To explore the wide range of experiences and opinions within the digital business world, we’re running a series of interviews, ‘A Few Minutes With…’.
Today, we’re speaking with Tim Dodd.
Tim is a Director at Electric Hummingbird – a digital creative agency which, at only three years old, already has some impressive brand identities, responsive websites, interactive Facebook tabs, web apps and uber-geeky back end builds under their belt.
Tell us a little about your organisation’s digital activity.
The skills within the Electric Hummingbird team cover a range of disciplines. In our relatively short life, we have been busy building responsive websites, web apps, native apps, video animations, directed photo shoots, set up and managed digital media campaigns and a series of brand identity projects. We’ve assembled a strong team with a mix of skills (mongrels are the strongest breed!).
What digital activity shows you the greatest return?
Personally speaking, there’s nothing better than being in that first meeting with a client, listening to their problems and seeing them solved with a fantastically, simple UX and design which already has considerations for various devices. Those are the projects – where you front load the effort, pour everything into it early doors and get the creative and tech involved at all stages – which run the smoothest. Fail early, fail often as 37signals say.
What great websites have you seen recently?
Other than our own projects…?! Here’s a sample of what’s currently bookmarked in my “cool” list: Bentley’s New Flying Spur (we REALLY like this. Can’t… stop… scrolling! Lush), Agentur Loop, Soulwire (mostly because we like Justin), CGI Bytonic, Studio Nudge and Satorisan.
What great mobile apps have you seen recently?
Not many! But I like the design and UX (especially on the latest release) of the Barclays Bank app (some Essex prejudice there perhaps! Gyppsy @ UsTwo had a hand in that one I believe. When it comes to apps, it tends to be very simple UX which impresses me over complex functionality e.g. Parview is my golf scoring app of choice, even though the functionality will never be close to vPar or Gamebook.
What do you think has been the most important landmark in the development of digital media in the last few years?
This is more than likely a biased opinion with a front end lens, but the decline of (and change in attitude by users towards) Internet Explorer makes the world of difference. Either that or the decline of Flash, accelerating the uptake and use of HTML5 / CSS3 / JS. Nobody outside the digital industry will recognise how much one browser and a huge set of ignorant users (not necessarily their fault) have held back pretty much the whole internet!
What do you see as the next big thing in digital media and/or web design?
If I knew that, I’d have all my money invested and my feet up 😉 I’m hoping that over the next 6-12 months, the client world will develop a greater understanding of responsive front end interfaces and the intentions / different experiences for users of touch devices (rather than treating mobiles and tablets as a secondary device). Longer term, I’ve got a feeling that the NodeJS community will grow significantly. This could enable lots of front end JS gurus to venture further back down the stack.
What pitfalls do you think businesses must avoid when developing a digital media strategy?
There are plenty of businesses who don’t need a social media presence and/or the cost to manage and maintain one is higher than the ROI. Having said that, I do think the majority of people underestimate the power of social media (still) and either think they’ve “tried it” or leave it in the hands of cowboys with a charming sales rep. The same rule is as true now at it was 10 years ago – content is king. Setting up a Twitter account and retweeting other people’s tweets all day long or stalking Stephen Fry in the vein hope of a retweet (which will crash your site) is not a social media strategy. Brands should be looking to contribute to the online communities and create genuinely interesting content.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
Quite the Lizard Brain.
What advice would you give to a business starting up in 2013?
Speak to Electric Hummingbird… or anyone who is genuinely interested in growing alongside your business. As a start up, you need the support of others who will go the extra mile, either because they care deeply about what you’re trying to do or because they can grow alongside you (vested interests). The better the work they provide for you, the more successful you’ll be and the healthier the long term relationship. As a start up, you need to hear the voices of experts. I can’t imagine how someone without any digital experience choses which digital team to partner with. Maybe they just go with the one with the cute dog running around the office or the one who makes the best coffee? EH do both of those by the way!
What advice would you give to a young designer or developer starting their career in 2013?
Don’t become a fan boy. Be a mongrel. Learn lots of different skills and languages. Take on design projects in lots of different industries and styles. Pick up the structure and semantics of languages and you’ll quickly see commonalities and the pro / cons of using each for each project. Always listen to the client’s brief before getting carried away with your own interpretation of what you could do with the concept. The client will have one eye on ROI and heaps of industry experience. Invaluable in the success of any project.
Do you see any downsides to the rise of digital media as a tool for business?
My only concern is where people are placing their trust. As mentioned above, digital media is no different to any other industry. There are heaps of genuinely talented people who can help your brand to make a good return on your spend. But there are also the snake oil salesmen who only need to know a little more than you to drain your resources and you won’t see them 6 months later.
If you could change one thing about the digital landscape, what would it be?
Increase the digital knowledge of decision makers on the client side of the marketing industry. Seriously. There are some amazing platforms, frameworks, languages, tools and apps being built and developed in the digital world and it’s fast merging with the real world. Those on the client side who really know and understand what can be achieved will lead the way with the best campaign responses and ROIs, gaining that competitive edge (and winning awards if that floats your boat).
Where do you see the digital media in 10 years’ time?
Everywhere. It won’t be digital media. It’ll just be media. Paper should be as rare as parchment.