What really goes on at a website design agency? Behind all the meetings and emails, what actually goes on to ensure YOUR project is a success?
In this article, we’ll give you a glimpse behind the scenes at Intuitiv Digital. We’re hoping it’ll also show you that your project is in very safe hands.
Yes, there are beards.
Yes, there is occasional swearing at monitors.
Yes, our IT support guys sometimes do just turn machines off and on again.
Yes, the most commonly heard phrase is, “You might need to clear your cache”.
Yes, there are heated debates about camel case versus Pascal case.
And, yes, people do phone up wanting a hotel comparison website with booking and full ecommerce functionality for £400 by next Tuesday.
In a nutshell, that’s it. That’s pretty much what it’s like.
However, that’s just surface noise. Ephemera.
Under the surface, there's actually a very definite structure and process that works for us as a website design agency and works for our clients.
We aim for a fairly prompt start at 9 o’clock.
First things first though:
Radio on, BBC 6 Music
Kettle boiled, drinks made
There’s usually a quick catch up on the previous night’s events – sport, TV, holdups on the M40 and kids waking up at night are recurring topics.
Then it’s heads down as web developers, designers and account managers assess what’s on the cards for the day.
At 9.00 every morning we have a ‘stand-up’.
This is a practice taken from the agile development world. The stand-up is a meeting that usually lasts a maximum of 15 minutes, but is extremely effective.
We stand around the large board that sits above the stone fireplace (our office is an old converted village pub!). Each member of the team takes it in turns to address three questions:
What tasks did you do yesterday? (These are rubbed off the board)
What tasks are you working on today? (These are written on the board)
What obstacles might keep you from completing your tasks? (Discussed)
We find the stand-up promotes:
Opportunities to communicate
Closer working relationships
Identification of issues before they become too problematic
The stand-up helps to ensure we’re on track as a team and helps us to make any necessary adjustments to plans for the rest of the week.
Following the stand-up, it’s back to desks or the meeting room for work to start in earnest.
Larger projects are often broken down into planned ‘sprints’ – borrowing from agile software development again.
These are essentially bite-size chunks of development, which are then released when complete. This means we can release work to the live site quicker, whilst being extremely adaptable and flexible along the way.
We use Jira to plan the sprints for a project.
It's where all project tasks and bugs are kept. It's where all tasks are assigned and tracked, times logged, issues raised, and where testing and QA feedback is recorded. So, it's probably the thing you'll see the most on monitors as you walk around our office.
The account managers are often in and out of the meeting room for project reviews or conference calls.
We use Teams most of the time for calls as it makes it easy to share screens. We do a screen share when we’re showing designs or demoing new functionality - it really helps build an open, collaborative approach with our clients.
Although our account managers are the client-facing side of projects, a developer and/or designer will often be involved in a call too, if required.
Our account managers are also project managers. During the day, they could be briefing the designer, discussing options with developers, or scoping future projects.
If they're not in the meeting room, on the phone or talking to developers, our account managers can be found deep in email communication with clients, testing sites, writing up estimates for future projects or updating the Intuitiv website.
Our account managers are only happy when our clients are happy!
You’ll often see account managers and developers liaising with Andy, our designer.
He’s probably been designing websites since before some of you were born. You can be fairly certain his designs will hit the mark first or second time, every time.
If the project is a large website, our UX (user experience) architect will often create wireframe versions of pages first.
These are skeletal pages and a great way of confirming layouts and user journeys before Andy sprinkles his magic graphic design fairy dust.
Our developer team is made up of technical leads/architects, senior developers and junior developers.
We often have our developers working in pairs – one of whom will usually be a more experienced programmer. And we certainly have lots of experience - some of our developers have been with us for well over ten years. Working in pairs is a great way to pool knowledge to find the best solutions.
Walking around our office, you’ll find our developers programming back-end databases, writing scripts, creating front-end pages, or programming Umbraco CMS-driven websites. And you’ll also notice them repeatedly resizing their browser windows or looking at an assortment of mobile devices – checking every part of the page they’re programming is fully responsive across all screen sizes.
As we wholly own our network, we have direct access to the internet backbone. We host nearly every website we develop.
This makes life a whole lot easier.
Our in-house infrastructure team are just upstairs, where they maintain and monitor our network and applications. Any problems or questions we have, we just stand at the bottom of the stairs and holler. Or email if we’re feeling lazy.
We have strict security processes in place for accessing the servers - even our developers have to check in with the infrastructure team when they require access to these web servers and database servers.
Most of our projects follow the same path to release.
Our developers first work their magic on their local machines, then at suitable milestones the project is:
deployed to our servers for internal testing
released to our IP restricted testing servers which clients access for UAT (user acceptance testing)
released to the production/live servers (after release request notes have been written up)
Post-release, we test the website again and keep monitoring performance levels.
And before you know it, the day is gone. We usually finish up around 5.30.
Desks tidied, cups back in the kitchen, radio off, windows shut, alarm on.
All that can be heard is the gentle hum of test servers, routers and switches from our network room, working away through the night.
As you can imagine, it’s incredibly varied working in a web design agency – too much to cover in one article - but we hope this gives you at least some insight into daily life here and the roles involved.
Psst… By the way, camel case versus Pascal case? Depends on the context.