The Best Piece of Customer Service Advice

I’ll make this short. If you want a sound piece of advice in customer service this is it, no matter what you’ve done, what you’ve made or what you intend to do.

Never forget who you’re serving.

The minute you forget that, do something else as you just lost your heart to business.

22 Web People In Ten Years

in-ten-yearsTen years, it’s a long time. Aspirations of what you’ll be doing in ten years could be absolutely anything. I personally look to the things which I’d like to have achieved in ten years time and a few of these are; authoring a book, speaking more frequently and having multiple businesses. In ten years time I’ll be 36 and while I think it is a long way off there will be one day when I think it has gone way too fast, so by the time I am forty I want to achieve as much as I can. I wanted to know about other 10 year plans and  asked some awesome people from the web community about what thoughts they had for the future.


Ashley Baxter –

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time, what would you like to achieve?

I consider myself to be an ambitious person, which makes answering this all the more difficult. In 10 years I’ll be 32, and I see myself having taken my current business to new heights, as well as having started up another business more in line with my personality. But variety truly is the spice of life, and I’d like to dabble in many things alongside that. In the future I’d love to get involved with presenting in a video game niche, as well as keep myself busy with various web projects as I continue to learn Ruby. Basically, I see myself doing quite a few things. Life will never be boring.

On a personal note, I definitely see myself happily settled with Daniel Craig and our beautiful babies, which we very much enjoyed making. Ahem.

tim-van-dammeTim Van Damme –

That’s a question to which I don’t want to know the answer. What I love so much about this business is you don’t know what you’ll be doing next.

Also: I’m not much of a 10-year plan guy. I don’t plan, I wait and see. If there’s one thing I want to do some day, it must be teaching. Teaching people the right way to make a website is very satisfying, and I’d love to teach the next generation everything I was lucky enough to learn myself.

aaronirizarryAaron Irizarry –

In ten years time I would want to be doing what I love on my own terms. I love talking, and writing about design, the design process, and the practical aspects of working in the design industry, so it would be awesome to be speaking on these topics and or contributing to books on them. To sum it “doing what I love on my own terms, and spending more time with the people I love (family, and friends).

john-chowJohn Chow –

I really have no idea where I’ll be in 10 years. I don’t see that far into the future. However, I would hope by then I will be able start my foundation to help fund causes that I believe in. I always said the worth of a man is not how much he makes, it’s how much he gives. I hope in 10 years, I will be able to give more than I’ve ever dreamed possible.

gabriel-seguraGabriel Segura –

I see myself working at home full time dedicated to web design and other design trends (industry design), together with my wife doing some illustrations i normally use in my webdesigns. I would love to start up my own design studio, and have a less stressed life.

Paul_BoagPaul Boag –

In 10 years time I would hope that Headscape will still be going strong. However, I would like to see its daily operation less reliant on myself and the other directors. This would free up my time to develop personal projects and maybe even have a life beyond the web. I have been working with the web since 1994 and although it has been an incredibly exciting ride I am not sure I see myself developing websites forever.

Andy_RutledgeAndy Rutledge –

Thanks for your note. I appreciate your request, but I’m afraid I’ll not be able to provide very good fare. I’m already doing what I’ve wanted to work toward. I own a nice design agency and work with great people who do excellent work. So, I’m good; mission accomplished. I see perhaps adding one or two more agency partners over the next few years, but as far as plans …I’m not looking for much in the way of change. I certainly want to be doing better work in 10 years, but I’ve already achieved what I set out to achieve.

elliott-kemberElliott Kember –

I have no idea where I’ll be in 10 years. Every time I try and answer this question, I end up being wrong, so my answers get more and more vague.

I’d like to be in charge of something – most probably a startup. I’ve been setting myself up to run a startup for some time now – I just haven’t figured out what to do. Ideally I’ll be working with a small team, and having a lot of fun. I certainly hope I’m not working in a cubicle somewhere, for somebody else, developing Death March software and hating it. I don’t know where I’ll have to be to make this happen – possibly San Fransisco or London.

In my opinion, it’s a very difficult question to answer – as soon as you start deciding, you begin to limit your options. Ten years ago, I’d never have expected to be living in the UK, or even working in this industry. So far I’ve played it by ear, and it seems to have worked out fine. As long as I can be flexible enough to jump at opportunities, things should be okay!

David_LeggettDavid Leggett –

In 10 years, I’d like to be making annual trips around the world working as a volunteer for understaffed schools and orphanages. I really admire the people who are able to organize projects that allow the world as a community to help each other (a kind of organization I’ll never be able to achieve), and it’s something I think would be very interesting to be more involved in. Of course, I’d like to still be working on the side with various blog projects like UX Booth, Tutorial9, and Better Blogger.

marc-perelMarc Perel –

Ten years time, that’s a far way away, that’s about half my life!

I would say there are a few things that spring to mind, career wise; the mose basic goal would certainly be to have a stable, scalable business; be it in themes, site development or anything else which Obox ventures into in the coming years. I don’t need a sport scar or a mansion, if I have a house with a garden and a business which gives me enough time to ride/run/chill in the day, work in the mornings and evenings, then I’ll be happy.

Paul_RandallPaul Randall –

In 10 years time I would still like to see myself primarily designing websites, but working more on logo and print work running a small design agency or online business.

I hope to have my work featured in a publication such as .net or a book at some point, and for it to be well received within the web community.

Gary_VaynerchukGary Vaynerchuk –

No idea, my goal is to enjoy the process of gettin there but I am a reActionary businessman and don’t make predicitions or have jar thoughts where I will be.

Jon Phillips –


In ten years I hope I’ll be traveling around the world and answering emails from my laptop on some airport wireless internet access. Though I see no reason for not doing this now, I’m not sure I want to wait 10 years to be where I want to be and go where I want to go. I will surely still be designing websites but probably work more on personal projects rather than client projects.

amy-mahonAmy Mahon –

In 10 years time, if all goes to plan, I hope to be primarily focusing on raising a family. It’s a tad old-fashioned, I know, but I was fortunate to have had a stay-at-home mom and I’ve always wanted to be as involved with my children. This doesn’t mean I’d abandon web design altogether – just schedule projects in a way that will allow me to maintain a nice balance between work and family. That’s if all goes to plan.

My Plan B is to really focus on my career, get a few big name clients under my belt after which I would speak in peer conferences, teach college classes and/or write a book.

chriswallace-bio-picChris Wallace –

In ten years I’d like to be at a point where I am able to do some traveling, see parts of the world that I’ve never seen before and spend time with my family. Running my own business is fun and I’d like to continue doing that as well, creating and defining user experience on the web and beyond. I’m positive in 10 years the “Internet” will have evolved to the point where it’s rarely just a mouse and keyboard, but rather a window into other parts of the world. I want to be heavily involved in that.

chrisspoonerChris Spooner –

It’s pretty hard to imagine where I will be in ten years time, or even to imagine what I’d like to be doing. A career in web design ten years ago would be a completely different scenario than what it is now, so who knows what the industry will be like in another ten into the future?!

With that said, I’ve recently moved myself into a position where I’m supporting myself working as a self employed person doing something I love, so I can only hope this will continue into the future. It would be awesome to be able to lead a fulfilling life from a mix of blogging and design projects that offers plenty of exciting work while also allowing for personal time to head off and do whatever I like!

matthew-smithMatthew Smith –

In ten years. Well, let me think about where I was on this day ten years ago first. Okay, I got it, I was in my third semester at Colorado State University, a year before I left for England, and I was totally dissatisfied with my art education. I thought then, that commercial art was a form of selling out to the man. I like beer and raising a family, so I’m a little more open minded now.

So, ten years? Sheesh! I have no idea where I’ll be in ten years, but I can say a few things I dream about. I dream about starting a school/agency that builds young people up into powerful thinkers, designers, citizens, and provides quality services and products to the design industry and the world at large. I dream about having opportunities to work on projects that change people, change institutions, and help people grow. I’d like to be a fun dad, and a kick ass husband. I’d like have written a book or two.

All the stuff I wanted to do ten years ago, now seems wimpy though. I’ve done and seen so much more than I thought I would, and the smallest things ended up being the most important. It’s not easy for me to answer a question like this with a simple “I’d like to have made my first million”, though that’d be nice too 🙂

adiirockstarAdii Pienaar –

When I look back on my life in 10 years’ time, I’d love to see that I had been slowly improving myself on a daily basis during those 10 years. Fact is, I’m an entrepreneur and I’ll most probably (touch wood) be involved in a few businesses in the next 10 years; so my only goal relating to my “career” is to be successful enough not to ever have to go back to back to full-time employment.

Beyond that, improving & challenging myself is much more important, as I know that those two things will mean that I’ll be happy with my life in 10 years’ time.

gracesmithGrace Smith –

Without a doubt I would still be working in the creative industry, but focused on writing while perhaps pursuing photography on a more professional level. While I love web design and development I am becoming extremely passionate about developing my knowledge and skills as a writer and blogger and I’ve recently become obsessed with photography (having bought my first DSLR this year).

Ideally in the future I would like to be a published author within the design sector as well as exhibiting my work as a photographer.  I would also hope in 10 years to still be publishing online and be heavily involved within the web community.

My thoughts on where I will be in 10 years are diverse as I hope I will have several creative outlets that constantly challenge and inspire me. If that’s the case then I know i will be both happy and fulfilled.

Martin BeanMartin Bean –

It’s no secret that us humans are creatures of learning and I’m know different. I love expanding my knowledge on every subject possible (yet still fare badly in pub quizzes and IT-Boxes). As a result of this, I hope that in ten years time I’ve managed to expand upon my knowledge of the web and related technologies and practices. And a pay rise or two.

At the moment, I work as a web developer, mainly developing websites in HTML/CSS and building applications with PHP and MySQL. In ten years time, I would like to be proficient in at least two more server-side/programming languages. Ruby on Rails strikes me as one of those that’s good to know. Java and .NET are also alluring to me, but I feel those are a definitely a step up from my good ol’ trusty PHP.

Sarah_MadysonSarah Whinnem –

Right now I seem to be at a bit of a crossroads, where in ten years I can see myself following two different paths. My original goal was always to make a career of being an in-house graphic designer, whether through a private company (like my current position) or with an agency. Following that path, in ten years I would like to be in an art/creative director position, being part of a team of like-minded creative people all working together to produce an exceptional and beautiful product, whether it be literature or software or art. Recently, however, I’ve also been able to see myself accomplishing a different, but similar, goal, that of the successful freelancer. The freedom, variety, and independence that it offers are very alluring to me. Communicating as often as I do with people who are making it work being their own boss and calling the shots makes me believe that it’s a great opportunity. And in the end, if the freelance path is successful, I may end up with a team to work with and rely on. What this means to me is that it’s not so much specifically where I am that is an important goal for me, but that creativity, collaboration, excellence, and teamwork are abstract goals that no matter where I end up in ten years, I want to make happen.

Emma_TaylorEmma Taylor –

I never thought it would be such a tricky question…it’s definitely got my brain ticking!! I LOVE the freelance world and feel quite content with being a one (wo)man band. I’ve never been one to plan so far in advance and i’m still learning a lot about who i am and about our industry. I love designing for the web and hope to continue doing what i love for many years to come. I plan to start working with more freelancers and design agencies and focus on what i know best, setup a few personal projects helping others and reflecting on my experiences, travel more, continue to work along side my husbands business and most of all, enjoy myself in the process!

adellecharlesAdelle Charles –

In ten years I see myself still running FUEL and not working for anyone else but myself. I know that’s a long time from now, however there are so many possibilities and growth to be had that I won’t be able to stop until I have achieved all of my personal goals as well as company goals. (Currently finishing up a solid year one). We have many more additions to the publishing (Fuel Brand Network) side of Fuel Brand Inc. as well as some non-profit goals and teaching through conferences & workshops. Maybe catch up with me in ten years?

Thanks to all who were involved in this post, if you’d like to be featured in future posts, drop me an email with a little bit about yourself.

I interview WooThemes

woothemeslogoWooThemes is pretty well known, they have delivered 44 wordpress themes in to the commercial theme market. I wanted to ask a few questions to the guys about where things were headed with business and personal life. Mark and Magnus were kind enough to answer some questions.

Just in case people don’t know, could you list the names and roles of persons involved within Woo?

WooThemes was started by Adriaan Pienaar in Cape Town, South Africa, Magnus Jepson in Stavenger, Norway and Mark Forrester in London, England – with the internet being the life blood of the company.

It’s quite evident that WooThemes has a very big voice amongst the web community and beyond, if you’re ahead of the rest, what is keeping you motivated to achieve great things everyday?

Mark: I think all 3 of us are quite competitive, both amongst ourselves and our competitors. We are always trying to knock each other off top spot for best selling theme, or studying our web traffic and blog posts were we are mentioned and planning how we can strengthen our position online with great themes, content and competitions. I think that definitely helps in achieving bigger things each month.

We also are lucky in the fact that we can collaborate with industry leading designers, so we get their personal styles infusing with ours to really create unique and trend-breaking designs.

Magnus: I think the advantage we have over “the competition”, is that we have a unique team composition, and that we all want to apply our ideas, to make Woo an inch better. Both Mark and Adii have also felt the heat, since my first themes proved to be the most popular 🙂

Adii has recently been involved in an interview stating that 90% of the marketing activities are down to him, would you say that your known more for quality themes or your marketing activities?

Mark: Definitely a combination of the two. Marketing poor quality themes wouldn’t exactly work in our favour especially with our rather viral Twitter profile. We pride ourselves on unique designs, built on a very stable theme framework boasting lots of useful functionality.

Magnus: We have all found the parts that we enjoy the most in Woo, and Adii has a knack for marketing, as I have a knack for doing support, so people sometimes only think Adii is running Woo, as his voice is so prominent 😉


Woo2 was hyped to the max, has your marketing since the Woo2 launch increased your hits/turnover?

Mark: Definitely. Woo2 launched with a much more competitive pricing structure for the club membership, that coupled with a far more sexy and usable company website has definitely done wonders for our traffic and sales.

Magnus: Yeah again I think the marketing we did through ads, twitter and other interactive marketing was spot on, and it’s really helped take us to the next level.

What would you say are the reasons why you have such a good reputation in the industry?

Mark: We were lucky enough to have got in early to the commercial theme market,  that said it was not all down to luck, we identified a big gap in the market and pounced on it. We were therefore mentioned quite a bit online amongst the early WordPress adopters.

We are also extremely vocal as to our plans, we love engaging with our community and getting their feedback on our next moves. This is directly related to our reputation. We adapt and mature quickly, but always do so to offer something better for our loyal users.

Magnus: I think the advantage we had at being early in the game, and having a great team has made us get a good reputation. I also believe that our designs, both self produced and those done by top designers, have elevated our themes above the rest.


44 Themes and more on their way, where do you see theme design going?

Mark: We are exploring so many different types of themes at the moment – business, multimedia, magazine/news, and personal themes so there is definitely not one direction we are moving in. That said more and more businesses are turning to WordPress for an affordable and very usable content management system so with every theme we try produce something breaking the traditional blog format of WordPress themes.

Magnus: What amazes me is how good the first few themes like Fresh News and Gazette are still doing. These themes have become the building blocks for us, and I think our main focus will still be around magazine, business and multimedia themes, but I’d like us to explore more niche themes as we keep growing. I think our customers crave updated designs, but with similar functionality, so that allows us to reinvent our older theme designs, while not reinventing the functionality behind them.

The Magento themes seem to be on the back-burner, what are the reasons for that happening?

Mark: We at WooThemes are big on ideas and quick on communicating them to our users. Sometimes probably a little too quickly. We’ve certainly learnt to take things one step at a time, developing 44 WordPress themes and now entering the Drupal market is a huge amount of work. Now that the platform has been built with Woo2 to support the sales of different CMS themes we can focus our attention to Drupal and Magento, with Drupal being the guinea pig.

Magnus: We like to think big, and it all sounded so good when we discussed it, but in retrospect I think we should have focused on taking one CMS at a time, and not promise to evolve to 3 other CMS off the bat. Hopefully we’ll get there in the end though.

On a personal level, how much time do each of you spend on Woo work, as most of you have your own little businesses behind the scenes?

Mark: All three of us are very entrepreneurial, but WooThemes is our day job and passion. Being internet based we have the flexibility of working the hours we want. Usually we work far too many, but we try to take it easy on a friday, and of course always find time for an XBOX session 🙂

Magnus: I actually find myself working way more now than when I had a 8-4 job. It’s just so much more motivating to spend time working than sitting in front of a TV. I probably spend anywhere from 6-12 hours a day working on Woo.


What are the three top goals for Woo over the next 12 months, considering you’re already reaching 1 million page views per month!?

Mark: 5 million page views per month. No, on a serious note we are not only drived by traffic and sales figures. We want to cement ourselves in the web design industry as the leading theme development company, but all the while having fun, doing what we enjoy, and to keep impressing our awesome community of users.

Magnus: I’m always eager to see growth and stability, as I hope to be working on Woo for years to come. Page views isn’t a goal in itself, but I think that is a result of our hard work with continuously pumping out quality themes. I’d like to continue on that path… Why change a winning formula?

Thank You

Thanks go to Mark and Magnus for answering the interview questions on behalf of WooThemes.

Understanding the use of Social Media

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to a group of approximately 30+ local businesses about building a brand with Social Media. The seminar raised lots of interesting questions, I even received more questions a few days later. I’ve no problem whatsoever answering any questions about my work and asked the person who emailed me whether it would be ok to answer the queries in a blog post rather than email so everyone could benefit.Thanks for the seminar on Tuesday – it came over as a very professional presentation – and an interesting development potential for business.

SEOs are saturating the internet and self-inflicting an own goal because their hunger for revenue conflicts with and obscures their primary purpose – how will social media be controlled?

My personal opinion is that ‘Social Media’ is simply a buzz word around understanding how you understand and market to a community. Social Media is a tool which you can use to market correctly, you don’t make money from Social Media, you make money from your ‘product’ by using Social Media.

Keeping the Social Marketing world moderated is a different kettle of fish entirely, however I do believe it will be down to the people. The end user will know whether they’ve been marketed to correctly. A client of a ‘social media/marketing consultant’ should do their research first and foremost. It’s the same as anything else, you wouldn’t use a joiner who had a reputation of doing bad work. Research correctly and find some testimonials, don’t pay peanuts as you’ll get monkeys.

I can see that social media will work for unique products, but what about services?

Think of it like this. You have Haagen Dazs Ice Cream and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, both are high quality ice creams and both of which have people who like the ice cream. Some people like one, the other or both. They’re both still ice cream in the same way as a joiner is a joiner and a web designer is a web designer. There is more than one design agency, there is more than one electrical services company however different people will like a different service. Some people will become clients because of cost and some will become clients because of quality services. I and we (the rest of the industry) should be there to build the community around your product/service to provide you with constant work and engaging with your customer base so they’re happy with you and your services which in turn enables them to pass your name on.

Anyone who says ignore the competition in my industry doesn’t understand that our clients initially select on PRICE (they usually don’t know enough until we advise about the legislation)

If that is the case then your potential clients need educating through your current client base about why your services are priced as they are. Think of it more long term than immediate, building a community through education can reap rewards long term. Do you want to be here and make £10’000 a month or in 5 years do you want to be making £10’000 a day (monies are used as an example).

We usually retain our clients once they understand the quality of our services and what we stand for – how can social media help get that message over without advertising?

As mentioned above it goes beyond advertising and is in fact education, a recent client knew his customer base weren’t exactly pro’s at using Twitter but they knew exactly how to use Facebook and wanted to know how to get them using Twitter. I said that we’d teach them how to use Twitter through Facebook. People in general are becoming so switched on to forced advertising that it’s effects are dampening down. Engage, communicate and build your brand. If people love you then they’ll stay around and spend money without even thinking about it.

As you said, building a community is the target, but how can I get started on this?

There are lots of ways to build a community around a service or product. The ‘brand’ could even be a person and the best way to start is identify why your current clients love you, find out who your clients are on a personal level and market towards other people like them. All online and offline marketing techniques are individual to businesses, none are the same.

Data Protection and confidentiality are prerequisites – how is this managed and protected?

The shortest way to explain is by using your common sense, if you think something is wrong with what you’re doing then it probably is. You’re not using direct personal data to socially market your business. Confidentiality should be kept as is, there should be no reason for you to get in trouble over DP and Confidentiality if you do things correctly.

My business has full accreditation with the necessary approval bodies – how do I get that message over?

Communicate, we (as people) forget about people. It’s amazing what people realise when they just start communicating with potential clients. Let people know that you’re fully accredited and what it exactly means.

Risk to reputation – I have no intention of slagging off my competition (vast majority are NOT accredited)- so how to achieve a balanced view without getting a brick through the windows?

There is no reason for you to start slagging off the competition. In the first instance it’s highly un-professional. Let those kinds of companies get on with what they’re doing. All you can do is carry on marketing your business to your ideal client base and educating them why you are so good. Whether that be an awesome service, an awesome price of both.

Providing free advice is, I think, one of our main differentiators – any ideas on how to do that?

Again, it’s all down to communication. Don’t try to bore people, your clients are not you. If you provide them with simple facts that they understand they’ll pick up what you’re saying ten times as quick. There are a lot of different ways to communicate to your clients about why you’re such an awesome company to work with.

You will notice that a lot of the above involve forms of communication, direct to the point communication. People honestly want some trust and a good sense of communication can build that very very quickly.