5 Reasons Most People Need A New Website

About 18 months ago, I felt the urge to have a new website, barely two years into the existing one our firm had. Why on earth did I want to pull my small, family company through that? The expense? The hassle? It turns out to have nothing to do with your organisation needing a new site. It is everything to do with rethinking what your organisation is about.

18 months of soul searching, and a painful period of rethinking everything we do, to get to the point where we could mock up our website on a hipster’s laptop and moleskine.

1. Shit is still shit at the speed of light

In an age marked by twitterifying Facebook instagramitisation, it had become tempting to think that “write a Facebook post about it” would be enough to maintain the long line of our story about who we are, what we do and the impact of it all.

And yet, six years on from starting our firm, I could barely squeeze a quarterly blog post out of my colleagues, and I wrote facile nonsense when I could grab a spare second in the airport lounge. Worse, my wife, mother, children and random airline neighbours still asked with scary regularity: “What is it you actually do?” My stumbling answer each time was the reveal: I thought I knew what we were there to do, but I wasn’t sure any more whether my colleagues still hankered after the original vision or could telepathically engage with the new one.

In short: my answer was shit. And shit, whether you post it as junk mail, email it as spam, or autotweet it several times an hour via Buffer, is still shit, no matter how fast it hits people’s notifications screen.

Creating a website can be the beginning of a journey where shit needs to have a heck of a half-life to stick. With the right people on your team, the shit gets cleared up and spanking clarity appears. We got that months before the website went live thanks to the design sprint with which it all began.

2. Get help. You are your world’s worst advisor

Too many small and medium sized firms rely on their own teams for ideas on how to present themselves and what they do to the wider world. If your organisation is any good, new hires will already be a tad brainwashed to your ways of thinking, enamoured with your attitudes and organisational myths weeks or months before their first pay cheque. This makes your own team the worst people to decide on a communication strategy or, in plain English, on the words you use to describe what you do.

We asked for help from our long-time designer Sam Hinks, coder Jonathan Barrett and a new friend, Allison Traynor, to work out not just how to describe what we do, but what it is we actually do. We added two new in-house employees to the mix, and did our best not to infect them with whatever cultural hangovers from the previous six years were there: Malie Watson and Carolyn Syme, a recent film grad and experienced BBC producer respectively, poked and prodded our culture, vision, ambition, attitude and habits as much as Allison, brand strategist extraordinaire, and copy writer par excellence. We didn’t spend 18 months on the discussion either. Most of it was done in the first day of a three-day sprint. Hundreds of post-it notes captured the mess of our old customer journey — see the video. We’ve got that down to fewer than 10 now.

3. Getting your copy right is 99% of the journey in your strategy

We know that when working with our own clients on all things strategy, that their own verbosity and jargon gets in the way of defining who they really are. When asked to describe what makes his organisation tick, a recent prospective client took four minutes twenty seconds to describe his impression of it, before concluding with:

“…And that’s more or less the DNA of our organisation.”

He wasn’t half wrong. It’d take a PhD to understand the DNA of his organisation (we look forward to making it simple and clear).

The problem for organisations operating in the space of formal education, is that there’s an underlying perception that complexity equals clever. People use all sorts of fancy sounding bull instead of simple language for simple powerful ideas. As dave trott puts it:

Well, we were stupid people, too. For a while. Once we got over ourselves, we realised that what we do is quite simple, but not a lot of people know how to do it as well as we do:

We see a world in which people have the creative confidence to find their place in a team and achieve something bigger than they are.
We will help people to think differently and change the way they choose to work as individuals, as part of a team and as part of an organisation by
• guiding them from passive thinking to dynamic activity;
• equipping them to work out problems for themselves and become self-sufficient;
• creating a climate in which it’s safe to be experimental; and
• developing a shared language
through consultation, workshops, events and design thinking tools.

Imagine that. Admitting that you do all these wonderful things through… da, da, daaah… consultation. Consulting. Being paid for your time. But, jings cribbins, that’s what we do. It pays a good number of mortgages, and doing it our way makes tens of thousands of people better at their jobs, and their lives, every year.

Getting that word out there, instead of the usual masking that nearly every one of our competitors goes through, is key to helping people work out how to best use us.

4. Forget Me-mail. Tell your customers’ stories

In fairness, our firm has never been one for blowing its own (hot air) trumpet. We’re Scottish at heart, even though we somehow started an office in the blistering heat of Australia. And if you’re Scottish, you’re born more or less with the impression that your countrymen were once great, but, largely down to the performance of the national football team, you are generally resigned to the apparent fact that most of what you do is probably shit (see #1, above). What is the symptom, then, of me-mail, of blowing one’s own hot air? I.

For six years I’ve pursued “I”s on any post or article written by our own team members, and even those written by our clients. In a business which is largely a happy, light-hearted, banter-filled one, I’ve had blistering arguments and bad feeling as a result of discussions about ‘I’. It’s the worst word one could ever use to describe success in today’s world. Leave ‘I’ to Picasso. Most of us work in a world of ‘we’.

With that in mind, we spent weeks interviewing, reinterviewing, photographing, permissioning (is that a word?), drafting, correcting, rewriting and structuring amazing case studies that show our clients in their best light. It’s been an emotional process — we simply didn’t realise the impact our projects have had, half the time.

We’re going to do more of them, and have hired (spent money, paid pensions, provided expenses, written contracts for…) to get that job done. It’s invaluable and, as per point #2, above, cannot be done by the team delivering the work. Delivering the goods the whole way requires someone else. It requires a ‘we’.

And the impact of telling your best mates’ stories — i.e. the stories of your customers and partners — is so much greater than just telling stories about your own little world, or your clients telling their own stories to small audiences.

From pages of sketches, to small mobile phone screen, developing a new site can help tighten strategy to one screen’s worth so that everyone can understand it.

5. Less Is More.

We’ve spent a small fortune on what, in the end, is not very much. Saying a lot with fewer words costs a lot of money, apparently. But the clarity that comes from stripping away the words of a website goes on to help strip away the flab that gathers in any organisation over time. Starting a new website with a team like the one we gathered is like inviting Marie Kondo to your five year old’s bedroom — painful, with some tears, cries of “it’s unfair”, but ultimately a clearer picture of the toys you do actually have. You play better. You’re happier. You get more creative.

If you had to describe what you do in the fewest number of words, how many words would you say you need? Then half it. And half it again. That’s exactly what we’ve done with almost every chunk of text, from the Who We Ares, to the What We Dos, to the How We Do Its.

I have a feeling this post might be the beginning of a wee series. We’re delighted with the new site we launched tonight, but, frankly, we’re even more delighted by the breath of fresh startup air that takes us back six years in our attitude to doing great work. NoTosh, the startup, is alive and kicking…

NoTosh works with multinational corporations and village primary schools, to help their people have the creative confidence to find their place in a team and achieve something bigger than they are. If you want to get your team moving from passive thinking to dynamic activity, to equip them to work out problems for themselves and become self-sufficient, or if you want to create a climate in which it’s safe to be experimental, get in touch with us. We’d love to help.