What does a technology company really need in a website? Not as much as you'd think. Read more...
A funny thing happened last week: I opened up my twitter client and saw this:
I love my business partner Cameron. Many people think he’s just a programmer. But he’s not. He’s a super-ninja, he whoops ass without breaking a sweat, his fingertips are insured, he’s not allowed to touch sharp objects; he walks silently through forests. So how could I be surprised that he snuck under the radar and gave me a wonderful present when I least expected it?
That’s just what super-ninjas do.
So I decided to check out our new digs, and what I found was a bastion of modern simplicity. It reminded me of how I felt growing up in my family’s house. Anyone raised around modern and post-modern furniture knows what I mean when I say that. When you encounter simplicity on that level it affects you. It changes you.
So what did Cameron do exactly to our site?
- Ninja-starred our homepage
- Flying kicked our portfolio
- Head-butted our Contact Form
- Kung-Fu chopped our About Us page
And when the dust settled, all that was left was:
- Our blog, which is now our homepage.
- Our product page: for our ice-breaker application for the iPhone.
I see web-development shop websites this way: You have a certain amount of space. Your total amount of space is equal to X (an abstract value). Your visitors will divide their attention across all of X. If X does not equal completely awesome content, then you are wasting space and time. Heidegger wouldn’t be too happy with that now, would he (I’m waiting for my sister’s opinion on this one).
We looked at our old site and said, “Our best content is on our blog.” Our portfolio wasn’t convincing (our most significant client, representing over 90% of our income has us on an NDA). Our “about us” page was filled with pretty typical copy, and we never received one legitimate contact or cold call from anyone.
But don’t get me wrong; we turn down far more work than we take on. It just comes from our social network. It comes from our client-referrals; it comes from hanging out at bars, and sometimes even at house parties. It comes from our reputation, which is small but growing slowly. But really, we get to turn down work because people who know us know how hungry we are, and they know it’s dope to spend time with a few fresh ninja dudes like ourselves.
Now consider this: If someone in the industry comes across one of blog posts, and starts reading it every once in a while, she will develop a closer relationship with us than if we had a very pretty portfolio hanging on our front door. How much can you tell about a company by some screenshots and a case study anyway?
Can you tell if the developer is contributing to open source projects? Can you tell if the developers are constantly learning and educating themselves? Can you tell that the company you might engage is neck-deep in the internet and can’t imagine a life without it?
Most importantly: Can a portfolio tell the story of who you are and why you love to do what you do? Maybe, but ours didn’t, it didn’t even come close.
By getting rid of everything we considered to be low-value content, and presenting a much more intimate view of our personalities, motivations, and passions, we’re telling our visitors: let’s drop the pretentions, this is who we are – and this is how we think. Come back tomorrow, we’ll probably have something else that’s interesting or useful (or immature and hilarious) to read.
To paraphrase the great Doc Searls, “If you’re going to run around naked, you better not have saggy man-tits.” So last week we took our skivvies off, busted out some tanning oil, and now we’re literally running naked across the soccer field we call web development.
If you’re going to be bold, and get naked online, here’s one piece of advice: don’t stop blogging. Trust in your buffness, trust that you will become more buff, and trust that people will see that attitude in you and respect you for it.
No bells and whistles. Just the goodie-goods.