For the past few months, we’ve been working with Cardiff based tech wizards DevOpsGuys to think about, design and then build a new website that reflects the growing nature of the company (read more about that growth here)
We caught up with DevOpsGuys’ James Smith (co-founder) and Jennifer Allan (marketing) to find out how they had found working with Small Joys so far.
DevOpsGuys needed to establish and consolidate a distinctive brand
DevOpsGuys work with some of the UK’s biggest names to optimise and simplify their web management. It’s a complicated process, so the DevOpsGuys needed to create an aesthetic that was easy to read and enjoyable to engage with; plus it didn’t seem right that the website didn’t reflect the company itself.
James Smith, co-founder, was fed up with the initial design, so he decided something had to change.
“We put together our original website in just a few days simply to get something online,” James recalls. “It didn’t last long before I got fed up with it. We tried to build a new improved version ourselves, but soon realised that we needed professionals who knew about design and branding.”
A quick but steady approach
We got stuck in, starting with meetings and online conversations with DevOpsGuys get to know them and what they wanted.
“We practice what we preach,” James says, “and are all about using technology to create gradual change for businesses. When we started with Small Joys, we said that we wanted to trickle the changes, rather than having an overhaul.”
We started out with just two pages on the website. Working from the base level of a WordPress install, we designed a way to communicate the DevOpsGuys’ brand and services as quickly and succinctly as possible, so that they didn’t have to wait to begin the development of their site.
“Small Joys got on board quickly. We didn’t want to be waiting six months for a website that we had no involvement with, so they stripped the website right back to its bare minimum and then worked with us to add to it over a steady period,” James goes on.
The process was actually pretty fun – not just because DevOpsGuys are really receptive to design advice and new ideas, but also because the nature of their business meant that we had to work in a different way to the traditional web project timeline. Iterating over a series of months is the way of the future – it’s always great to learn from clients as well as help them with the stuff that we’re building or designing or illustrating.
Rethinking DevOpsGuys visual style
“I liked how Small Joys made us think beyond our usual style,” Jenny reveals. “For example, we now have some wobbly buttons on our site that divided opinion at first, but actually they work well for us.”
This is just one of the visual changes that we made to the DevOpsGuys site. Over time, we have also introduced a subtle illustration style which often makes use of animated elements.
Take a look at the cogs on that homepage. PHWOAR.
“It’s quite nice that we’re being pulled forward,” Jenny says. “We didn’t want to be that traditional type of organisation. As Small Joys got to know us, they’ve become better at taking what we want to say and communicating it in a visual and exciting way, rather than relying on a lot of text to get our ideas across. They’ve become integrated in our way of thinking.”
Communication is vital
And that we have! One of the vital ingredients for us was communication, lots of it and often, because it’s through this that we got to hear our client speak from the heart about their company, its ethos and their needs.
“We’ve had lots of contact with Small Joys throughout the process via phone, internet and in person,” James adds. “The immediacy of contact has been invaluable to us, as well as how Small Joys actually listened; they took what we wanted then used their initiative to continually bring us options.”
“Marc’s flexibility has been really helpful,” Jenny adds. “He didn’t give up trying to meet our requirements, even if it meant coming up with three or four different designs and making little changes to things. He ket trying different ideas until he found the one that worked.”
Lovely back end
It’s sad that so few people will ever see it, but the backend of this website is so neat. We started out with a completely blank canvas and so planning the fields that Jenny, James and co would use to input and manage content was really easy.
That’s a small detail but it’s really important when the company is growing at a breakneck speed.
“The back end of the website is so easy to use and well-labelled, meaning that even the in-depth sections are navigable and self-explanatory,” says Jenny.
And although it’s always difficult the first time, after a couple of one-to-ones and Google Hangouts sessions, the team are able to update the content themselves.
“They built the site so that we can run with it and be independent from them, but we can ask them for help if we need it,” James adds. They’ve made an effort to give us tutorials and run-throughs, which is more than a typical web design agency would do.
“I feel like DevOpsGuys and Small Joys are definitely on the same page, heading towards the same end-goal,” James says. “The finished website is something we are all continually nearing with every tweak, change and update that occurs; it’s great to have a team-like feel to the partnership, even though we’re separate companies. We really like the way Small Joys made our services so visually accessible and our website so much fun to engage with.
Such a cool project. DevOpsGuys are the guys.