Blog : Design

Why you should hire a boutique agency instead of a large creative agency

Why you should hire a boutique agency instead of a large creative agency

Are you asking yourself if you should be hiring a small company/freelancer or a large agency for your project? Before we get into that, let’s define the two. A boutique agency (like Hello Pomelo) is a small creative agency that focuses on specialized work for a small client pool. They’re unlikely to be working with big brand names like Nike, Microsoft etc. A large creative agency would have a huge payroll, they’re a one-stop solution for all the services you need including digital advertising and SEO. They’ll have junior designers, senior designers, programmers, creative directors, account managers, project managers.

Boutique agencies tend to be more specific in their work, choosing to specialize on what they do best whereas large agencies do anything and everything, favouring volume and broader marketing approaches. Oftentimes (and I can personally confirm this, based on the requests I’ve received), large agencies are outsourcing their 5-figure projects to people like me for a much cheaper cost. So who is paying the difference in cost for the same quality of work they would expect from engaging me directly? The client of course. Oftentimes, the client never knows that their work has been outsourced to people like me, because the project manager acts as the middleman between the two parties.

Back to the question then. Why is a boutique agency better compared to a large creative agency?

Many articles suggest why big brands should really consider smaller agencies to do their work.

1. Smaller overhead means cheaper projects

Operating at a small scale, boutique agencies have a small overhead. Large agencies have a payroll they have to commit to every month, plus a big spacious office to pay rent for. All this extra overhead cost gets transferred to the client’s project.

2. Large number of employees doesn’t mean they’re all working on your project

You may think that a company with 100 people would produce better work than a company with <5. That can be further from the truth. Just because they have 150 employees, it doesn’t mean that all 150 will be working on your project. Oftentimes, you’ll first meet with the sales guy. Once you accepts his proposal, a few people you have never met will be assigned to your project, for example: 1 Project Manager, 1 Designer and 1 Developer. Big agencies tend to funnel work to individual employees, like a big production-line in a factory. A designer designs, and a programmer codes what he designed. Think about it…Would you place your project to be built on an assembly line?

3. Individualized and personalized experience

If this is important to you, then boutique agencies are definitely the choice. You get to talk to your designer and developer personally, instead of having your project passed around different teams. Oftentimes (as in my case), I am not only the director, but also your designer and developer. What this means is turn-around times are much faster, as instructions are not being passed around the line.

4. Boutique agencies are built on reputation

A smaller agency or professional is constantly working on building their reputation and portfolio, which means satisfying every client is more important than ever. Our work ethics are different, we’re not clocking in a 9-5pm day or closing a project ASAP – we’re making sure that every client gets a website that everyone is proud of.

5. Big companies are rigid, smaller companies are flexible

Smaller companies are more likely to be flexible compared to larger companies, where lower-level employees require following the Standard Operating Protocol, or require the green light from the bosses in order to do something.

6. Subject matter expertise

Smaller firms tend to focus on what they do best, and not spread themselves too thin. It is not uncommon for an SEO agency to provide web design services to complement their own main service. Whereas an SEO agency would be amazing at doing SEO, they probably have a really small team to do fast and quick websites for clients (so they can get their SEO started). The focus will never be on the design of the website, but the SEO service afterwards. The result would be a run-of-the-mill, fast & quick job for something so important to your business – the first online impression you will ever make to customers. In our mobile-centric society, how can that be just done quickly and cheaply?

Other benefits of working with a small agency

  1. The person that pitches the project, meets up with you to discuss ideas is the same person that is going to work on your project.
  2. You get direct access to the director/CEO.
  3. A personal experience, tailored to your needs.
  4. Faster turnaround, especially in terms of changes, emails etc.
  5. Lower costs, no large overheads passed on to the client.

Do you think you’re ready to start your project with us? Drop me a note and let’s discuss!

Project Meet-ups!

Project Meet-ups!

I strongly believe in working closely with my clients on projects. This is because the websites that I aim to design are highly customized to our client’s needs and requirements. I also believe that it is important to keep the client involved and connected throughout every phase of the project, and I try to do this as much as possible. I usually offer a non-obligatory meetup during the start of the project, which combines 2 things: introduce myself and what I do, as well as find out everything I need to know regarding the client’s company, requirements, problems and needs.

Before beginning the project, it is also important to clearly outline the expectations, fees, services provided – so as to reduce misunderstandings between both parties.

However, throughout the course of the project, I sometimes receive requests from clients to meet-up to discuss the design or development issues. This is quite a difficult situation to be in – as such requests would normally not come up before the engagement of the project, and therefore would not be considered in the final fee. The official agreement also states that the cost only includes meet-ups at our office, and not at the client’s location.

But why am I not able to provide such personalized service then, if I pride myself on customized solutions?

In short – limitations.

  1. As one-half of a 2-woman show, I am the salesperson – project manager – designer – developer – tester – customer relations officer – finance manager and more! As much as I would love to provide every single client personalized service, I do have other responsibilities ongoing at the same time. Going to a client’s location would remove at least 3-4 hours from my time in the office, which sets back my other client’s deadlines.
  2. The fees charged do not include additional time required for the travel to/from the client’s location, and one-on-one consultation with the client. Did you know that when hiring an agency, you are actually paying for the project manager’s time to handle your project, and managing meet-ups and discussions? The fees can go up to as much as $5000 just for the project manager – possibly includes all the Uber rides he has to take as well. You haven’t even yet included the cost of the actual product!
  3. The client did not request prior to the project for such one-on-one service – therefore it was not factored into the cost or project schedule.
  4. It is unfair to our other clients who adhered to the agreement, but suffer having their project delayed.

Client relationships and mutual respect are one of the core building blocks of a small agency/freelancer. It is important to understand each other from differing point-of-views. Understanding of expectations from the get-go is essential, and as much as possible, something I try to establish for a successful working relationship.

With DIY Free Websites, Why Should I Hire a Webdesigner?

With DIY Free Websites, Why Should I Hire a Webdesigner?

Hello everyone, its been a while since I’ve blogged and today I’d like to discuss the reality that we web designers face today – free DIY websites.  So a couple of these have been cropping up – a popular one is Wix, Blogger, WordPress.com. Here’s what they usually promise – build your own professional-looking website for absolutely free, no programming knowledge needed, no paying designers, no recurring hosting fees, FREE templates!

Sounds amazing! But what’s the catch?

  1. Advertising

    Building your website for free on a platform like Wix comes at a price. Your website will be host to Wix’s advertisements. While your free site might not have cost you a cent, a pretty obvious stamp that tells people you got it done for absolutely nothing does cheapen it a bit.

    wix
    This sticks to the bottom of the browser, on every page!

    All of this will eventually affect your business or company’s professionalism and credibility. Will you be willing to engage a company, or proceed with an online transaction (a daunting task in itself) on a website that was built on a free platform?

  2. Domain name wix2The worst thing about free website builders is that, unless you upgrade to their Premium plans, you will have to use their domain name yourname.wixsite.com. Nothing screams unprofessionalism than a wixsite.com address.
  3. Most features aren’t available until you upgrade to their Premium plansThey have to make money somehow right? Their free sites are essentially a demo to their actual product, which is all part of their Premium plans. Granted, that it is still quite affordable at around SGD$17/month and will roughly cost you about SGD$200/year. It is definitely a better option than shelling out a few thousand dollars on a professional designer to craft a personalized website for you, and I would actually recommend this option for people who aren’t yet confident to invest in their business or company and just need to test the waters a little bit.
  4. There is a little bit of a learning curve, but their website builder is pretty neat 

    Well, now that you aren’t paying someone to do all the technical bits for you, it’s up to you to learn how to use their website builder. I admit, it is pretty good for a free website but of course there are limitations to what you can do. You must be satisfied with whatever little you can change.wix3

  5. Lack of personalization optionsThis is another issue that free web builders aren’t able to address. You’re extremely limited to what you can change. So if you wanted a specific change to the design, it might be impossible to make that change simply because you do not have access to the actual codes. You can only change what they allow you to change.

When should you hire a web designer then?

Wix sites are amazing for people who are just starting out on an idea or business, and not yet ready to invest too heavily yet. You get some basic features, and a free presence on the web for a small amount of money. But when and why should you hire?

  1. You do not have any design sense, and need someone to do it! Many of my clients have actually tried their hand at creating their own websites before engaging me to do it! What I hear most from them is “It is not professional enough. I’m not a designer.” Which is perfectly fine! Not everyone is born with a keen sense of colours, typography, typesetting and layout. It is amazing how very slight oddities to font, colour, spacing can break the whole design.
  2. You want to focus on your business, while someone handles the techy parts! Let’s face it. You’ll probably be making more money focusing on the core essence of the business or company, rather than fumbling with design, editing of content and maintenance of the website.
  3. You’re ready to take your business to a new level You’ve spent a few months on Facebook, your business is starting to get successful and you’re ready to launch a full blown website for a fresh online-presence. Having a website not only shows how professional your company or business is, but a website with a good design is sure to raise some eyebrows. Investing in a website also shows that you’re in for the long run.
  4. You understand the importance of design How does Apple sell overpriced MacBooks with half the specs of a PC laptop? Good design and marketing. Good design sells. Good design is able to shape your price. Good design is able to alter first impressions. That’s how important good design is.

 

In conclusion, free to build websites are great for those who are not too serious, or not willing to invest yet into their company or business. But a good website designed by a professional will definitely set you apart from your competitors. In this day an age, we’re almost always on our phones and the first thing we do when we check out a new business is to go to their website. That being said, it should be as great and impressive as your company is!

Should I hire external web developers?

Should I hire external web developers?

“There has been some communication problems…”

“They were unable to deliver according to the brief.”

“My developer’s ignoring me.”

Any of these sound familiar to you?

After 8 years in the industry, I’ve encountered several clients who have had such problems dealing with the web designer that they hired. More often than not, these designers or developers were from external sources, or charged extremely cheaply – think $500 for a full WordPress website. In almost all cases, there was also no contract or specifications of the services to be provided as well. This is an important aspect of any agreement as it makes sure that both parties are agreeable to the price and scope of service provided, and for how long. However, with developers charging such attractive prices, it is highly unlikely that they will go through the proper administrative processes.

So what happens then, when you don’t have a contract and your developer goes MIA? You do not have any legal documents to actually do any action against your service provider! For a $500 fee, how many hours do you expect your developer to spend on your project?

So a lot of my clients have to turn to another designer/developer, and then pay them ANOTHER fee to restart or continue their unfinished project. Having wasted their initial budget spent on a low-quality service provider who wasn’t able to give them what they really wanted, they now have to spend even more.

This is why, all my projects:

  • Start with a proper specifications list with expectations, scope and terms & conditions
  • Everything is in black and white, and signed / agreed by both parties
  • Duration of service and after-sales is also clearly stated
  • Client communication is integral throughout the process of the whole project
  • We’re locals, working in-house, so communication is no issue

Of course, we can never compete with companies or freelancers that provide the same service for $500. But in this industry, you get what you pay for. There’s no such thing as cheap and good. We are definitely not the cheapest, but what’s most important to us is the value. We are always looking to improve our portfolio and work quality, and focus on quality rather than quantity of websites produced. So you can rest assured, that your project is of great importance to us.

Do you know who is working on your project?

Do you know who is working on your project?

Hello, I’m here again to write about something that I’m very passionate about. Singapore has barely scratched the surface for supporting local musicians and artists, and I think we should supporting local web designers as a top priority too!

From my time in the industry, I’ve found out that a lot of companies outsource their work to cheaper labour in foreign countries. Most of these companies do not even have in-house designers or developers. It’s just 1 sales guy, who you meet up with, has barely any knowledge about design or coding and tells you he can deliver a website to you. He is merely just a middleman, so do you know who is actually working on your website?

Delays in replies

The main problem with working with a middleman, is he will need to relay all your questions, revisions and questions to the person actually building the website. Even simple questions like “Will I be able to provide a first sign-up discount for customers?” will take a few days to a week to get replied to, because a) the middleman doesn’t know the technicalities as he isn’t trained in web development, b) the foreign developer is on a different timezone and c) he also has a large number of projects from clients all over the world too. This results in projects that take a long time to complete!

Lost in translation

Most foreign developers from neighbouring countries do not have a good grasp of English, even though they may be very good at what they do. Certain things that may seem like common sense or common practice to you, has to be explained out step by step to the developer. Furthermore, most clients are not very well versed or knowledgeable in technical stuff, so you will have to rely on your middleman to know what you want and successfully relay that to the developer.

The design never looks like the final website

I’ve personally been engaged to just do the design portion of the website, and for some reason, the final coded website never looks exactly like my design. Whenever you have 1 person designing and another coding (especially someone who is not also a designer), such instances are bound to happen. Most of the time, there aren’t any quality checks done to ensure that the final product looks exactly like what the designer envisioned as there are some elements that are not best explained in a static mockup eg. mouse hovers, animated effects, slider effects, parallax effects etc. It is always best to have the site fully developed by the same person, so that the concept, ideas and creativity follows through from design all the way to development.

In conclusion, it is very important to know who exactly is working on your project and know the benefits you get from having a close working relationship with your web designer, compared to a sales middleman. Yes, I get it, labour costs in Singapore is way higher than it is in neighbouring countries like India and Vietnam, but working with local talents comes with its benefits as well!

How to Increase Sales for Your E-Commerce Shop

How to Increase Sales for Your E-Commerce Shop

I have been designing e-commerce websites for about, close to 7 years now, and have absolutely lost count on how many I have guided and completed along the way. I’ve worked on Love Bonito, when they were first starting up, moving from Livejournal to a self-hosted E-commerce site, Bag Charm Love, Lloola Shoes, Olette Lingerie, The Out Post Trading Co., Gymsportz, Ooma.sg and more. And it’s amazing to see how the e-commerce scene has grown in Singapore. Online stores have grown so successful, they now have their own brick-and-mortar store!

So how do you increase your site’s popularity?

  1. Good Design – You must think this is a given, but a lot of people totally underestimate how important it is to have a good design. Good design gives good first impressions – good first impressions leads to sales, because you look professional and legitimate. With current events, buyers are getting more cautious of fraud sites, it gets more and more important to portray a legitimate business front .
  2. Good Content – Make sure you have all your legal, privacy policy and terms & conditions pages set up properly. Even though most of us don’t read it (honest truth), it feels good there is actually one in place.
  3. Good Marketing  – This goes hand in hand with good design. Humans are naturally attracted to beautiful things. There is no point investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing with Google or Facebook, when you have an ugly banner to go with it. An amazing banner design should be part of your marketing, or it will all go to waste.

So now, you have some people buying from your store. How do you make them buy more?

  1. Cross-selling – offer 3 or 4 complementary products that would go together with the main product they are looking at.

    You may also like - www.eaura.sg
    You may also like – www.eaura.sg
  2. Upselling – Suggest other products they might be interested in, before they checkout their cart
  3. Free Delivery with a certain amount – This will prompt customers to fill up their carts to the brim so they can enjoy free delivery! They might even ask their friends if they would like to share carts, and that’s free promotion for you too!

The result? Average cart size increase of 16%, 56% more time spent on the site, and a 116% increase in products viewed.

You will be amazed at the number of tips and tricks we have under our sleeves, that’ll help you increase your sales!

Picking the right web designer – the first time

Picking the right web designer – the first time

Throughout the course of my career I have encountered many people who have approached me with sites already completed. Some of them have told me that their previous web designer had done a bad job, didn’t manage to do things as they had expected, some functions were left undone or completely missing, or simply just evaporated into thin air. The worst thing is, the money has been paid and deposit lost. Which led me to think how important it is to choose the right web designer the very first time.

How do you know a web designer is reliable?

Check the quality of your web designer’s website. As a web designer, they should have a pretty awesome website right? Is it something that you would like? Can you see the quality of the web designer’s works and skills behind the design of their own personal website?

Check the works. Take a look through the portfolio of the web designer. Are the websites legitimate or still hanging around the web at least?

Check the clients and/or testimonials. A good web designer is proud to display his or her clientele, because they are confident that if approached, these clients will be able to speak good of their services. Email or contact some of those clients to get some testimonials regarding the web designer’s work and service.

Check what the web designer is charging you with the market price. Is the quotation too good to be true? It most likely is. Prices reflect the quality of work you will receive. A $300 website, will not end up looking like a $3000 website. You get what you pay for. It is better to pay a little more for a quality web designer rather than paying less, and then not being happy with the result in the end.

So those are just some general guidelines, from a web designer point of view. Would love to hear some opinions from a client’s point of view. Feel free to leave a comment or drop me a hello!