When Jon and I first started planning out the logistics of getting our company off the ground, we knew that we’d have to put a lot of focus on our website. Our site had to be our crown jewel; something we could really stand behind. So we asked around: “what is the first thing you’d want to see when arriving at our (or a similar company’s) site?” The response was overwhelmingly unanimous: “Your work…” (which was usually accompanied with shrugged shoulders). Well, no offense to anyone we asked, but we completely disagree.
At first, this made sense. After all, the majority of company websites in our industry open up by featuring their best client work. While I can understand the initial logic behind that approach, I actually believe that we’ve all tricked ourselves into thinking that’s what the end user wants to see. In reality, if the end user is really looking to invest in our services, they’ll likely care much more about who we are, rather than what we’ve done.
Think about it this way: If you show up on your first date with someone and instantly start talking about the past relationships you’ve been in, the date probably won’t go so well. On the other hand, if you show up looking your best, being attentive and polite, you’ll have a much better chance of turning that date into an actual relationship.
Our Brand Comes First
A client’s brand is likely one of their most valued assets. They’ve spent years trying to associate positive feelings and emotions to it. So making sure their brand is left in the hands of someone who understands this is a huge must. If that’s true, it makes complete sense to focus your site completely around your brand – not someone else’s. The notion of promoting someone else’s work before your own actually feels ridiculous to me. I’m not quite sure how that trend got started, but it’s flawed… big time.
After realizing all of this, Jon and I decided that we didn’t even want our portfolio on our site when we launched. We really wanted our reputations to be derived from who we are rather than what we’ve done in the past. However, we knew there would still be many potential clients and colleagues who would want to see our work. So we did create a private portfolio, but it could only be seen by request. This protected our philosophy, but also felt accommodating when necessary.
This approach worked really great – especially in the beginning. I’m sure it bothered some people that they couldn’t see our work right away, but it helped us feel more engaged with visitors right from the get-go. It also gave us a really good understanding of how significant or necessary a portfolio really is. To prove a point: it’s been over 10 months since we opened our doors and launched our portfolio-less website and we’ve yet to be without a client project to work on. Some of those clients requested to see our private portfolio before working with us, but many did not.
Things have changed a bit though. We’ve grown as a company (through experience, not size) and the bulk of our time in the office is focused on actual client work rather than business development. Our reputations seem to be carrying a bit more weight, so a locked down portfolio was starting to feel like a barrier to entry rather than a good ice-breaker.
Iron to Iron, Evolved.
So now, as of this morning, a public portfolio is included on our site. We still feel as though it needed to remain somewhat secondary, because we firmly believe in our philosophy that a client should get to know us, before they get to know our work. Regardless, our site has in-fact grown to accommodate our growth.
With that said, updating our site to include the new portfolio was quite fun. Our concept was simple: The bigger, the better. No crops, just fully displayed work and quick access to launch the actual site. There’s a time and place for cropping your work; it’s called dribbble. Beyond that, there’s no reason to hide any detail. Every single design element on one of our sites was put there for a reason, and we want to show it all off – and as close to full size as we can.
We also wanted to exhibit close attention to detail in our portfolio. This includes subtle (and not-so-subtle) animations when appropriate, as well as unique arrangements of work for each project.
So please, take a moment to browse through our latest addition. Above all, we’re really just excited to have a place to show off all of our hard work. We’ve got work in the pipeline that’s inches away from launching and we plan on keep this portfolio as fresh as possible.
The final step to all of this goodness will be making the whole site responsive… But, we’ll save that for a rainy day.