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Lockdown Working : Our Norm

January 13, 2021

If you are client of ours, you will know we no longer live in the UK. If you know nothing about us, you won’t know that we live abroad, but we are able to continue to run our design business as if we were still in Manchester. This gives us a unique insight into how to continue our business during lockdown and how to continue to provide the high level of both service and design, that our clients have come to know. And expect.
Since we moved abroad, ALL of our communications with clients have been done via regular phone calls, online meetings and emails. We’ve been doing, for a long time now, what many businesses are now having to get their heads around.

This does not mean we are declaring ourselves to be better than other designers out there. It just means that how we are all forced to work now, is the norm for us, and so we’ve had longer to hone the way we work.
We’ve retained the vast majority of our UK based clients and since moving, have taken on new clients, all of whom apart from one, are UK based. This client, like us, has relocated to Europe, but came to us from a current client recommendation. Therefore, a number of our clients, we’ve never actually met. However, that has made absolutely no difference, as we’ve been able to forge really excellent relationships, as well as friendships, through the design process. We continue to work with our (deliberately) small group of clients, many of whom came to us quite a long time ago, and during lockdown we have :

  • supported new business ventures – lots of talking and discussion and idea sharing and advice, even before any work was agreed
  • designed new websites & print materials for these ventures
  • used social media to help spread the word
  • updated and added to websites, to reflect current working practices
  • offered very workable solutions to clients re payment options – we are very open to discussing things with clients as although we are all essentially in lockdown, all clients have different needs
  • welcomed new clients and delivered high quality, but affordable (see point above) designs

We try to always be open and honest about how we do things and why take the approaches we take. Our blog provides a whole lot more insight into us. (Please forgive that this is still on a WordPress platform – as well as client work, we are also working on the redesign of our website).

If you are looking for designers and think we might be just who you could be looking for, take a look at our work and drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.

Helen & Pete

(Yes, there’s only two of us – so, if it’s a big, flashy agency you want with a fleet of super-duper cars parked outside swanky offices, we’re not for you. We do have quite a nice car, but it’s parked outside our home – and more often than not, filled with rubble, as we’re embarking on our next renovation project. In between designing websites).

A Little Politeness Goes A Long Way…

December 17, 2020

When we receive a design enquiry, we take it very seriously. If someone has taken the time to approach us, we assume that they have visited our website and like what they see. Like it enough to actually make contact with us.

The first thing we do, when we receive an enquiry, is acknowledge it. We say thank you and give a time frame for when we will reply in more detail. We think this is very important, so that the potential client knows that we are dealing with their enquiry and that we are thinking about, and considering, what they require.

We then begin the process of considering the enquiry. What we can deliver for the budget. Or, if no budget is indicated, trying to elicit an approximation. We explain about the importance of budget, at the outset, here. We think about questions we need to ask, to obtain more information, to provide a quote. We explain how we work. We provide suggestions and options. We don’t do template, off-the-peg designs, so we tailor our response to each individual client, and this takes time. Someone approaching us, having just found us and who we don’t know, is as important to us a long-standing client, and so we treat them with respect and hopefully, in these initial contacts, convey the kind of people we are.

Generally, because people seem to do their homework about us, these initial enquiries blossom into full blown design projects and we’re delighted that over the last year or so, some really lovely clients have joined our design family…

The Cheese Hamlet, Didsbury : www.thecheesehamlet.co.uk
Lindsay Guest, Wellness Coach, Switzerland : http://www.lindsayguestwellness.com
The Atman Practice, Yorkshire : https://theatmanpractice.com/
Dough-Re-Me, West Didsbury : https://www.dough-re-me.co.uk/

Design work with these clients all started because from the outset, a sense of mutual respect was established. Both parties responded in a timely fashion, acknowledged emails/phone calls and understood that the creation of a great relationship is key. However, it doesn’t always work out like this. And this is a little bit of a bugbear of mine. Not because we may not secure the project. But because sometimes, people are just downright rude. And it always follows a pattern…

  • We receive a design enquiry, often with quite a lot of key information missing, but usually with a deadline for delivery of the project
  • We acknowledge the design enquiry
  • We follow up with a detailed email, either providing a quote if we have sufficient information, or requesting more info so that we can the provide the quote – and this is done in a very timely way as we are conscious of the deadline
  • Days will pass and nothing. So, just to check that the email has actually been received – as sometimes emails will fall into junk folders – we follow up. At this point, we make it VERY, VERY clear that if someone has received the information but has decided not to proceed, this is not a problem at all. We just need to know so that we can close down the enquiry and move on.
  • And still nothing…

We give everyone the opportunity to just say “Thanks, but no thanks…” as we think this is the right thing to do. We do it, as we don’t feel that it’s right to just keep people hanging on. But we guess not everyone operates in the same way.

So, if you want to work with someone who will not only deliver your design requirements, but will be polite and respectful and communicate with you effectively, we could probably work together.

However, if you don’t value these things, we’d politely suggest you might be better looking elsewhere for your design…

Lockdown Packaging Design

November 6, 2020

Although website design makes up the bulk of our work, we can turn our hands to quite a lot more. Recently, our clients at Azzurro Restaurant, in West Didsbury, decided to diversify a little and provide a little something else for their customers.

Their own hand roasted coffee. And in keeping with the restaurant branding, we wanted to ensure that when this coffee was bought, it was absolutely on brand. The coffee is now for sale in the restaurant, and our clients are delighted – as are their customers, as it does appear to be flying off the shelves!

We also designed promotional posters, informing customers of the new products. These were launched over the first lockdown, and as the restaurant was (and still is) operating as a takeaway, they needed a visible reminder of the Coffee Alchemy products, to be prominently displayed in the window…

As our clients have to had to respond to lockdowns and new regulations very quickly, so have we, as their designers. Gone are the days of us being able to work on just one, maybe two, projects at the same time. We have to reconsider our ways of working, because, in the nicest possible – and most understandable – way, nearly all of our clients need design work NOW.

We have to juggle balls and spin plates. We have to understand design briefs VERY quickly now, and be able to turn around jobs quickly. However, we are liking this new way of working – our minds are very focused and we think our design is becoming sharper as a result. But, that’s just what we think. It’s what our clients think that is important. And, importantly, what potentially new design clients think. Could you be one of those?

MacleodBradley, West Didsbury

October 28, 2020

We’ve worked with MacleodBradley for over a decade now and have seen the designs change over the years. When we started working with the West Didsbury salon, their website was a little dated and not too easy on the eye. As an award-winning, and very renowned salon, we felt that their online presence should reflect this and perhaps be more subtle. It was agreed that there should be a move away from the bright, vibrant colours and that the branding needed to be updated too.

The first We Are Life Design website, took its inspiration from the salon itself, using colours which complemented the interior – much fresher and softer than previously used.

We also encouraged our clients to use a professional photographer to shoot the salon and the products and to also have team shots, to bring personality and life to the new website.

With a wealth of new imagery and the idea to strip the design back, we worked on the branding, producing something which as now stood the test of time, as it is still used.

Reward cards, appointment cards, price lists, A-boards etc were also designed, as well as the salon signage, to bring a whole new look to the business.

The website definitely had more of a feeling of space. It was less cluttered and the colours were a whole lot more soothing.

However, being a business which doesn’t stand still, MacleodBradley keeps up to date, not only with trends in the industry, but also in terms of design. Knowing that things move on quickly, Helen, the owner, is always keen to keep the online presence fresh and contemporary – and although the branding has remained, we’ve since updated the look of the website.

This time, we’ve gone for a one page design, which scrolls down. Again, things have been stripped back so that the site is a whole lot more visual. We considered what clients will actually want when they come to the website – the prices – and these are now much more prominent, and more simplified. Instagram has been integrated as a gallery – a much more cost effective of showcasing styles and trends and products and salon events, than constantly re-shooting and us having to regularly update the gallery.

As MacleodBradley has evolved, we think the design has also evolved. Looking back, we’ve come a long way since the orange…

Having worked with Helen and Pete for over ten years, both whilst they were on my doorstep as well as being abroad, I could not be happier with any of the design results they have delivered. My website has evolved over the years, and I hardly ever have to say what I want or need, as Pete and Helen just ‘get it’. They always communicate with me as the client, effectively and efficiently and regularly, keeping me informed regards progress. You would never know where they are really, location-wise, as the service they offer is exactly the same as it was when they were only round the corner! Who says long distance relationships don’t work? I cannot fault them one bit and would highly recommend them for any website/design work.

Serendipity Brides, Northampton

October 27, 2020

In 2015, we received the following email via our website design form :

We are looking for a company to help redesign our website with the same vision as us. We have been unable to find anybody local to us in Northamptonshire. Would love to talk to you further to see if this is something you can do.

We definitely felt that we could enhance and improve the online presence of Serendipity Brides and soon after, we had a new We Are Life client. We’ve never actually met Lisa, the owner. When we started the re-design, we were still in Manchester so communications were done via calls and emails. We’ve introduced Zoom now – living in Istria and a global pandemic has made us rethink about how we communicate with our clients. However, we had already established a very successful working relationship with Lisa, so distance and lack of actual physical face-to-face contact hasn’t made any difference, at all.

So, what did we do to improve the website (above)?

  • Bespoke design and build
  • Blog / contact form / mailing list / social media integration
  • Full Content Management System for editing
  • Responsive, smart-phone/tablet friendly design

Over the past five years, we have continued to improve the design and functionality of the website. We very, very rarely deliver a site, and that is the end of things. One thing we really focus on, and work hard at developing and maintaining, is our relationship with clients. We don’t want to work with people who have no interest in this side of things – we would much rather collaborate with people who share our ethos. And so, the Serendipity Brides website has also grown and developed. We are in regular contact with Lisa, and she is very pro-active in thinking about how her site can continually improve. She gives us regular feedback, which makes our job so much easier. If know what you are thinking, as a client – even if we’ve done something which you are not too keen on – we’d much rather know, because we can then work on putting it right, and delivering what you want.

We think that the Serendipity website looks pretty smart these days – and all down to the collaborative approach, between us and our client, which works brilliantly for us.

Being a bridal boutique, there are often events such as Trunk Shows, Sample Sales and designer days/evenings. We suggested that rather than continually creating and then deleting new pages for these events – which would be quite costly for something which either might not provide sufficient return, or was only online for a short period of time – we use subtle pop-ups to advertise the occasions. We’re not fans of fussy, flashy, blingy pop-ups as they are super annoying – but they do have their merit, if used in a less-is-more way. Hopefully, like the one which is currently on the homepage…

Lisa, the owner of this particular bridal boutique, has also chosen to take advantage of a service we offer to clients who require regular website updates – a monthly retainer. The latest version of the website, which was given a design overhaul earlier this year, was paid for in this way, meaning that the cost is spread out – and because a retainer is received, any additional work, going forward, is done as soon as possible, rather than sitting in a queue.

Not all clients pay in this way – and for some it wouldn’t really be worth it, as updates are less frequent. But, as in everything we do, we want to be as flexible as possible – especially in the current climate – and so if a plan like this sounds like just what you need, as well as gorgeous design, why not get in touch and let’s see what we can do together? Either complete the form below, or pop over to our website, and complete the design enquiry form.

Working With You…

October 14, 2020

We know that deciding to have a website designed, is a HUGE decision. We are very aware that budget is a major consideration, especially in these very uncertain times, and so we are very transparent in the way we price projects. We always discuss pricing with clients and we look at ways to be as flexible as possible. Our normal terms of 50% deposit and 50% upon completion, are sometimes no problem. However, sometimes, cashflow is an issue, but we absolutely believe that this should not prevent you from having the website or the design that you want.

We will always look at finding solutions to help you. Some clients find that paying by tranches is helpful – often the website has gone live before full payment is received, but if this is all agreed beforehand, we have absolutely no issue with this. Some clients find paying a monthly retainer to be the answer. Again, this works for us too. So, if you get to the point of approaching us for design work and start to complete the design enquiry form on our website, please don’t fret over the “approximate budget” field. This is exactly what it says – an approximation. Having a budget of £2000 is very different to a budget of £200, but we just need to have an idea, so that we can be realistic with you, in what we can deliver, initially. Leaving it blank – which we know is tempting, and we know why people do it – doesn’t help in the initial stages and really only wastes time as we need to dig a little deeper to find out what that magical figure is. But – don’t worry. You will not be held to it. It’s only a starting point.

So, what are you waiting for?

If you are desperate for a new website, but think that especially in these days, it would be out of your budget, think again. Pop over to our website and complete that design enquiry form. We can help make this work for you.

Design Update

May 7, 2020

The world feels pretty crazy right now and like everyone else, we’ve been hunkering down and working our way through things. As most people now know, we don’t live in Didsbury anymore – we’re in northern Istria, very close to the Italian border. This hasn’t affected in any way our day to day design work because everything is obviously done online and we keep in touch regularly with clients via emails and calls. However, as soon as the Coronavirus started to take hold, we feared like everyone else, that our business and our livelihood would be impacted. If our clients were focusing on their own businesses, then the last thing we thought anyone would want to do would be to think about websites or design work.

As soon as it became clear what the impact on businesses was going to be – especially small, independents as these are the kind we work with – we contacted all clients. Being in another country, we figured that any support/help we could offer would be fairly limited, but we offered the best that we could. Immediate help with any website updates which would inform customers/clients about our businesses’ current situation. We also advised that going forward, whilst everything was so uncertain and frightening, we would be as flexible as we possibly could be regarding charges for design work. It was a pretty horrible part of the email to write – offering support but broaching money – but, we’re also an independent business and what we earn enables us to live. If we don’t earn, we’ve very little else to fall back on. So, as much as we wished that we could do these essential updates for nothing, we couldn’t.

But, we didn’t count on the creativity and adaptability of many of our clients.

Some have decided to have a complete refocus and launch new ventures, such as Thyme Out Delicatessen. Initially they were going to operate as a takeaway only, but pretty soon, these plans were changed as governemnt guidelines made this impossible. Out of a pretty scary situation, business-wise, Prepped was launched – and working with Thyme Out, a whole new venture emerged. A logo was designed and the concept included on the website – basically each week, a new menu is devised. Dishes are prepped by the Thyme Out chefs and delivered, safely, to customers. Since Prepped was launched, Sunday Roasts have been added, as well as wine delivery after teaming up with another local West Didsbury business, Reserve Wines. This venture has grown in popularity and we provide the design side of things and assist with the marketing and promotion via social media, ensuring that new menus are uploaded at the same time each week. We’re now working with Thyme Out on another new venture – a whole new, very exciting direction, which will be revealed imminently…

Thanks Helen and Pete, you guys have been amazing and very quick at coming up with the web and design changes to help us adapt. Ben, Thyme Out Food Co

 

Prepped by Thyme Out Food Co, West Didsbury

 

Another business which has been hugely affected, is Azzurro Italian restaurant. Like many, whilst closed, the owners still have to pay rent on the property and upkeep it. They too, initially, decided to operate as a takeaway, but as with Thyme Out, these plans had to change as government guidelines were announced. Working with Azzurro, we helped them to develop the idea of a voucher scheme, so that it went beyond just a voucher for a meal at some point in the future. As well as the design of the vouchers, we created a new page on the website, which integrated a payment option, and wrote the copy. We also suggested that people who purchased vouchers, be recognised in some way – and the Azurro Wall of Fame was born! Being able to support in this way, enabled the owners of Azzurro to focus on more pressing concerns such as staffing, stock issues and forward planning.

Helen & Pete are THE best people to work with FYI. If you are an independent business, they speak your language & know your needs before you do. They’ve held us up behind the scenes over the past few weeks. We love you xx Emil & Anna, Azzurro

Other clients have requested that we update their websites with Covid-19 statements, so that their customers and clients are aware of the current situation…

A number of clients have decided that this enforced “downtime” is the perfect opportunity to update and refresh their online presence. As a result, we’re working on new designs and updates with The Flower Lounge, Serendipidity Brides and The Conker Crew. And, in an entirely unexpected turn of events, we’re actually designing brand new websites – one for our long-standing client, wedding photographer Jonny Draper, and two for completely new clients, a wellness coach based in Switzerland and family run pseasonal plants business, based in the north west. There’s one other, but on this occasion, we’ve been to sworn to secrecy until it’s launched. But it’s good. It’s very good, in fact 🙂

We’re also trying to use some of this time to sort our own websites out. I haven’t blogged on here for quite some time, because our new design website is in development, but as always happens, your own projects take a whole lot longer than you imagined. In the meantime, we have launched one of the new websites, which come under the umbrella of We Are Life Collection –

Before lockdown, we also found a new property with serious renovation potential and decided that it was too good an opportunity to miss, so we started the process of marketing our renovated house. We designed our own website, and although it’s all obviously on hold at the moment, we are starting to get the ball rolling again…

So, whilst we are still designing websites, we’re finding that we can offer a little bit more these days, in terms of business support, especially as we can offer quite a lot of flexibility to our clients. If you’d like to discuss anything with us, you can either fill out the simple design request form on our website, or pop some details in the form below. We’d love to hear from you…

The Importance of Paying On Time…

October 15, 2019

As a small business ourselves, we are looking to tighten up certain of our procedures – this information is so that everyone is aware of how we are going to do certain things from now on, and so that there is no confusion, or any chance that people have not been informed.

We try to always be as flexible as we can be regarding payments and if informed, always take account of individual circumstances, as we know that running a business can be financially challenging at times. However, this also means that sometimes we are chasing invoices, long after they have been issued.

Website Hosting/Domain Name Renewal

This seems to particularly apply to website hosting/domain name renewal. I have added a blog about this on our website and I do try and refer to it, especially if an invoice is long overdue, and it can be found here. In a nutshell, if we host your website/emails or manage your domain name(s), we ensure that payment is made, on your behalf, prior to the renewal date, so that there is no interruption with your website or emails and so that you do not lose your domain name. Sometimes, we are chasing invoices weeks after we have made these payments. Our only recourse is to take down a website, something we are very reluctant to do, and which we would only ever do if there is absolutely no communication whatsoever from the client.

From now on, we will invoice at least one week in advance of any hosting or domain name renewal. Should you wish to pay this when invoiced, we would obviously be delighted, as this would then mean that we were then not “out of pocket”. However, we appreciate that with cashflow etc, clients may prefer to pay on the actual day of renewal. Whilst we always, always try to be as flexible and as understanding as we can be, we need to make everyone aware that we can’t just keep on sending reminder emails and getting nothing back, if invoices aren’t paid. Reluctantly, in an instance like this, we will now go down the route of taking down a website if we’ve not been made aware of any issues re non-payment. A fee of £35 would then be additionally payable (see small print on our own website) for it to be reinstated.

Website Updates/Artwork

Previously, we have sometimes sent final artwork or put live website updates, prior to an invoice being paid. Again, we have done this in good faith, knowing that if a client has requested this kind of design work, it it is important. However, there are again instances where we are chasing invoices for work which is being used and we can’t let this continue. From now on, any website updates which are invoiced for (ie anything other than small tweaks etc), or any artwork, will only be released upon payment of the invoice.

We don’t like posting blogs like this one, but we think that it is better that everyone is absolutely aware of how we are going to do things from now on. And, it obviously goes without saying, that communication is key – if you are a client, and there is a reason for you not being able to make a payment on time, just let us know. Apart from actually paying, this is the easiest way to avoid any kind of issues with websites, artwork etc.

The Flower Lounge Website

July 31, 2019

We are really delighted to have found out that The Flower Lounge, in Didsbury, has been nominated for the British Florist Association Industry Awards Florist Website of the Year – the website we designed 🙂

We’d be so proud if The Flower Lounge scooped the award and so, we’re going to be really cheeky and ask, if you don’t mind, if you’d cast a vote for a We Are Life Design client. It’s really easy and takes about 30 seconds, via this link – and we think Siân and the team will really appreciate your support. (The Flower Lounge is listed in Category 9, so you’ll need to scroll down the overall list).

Many thanks in advance – we’ll let you know if The Flower Lounge wins!

The Flower Lounge, Didsbury

The Flower Lounge, Didsbury

The Flower Lounge, Didsbury

 

The Flower Lounge, Didsbury

The Flower Lounge, Didsbury

The Flower Lounge, Didsbury

The Flower Lounge, Didsbury