Posts Tagged ‘Business’

Manage Your Business on Your Mac & iPhone Giveaway

July 8th, 2009 No comments
Comments are now disabled. Stay tuned for the follow-up post announcing the winners.

Marketcircle, a company who won an Apple Design Award this year in WWDC09, has teamed up with Six Revisions to give away three packages of the Daylite 3 productivity suite bundled with the Daylite Touch.


For those unfamiliar with Daylite, it is a business productivity suite designed to help you manage your business and your team: project collaboration, shared calendars, task delegation, and sales tracking, you can do it all from within Daylite’s super intuitive interface. With the award-winning Daylite Touch iPhone app (which won a Macworld Best of Show award), you can do all of this from within your iPhone.

Three randomly selected lucky winners will win a full license of Daylite 3 AND a one-year subscription to Daylite Touch.
How to Participate

To participate, leave a comment about one of the following topics:

    * How do you manage your business and schedule?
    * What tips do you have for being more productive?
    * What kind of hardware/software do you need in order to be productive?

Make sure to leave a valid email address when filling out the comment form because this is how we will contact you once you’ve won.
Giveaway Details

This giveaway will end on July 6, 2009 after which commenting on this post will be disabled. You can only participate once. Please don’t forget to put a valid email address in the comment form email field so that we can contact you if you’ve won.
About Marketcircle Inc.

Marketcircle Inc. develops award-winning business applications for Mac OS X and the iPhone, including Daylite business productivity management software, and Billings, a practical time-billing and invoicing application. Incorporated in 1999, Marketcircle Inc. is located in Toronto, Canada, with partners worldwide.

Categories: Webmasters Resources Tags: ,

Starting A Business – 2nd Month Review

April 3rd, 2009 No comments


Where did March go? I feel like I’ve been short changed on time this last month. 31 days just seems to disappear in the blink of an eye! Thankfully though, I got a huge amount done, so once again it’s time to take a look back at the things I set out to achieve and whether or not I got there.

The Business

Since last month when I wrote about my progress in February, it feels like I’ve done almost double the amount of work again. I blogged this month about the hours which I’m currently working, well that hasn’t changed much yet – I’m still up early, and in bed very late.

Here’s some of the stuff I managed to get done in March:

  • Totally cleaned out my office, hopefully this’ll be a guest post on FreelanceFolder soon
  • Got invited to do a guest post on Darren Rowse’s TwiTip (I need to write this up)
  • Opened my business bank account (which took a LONG TIME to do)
  • Fully reviewed the SitePoint Web Design Business Kit (as pomised)
  • Networked with a lot [MORE] really great people!
  • Didn’t take on any new projects, but got lots of enquiries. See my post on Dry Patches
  • Designed/coded/released the intial version of WPress’d
  • Put together some new sets of documents including my new-client needs-assessment form
  • Totally coded up and released a brand new Lyrical Media site (big accomplishment!)
  • Managed to get Lyrical Media bumped up to PR6 with the latest pagerank update
  • Got my credit rating sorted out! Natwest finally came through and fixed their mistake!
Reviewing Goals From March

In my first month review I set myself some goals to achieve for the month of March, let’s have a quick look back and see what I did (and didn’t) manage to get done.

  • Grow my twitter account to 700 followers – Sucess! I smashed this one, over 1,000 now!
  • Grow my rss subscribers to 60 – Success! Feedburner is currently showing 65!
  • Look into an advertising budget with BuySellAds – Fail, simply haven’t got the budget yet
  • Set up a monthly newsletter with Campaign Monitor – Half success, opened an account and started using it, but I haven’t actually set a newsletter up yet.
  • Complete and release the Neophyte wordpress theme – Total Fail, this one is on the backburner for the time being
  • Learn some more PHP, Javascript, and Ruby – Success! I did all three!
Goals For April

I set 6 goals last month, this month I’m bumping that up to 8 – and they’re slightly more ambitious goals too, because what would be the point of succeeding at the same rate?

  • Set up Newsletter – back from last month, really want to get this done
  • Review the SitePoint Email Marketing Kit on this blog (fits in with the above)
  • Review the Rockstar Freelancer Book on this blog
  • Win (at least) two new client projects
  • Complete the first sample of my top secret Lyrical Media project (watch this space)
  • Grow my twitter account to 1,500 followers
  • Grow my rss subscribers to 100 people
  • Sell (leave a comment if interested)
Other Stuff Coming in April
  • An interview with Brendon Sinclaire (author of the Web Design Business Kit)
  • Some more free applications for freelancers
  • A couple of guest posts by me on other freelance / web design blogs
  • More ‘personal’ style posts from me about the trials and tribulations of self employment
  • New and improved business cards!
What Are You Up To?

I love hearing from everyone who comments on this blog, so please tell me what you’re up to and if there’s anything that I can do to help out. If you’re doing anything related to web design business, drop me a line and maybe we can get you a guest post slot! This site received 24,000 page views in March compared to 18,000 in February, so it’s on the up!

5 Things Your Clients Should Know

March 19th, 2009 No comments

Do you ever feel like you are endlessly repeating the same day? I do, every time I attend a kickoff meeting with a new client. Each time I find myself covering the same old issues from explaining the client’s role, to encouraging investment in content. I find it incredibly frustrating and this is what ultimately led me to write the Website Owners Manual.

This is not a criticism of clients, however. There is so little information that clearly defines their role. Sure, there is no shortage of material on usability, accessibility, online marketing and copywriting, but who has the time to read all of it?

The problem is that the client does need to have a very broad understanding (certainly more than can be communicated in a single article), however I have found that understanding certain key issues can make an enormous difference to the efficiency of a client.

What follows is a list of the 5 things that I believe will have the biggest impact on a client’s site. At least they should, if the client understands them and chooses to implement them.

1. The client is the secret to a successful website

I have worked on hundreds of websites over the past 15 years and each site’s success or failure has always been attributed to the quality of the client.

As web designers we, of course, like to emphasis our role in the process. This is what justifies our fee, however we can ultimately only point our clients in the right direction. It is their decisions that shape the site and their commitment that defines its long term future.

As web designers, I believe we need to clearly communicate to the client the importance of their role and dispel the misconception that they can hire a web designer and walk away.

Not only do we need to emphasis the importance of their role, we also need to define the extent of it.

2. Clients have a diverse and challenging role

I believe that the role of the client is by far the most complex and challenging in web design. Sure, dealing with IE6 is a pain, but that pales in comparison to the shear extent of issues that most clients need to handle.

A client has to be a:

  • Visionary – capable of establishing the long term direction of their site
  • Evangelist – able to promote the site both internally and externally
  • Content guardian – responsible for ensuring the quality and relevancy of content
  • Project coordinator – overseeing all aspects of the site as well as dealing with suppliers
  • Referee – making final decisions between conflicting priorities

What is even more is that the client is supposed to know enough about a broad range of disciplines (from marketing to interface design), in order to make informed decisions. It is hardly surprising that, as web designers, we sometimes feel our clients “just don’t get it!” They are simply expected to understand too much.

Unfortunately their role is also often massively under resourced. Most of those responsible for websites are not dedicated website managers. Instead, they run their websites alongside other responsibilities in IT or marketing.

It is our responsibility to explain the role of the client and ensure that they understand how much work is involved. We cannot assume that they instinctively know this.

The danger is that if you do not clearly define the clients’ role, they will end up trying to define yours instead.

3. Clients identify problems, designers provide solutions

One of the biggest problems in most web projects is that the client starts making the decisions that are best left to the web designer. Not only does this lead to bad decisions, but also inevitably leaves the web designer feeling undervalued and frustrated.

This problem can manifest in a variety of ways, however ultimately it comes down to a single issue – the client is trying to find solutions to their problems instead of relying on the web designer.

Let me give you two examples. The most obvious occurs at the design stage. After seeing your design the client comes back with comments such as ‘make the logo bigger’. This is their solution to a problem that they have with the prominence of the branding. If they had expressed the problem instead of the solution, it would have enabled you to suggest alternate approaches. Instead of making the logo bigger, you could have possibly added more whitespace or changed its position.

Another less obvious, but more significant example, is in a client’s invitation to tender. These documents are inevitably a wish list of ideas that they have for the site. They are the client’s attempt to solve an underlying issue. For example, their problem might be a failure to engage with customers, therefore in their invitation to tender, they suggest adding a forum. Of course, in reality there are many other ways to engage with customers, however unless they express the problem to you, you will never have the opportunity to suggest a solution.

At the beginning of every project, encourage your client to focus on problems and not solutions. Whenever the client suggests a solution ask why. This will enable you to understand the underlying issues.

Unfortunately by the time we have been engaged as web designers, the scope of a project has already been set and it is hard to contribute ideas. This is because the way clients commission websites is fundamentally broken.

4. Sites should evolve

A typical website goes through a constant cycle of redesign. After its initial launch, it is left to slowly decay. The content becomes out of date, the design begins to look old fashioned and the technology becomes obsolete. Eventually staff stop referring customers to the site and it is perceived as a liability rather than an asset. In the end, senior management intervenes and assigns somebody to ‘sort out the website’. This inevitably leads to the site being replaced by a new version, and the cycle repeats itself.

This problem primarily occurs because there is no real ownership of the website within the organization. Often the client you deal with is only assigned to it for the duration of the project. Afterwards, the site is left to stagnate.

This cycle of redesign is wasteful for three reasons:

  • It wastes money because the old site is replaced, and the investment put into it is lost.
  • It is bad for cash flow, generating large expenditure every few years.
  • For the majority of its life, the site is out of date and not being used to its full potential.

We need to start encouraging our clients to invest regularly in their websites. They need a permanent website manager and an ongoing relationship with their web design agency. Together they need to keep content up-to-date, improve the user interface and ensure that the technology keeps pace with change. Ultimately this is more cost effective than replacing the site every few years.

The ongoing management of content is an area that needs particular attention. Unfortunately it is often massively under resourced and generally neglected.

5. Content is king – Act like it!

I am constantly amazed at the difference between what clients says and what they do. Take, for example, content; most clients fully accept that content is king, yet few are willing to spend money on ensuring its quality. This is all the more absurd considering the amount they spend on implementing complex content management systems.

Most clients that I encounter feel that hiring a copywriter to ensure the quality and style of their content is unnecessary. Perhaps this is because they feel they are capable of writing copy themselves, however writing for the web is not like writing for any other medium. It presents some unique challenges that cannot be under estimated.

It is strange because clients are perfectly happy (well… maybe not quite ‘happy’) to pay for design. They realize that they cannot do the design without a professional designer, so why then do they believe that they can write good copy themselves?

Often when clients do write copy, it ends up being verbose and inaccessible. Stuffed with sales copy and jargon, which is largely ignored by most visitors to the site.

However, in many cases the reality is even worse than poorly written copy. In my experience, clients under estimate the time involved in producing copy for the web and resort to copying and pasting from a wide variety of offline printed material. This leads to Frankenstein copy, using a mix of styles that are often entirely inappropriate for the web.

It is our role as web designers to educate our clients about the importance of copywriting and explain the size of the task, if they choose to take it on themselves. Without previous experience most clients will significantly underestimate this task.


This is far from a comprehensive list. I have not mentioned success criteria, usability, accessibility, online marketing or subjective design. In fact I have hardly begun to touch on any of the things a website owner should know, however I do believe that if our clients were only to adopt the 5 points above, it would make a profound difference to the success of their website. Now it falls on you to persuade them.

Categories: Tips and Tutorials Tags: , ,