Over the years I have been asked questions about my work, and how it all started. I had a conversation with someone to go through these questions, and here they are for you to enjoy.
Why do you do this job?
“Many moons ago I started a secondment whereby I learnt how to create ‘web pages’ using Frontpage… I spent a day using graphics software (before Photoshop) and kind of just got the bug. My team leader at the time, Elaine, also had the bug for design and user-interface. I’ve never looked back. I’ve worked for companies in the past where they use a design agency, but you wait days for help or changes to happen. I didn’t want 79DESIGN to be seen like that. Indeed, we’ve had clients move to us, because of that experience. I do this partly because it brings improved joy to these people.”
What do you like most about this work?
“The initial setup gives me the thrill. When we start either with a blank canvas, or a blank template, and turn that into a fully branded design that meets the clients’ needs. To try colours in different areas of the website, using new techniques and styles to get a wow factor. Above all the other tasks involved, this gives me a thrill.”
“One other element is when we are asked to do something, perhaps some styling, that a system doesn’t allow with ease. What I mean by that, is certain website CMS tools give you on/off options and colour options, but let’s say you want a menu link to be a different colour, or a button to look a particular way. Take a look at our ‘Get a Quote’ button above – that wasn’t default. That requires additional coding. This gives me a buzz as well.”
You’ve been doing this a fair while; has it always been with 79DESIGN?
“No it hasn’t. Yes I’ve been designing for more years than I care to admit, over 15 of them, but it started actually with a regional Utility company. As I said before, when I met Elaine who is now a Lead Director in a Cambridge Uni, this is where it began. Every role I had within that company had some form of website work within it, as they had an Intranet. So I was asked to create over 30 Intranet websites. I seriously got the bug by then!
Once personal matters had changed, 79DESIGN was born, and has developed more and more over these 10+ years.”
How important is the user interface to you?
“Without an easy to use website for the front-end customer, you have no website. For example, we have seen sites where there is not even a menu, which kind of blows my mind. How does the reader know what you do, or where to find it. So we ensure the menus are easy to use, the logo is prominent but doesn’t take over the design, and other content is all easy to read. We use WordPress now for the vast majority of our work, and that has its own ‘admin’ side anyway. It takes care of itself. But we do some bespoke coding to make that easier to run as well.”
What do you least like about your work?
“Difficult one to answer, as all the design work gives me a proper buzz. Perhaps it’s when a plugin or tool doesn’t quite do what you expect it to do. For example, we setup a multi-vendor website for a client, and used a plugin that makes the ‘Add a product’ that much nicer, rather than using the default back-end system. Sounds great, except the tools they provided mostly ‘did away with’ the template of the site. It was brandless. So we had to use their default template which looked poor, and write a lot of the CSS coding. So while it worked, I just wish it had done it ‘as expected’ in the first place.”
Have you had many surprising things happen in your time?
“Too many to really discuss here. We transferred some of our hosting to a new partner, and the service we have received has been simply outstanding. Issues with sites that would not hold up to the pressure of demand, are now ticking along soundly and with support that I cannot quibble about at all. But this in turn means we can provide an even better level of support to our clients. Hosting services should also include a level of support. Without that, you are in the face of a storm, with no protection at all. We have that full protection. And it got better!”
“We’ve also has some amazing new clients on board with us lately, including in Education and the Entertainment industry. We also just recently started work for a client whose had extraordinary growth over 2020/2021, and they have chosen us to take them further. For us, new clients are always lovely. But some clients you get, are pretty special, and surprise us both in their great attitude to work, and just their manner. Wonderful.”
What you class yourself as a Coder or a Designer?
“If asked if I am a coder, I’d say yes. If asked if I am a designer, I’d say yes. I have written programming code for many years, from HTML, CSS, PHP, MySQL and so on. But when you write that, the aim is to get a great design to the front end of the website. So overall, I’d say I am a Designer. I started in Frontpage where you mostly just ‘design’, as the code is written for you. Years on, I started to write PHP and of course HTML, with queries, database connections and cross-site queries (checking stock from one site against another, for example). None of this was with any form of plugin. So in that guise, I was 100% a programmer, a coder. But my real passion is design. Making the front end looks wonder. To use Tim Cook’s term…… to look.. “gorgeous”.
Do you have any heroes or people you push toward being like?
“Not really. But when I see people like Sir Richard Branson, Tim Cook and the like, all coming across as nice people, trying to do a good thing for society; without being brash or nasty, like some well known business owners are seen to be. Who wants to be seen as being raucous or a problem? Certainly not me. I have telly heroes too, but that’s not really what you are asking me. This is more about work and business related. So I hope that answers your question.
What is your average day?
“I don’t really have one. Whether we are migrating a website to our servers, designing something new, exchanging with clients and colleagues on a way forward with their website, or spending a day going through SEO. I cannot say that every Monday I do a, b and c. It never works out like that. I usually have certain tasks planned for the following day, but other things come in, or a priority pops up. But that’s what makes the job so enjoyable.”
Have you had any inspirational people in your life, guiding you to this day?
“I don’t have people like that right now. I have personal relationships, but in a work way, not sure. I have a few close people whom I can ask for feedback on a design, and they will be brutally honest. You need that in life. But in the past, most definitely. ”
“When I first started working, my employer at the time, he had faith in me, for a few reasons I think. One of them those was my ability to type. Somehow I just *could*. Some get to a keyboard and it’s single fingers. For me, I could touch type from a relatively young age, and that’s helped me to get that first job (they needed a typist), and today, with coding . If you can’t type, you aren’t going to be that great (or quick) a coder.”
“Then there’s Elaine, Vicky and Sudy. One of which I have lost contact. Elaine was the team leader in our office, and just had some spark about her to push me to learn new ways in design. She was special, and to this day still works in ‘user interface’ and design, but more in lecturing. We are in limited contact, but would be a wonderful thing to meet her for a coffee one day. How far we have both come! Elaine… call me.”
“And then Vicky. She was the team leader in our Website Admin department at the Utility company. She was in fact the first person in my life to tell me how to hide the underscore in a hyperlink. She taught me other things too, but yes, she was one of those people.”
“Finally there is Sudy, or Sudhanshu as he is more commonly known. He went on to work with the United Nations, but at the time, he was my boss and a really positive person. Sudy… call me.”
What are you going to do after you have had this conversation?
“We are migrating a large website to our platform today, redesigning it, making it look way better, and then in a few weeks, hand it over for them to add further products. So the start of this, is next. Though I might make a coffee first. Priorities!”