The Entle story
I started doing freelance website development in my freshman year of university. That was a full seven years ago — queue the quarter-life crisis! I had been playing around with websites since high school, and it came as a big surprise to my youthful self that organisations were willing to pay for something I enjoyed creating so much as a hobby.
Things have changed dramatically since then.
I’ve had the privilege of working with amazing people and organisations from a variety of industries, which has helped me distil best practices from what worked and what didn’t.
I’ve matured in my technical and professional skills, not only falling in love with the continuous learning, unlearning and relearning required to keep up with the pace of digital change, but also getting better at differentiating between over-hyped fads, and new technologies and applications which are demonstrably more valuable. I’ve also learned how to run a business — in such a way that I can focus on what matters most, namely creating a beautiful and effective end-product.
Most importantly, I’ve developed an understanding of how to create and deliver value through my services, by solving real organisational problems. As a “techy”, it’s been a paradigm shift for me to ‘forget’ about the technology and its potential in the early stages, in order to maintain a razor-sharp focus on understanding the problem: what the organisation needs to achieve. Solutions in search of problems — ‘starting with a hammer and looking for nails’ — are a sure-fire way, I’ve learned, to end up with a final product that’s amazing, but that doesn’t actually solve the problem. And solving the problem is what creates value for the client.
Alongside my website development work, I’ve been deeply fortunate to complete four degrees in technology and business: two examining practical and theoretical issues related to information systems in organisational contexts (ranging from systems analysis and design to organisational decision-making), a Master’s dissertation looking at what it means to ‘make the world a better place’ through technologies like computers, cellphones, and the internet, and most recently, a Master’s in managing tech startups, in London. The golden thread in my academic studies has been the desire to use socially conscious tech startups as a vehicle for contributing to human development. The frame of reference I’ve developed along the way, however, has proven to be useful to my website development work, too: it’s helped me contextualise my work and thereby enrich my understanding of both the problem domain and the solution’s links with its broader environment.
Where has all of this led?
In late 2017, upon returning from the Master’s in London, I spent considerable time thinking about the best, most valuable way to combine all of the above in my website development work. The result? Entle: my rebranded agency, providing complete website solutions — from consulting to development and maintenance — to people with big ideas.
Three values that I’ve distilled from my work over the past seven years, underlie the business and my approach to projects:
It may sound trivial, but when it comes to website development, asking “Why?” should be a prerequisite for asking “What?” and “How?” Problems, not solutions, should be the starting point. This implies unearthing the problem(s) the organisation is trying to address through a website (e.g. “we are not generating enough sales leads”, “we are receiving too few donations”, or deeper issues like “we don’t have sufficient feedback loops in place to keep our strategy aligned with client feedback”) and expressing these in terms of goals (e.g. “we need to increase sales leads”, “we need to grow donations”, “we need to develop stronger feedback loops between us and our clients”). Coupled herewith, it’s necessary to think about users’ goals: what do the end-users of an organisation’s website want to achieve? Only once the goals have been articulated clearly, should the conversation continue to specifications for the website’s structure, functionality, and content. Using goals as point of departure maximises the value that the new website delivers to the organisation and its audience.
I believe that simple, elegant solutions are preferable to complex ones. My commitment to simplicity informs the choice of technical solutions, how I communicate with clients, and the structure and pricing of Entle’s services. Technical simplicity — keeping the website functionality as simple as possible, whilst still being effective — means easier maintenance and higher reliability. Simple, concise communication means fewer misunderstandings. Simplicity in Entle’s service structure and pricing makes it easier for clients to understand what Entle does and how it delivers value, determine how it compares to competitors, and calculate costs.
And speaking of costs, I’ve learned that transparency is important. I quote project costs in terms of billable hours, so the client knows how I arrive at my total cost. The quoted number of hours for a project is fixed (learning how to make accurate estimations is one of the most valuable skills I’ve developed over the years), so I won’t surprise a client with unexpected costs, unless the scope of the project has changed through an explicit and mutual agreement.
Furthermore, I believe it’s important to help a client understand the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for a new website, factoring in both the initial development and the longer-term maintenance. This enables them to budget accurately. It also helps larger companies calculate the Return on Investment (ROI).
But transparency also extends to other domains. When problems do arise during a project, being transparent about their causes and implications is a prerequisite for fixing them. And honest communication, e.g. the willingness to flag issues that need to be addressed by the client, is important for ensuring that the client and I remain on exactly the same page.
I’ve shared the Entle story in the hope that it will help prospective clients assess Entle’s value proposition, understand where I’m coming from, and determine whether our values are aligned. Each of these is key not only to the success of a specific project, but also to building a lasting partnership.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above.
If you’re a person/organisation doing interesting things and are in need of a beautiful website and reliable maintenance, be sure to connect with me at entle.co, on Facebook and Twitter, or by saying firstname.lastname@example.org.