Can you tell us a little bit about how you first got into the web design and development industry?
I first seriously got into web design once we started Pixelfish, I’m afraid I’m not one of those people who’s been coding since the age of 4! My background is one based in the world of graphic design rather than pure web and I believe this has been a huge asset for us as a company.
Both me and fellow founder Adam Bowen studied at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth (Now Arts University College Bournemouth), taking a BA in graphic design. This meant we came into web design with a solid understanding of design as a whole, something which we have been able to feed into our work.
During my degree my passion was for print based design, and in hindsight I wish I’d got into digital earlier. It has to be one of the most exciting and challenging sectors to work in, with constant new technologies coming to play, there really is something for everyone.
How did Pixelfish get started and what were your experiences of starting a business?
Pixelfish was founded by myself and fellow Director Adam Bowen back in August last year. From September we moved into the Enterprise Pavilion that is situated on the Arts University College Bournemouth campus, and I’ve got to say that has been a great move for us. Being surrounded by fellow creative companies has meant rather than be isolated, we are right in the middle of a place that holds ideas and creativity in the highest regard.
As for our experiences of starting a business then all I can say is it has to be the best thing I’ve ever done. Yes it does mean it consumes my life, and also happens to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done but with it come rewards that can’t be matched. The thrill of knowing everything you are working towards is for you, and you only really does get my juices going. Every morning I wake up and am excited to start work and there aren’t many jobs you can say that about day in day out.
Do you have a preference for a particular CMS or do you use an in-house system?
We are a big believer in open source technology and think its certainly going to be the way forward, you just have to look at sites such as the new White House website, that is powered by the Joomla CMS platform. Going with an open source technology means you get the perks of large communities providing support as well as continual upgrades and add-ons.
We use one of the best new Content Management Systems out there called Concrete5, which is developed over in the west coast of the USA. We’ve been working with the system for the last 10 months and find it to be the best mix of fantastic client usability along with a huge amount of extensibility. Before forming Pixelfish we undertook several months research and trailing of all the open source platforms out there, so we didn’t pick Concrete5 on a whim. We’re effectively becoming the UK partner for Concrete5 which looks to hold a very exciting future.
How important do you think it is for clients to be able to update their own web content?
Updating your web content is vital to having a thriving and successful site, our gospel if you like is all about change, and having a site with change built-in enables everyone to adapt their content at will. Gone are the days of static information sites, and in their place are websites that have the ability to change on a daily basis.
Do you provide training to clients to help them learn the CMS?
Yes, I think it would be pretty reckless for a web agency to let a client loose without prior training. We’re fortunate in that the CMS we use is one of the easiest to use, offering in-context editing which is a godsend. Quite often our clients remark on how easy our CMS is to use, almost not believing how straight forward it is. As part of choosing to go with us, we like to think we provide a support service that is hard to beat.
Are there any other designers or agencies in the industry producing work that you really admire?
Locally I’m really liking the work of web solutions outfit 3 Sided Cube, who have just produced a great little iPhone and Android app called Vision Test. Nationally and internationally then I like to keep abreast of all the major creative agencys, coming from a graphic design background, I still have a vested interest in print design as well as digital. I think its incredibly important to keep your inspiration pool as broad as possible.
Do you have a particular web design conference or event that you never miss?
We are regular attendees of the Bournemouth Meetdraw event. We even helped organise the last event held in Bar So, meaning we have got to know all the key players involved. Its been a great event for us to help establish ourselves in the local area and feel part of a bigger community. One of the things I’d like to do is help get Bournemouth and Poole on the map as one of the regions for top notch digital in the country. Events such as Meetdraw certainly help increase the profile and feed into this aspiration.
What hobbies do you have and do they help you ‘switch off’ from the internet?
I absolutely love sport, whether it be football, F1, tennis or running, or anything else that I can find. I also am a big fan of cars, particularly some of the classic eighties hatchbacks such as the Golf GTI (My current car!).
I’m certainly someone who has many interests out of work and I think its an incredibly important area to my life, and something that is quite often forgotten about by people in startups. You need something to take your mind away from work, otherwise you will be all consumed by work and that isn’t good for your mental health!
Finally, do you have any tips for people starting in the industry?
Just go on and do it, I would love to see more graduates starting up new businesses, because in many ways it is the best time to do it. Having little or no overheads or family commitments means you can commit your life into your startup. On the flip side you may have little experience but as long as you have an enthusiasm and willingness to learn then you won’t go far wrong.