Our special niche: bespoke web design that’s neither DIY nor break-the-bank
The first thing people always say to me when they call about a new website is – can you tell me the cost? Which is fair, I get that. Our clients consider budgets very carefully and running a business, that’s what I do too. However I sometimes wonder if the best initial question is rather, how will you approach this project? It will be, after all, the primary way of reaching people and vital to future growth. Of course this ‘approach’ changes. Our design process has evolved over the years but this year has been breathtaking. Few windows of time have moved quite as rapidly as 2020. In particular the ways in which we apply our usual creative, bespoke web design techniques to the ‘very pandemic’ necessity of virtual working have been unexpectedly exciting.
When I describe our processes and the workflow that makes it all come together, I often end up drawing in the air. It’s so important to me to explain that we aren’t either Wix & SquareSpace or a massive creative agency. I stir a mid-air circle on my Zoom calls, explaining that I believe we are this really special ‘middle thing’, occupying a space between these two. In fact, I don’t even see those other offerings as competition.
As we speed towards the end of this bizarre year, there are a set of projects we’ve completed which capture the essence of this. Each has something specific about it that makes the work stand out, capturing one element of the kismet about this space.
1. We stay creative
Years ago, I imagined that we would eventually hone in on a specific sector of client. To be fair, financial services or commercial real estate have been staples of what we do over the years, but still, every time I think we’ve somehow narrowed it down, some incredible opportunity comes along that seems too juicy to resist. The best example of ‘completely leftfield’ being this summer’s amazing tribute website of a long-dead opera singer. But whatever the subject, I’ve long felt that when a business delivers something unique, it deserves to be presented in a way that truly reflects that.
The truth is that working on projects that are a massive ‘left turn’ on paper are good for the creative spirit. If they pay the bills, even better. A project that is really different from working with a services business invariably requires other, often fascinating disciplines. I’m thinking here of commissioning animation, punchy new programming techniques or embracing cutting-edge tech. And it’s this diversity of work that in turn means that when we return to a corporate project we’ve often learned something, meaning something new is brought to the table.
WINTER IN SUMMER: THE ALPINE GENERATION
A great example of such a ‘left turn’ is our work for skiing holiday specialist The Alpine Generation this past summer. As can so often be the case, our work timetable is topsy-turvy/anti-seasonal. In this case, we were designing a site filled with alpine scenes while it was, if not always hot, then at very least definitely not snow weather in London. The project was a treat. It forced us to think about holidays during lockdown, a time when booking one seemed at best aspirational, at worst impossible. Luckily, we’re pretty good at daydreaming, so staring at those cosy chalets and dramatic slopes wasn’t exactly a hardship.
Our first piece of work for The Alpine Generation had been a couple of years ago, devising a new brand for the company, but stopped there. As a result, we saw the new website as unfinished business, a project that was long overdue. Given that, we attacked it with relish. The identity we had worked on used a beautiful custom pinecone drawn by Magnus Riise, a talented illustrator based in Oslo. It was pretty clear to me that this warm, personal style with hand drawn illustration would be perfect to extend throughout the new site. So, we got back in touch and caught Magnus at a good moment – he’d just moved into his new studio and this project was first on his agenda.
This user-friendly, charming website is such a great case study. It captures everything that is special about The Alpine Generation and their gung-ho, customer-first approach.
2. We keep a focus on the future
To say the least, it’s been a rough old year. For businesses everywhere, uncertainty has ruled the day, the week, the month. And the one thing that businesses and financial markets loathe is instability. As the summer ended in the northern hemisphere and particularly in Europe a new wave of lockdowns began, economies began to shudder. One bad shock was surmountable – was another?
Interestingly, my sense is that throughout the pandemic, business has consistently been keen to look past it: through the fog and beyond. A situation that had a beginning, middle and, in due course, end. The recent news of vaccines has given impetus and focus to that feeling. As I sit here now, I can’t help but feel the same. The human condition is to look forward, to try and think optimistically. To this end, I’ve been thinking of what’s next and what our clients will need. What shifts in approach during the pandemic have changed business forever.
One thing is for sure: we have realised the value of human interaction – and that business is flexible. It can be done digitally, internationally, in a timely manner, for instance with a helpfully precise beginning and end point to meetings. Right now, in terms of working with our clients, being in touch regularly is vital to keep tabs on how things are changing and how our work is progressing. Then using digital tools like Slack to aid that is a better use of everyone’s time to move beyond even needing a verbal interaction.
BUILDING THE FUTURE: LONDON & ORIENTAL
If there was ever a business that focussed on the future it’s one which builds. Thinking about what is empty space today and could stand tomorrow is endlessly fascinating. Who will live there? How might they live? What shape will their working life take? As our lives have been turned on their heads, it has become clear that embracing flexibility rather than resisting it is vital in surviving a fluid situation. However, one thing has crystallised: the value of home and the details that make it tick.
Few of our clients understand this better than Mark and his team at London & Oriental. They advise a group of private and business clients on their real estate investment between the UK and the Far East, and we starting working with them in the early part of 2020, completing a new website. The hallmark of his business is an attention to fine detail, ensuring the properties they work on have a level of finish that goes above and beyond.
I found this approach to work both fascinating and inspiring – and indeed, felt strongly that our website for the company should rise up to meet that aspiration. I believe it did – and it remains one of the projects I’m proudest of this year.
3. We get to know your audience
It’s hard to resist this topic of conversation that I return to again and again. Every time I work with a client I discuss as we begin: who are your customer and how can we direct the site to be useful or informative for them? A good example could be a website centred on a single subject, for instance a singer or artist. That subject inevitably will sit front and centre, but the layout and language of the website must pitch, in that instance, towards their fanbase. The key from our perspective is to get a sense of that audience. How do they affect the colour, size of type, or its presentation?
This same thought process same is true of an investment firm, diamond jewellery retailer or consumer manufacturing business. At the end of the day we get to know our clients, what they do, how they do it – and then approach the website considering their future marketing plans and the best way of aligning with these as we position the brand online.
Needless to say the culmination of that work isn’t a simple design layout decision: it reaches much further into the language used and whether custom photography or the use of visuals such as specially-commissioned illustration could be good choices. Whichever feels right and on brand, we can make it with you, ensuring your next website works that much harder than the current one.
THE ON-THE-BALL CORPORATE: INVESTCORP-TAGES
We completed the first website for ‘alternative investing’ company Investcorp-Tages at their launch in May. It was an unusual project in the sense that it was the result of a strategic joint venture between the multi-manager investment arms of two firms. At once we were considering both brands and one, all at the same time, defining a new direction that embraced everyone involved. For them, bespoke web design was the only approach. However our understanding of their audience had two aims.
The first is that it had to both bring everyone involved together and present a united front. It’s just a website at the end of the day, but these things mean a lot for a newly formed team, so it had to be right. The presentation of the business as an LLC was also a legal matter – the joint venture was a newly incorporated business and was required by the regulator to exist online as its own entity on Friday 1st May. And so it was.
The second aim is related to a more long-term, evolving approach of the company and its audience. The Investcorp-Tages website expanded from the May launch site to a much (much) larger one following SEC approval in September. Interestingly, the look we had developed six months prior remained, but the content we included had expanded from simple brochure to expansive resource. Suddenly, this simple project vaulted into a really fantastic website that took in particular social responsibility (ESG) incredibly seriously.
The end result is that while this project is by definition corporate, it sets a standard for a hot-button subject that every client is talking about. What I find fascinating is that including information about ESG will I believe come to influence many of our more ‘left turn’ clients I was talking about earlier. Guess what, that could well turn a familiar cycle back in the other direction.
Our belief in bespoke web design
We believe that originality pays dividends. It’s why we steer clear of templates and deliver bespoke web design to our clients because nothing less will do. If that sounds like something your business needs (it is!) why not get in touch to discuss a wide range of different approaches? We can work on designs from the simple to the sensational, depending on your brief and budget.
Call us on 020 7351 4083 or email us direct.