Cole Henley tells us how he set up a new - and now net Award-nominated - business with a kindred spirit.
Bath-based web design agency Mud is a shortlisted nominee for the New Agency of the Year award in the 2014 net Awards. We spoke to Cole Henley about how he joined up with Matt Powell last year to create Mud.
Tell us about some work you're proud of.
We recently launched the Superior Tube website which was a challenging but rewarding project to work on. This was our first project working almost completely remotely from the client and we had to tackle a range of issues, from time zone differences to targeting an American audience to communicating complex engineering terms simply without patronising experienced users.
Another recent launch was the Elea website which was great fun. Working in conjunction with the design chops of Richard Chant, this was a brilliant opportunity for us to play with some funky CSS3 animation techniques and SVGs for graphics.
We also loved working on the Fordbrook website for a local furniture manufacturer. It was our first project designing mobile first and this led us to really focus on the content for the site. A flexible creative brief and close management of the photography for the site meant we were able to put the quality of the client's work at the centre of the design, reinforced through subtle interactions.
How did you get started?
We (Matt and Cole) had done some work together whilst Matt was running Made Up Design in Bath, but started talking more formally about joining forces last summer. Matt was looking to grow the business and I (Cole) was getting tired and frustrated with freelancing, so coming together seemed to be a perfect solution. We met up a few times to discuss how we might work together and realised we had very similar attitudes, goals and aspirations, so Mud was born.
What has happened in your first year of business?
This first year has really been about establishing solid foundations for the business. Taking on a non-executive chairman early in the year has been invaluable to help us define what kind of business we want and the kind of clients we want to work with. It has also helped us to set out processes to help the business run smoothly: from appointing a financial director to taking on a project manager. It has taken time but setting these foundations has ultimately freed up our time and resources to focus on building great quality websites.
Do you have any special philosophies that drive your working practices and company culture?
This is where a chairman has been really helpful - making time early on to identify the core values of the business and how we want those values to shape the work we do and the ways we go about our work. We (Matt and Cole) have similar views and aspirations, and both being parents of young children we wanted a healthy work-life balance.
We've also realised that play, fun and learning are important ways of staying focussed and motivated so we try to have regular dev-days. We like to push ourselves to learn new things on every project but taking time away from client work has really helped us to learn new skills and techniques.
What sets you apart from the rest?
Early on when we were looking at the strengths and weaknesses of Mud we spent a lot of time trying to identify a quirk or ability that set us apart from other agencies but found that in a very congested market, this was forcing us in a direction we didn't want to go.
In the end we realised that we did the same things as lots of other agencies but our focus is all about quality of delivery and quality of service. We love making websites, we take pride in the code we produce and we love working with interesting people! We hope that our collective experiences can bring good ideas to the table, that our clients enjoy working with us and that we deliver more than just a great website.