When we set out to build our new website, we hired the best web designers we know: ourselves. The process was not without its obstacles, but we prevailed. And we’re more efficient and inspired than ever.
Several years ago I wrote about building an Isolary website that I could truly be proud of. I had promised it “in a small bit of time.” I truly did not expect it to take three years, but alas, I can finally and happily say that it has arrived.
The process of building a website for our own company underlined what many businesses have warned: never be your own client (if you can afford it). It has also shed a lot of light on our overall process. It has provided a ton of insight on how we interact with clients, how we build a strategy around a problem, and how we reach our goals. Lastly, the long path towards our shiny new website as instilled a renewed sense of purpose. It’s a statement of pride; inspiration to move forward stronger than ever. It’s literally a place to see our smiling faces. It’s our baby, and we are proud of it.
Our Worst Client Ever
Why do people caution professionals against being their own client? Why wouldn’t a web design company build their own website?
On one hand, this seems counter-intuitive. I mean, what better way to showcase our work than to place it atop an awesome, home-spun website? There’s no limit to the things we could build, and no better endorsement of our expertise—we’re the guys who walk the talk.
On the other hand, maybe it’s best to hire another company, so that we’re committed to a professional, timely, and unbiased process. Without an outside force, there’s very little accountability. We are free to let tasks slide without repercussion. There’s not much incentive to do work that we can’t invoice. And with no external perspective, we might fail to catch obvious mistakes.
In the end, we decided to build our website ourselves. Cost was an important factor. Another was our desire to control the entire process. And while we were confident in our decision, we were ignorant to how bad we could be at working for ourselves.
Talk about a nightmare client. We were vague in our creative brief, we changed our minds a hundred times, and we were slow to deliver much-needed information. Content was shoddy. Designs were half-baked and then ditched. It was too easy to lose sight of deadlines, quality, and the end goal in general. Things ground to a halt as other projects popped up and took precedence.
Feeling defeated, we identified two possible options: we could either pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and finish this thing in one last push, or admit defeat and hire someone else. We chose the former, and started taking our roles—as a client and a web design company—seriously.
What Did We Learn?
Working for ourselves provided amazing insight. Once we got serious about the project, we were able to examine the process and make it better than ever. Not just for our own website, but for our clients.
One of the best things to emerge from our website redesign was a redefinition of our process. Our work has always been conducted in easy, logical steps, but it had never consistently been defined. With every client, it had been a moving target—until now. This came about partly because we were writing our Services page, and partly because we saw first-hand how muddy web design can be to clients. From here on out, things are crystal-clear for everyone. and we’re mighty proud of that.
We also learned just how deep web designers’ tool boxes should be. As web designers, our job is to get to the core of the client’s needs and make them a reality. There’s very seldom a legitimate reason that something a client wants can’t or shouldn’t be implemented in some way or another. The spectrum of businesses on the web is vast, and a set of basic tools—pre-made templates, libraries, and such—rarely gets the job done alone. We wanted our website to stand out, and that took careful consideration. We looked at what could be done, and made our own custom tools to make it happen. That’s what every client deserves, even if it’s a lot of work. That’s what you get when you work with us—so much more than a cookie cutter website.
The biggest lesson we learned—or maybe relearned—is that we and our clients are the real deal. Even though we have our dream jobs, we run a business. So do our clients. As designers, developers and marketers, our job is to professionally represent businesses. Our work is fun and fulfilling, but we’re not hobbyists. We can’t ever afford to pretend that our success doesn’t depend on our clients. We have our game faces on, and they’re not going anywhere.
2015 Is Going To Be Awesome
We have a brand new website, a carefully redefined process, and a rekindled passion for doing what we love. This year is shaping up to be our best yet. We are landing bigger jobs, turning work around faster than ever, and definitively growing Isolary into the business I had dreamed about when I left my job years ago to start my own company. I am so proud of this company and the great people I get to see every day at work.
I’d love to know what you think of the new website. Send me an email, or better yet, let me buy you a beer. Maybe we can even talk about your next website.