Welcome to the Summersault blog, where you’ll find a collection of thoughts from our staff on the tools and techniques, updates about our company and reflections on small business and community-building.
Dear Friends of Summersault:
The short version of this post is that Summersault is excited to be refocusing our business on new offerings. As a part of this change, we will not be accepting new general website development projects. This post contains some context for that decision, and some details about what it means for you, for us, and for our future.
In 1997, we created Summersault website development because we saw an emerging and unmet need to help businesses and organizations build effective, dynamic websites. We began working with artists, not-for-profits, banks, hospitals, social services agencies, governments and many other kinds of clients to create customized online tools. As a company we grew from two college friends with a shared vision into a great team of people with a breadth and depth of skills and experience we’re very proud of.
Is building a website the same thing as building a marketing strategy?
It’s understandable that people have started to confuse the two.
With so many amazing online marketing tools available and (in many industries) a shift away from traditional marketing media like printed materials, marketing for many businesses and organizations has become an activity that largely takes place on the web. It’s easy to start thinking of using those online tools as analogous to creating a plan for marketing.
But just like a more traditional printed brochure, billboard or phonebook ad, a website is a tool that you use to implement your marketing strategy and communicate about your brand. You can’t build an effective website without having a marketing strategy in place first any more than you can give a great speech without first having something compelling to say.
We live in an age where many people expect to have lots of choices in their browsing and buying experiences. Retail stores offer us twenty variations of mustard, ninety varieties of cereal and several hundred styles of footwear.
There’s so much flexibility in creating websites that it can feel like there’s endless room for offering more and more choices to your users. It’s not like you have limited space like you would on a printed page, or limited time like you would with a TV or radio commercial – why not fill up all that time and space with lots of shiny things for your users to explore?
Because having more choices doesn’t necessarily mean having a better user experience.
If you offer your users 20 navigation menu options, that’s 20 different items they have to weigh against each other to decide where they want to go next.
Investing in creative services can sometimes feel risky. Throw in the ever-expanding jargon and ever-changing best practices of technology tools, and it can be down-right scary for some of our clients.
At Summersault, we do everything we can to take risk and fear out of working on a website development project. We explain our process and approach in detail from the beginning. We provide examples of the kinds of tools, interfaces and designs you can expect to see as we work together. We make sure our clients understand what will be expected of them along the way. We set clear timelines and milestones for the project. And we keep the lines of communication open.
In the end, the most important way we can remove any sense of risk is by guaranteeing the satisfaction of our clients. We stand by the quality of our work, and so our professional service proposals contain this simple satisfaction guarantee:
If you’ve read any kind of article on website development or related topics from the last year, it almost certainly told you that making your website “mobile-friendly” is critical to its success. We hear this from our clients more and more often as we’re talking about how they want their new website to look and work: “make sure it’s mobile-friendly too!”
It’s a great goal, but it can also be a confusing one.
Making a website “mobile-friendly” can mean a lot of different things depending on the type of site and the end result you’re looking for. All of the sites that Summersault produces now have some minimum level of compatibility with mobile devices, but when our clients raise this as an interest or when we identify an opportunity for them to use mobile components to achieve a particular business/organizational goal, we know there are some details to talk about.
Here are a couple of different interpretations of the phrase “mobile-friendly” when it comes to website development:
Yuri Victor, the Director of User Experience at The Washington Post, has written a testimonial of sorts about why the paper uses the WordPress content management system on its online properties, instead of some enterprise newspaper-specific CMS:
[E]nterprise software isn’t build for us. It’s built for people who buy enterprise software, not for users. Newspaper CMSes were built to handle every problem ever. They can do newspaper pagination and online management and make waffles.
This makes doing simple things difficult and change near impossible because each change has to worry about every feature. Features rarely help and more often than not they complicate everything else you do going forward.
More is rarely the problem with users. In fact, more makes things more difficult for everyone.
Less is easier. Less makes programming easier. Less makes design easier. Less makes change easier. Less makes adding features everyone wants easier. When there is less to do, there is less ways to screw up.
Summersault recently renewed our membership in The Drupal Association, the organization that helps provide funding, infrastructure and promotional resources to the Drupal software developer community.
In making a financial contribution to this project, it’s always a good time to reflect on the incredible value that we and our clients get from Drupal.
In years past, if a client asked us to build certain kinds of features – an online store, a community website, a video contest website – we would have spent tens or hundreds of hours building the software needed to support that functionality, from scratch – and that’s before we even got to the graphic design, content or other aspects of a site. It could be a worthwhile investment for our clients, but it was always a significant one.
For the rest of the month of December 2012, we’re offering a signup special for new web and email hosting accounts at Summersault.
When you sign up before December 31st, 2012 using the promotion code “2DOLLARS” we’ll give you six whole months of our “Standard” web hosting package at just $2/month. After the six month special period ends, you’ll be billed at the regular price just $10/month, and you can cancel any time.
That’s an 80% discount – but you have to setup your hosting account before the end of the year!