Having started a website business in 2007, my partner and I initially worked on the Business Strategy following all the lessons learned along the course of our careers. We went on courses on how to best design an online site, set up the backend with precision and an SEO strategy with our developer. The business has gone through a variety of iterations, with us relooking better online practices, SEO, content and general marketing. The scope of the website is authentic and original but 5 years down the line the basic principles followed at start up take a back seat to the actual business of supplying accurate, dependable data to clients.
Step in Refresh. I was pleasantly surprised that Qatar has a growing open community of experts in web designing, development, e-marketing, content and a group of entrepreneurs, who work to refresh the creative, technical and professional culture of the internet. Even more so that they come in all different shapes, sizes, cultures and ages. Refresh provides an opportunity for like-minded people to meet-up, discuss issues relating to business, design, development, online marketing, technology and increase the ICT networking community in Qatar all for free.
On 19 November, this group brought together four speakers to discuss reshaping the web with Multidisciplinary Design, Blogging & Social Networking, Starting a website and Global innovation within the local culture. With the web having undergone a variety of transformations over the last few years, so has the front-end design, which has been influenced by a variety of design trends, the advancement of mobile devices and improvements to the scripting language used. Trends which anyone in the business of designing, developing, marketing or owning an online business should be keeping abreast with.
Michael Hersrud kicked the presenter session off by discussing the influences of new creative trends and how they are responsible for visually reshaping the future of the web. He concentrated on the impact that new design has on how content can be presented in diverse visual styles, with twists in the tails of fonts and cleverly varied videos. His discussion on grid designing showed how creating a visual impact is key to attracting users, but how keeping them on the site with an easy accessible interface and solid content can make or break it. Taking the talk locally, he spoke about the potential of the Arabic font which can be created as a story in itself and one that has endless possibilities in the Middle East Arabic media environment. Interesting creatively grid and font designed sites mentioned include; Spacecollective.org Gallery, Leids Film Festival, Effect Games Demos, and The Wilderness Downtown.
Ammar Mohammed discussed how blogging and social media content can improve the visibility of a person, company or organization. It was interesting to note how many individuals and companies in Qatar have taken to Social Networking. Individual’s social media usage has increased since 2008 due to the now familiar use of the medium to share experiences, open dialogue, and freedom of speech within the MENA region. Some companies have developed a solid Marketing Strategy for their social media allowing them to make head way in ensuring continuous status updates with solid valuable information. Some companies however, have joined networks but have not updated their status’ once, this has a negative effect on their business, showing a lack of interest in their client’s requirements. ictQATAR’s Digital Media Landscape Report can give you more detailed statistics on Media Usage within Qatar.
Abraham Kararck brought me back to the basics of concrete web design start up requirements, to create a web presence that is sustainable. His basic presentation on design with a white screen and black text for the design impaired was original and amusing. He emphasized how critical having a solid Design Strategy can be, from learning design lingo, setting up a storyboard and having a solid SEO strategy. Web design can make or break a new start-up and many make mistakes in the initial set up that can be detrimental to the success of the online business. His presentation concentrated on some main processes; creating a Storyboard, the initial Wireframe (buttons, fields, content, look and feel, etc), Design should initially be clean and simple before going elaborate and expensive, the Development (choosing a developer and language for the site to be written in) and finally Managing the site. It is important to make the correct decisions and use the correct tools to ensure a successful web business. He gave insightful short-cut cheats and processes to designing a site with great reference sites to use; Smashing Magazine, Elance, 99designs, Visual Mess, Capturely.com, Balsamiq, Icon Finder, Istockphoto, Aviary and don’t forget Google Analytics.
Olivier Auroy closed the workshop by discussing online businesses surviving in a globally branded village and how brands in Qatar and the Gulf can contribute to improving our daily lives. The audience was blown away by the brilliant bq sunglass concept developed from the Burqa and taking this idea into a more modern day conceptual design to cover the female face. The design was inspirational and I could quite easily see Western women buying the product.
Overall nothing ground breaking in the concepts presented, but if you are a start up company or student it was insightful to be made aware of good business practices. For someone that has a website, it was a way to recap on lessons once learned and forgotten along the way, to take a moment to pause, step back and have a look at where we are as a site and repurpose where necessary.