I can’t believe that BLEND, the web design agency in Nicosia, is already 4 years old. A four-year old “child”. With the maturity of a forty year old man, experience wise that is. And with the culture of a thirty year old, breezy, fresh, hip and full of energy! A unique blend if you think about it. So, how did we manage that? Hmmm…let me tell you..how we do it the BLEND way.
First and foremost, we literally hand-pick our BLENDers. Each person that is on board is selected, thank God, from a wide selection of CVs that we receive on a daily basis. And setting aside the qualifications, and relevant experience that we look for, subject to the vacancy at hand. In reality, of equal importance is the character of the prospective BLENDer. Here at BLEND we are a happy bunch. We spend more time at work, so it is imperative to have a healthy and happy culture. One that each person can thrive in and reach his / her true potential. So, the people we attract, over and above their unbelievable talent, is also the ethos, sincerity and character. One that our gut feeling tells us…hey, he / she is a right fit for us, and vice-versa too.
Each BLENDer has obviously his own personality, quirks and individuality, but one thing we all have in common is passion. The passion and love in what we do..which is really what kinda sets us apart.
The BLEND way for new business
Now, work-wise how to we handle leads and new business? So much work and planning and analysis upfront. Workshops, meetings, client stakeholder interviews, analysis, phone calls. Skype calls, definitions of key milestones and dependencies, analysis, analysis. More phones calls and more planning. Basically, what we call the “Discovery Phase” is the stage where we gather all necessary and relevant information about the project to come up with the optimum solution. This usually involves identifying available assets required, analysing existing data, creating various user personas, sitemap and template mapping in order to identify the user flow and journey. Ideally, the content strategy needs to precede this phase or at least happen in tandem. All the former, merely to identify the scope of the work involved.
The BLEND was during the Craft phase
Then we will move to the “Craft” phase during which we work on the Information Architecture. In tandem, the copywriters create the necessary content resonating to the personas created. After which we create wireframes in order to refine the user experience which will act as the blueprint of the user journey.
Following which we embark on the design phase which is far deeper than whether a website looks good or not. But rather, it entails the creative approach of how your website will look and feel. It also identifies how friendly the user experience will be, how modern and unique, and how in-line will be with your established brand. We define the templates we will design, all handcrafted in 4 main resolutions. The design phase also includes manipulation of images, custom icons and graphics, video and animation if and where applicable.
The Development phase
Once we obtain a sign off of the proposed design templates we then embark on the development phase. From front-end development, to back end to new custom functionalities, we have it covered with our experienced developers. Using the latest technologies coupled with an innovative approach to each project, we have a flexible attitude towards technology implementation. Additionally, this phase includes the implementation of aesthetic elements such as animations, transitions and styling effects.
And then we are done. Or aren’t we?
The testing fun phase?
That’s when the fun begins. Well, maybe not so much for our developers as we then dive into some pretty rigorous quality testing. From browser tests, code validations, testing the responsive versions, page speed tests and many-many more. Let’s just say, that often the quality assessment phase may take as long as the design and development phase where literally the lead designer of each respective project sits down with the lead developer of the per se project, pointing out each detail until the project becomes pixel perfect. A process that occasionally gives rise to some uproar and frustration. But isn’t this how all healthy relationships are? With some ups and downs, and above all good communication and transparency, all aimed at the best and mutual result; true happiness!! In our case a HAPPY CLIENT. Suffice to read one of our senior developers take on the matter.
As if the quality testing phase was not enough, we go for round two, where another team not involved in the project performs more quality assurance, in case something was missed from the first round; before we hand it over to the client for their own testing until we receive the official approval. And you thought that designing and building a website was a piece of cake, huh? Well, not the BLEND way that is far more thorough, always aiming to achieve that desired high end, pixel perfect result.
Of course, after that there is the training phase, go-live phase and post-mortem phase where we evaluate the deliverables versus initial scope and proposed solution, always pushing the team to raising their standards and capabilities and driving the quality bar higher and higher and higher. Cause only the sky is our limit.
This might sound a pretty straight-forward and simple process, but it is underpinned and supported by many tools, processes and methodologies which we keep reviewing and upgrading. And at the heart of our processes is a solid project management approach; supervised by our experienced project managers who practise a transparent development process with frequent updates towards the client at each significant milestone. From project scheduling, change control aspects, open and transparent communication and quality assurance.
Project management the BLEND way
Now now..don’t get me started on the project management and scheduling aspect. That warrants a separate article on how we do it at BLEND.
But what happens after working hours? Each BLENDer has his / her very own hobby, from beer making, to photography, to playing tennis, music instruments, dancing being a full-time parent when at home. And to break this mundane day to day routine, we have pleasant little distractions either from the official or the unofficial BLEND chat channels created on Slack throughout the day. From official chats to getting the work done, per project, or the generic BLEND one, where anyone has the freedom to share anything that pleases them. From jokes, an interesting article, new technologies, silly little YouTube videos and more often than not designs made by our talented designers taking a piss of a moment of the day, of a fellow BLENDer keeping the culture, positive, fresh, hip and the creative juices running deep all day long..and night too, when they are up to it.
So tell me..how do YOU do it on your end? Share with us your thoughts, if there is something that we could be doing better!!! 🙂