When you care about something, you communicate your craft and expertise; when you care about someone, you communicate you care about them.
Although my first introduction to web design was back in 1999, I credit the summer of 2000 as the year Skylar Design was envisioned. I just launched a sizable project for a new client and it turned out to be a positive experience. Having tight deadlines, a measured budget, and plenty of requirements, I was committed to making this project a success no matter what it took from me. And it was. The client was thrilled, the organization and board of directors were happy but, far more important, their site users were more than satisfied. For me, that was the most rewarding aspect of the project. From that point forward, that hunger to learn this craft began to burn deep inside of me; and that tenacious spirit continues to this day.
One might conclude that the reward of starting and finishing my first, big web project or getting some extra spending money (especially for someone living on a post-graduate budget) were the reasons I seriously considered a career in web design. And, there's no question they played a part. But there was something far more meaningful to me, something intangible and different unlike anything I had ever experienced before — that feeling that somehow my work could impact someone else.
Skylar Design was originally formed to provide a wide range of professional web-based services, from the design and development side to all the back-end work. Those early years were filled with plenty of ups and downs but I also got to collaborate with some very talented and seasoned professionals on a number of unique projects. I felt like the little guy scaling a large mountain, almost like a young David in a Goliath world. Those challenges were surprisingly very exciting to me, even when the odds were clearly stacked against me.
In 2007, I made a strategic move to focus solely on front-end web solutions. Against the better judgment of some of my colleagues who thought I was foolish to offer less services, I actually believed I could offer far more with a premier set of solutions. This decision would move me from being a generalist to a specialist, from providing good products to great ones. Removing the burden of offering back-end solutions allowed me to refocus and develop my skill sets, particularly in the area of aesthetic design and web programming. That one decision really launched my company.
Valuable Lessons Gained
As I look back on those early years, I'm now convinced those growing experiences provided me with some invaluable insights. From the business end, I became more efficient in how I approached and closed each project; and from the client side, I took an even more serious look at how to pinpoint the real needs at hand so I could better serve and surpass any client expectations. I'm not about doing "just-enough" to get the job done. It's about doing the best job possible and including something extra. When you care about something, you communicate your craft and expertise; when you care about someone, you communicate you care about them.
It seems today that every company is "selling" the spiel that they have the best customer service, but when you look for it, it's harder to find.
- Years ago, I began to notice a disturbing trend - inferior quality both in services and products. Ironically, I began obtaining new clients because of the shoddy work they received from a previous web firm. But today I'm also noticing a downward spiral in the quality of care for people. When I see someone demonstrate excellent customer service, I quickly point it out. I recognize them for making a difference, for going out of their way to provide a great experience. (It's hard to believe that oustanding service takes us by surprise these days.) That's precisely how I treat my clients. They receive the best of service from me and are treated with the respect they deserve.
Fast-Forward to Today
A lot has changed since I wrote my first piece of code back in the late 90's. Today, with the rapid release of mobile devices, it's essential to stay current with newer technologies. I invest quite a bit of time and money in my training and professional development each year. Besides my love for learning and staying current, my clients have come to trust me when they're needing advice. I still provide front-end web services but now build all my websites starting with the three core building blocks - HTML5, CSS3, and jQuery.
I've also gone back to the drawing board with regards to content. Web design is still an important part of what I do. But my primary concern with any web project is your content. In the infant years of the Internet, content was considered "king." That mantra still rings true today but the ringing is even louder. Now that content is reaching a far greater audience globally and being accessed by more mobile devices, the challenge for us web developers is to ensure that content is accessible and platform agnostic.
Responsive web design, a phrase coined by Mr. Ethan Marcotte, has really taken off and it's something I fully embrace. As designers, it's easy to panic since we love to control how well our work appears on the web. But over the past few years, I've quickly learned to shed the notion that one site will look the same in every device and every browser that's available today and those in the future. If web content is truly the most important component to a web project, then we must embrace a more flexible approach to how we build for the web.
A responsive design uses fluid grids, flexible images, and media queries to create flexible web solutions and can still look visually compelling. (As a side note, I've had the privilege of meeting with Ethan on a few occasions. I always look forward to hearing him share his thoughts on what lies ahead because learning only benefits my clients.)
Knowing that your online presence is a natural extension of your business, my goal is to partner with you early in the process and continue that partnership after your site is launched. Although there are several excellent design firms, I strongly believe in what I do and can provide for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations with a distinct competitive-edge.