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#1 StormCat

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 09:22 AM

I'm looking for some advice on how best to categorize a number of related (and occasionally overlapping) services in regards to menu navigation. It's for a portfolio-centric site.

The small business in question has provided the following service to various clients (in no particular order):

Graphic Design
Web Design (including css & html framework as well as graphical components)
Print Design
Packaging Design
Multimedia
3-D Development
Audio/Video editing
Digital Restoration
Voice Overs
Flash
Custom Digital Art

They are also planning on shortly expanding into advanced coding such as javascript and php, as well as CMS formats such as Joomla and Drupal (the latter partially at the request of a current client).

For various reasons, it's been determined that organizing by jobs done for individual past clients would not be efficient as a primary means of categorization at this point.

The target client type in the local market for this business is flooded with companies that are looking for people that can provided many, and often most, of the services listed (sometimes in the oddest of combinations) as a kind of "one-stop-shop" kind of thing, often due to budget crunching in the sucky economy. (Hell, a lot of them want all of the above plus SEO and Social Media marketing, etc. Bag of chips optional - sometimes :duh: ) Basically, if they can't find everything they want in one place, they'll try the next place "down the road" as it 'twere.

They might even want add a store selling calendar designs, buttons, prints, greeting cards, etc as a sideline down the road. Basic photography is another service currently available, though mostly as a means to an end at this point.

As I said, help!
:scratchhead: :search: :) :panic:

Edited by StormCat, 12 March 2010 - 09:47 AM.


#2 bwelford

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 10:17 AM

I like that link in your signature, Stormcat, and I think it is a big part of the answer you're seeking.

I have discovered that my mind is rather like a small child, and should not be allowed to wander off by itself.

It's all a question of focus. You're approaching this from the point of view of your client. They're expressing the question, "Who are we?". That's a very self-centered view and the world may not care about the answer.

A more useful question is to put yourself in the shoes of the typical client you're trying to attract. That's called being customer-centric. Another phrase I heard to describe this recently was the 'Outside-In' view. How will that typical customer phrase the question, "I'm looking for someone who can ...?"

You've got to choose the package of related services where your client is better than the competition. You won't include everything because that suggests "Good at everything but master of none". It's tough getting on prospects radar screens so you've got to stand out from the crowd.

HTH

#3 DCrx

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 10:17 AM

This is just a grab bag with no strategic vision to hold it together. You seem to want to do any odd job for anybody ... at any price range.

Sounds like a hodge-podge is just the end result of never wanting to make a decision about a targeted, profiled, site user.

I have come to think the portfolio based site is a crutch. The "work speaks for itself" rationale wears a little thin.

Develop a strategy. Make a decision. And then the navigation problem will solve itself. And not until then.

#4 fairclb

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 10:26 AM

My recommendation, sit down and figure out who will visit the site. Group it by the type of clients you will get. For example:

Large business
  • wants to outsource overflow
  • looking for a diverse menu of offerings to choose from
Small buinesses
  • Looking for a one stop shop
  • Smaller budgets
This is very basic and should be expanded on, but you can see how define the client types and what they might be looking for. As you fill in the different clients and their needs you will begin to see how things should be organized.

Let the visitor define how the content is laid out, not the owner of the site. I would guess that the majority of the users coming on this site don't have a clear understanding of the technologies used, so mentioning that as a top level link/category is probably not the best approach.

#5 StormCat

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 11:57 AM

A more useful question is to put yourself in the shoes of the typical client you're trying to attract. That's called being customer-centric. Another phrase I heard to describe this recently was the 'Outside-In' view. How will that typical customer phrase the question, "I'm looking for someone who can ...?"


My recommendation, sit down and figure out who will visit the site. Group it by the type of clients you will get. For example:

Large business
•wants to outsource overflow
•looking for a diverse menu of offerings to choose from

Small buinesses
•Looking for a one stop shop
•Smaller budgets

This is very basic and should be expanded on, but you can see how define the client types and what they might be looking for. As you fill in the different clients and their needs you will begin to see how things should be organized.




Thing is, I have profiled the clients available in the local area, and about 99% of them want the "one stop shop." IOW, this is what the market is demanding in my geographic area right now (and has been for a couple years), be it for freelancers or an in-house position; and these demands are coming from both small businesses AND large corporations.


I would guess that the majority of the users coming on this site don't have a clear understanding of the technologies used, so mentioning that as a top level link/category is probably not the best approach.


Heh, yeah, that's why I'm not planning to categorize them in that manner.


I have come to think the portfolio based site is a crutch. The "work speaks for itself" rationale wears a little thin.



Yeah, well, it's great to tell folks "I can do xyz," but you still have to be able to prove it, ie, show examples; unless you have discreet items to sell, like books, games, programs, templates, etc, isn't a portfolio your best bet? Hell, even testimonials are iffy, since so many people are worried about personal privacy and confidentiality that you can hardly attach any truly identifying info. Also, some people find it hard to trust any testimonials they see on any website since it can be difficult for them to tell whether or not they're fake. And there's also issues when the contact person you may have worked with leaves the company you did the work for, or the client company goes out of business (which I recently found out happened with a company I worked for not long after I left them).


Honestly, would anyone say that a fashion designer who wants to build a portfolio site should only concentrate on showing their pants and maybe shirt designs? Even though they also have designs for dresses, sleepwear, swimwear, etc; casual, sporty, or formal styles, and so on, especially if their available clientele want to see all of the above? Not to mention the hot new embroidery styles that're just the latest must have?

Or tell a baker that they should only show their cake designs, when all the local bakeries want people who can do breads, bagels, cookies, donuts, and other pastries too?

In theory, it'd be great to be able to design with an "ideal client" type in mind, but, in order to actually get a job and/or contracts, I have to design for the client pool that actually exists right now, and right now, it consists of those who want a little (or sometimes a lot) of everything.


So, given that the "target client type" is demanding one-stop shopping, again I ask for advice on breaking stuff down into more intuitive categories. As it is, I'm already looking into having multiple css files for options on changing the look & feel of the site, but I have to finish the blueprint, then build the foundation, then finish the basic structure before I can decide on the curtains and paint the walls.


PS - Heh, call me Cat, I find "StormCat" overly formal for general convo; & my apologies for the rampant metaphor-izing above.

#6 fairclb

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 12:26 PM

If the large majority of the clients are looking for a one stop shop, I would have something on the home page that says "Your one stop shop for all of your marketing needs". This would go to a page that has a brief summary of offerings which seem to be:

Graphic Design
- Print Design
- Packaging Design
- Website Design
- Custom Digital Art
Web Development
Multimedia
3-D Development
Audio/Video editing
Digital Restoration
Voice Overs

This also starts to outline your site to some degree, at least the top levels. It is difficult to create a site outline without knowing what is in the site though.

Ideally however you are guiding your visitors based on their particular agenda. I find it hard to believe that all companies are exactly the same. I am in a small town, but if I was going to design a site like this for my area I would identify the groups a bit better. There are some companies (like mine) that have in-house technology, marketing and programming groups. There are occasions where we need to outsource a part of development or design when we aren't able to meet deadlines or just don't have the in-house capabilities. We outsource to complement what we already have. We also already have web servers with specific development platforms. For a customer like this you might be a big more technical, explaining the software and server platforms you work with because they would understand it and may need that information to know if you are able to development alongside existing websites and on specific sever platforms.


Other businesses have no technology our marketing capabilities, they may not even have a website. Those people would be targeted very differently. I wouldn't get into the technical aspects as much and would speak more about the value-add of having a website, brochure or other offerings from a high level. This group would likely need to have a introductory meeting to get to know the company and understand how you would work with them.

Edited by fairclb, 12 March 2010 - 12:37 PM.


#7 bwelford

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 12:38 PM

Hi Cat

What DCrx and I were suggesting you should do is some strategic thinking. As Michael Porter, the strategy guru, says, Strategy is about what you will say no to. What exactly is included in your client's One Stop offering? I presume they don't do automobile servicing while you wait for your new logo.

The Internet is a very crowded place and there are a host of companies who do the same thing as your client. If you're going to stand out from the crowd, you have to decide on your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). What can you do better than all the competitors? Probably to be able to offer such a competitive advantage, you have to focus on a particular market niche, since you can't be the best for everyone. That niche could be determined by geography or by the type of customers, for example real estate brokers.

To be able to stand out from the crowd, you should decide what you will not work on even though you have the capability to do so. Focus, focus, focus should be the key process as you do your strategic thinking.

That's essential for small companies and even for big companies too. Just check out the Ford Focus story and see how they are one of the few automobile companies that is currently doing well.

#8 DCrx

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 09:06 AM

If you have a grab bag approach, then of course all you're seeing is grab bag clients.

An all in one shop is something different. That's the agency approach, taking the client through a step-by-step process, and equipped with a differentiating philosophy.

37signals is an agency approach -- called Getting Real.

That's a one stop. You're selling a buffet.

People who refuse to develop a strategy don't actually have no strategy. They get the default: Throw it at the wall and see what sticks. And the clients view the portfolio like a buffet ...a scoop of skinning ....plop on some stock photo cliches ...and finish it off with a slathering of CMS over everything. "The weirdest combinations" happen in a strategic vaccuum ...and the neighborhood all-you-can-eat buffet.

Buffets, by their design, attract their customers ...it's not an all buffet region just because sit-down haute cuisine restaurant goers avoid them.

A principle designers should acquaint themselves with is design rhetoric. Design is language. Clients can "read" design.

While this seems identical to the one-stop agency, buffets attract clients without any goals -- just laundry lists, clients who want to dictate design to a software operator -- not collaboration with a design expert. Clients who tend towards paying little and gripping about anything they do pay. The 37signals approach attracts a different kind of client and is shunned by most buffet-type clients.

From the 37signals perspective, they see the clients they design for and not the ones who are turned off by the 37signals approach. A self fulfilling prophesy. It would be fallacious to say "the market wants" based on this targeted slice of the market walking through the front door.

Edited by DCrx, 14 March 2010 - 09:52 AM.


#9 StormCat

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 02:29 AM

Gee, I have people telling me I should design based on what prospective clients/employers are looking for, not based on "the designer's whim" (a phrase I have seen elsewhere), but then those exact same people turn around and tell me that I should designed based around what they, as experienced designers, are saying, rather than what the target clients/employers have flat out stated they are looking for... is it really any wonder that I'm confused??? :frustration:

I'm sorry that some of you are having such a hard time accepting that yes, most of the prospective clients/employers in my area ARE looking for someone who can do a little bit of nearly everything, but that is the reality I am facing. The main point behind the site in question will be to get a job; the small business in question is one person who has training, experience, and ability in ALL of the services listed, plus some minor abilities in related areas (as also mentioned). As such, the research was done by reading numerous ads for employment in the appropriate field for the area in question.



To fairclb -

Thank you very very much for actually reading and accepting the situation involved and giving advice based on that. In regards to what will be going on the site, that would pretty much be the best examples of work in the appropriate categories; I have plenty to choose from.

Hmm, maybe this?:

Graphic Design
- Print Design
- Packaging Design
- Website Design
- Custom Digital Art
Web Development
Other Multimedia
- 3-D Development
- Audio/Video Editing
- Flash/Interactive Design
Other Services
- Digital Restoration
- Voice Overs





To DCrx-

This is just a grab bag with no strategic vision to hold it together. You seem to want to do any odd job for anybody ... at any price range.

Sounds like a hodge-podge is just the end result of never wanting to make a decision about a targeted, profiled, site user.



While this seems identical to the one-stop agency, buffets attract clients without any goals -- just laundry lists, clients who want to dictate design to a software operator -- not collaboration with a design expert. Clients who tend towards paying little and gripping about anything they do pay.

You seem to be making a hell of a lot of assumptions from one little list. Not everyone sees the services listed as 100% unrelated and separate fields. All of them fall easily under the mantle of Multimedia Design, and most have their place in Branding and other Marketing activities.
Also, I never recall saying anything about price range, etc. I simply gave a list of services the person in question can provide, and has provided in the past. And no, they do not work for "Clients who tend towards paying little and gripping about anything they do pay."

It would be fallacious to say "the market wants" based on this targeted slice of the market walking through the front door.

It would be equally fallacious to say that the analysis of what "the market wants" was determined in such a manner simply because it does not match up with your own personal assumptions.




To bwelford:

What DCrx and I were suggesting you should do is some strategic thinking. As Michael Porter, the strategy guru, says, Strategy is about what you will say no to. What exactly is included in your client's One Stop offering? I presume they don't do automobile servicing while you wait for your new logo.

What is included would vary from client to client, or employer to employer, based on their needs and budget (freelance) or the position requirements (FT job). And, in case you missed it, automobile servicing was not anywhere on the list.

The Internet is a very crowded place and there are a host of companies who do the same thing as your client. If you're going to stand out from the crowd, you have to decide on your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). What can you do better than all the competitors? Probably to be able to offer such a competitive advantage, you have to focus on a particular market niche, since you can't be the best for everyone. That niche could be determined by geography or by the type of customers, for example real estate brokers.

To be able to stand out from the crowd, you should decide what you will not work on even though you have the capability to do so. Focus, focus, focus should be the key process as you do your strategic thinking.


The "USP" in this case would include things like:
  • flexibility
  • willingness and ability to learn new skills well and quickly
  • "lack of the typical designer's ego" as one former manager put it; ie, being able to move on to new ideas/projects when it's time to do so instead of clinging to old ideas or "the proper way to do things" when that way doesn't work
  • the willingness and ability to offer such a wide variety of services
  • knowing enough about related disciplines to be able to perform as an asset rather than a hinderance when it comes to integrating different facets of projects
  • increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness by not having to always send a project through half a dozen different super-specialized departments


#10 fairclb

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 05:33 AM

Graphic Design
- Print Design
- Packaging Design
- Website Design
- Custom Digital Art
Web Development
Other Multimedia
- 3-D Development
- Audio/Video Editing
- Flash/Interactive Design
Other Services
- Digital Restoration
- Voice Overs


I would change "Other Multimedia" to Multimedia. "Other Services" could be removed making Digital Restoration and Voice Overs both top level links, giving you a total of 5 which is a very good number.

This gives a clear idea of the skill-sets, but I would also create full service packages that are highlighted on the home page and provide in-depth descriptions on second level pages.

#11 DCrx

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 06:28 AM

All of them fall easily under the mantle of Multimedia Design, and most have their place in Branding and other Marketing activities.



All of these also fall under "Getting Real" of 37 Signals. A strategy approach linking all these elements.

Multimedia is a grab bag. That's why you had to list it as having a place under branding or marketing which cuts across and unites media types.

What you don't have is a brand that unites these as part of a coherent marketing approach, like 37Signals does with Getting Real.

As with the elements you list as the USP, your mindset is to reduce it to component elements without the proposition which ties the elements together into something larger.

And you're selectively disclosing the information so you get the conclusion you want. So yes, everyone is making assumptions based on incomplete information -- even the ones who you agree with. But you can tell a lot about the assumptions from the design.

Design is language.

Edited by DCrx, 16 March 2010 - 06:35 AM.


#12 bwelford

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 08:54 AM

Hi Cat

As my favorite management guru, Peter Drucker, said, Help is defined by the recipient. If what we are saying does not help you, that is for you to decide. The rest of this post will probably not be helpful to you either, but others who are reading this topic may find it is useful.

A big part of doing well in business is getting good luck. If you have good luck, then however wrong the experts say your business model is, it does not matter if you succeed. I certainly hope that will happen for your client, Cat.

However early in the game, you do have choices. You can do things that may give you a better chance of having good luck. The world is a tough place to do business and it has got even tougher with the Internet. Purchasers can do their research and find more alternative suppliers from which to choose. Most entrepreneurs do not do as well as they expect and many get frustrated by banging their heads against walls that do not seem to want to let them in. Just because you would like to do something, does not mean that others want to pay you to do it for them.

As Drucker also said, Focus, focus, focus. There are many reasons for that both internal (cost efficiencies, becoming top notch expert, etc.) and external (standing out from the crowd). A one-stop shop must decide the things it will not do. A useful way of deciding that is to figure out how much margin (revenue - cost) you make per hour doing each of the possible services you might offer. Arrange all services in descending order of margin / hour. Then cut off the ones at the bottom. Watch out particularly for things you're doing merely 'as an extra service' to the client.

All this is pretty standard stuff. No one ever recommends doing things any other way. Unfortunately many in real life end up not following this advice. That's because it's tough to say No.

#13 fairclb

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 09:56 AM

Seems like this has become more of an argument about business philosophy than how to organize a site. I absolutely agree with those that are trying to help this person in the business approach, but from what I understand he is developing a website for a customer not helping them fix or implement business strategies. I am still a bit confused why a company that says they offer Internet Design and Development would hire someone else to do their site... but that is not really part of the conversation either.

All that being said, I have found some great advice on this thread. We obviously have some very intelligent and experienced people posting here and anyone asking for advice would benefit greatly from at least listening to what they are saying.

#14 StormCat

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 10:36 AM

I would change "Other Multimedia" to Multimedia. "Other Services" could be removed making Digital Restoration and Voice Overs both top level links, giving you a total of 5 which is a very good number.

This gives a clear idea of the skill-sets, but I would also create full service packages that are highlighted on the home page and provide in-depth descriptions on second level pages.

Heh, 4 really, at least until there are more advanced coding examples to go under Web Development. Again, fairclb, thank you.


And you're selectively disclosing the information so you get the conclusion you want. So yes, everyone is making assumptions based on incomplete information -- even the ones who you agree with.


I'm sorry if you didn't think my original list was clear enough. Those categories are my starting point, the services I have examples for, not the whole thrust of my design plan. Even with tying them together over all, I still need a way to organize them for display purposes, hence my asking for advice on categorization.

But you can tell a lot about the assumptions from the design.

Ok, now I'm really lost; what design is it you're referring to here?


Just because you would like to do something, does not mean that others want to pay you to do it for them.

And what about when there are people out there willing to pay you to do it for them, provided you can show them proof that you are able to do it?

As Drucker also said, Focus, focus, focus. There are many reasons for that both internal (cost efficiencies, becoming top notch expert, etc.) and external (standing out from the crowd). A one-stop shop must decide the things it will not do. A useful way of deciding that is to figure out how much margin (revenue - cost) you make per hour doing each of the possible services you might offer. Arrange all services in descending order of margin / hour. Then cut off the ones at the bottom. Watch out particularly for things you're doing merely 'as an extra service' to the client.

All this is pretty standard stuff. No one ever recommends doing things any other way. Unfortunately many in real life end up not following this advice. That's because it's tough to say No.

Pride can be a wonderful thing, but it doesn't pay the bills, and not everyone wants to freelance. If one's aim is to get a job - an actual job, not simply a freelance project/contract - and the people who have the jobs say "We want someone who can do A, B, and C, and E & F are a plus," someone who says "I'll do A & C, but not B or anything else," is highly unlikely to get said job. Even someone who can/will only do A, B, & C can be on dicey ground when there are people out there who can/will do E and/or F as well vying for the same position.

Ok, so, if the problem here is that it is felt that I am not giving enough information, what else do I need to post? So far I've posted the types of work/services done, the objective of the site (to display the portfolio of someone trying to get a job with one of a number of companies that are currently advertising relevant positions requiring most if not all of those skillsets, and sometimes more). What other information do I need to post to get advice beyond "do your research" (which I already have, and have posted the results of said research) and "know when to say no" (which the person already does, since there are jobs they will not be trying for, and they do have a minimum rate of pay below which they will not accept)?

#15 StormCat

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 10:49 AM

but from what I understand she is developing a website for a customer not helping them fix or implement business strategies


Yes, exactly, thank you. Also, again, this is step one for organizational purposes, not the end-all and be-all of how everything will be presented.

#16 bwelford

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 11:30 AM

So far I've posted ... the objective of the site (to display the portfolio of someone trying to get a job with one of a number of companies that are currently advertising relevant positions requiring most if not all of those skillsets, and sometimes more).

That seems to be different from what was explained when starting the topic.

All my answers were in the context of setting up a business and getting a whole stream of customers on an ongoing basis. It should be done in such a way that you're getting the most profitable stream of projects.

If in fact your client wants to get a job with companies that are advertising positions, then I do not think constructing a website is the most effective use of your client's time. We could suggest other advice if the objective is how best to secure a job with a company advertising a need for a multi-media person.

#17 A.N.Onym

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 11:42 AM

Also, I have to note that
- when you have no strategy and don't know what to do, doing what your customers need is the best shot: this is what you seem to be doing
- when you know what your customers need and what you want to do (strategy), you can focus on one or several parts of what the customers want and provide that to them. This is the 37signals model that DCrx described.

These models don't contradict each other, you simply implement them, depending on what you want to do in your business and how well you know your customers.

Successful companies with lots of clients can get away with focusing on providing a very narrow, but high quality service, while others can try to get any client they get. There's a strategy for every company and every company should rather *have* a strategy :D

I'm sure it's relatively easy to talk with your client and discuss possible changes in the strategy of his business, rather than not showing him this thread. Reading it might help his business by defining any kind of strategy, after all. With that in mind, it'll be easier for you to create the website.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 16 March 2010 - 11:44 AM.


#18 StormCat

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 12:41 PM

If in fact your client wants to get a job with companies that are advertising positions, then I do not think constructing a website is the most effective use of your client's time. We could suggest other advice if the objective is how best to secure a job with a company advertising a need for a multi-media person.


Such as?

Also, what then should one say when a potential employer asks to see an online portfolio?

Edit: My reply is meant sincerely, not sarcasticly. I'm sorry if my brevity made it seem otherwise.

Edited by StormCat, 18 March 2010 - 06:15 PM.




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