.” So I’m going to be talking about that. Basically, at Headscape we provide support to our clients on a “If they want it basis” and pretty much all of them do. Particularly those who we do technical backend work for. But in about the last kind of five years ago, rather than doing kind of annual support contracts we decided to move over to a way of organising support through people buying chunks of time effectively, called time banks. We have found that people like this because there is no end date on them. And I think it’s just purely they like it because they don’t feel like they’re being trapped in any way. But what normally happens is that people use up the time bank in exactly the same amount of time rather as if there was a limit on it. So it’s just feels a bit more friendly a way of doing things. So that’s one of the things we do. We charge upfront for all of the time. And we will work out what is a kind of relevant amount of time for whoever the client is. Obviously if we are doing a lot of support, a lot of tweaking and a lot of complex backend site chances are they will need more support than a client that we’ve just done some design work for, that would probably be quite limited. People buy credits from us rather than money. We do this because one credit will equal one hour of time at kind of normal rates but if there is an urgent piece of work that is required then we can charge more credits for the same amount of time. Which works quite nicely. We are all dying today aren’t we (cough).
Paul: Because winter sucks that’s why.
Marcus: Yes well I think, I’ve got a friend who’s had a cold for three months now. So I can’t complain. And that brings me onto how do we provide… what are the kind of response times for all this kind of thing. Because I mentioned the urgent and non-urgent. This is quite a tricky thing if you run an agency because obviously got ongoing projects which are using up the vast majority of your time. And there’s a lot of pressure usually on getting things delivered by a certain time. But your clients that you are not working on with for major projects will also have stuff that comes up “Can you just do this, we need this doing” or “something is broken.” So it’s quite a difficult thing to manage that. What we’ve done is to basically have one day a week where our developers basically have a fixed day. So these kinds of non-urgent but “can you fix this, we need to tweak this,” those kinds of tasks get saved up to be done one day a week. Which seems to work quite well. It’s not ideal but it is certainly better than “we’ll just fit it in when we can.” The next point that relates to that is the response times. What we have found here is that we are very clear about what you can do in this area so don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Don’t say “yeah, we’ll respond in two hours” when, on a Saturday evening you can’t. So you need to be very clear in your agreements with your clients about what your working hours are and that you can’t work outside your working hours. Some people do, some people provide 24/7 support but we are just not big enough to do that so the message there, the tip there, if you like, is make sure you are very clear about when you can provide that support. For example at Headscape we nearly always, I don’t think we have ever not, closed between Christmas and New Year. So we need to ensure that we put that into our agreements with our clients that we are going to be closed between this period. We can say kind of off-line as it were that of course we will be keeping an eye on email if something major happens then we can dive in. But when not going to make that an official part of any contract with you. So final point on that, is if somebody has bought a bunch of time off you which might be a months worth of, maybe up to a months worth of time then it is not necessary just to be used for you to react to their requirements. There is nothing wrong at all for making suggestions about how your clients might want to spend the money that they have already spent with you. I will often suggest that we do annual reviews which out of that annual review there might come a whole bunch of stuff that we can then work on over the next year. So that’s me today, support.
Paul: I think support is that kind of complicated thing which I don’t think a lot of us have quite got right. Because it strikes me that even with something like time banks, you know, I use time banks and I like time banks but it encourages clients to be very careful how they spend their money with you. Which obviously is a sensible thing to do in one regard. But what I’m saying is there’s got to be a solution which encourages the continual evolution of websites in a more open way. You know I’ve got this big thing about, you know, I don’t like the way that clients go through these boom bust cycles of redesigning the website every few years and they should be evolving them continually. And I can’t help but think that time banks are definitely a step towards that but, I haven’t got the answer to this, but I feel like there should be something else that doesn’t make them penny pinch the whole time over, you know, “Should I do this or should I actually spend money on the website, is it worth evolving it over time.” Do you know what I’m getting at?
Marcus: It’s odd though because some clients do do that, it’s normally the more charity related clients that say to me even though we’ve got an agreement setup that is… They’ve bought a bunch of time and they can basically just spend that however they want. They want me to quote on every little last thing. “I got to go and speak to my manager about it” and I’m thinking “you’ve already paid us for this, use it.” Whereas others just go “Yep, go, go, go” and then I’ll say to them “Oh, we’re just about to run out of credits.” “Right, by another X amount” and just it never stops. I think it’s about how people, how they view their role internally it’s not necessarily how we are setting up. I mean I suppose we could do things to encourage them to spend their money better than some of them do. But yeah, the two examples I’m thinking of are actually both charities. We’ve got one charity where we are just continually doing stuff all the time, all the time, mostly driven by them some stuff we will make recommendations on. They absolutely view this as an absolute necessity that they continue to spend on an ongoing basis whereas others are just super careful and it’s, you know. I haven’t got the answer on that one I’m afraid.
Andy: If you’ve got a client that’s getting you to do stuff all the time what is the difference, I can see there is a difference, but what would you think is the real semantic difference between just invoicing them for an hourly rate at the end of every job versus them kind of prepaying with a time bank at the beginning? Because that’s pretty much the same thing isn’t it? You’re just getting them to prepay for the work. Which is a good thing.
Marcus: Yeah, you’re being paid upfront, you’re also agreeing in the majority of situations we are doing the work on a time and materials basis. Which you could agree “look, we’re going to do some time and materials work and we will bill you at the end of every month.” Sometimes we do do that. I think it’s just purely it helps us from a cash flow point of view and it helps our clients know that they’ve got all that effort in the bank that they can use whenever they want. They can spend it all this month. That would be hard from our scheduling point of view but in theory they could. Or they can spend it over the next two years. So I think that’s the reason for doing it rather than having it as a kind of separate project mentality.
Paul: I think also it kind of helps from their internal accounting point of view as well. That a lot of organisations would prefer to kind of do one large payment where they only have to go through procurement once and that kind of thing, than do lots of drip feeding where they have to keep going back. So I think it’s a convenience thing depending on the size of the client. But you know, every client is different, every client wants to work in a different way. I’ve got a small number of clients who just want to pay me a flat fee per month and I’m available whenever they need me. You know, that might be some months they might not contact me at all and I walk away with a lot of money. Other times they’ll use me tons in a month and I’ll lose money on it. But different clients want different things. And that’s kind of okay.
Andy: Well that’s an interesting thing because I’ve got send an email out today to one of our clients in the Middle East who we… Lovely little company… We designed thier new website. We’re not building it, our friend Jo is building it but we designed all of the creative and they want us to carry on doing print collaterals as well because you know, they make a lot of stuff they make everything from those big roll up banners to envelopes and all kinds of stuff. And that’s easy stuff for us to do, we like doing that kind of thing. But how do you charge for it do you charge for it on an ad hoc basis would you say to somebody “You can put you on retainer” and we can just kind of do that maybe even at a discounted rate or something like that. But I’ve always, always struggled with the retainer idea, I’ve never really got to grips with doing that properly. Whereas if I was to say to them “okay, here is a block of discounted time that you are buying upfront, we get the benefit of the cash flow you get the benefit of a slightly discounted rate and then we will just keep knocking it off the clock.” That makes a nice way of working I think.
Marcus: That’s kind of how we work Andy, although we don’t do discount upfront. We used to but we kind of thought, you know, we tried it out and the people are happy to pay the standard rate? And well they are. So…
Paul: Also the danger with that, it’s not a danger as such, but it’s a weird feeling that you feel… You end up feeling like you are doing work that you are not going to be paid for because you are being paid in it advance. Which is nice, so you say it’s good for cash flow but it’s actually not necessarily good for cash flow. In the sense that you’ve got in a big wad of money and you have then got to deliver the work on it and so there is this period of time where you… where your time is tied up but you’ve not got money coming in. It’s all swings and roundabouts from that point of view.
Marcus: But we don’t… I’m just thinking, at the moment we’ve got a client that has asked us to do, basically, very similar to what you’ve just said, a bunch of print work. And it’s like “Err, we don’t really do print work but you know, one of our designers Leigh is perfectly competent in that area so Yeah, okay.” So we ended up agreeing to just an ongoing time and materials thing where we bill at the end of every month. So, it is whatever is most appropriate.
Paul: I think the answer Andy, in your situation is I would go back to the client and offer them options. And simply say to them “look, either we can do this on a retainer arrangement if you think you are going to have sufficient work on an ongoing basis. Or we can do this on a time bank or we can do it after the fact..” Just find whatever is most convenient to them. But if they go for the retainer option I would be tempted not to do that out of the gate. I would say “let’s see how we go for 2/3 months” or whatever because only then are you going to get a sufficient idea of how much work they have got coming your way.
Andy: Ahh, that’s a very good point.
Paul: Before you can then… Otherwise, how the hell do you work out what your retainer values should be? Do you know what I mean?
Andy: Ah, no, you see that’s what I’ve been struggling with so it was worth listening to all this waffle. to get to that point in the podcast.
Paul: Well there we go.
Andy: A little gem.
Paul: Well that’s a little gem
Andy: A little pearl
Ryan: Here’s a question about the retainer stuff. You do you set a kind of like minimum agreement period. So like you would agree to so much for you of a retainer for so many months.?
Paul: Yeah, with a retainer arrangement that I do I set a minimum of six months and the reason I say that is because I know… ’Course my retainers are consultancy based. So essentially someone is hiring or putting me on retainer so that they can get access to my knowledge and my experience at any time. They can Skype me, they can drag me into a meeting if they are having a meeting, whatever. So they are paying for that and so when they first take me on obviously they’ve already got a load of things in their head that they have been struggling with that has made them come to the conclusion that they need a retainer that they need somebody to help. So in the first month or two you are just inundated with stuff. So whatever rate you set … You are going to lose money on those first couple of months. So that’s why I say well, it’s a minimum of six months because I know that over about that period of time things settle down. So yeah, that’s why I have a minimum amount. And people get that, they understand that, they’re fine with that.
Ryan: How do you as a consultant and as a one-man band how do you deal with retainer saturation, obviously there’s only so many retainers that you can do before you can’t do anything else.
Paul: I mean I am still finding my way with this. The truth is not many clients want it because they are a little bit nervous at the idea and wonder whether they’re going to get their value out of it and all the rest of it. So I’ve actually… I only ever would have two retainers at once. For me and the kind of amount I want to be working and the workload that I have. I think Jonathan Stark is the guy to follow about this. He is obsessed with moving away from this idea of charging per hour. He’s been on the show talking about it before now. I think he works on the basis of having three, if I remember correctly. So he has a little bit more than I do but his clients are huge clients. And his retainer amounts are very high as well. So essentially that is almost his full-time business those three clients. As I understand it anyway.
Ryan: When there’s just one of you, or depending on how big you want to get. Because for us at NoDivide if we get enough retainers it justifies getting in additional staff. So is almost constant balancing act. It is interesting though isn’t it because theres different attitudes from different clients depending on what type of business they have these days. So like if you’ve got a client who who makes… all their business online, they work from home and their business is online, they are more open to that idea of a more continual development generally anyway that I’ve found. More iteration and you know, let’s see how things are going and then we’ll make these adjustments and will analyse this. You can get really big companies who have got all these ideas and you sit down with them and you plan it out and you say “okay we can actually plan out and almost like a design and development roadmap over the next 12 months and we will do it in these chunks” and then the directors come along and say “oh no there is a fixed budget of this much money” and they can’t do it all for that much money then the works can’t get done. Well it’s like, one, you can’t get it done in that timeframe and two, that much money won’t cover everything that you want to do. It’s an old mindset whereas your website or your online presence or whatever you’re doing online is just an addendum to the way you’ve always made money which is, you know, whatever you’d normally do like in a shop or something like that. Their main business isn’t online so their attitude is completely different.
Paul: The environment that I think seems to work quite well for the retainers for both agencies and consultants like myself is where they already have an in-house team, right. But inevitably the in-house team is under resourced because in-house teams are typically set up to handle business as usual. So typically, you know, helping build small extensions to the website or helping to support the marketing campaign or to approve content or whatever else. These kind of day-to-day activities. And so they have very little time to actually work on the kind of ongoing development roadmap of the website or to put in place the governance or the strategy or any of these other things. But they are all aware enough to know that that work is really important but they can’t extend their teams to do that work because management don’t like taking on headcount. Because headcount is a permanent commitment. So a kind of halfway house to that is a retainer arrangement where essentially you are effectively expanding your in-house team using an outside supplier and kind of working then on an ongoing basis with that outside supplier. And that kinda works really well and where I’ve done that it’s been absolutely great. I’ve kind of been able to help subsidise and support the lack of internal resources and yes, I know of a lot of agencies that have worked on a similar basis that essentially are selling themselves as almost outsource your in-house team. I know that sounds weird but you kind of know what I’m getting at. Anyway, I think we should probably ought to wrap the show up. I was going to do mine but I can save mine till next week because I think that’s been a really good discussion this week.
I do want to quickly mention our other sponsor which is Proposify. So Proposify enables us to say goodbye to those kind of complex tools like Indesign when we are creating our proposals. Because we want our proposals to look great when we are sending them out but we don’t want to necessarily spend ages faffing around in Indesign or some other tool in order to make them look great. Well that’s where a tool like Proposify can help. For a start it is great and supports some great typography because it ties in with the Google font library. So you’ve got a choice of over 800 fonts so you can get to use your own corporate branding in terms of fonts but also you can customise the stylesheet. You can change the colours, sizes, alignment, line height, all the things that you want to do with your typography to make it look great. It will deal with that. It is also good for things like pricing tables and all of that kind of complexity, it makes them easy to read and you can style everything about your tables that you put into them to make them look just the way you want. You can add pictures, obviously, to your proposals, infographics and even video. They now let you put in which is great. And you can change the way that those images are laid out and presented. So lots of flexibility there you can do great cover pages as well to have real impact. If you’re a designer obviously you want your proposals to look great and a cover page is a great way of doing that. But the other thing that I really like about Proposify is that actually you can create common elements that are used across every single page so headers, footers, you know, page numbers, company details, styles, all that kind of stuff you can get repeated across multiple pages. You can add branding across the whole of your proposal really simply and there are loads of… They’ve got a great gallery of beautiful templates if you’re not a designer and you just want to grab a template and go kind of thing. And any one of their starting points or their templates are effectively just starting points. You can customise them as much as you need to. So if you want to make a good impression with your clients then Proposify is something that is worth checking out and it is also… I’ve got to say it really wows clients when you can send them an interactive, mobile friendly proposal that also prints really well as well. So check that out at Proposify.biz/Boagworld. That’s P,R,O,P,O,S,I,F,Y.biz/Boagworld.
Okay, so that about wraps us up for this week’s show. Ryan, where can people find out more about you?
Ryan: You can find out more about NoDivide, my company, Nodividestudios.com and me personally on Twitter @Ryanhavoc.
Paul: Okay, Marcus what about you?
Marcus: Headscape.co.uk and @Marcus67.
Paul: And Andy?
Andy: You can get me at stuffandnonsense.co.uk or on Twitter @malarkey
Paul: And me @boagworld on twitter and boagworld.com or if you want to see my work stuff then Boagworks.com. Another thing I wanted to mention just before we go, I think it was Marcus earlier mentioned the Boagworld slack channel where you can make suggestions about what we cover in the show or just ask questions or really just a nice quiet place where you can meet with other like-minded people and chat. Rather than Twitter where you shout at one another and get angry. So it’s a more civilised place to hang out on the web. If you want to join us there, in fact I think all of us, Ryan are you in our slack channel?
Ryan: Yeah, I am I’ve just got you muted.
Paul: You see, that’s harsh isn’t it. But everyone else is in there. You can get to that by going to Boagworld.com/slacking. Marcus, your joke, nearly forgot your joke!
Marcus: I have a request actually because I haven’t really got any jokes and within the Boagworld slack channel there is a channel called bad jokes I think. Yep. Please put some good jokes in there for me please, pretty please. So this week, who was Mary Berry’s grandma?
Andy: I don’t know Marcus who was Mary Berry’s grandma?
Marcus: Elderberry. (Laughter)
Paul: Actually like that one.
Andy: That’s quite cute actually.
Paul: Did you get that from slack channel?
Marcus: No, no. There was an old one from Darryl Snow who used to send me jokes. But I haven’t had any recently. Nobody sends me jokes any more.
Paul: Oh, Ryan’s just joined the bad jokes slack channel so there you go.
Ryan: I’ve got loads I can give you.
Paul: Oh, there you go. There is a good man. All right, well that wraps us up for this week, good show, thank you for joining us sorry for the depressing start. I’ve woken up as the show has gone on. So join us next week for more misery and pain on the Boagworld podcast, thanks for listening and goodbye.
Links mentioned in the show
- Awwwards Conference tickets at Boag.world/joinme
- Andys book recomendation from last week – “The graphic language of Neville Brody”
- Andys Recomended book – “Alexey Brodovitch”
- Charity Bank
- Ruby on rails
- straight up craft
- pixel and tonic
- Andys Website – Stuff and Nonsense
- Expression Engine
- Jonathan Stark
- Ryan Taylor – Nodividestudios.com
- Marcus Lillington – Headscape.co.uk
- Paul Boag – Boagworld.com
- Paul Boag, work – Boagworks.com