Our December 2009 newsletter (register here) featured a review of our 2009 as well as looking ahead at our plans and focus for 2010. Below is this review in full..
Looking back on our 2009
Working through a recession
So here we are on the final lap of 2009, a year that will remembered by many for when the current recession made its presence fully felt. There is no denying that at PRWD we have felt the full effects of the recession, as both existing and potential clients reduced or in some cases completely froze their marketing spend. On reflection we have noticed a tale of two halves, where the first 6 months of the year was especially downbeat throughout the industries we operate in, whereas the last 6 months has certainly seen an uplift in confidence and willingness to invest.
As a very young business we are proud that we have worked through the recession thus far, and the experiences gained for us as a business (and the changes we have subsequently made) will certainly stand us in good stead going forward.
Since starting out in 2006, this year has been our best so far in terms of both the variety and size of the clients we have worked with. In no particular order, we have worked with the likes of The Scout Association, Speedy Hire, VoucherSeeker, ResPublica, The Royal Mail, The Translation People, Econsultancy, Manchester Airport, Citibank, Contact Packaging, C&O Coatings, Red C and Flame Digital, along with a few more businesses. A full overview of our clients (both direct and through third parties) can be seen on our website.
This year has seen us widen our service offering to cater for client requirements. Along with providing usability consultancy like we always have, delivering training has been one of our new services, in particular training on e-commerce best practice and advanced Google Analytics. We have remained flexible by providing both public training for Econsultancy as well as providing in-house training to larger groups of employees.
Developing websites using the Drupal content management system has also become an integral part of our service proposition, and our highest profile client has been new public policy think-tank ResPublica.
Continuing on the development front, Magento is now firmly in place as the e-commerce platform that we specialise in, both in delivering complete solutions and providing technical consultancy for existing Magento websites that need some TLC and high end technical expertise.
In these ‘tough economic times’, the likelihood of clients having budgets available for us to deliver a complete user-centered (UCD) design process to deliver new websites and applications is for the select few, but our UCD approach, explained by one of our clients, remains very much at the heart of our company philosophy. In fact, with UCD encompassing so many various services, we are often finding clients are using us for specific areas in order to embrace a more user-centric approach to a project.
Through our conversion optimisation services for clients with existing sites, we have been able to deliver significant improvements to on-site conversion rates, and a pat on the back must go to Google for providing a powerful tool for us to provide split and multi-variate testing projects for clients extremely cost effectively, using Google Website Optimiser.
As mentioned already delivering both public and in-house training has become a core proposition during this last 12 months. Following on from a new course developed and delivered for Econsultancy entitled Usability and Best Practice for Online Retailers, we have developed and delivered a bespoke usability course for Financial businesses, and this has most recently been delivered to finance giant Citibank at their head offices, through Econsultancy.
Our in-house training course on Advanced Google Analytics has proved very popular, and the satisfaction we get from helping our clients fully understand the power, flexibility, personalisation, value and accountability that Google Analytics helps deliver for online marketing is overwhelming. Our only problem is ensuring our training course keeps up with Google who are constantly implementing new features and functionality, such as even greater intelligence and monitoring tools!
We have made a concerted effort during this year to produce more case studies, especially for our conversion optimisation work and training. The only problem with delivering these types of services is that there is no tangible ‘end product’ compared to when we deliver websites such as ResPublica, so the best we can do is develop case studies showcasing what benefits, impact and ROI our work has delivered for the client.
Our case studies include e-commerce best practice training for The Scout Association, Advanced Google Analytics training for Speedy Hire, conversion optimisation for The Translation People and conversion optimisation for Contact Packaging.
Events we have spoken at
Alongside making more effort to produce case studies off the back of conversion improvement and training services, it also became clear this time last year that speaking at events was a vital element for us to demonstrate the importance of usability to business owners.
Our two most notable event presentations were Manchester Digital’s event Usability – What’s The Use? (which we also sponsored) and How Do’s Speeding Up In A Slowdown, which featured other speakers from Google and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Coming off the back of an Adobe AIR desktop application we developed for one of our clients, we also spoke at an event dedicated to Adobe AIR, and this included a presentation by Adobe AIR’s evangelist Andrew Shorten.
So crystal ball time! As we look ahead to next year we have a good sense of where we will be focussing our efforts, with all our work sitting under the umbrella of usability and helping businesses increase their online sales, leads and profits.
Website Conversion Improvement
This is no brainer, but working with clients to improve the conversion rate of their websites will continue to be a primary service for us. Ironically, we are also hoping that in the North West, 2010 will be a year where more competitors enter the market which will in turn raise the awareness and appreciation of how important this type of activity is for businesses, especially those who invest in traffic generation (SEO, PPC, social media etc).
We expect that our ROI calculator for e-commerce sites and for lead generation sites will be pretty popular, and we will certainly be making good use of them when demonstrating to potential clients ‘how much profit per year you can expect from a 10% improved conversion rate’, for example.
Expect 2010 to be the year that the free testing and optimisation tool Google Website Optimiser is truly embraced in the online world…
Drupal Website Development
Building on the back of a series of Drupal based websites we have delivered, and with many years experience of this CMS and its capabilities, where suitable Drupal will be our CMS of choice for our clients. By also using our wireframing and prototyping approach during the design phase using the excellent Axure RP, development costs are kept to a minimum and we can invest more resource into the usability and conversion performance of our clients content managed sites.
Magento E-commerce Platform
Our Magento services and expertise, including the development of Magento Connect modules for the community, will play an important role in our business during 2010, and when combined with our e-commerce best practice knowledge and expertise, our fit with Magento e-commerce websites is very snug indeed.
Along with using Google Analytics daily to monitor website performance for ourselves and our clients, building on the back of our Google Analytics training course we are certainly expecting to be spending even more time both using the tool and helping our clients learn how they can use it more effectively for their business. Client empowerment and website performance accountability are two of our major objectives, and allowing our clients to better understand Google Analytics is a really rewarding experience for us.
We already have quite a few in-house and public training courses booked in for 2010, and to summarise we are expecting to focus on the following training courses:
- Advanced Google Analytics (in-house)
- E-commerce Usability and Best Practice (in-house and public through Econsultancy)
- Usability and User Experience (in-house and public through Econsultancy)
- Financial Services Usability and Best Practice (in-house)
Event speaking and masterclasses
When there are suitable opportunities for us to present at events we will certainly be looking to share knowledge, insights and case studies, and 2010 is also expected to be when we start delivering masterclass events. One thing we are acutely aware of in the north west is that at present there isn’t anything like the type of demand for usability, analytics and conversion optimisation services that there is in London. We therefore have to do what we can to create the demand, and event speaking and delivering masterclasses are two primary ways for us to do this.
In wrapping up, just by producing this review and therefore reflecting on this past 12 months has been an enlightening experience for us. Whereas its been a tough year in business, at least this summary helps us to realise that we have actually done alot more than what it has sometimes felt like as the year has sped by.