Xiiro A little bio and a little rant.

Clients don't typically come to me simply because they ‘need a website’. They're often looking for a strategy or direction...

Who I am and What I Do

My name is Todd and I’m the person behind Xiiro. I primarily design and write code for websites with supporting artistic work in the areas of illustration and graphic design, and upon request the occasional light print work.

I’ve found that the ability to move between creative and technical disciplines is often helpful and in some ways essential for an independent contractor like myself. For projects that may require highly specialized work I collaborate with a small network of extremely talented and experienced professional craftsmen.

If requested, I will work with you to develop strategies to increase your website’s effectiveness and strengthen your brand on the Web. A craftsman knows each client and project is unique yet they are often treated with a one-size-fits-all approach for the benefit of the designer’s convenience or maximizing the profit margin. This is not something I do.

Be it design, technical or strategy related, I provide a bespoke and personalized level of service tailored to each client’s specific needs and goals. If you’re looking for a cookie-cutter solution to solve your design needs then I am not the person you want.

Ask Yourself: “What do I need?

Clients don't typically come to me simply because they ‘need a website’, they’re often looking for a strategy or direction and that requires more than a nice-looking logo or website which is the obvious end result of a lot of discussion and planning, all of which puts the project into context. Without context I can’t do my job.

Design is about solving problems, whether it’s marketing, content, user-interface, technical or creative. If a clever logo or slick website is all it took to be successful there would be a lot more rags-to-riches stories.

Identify and Solve Problems, Then Make It Pretty

It starts with research. Learning about you, your business, your clients, your workflow and your content strategy. Assessing your website’s usability, user-interface, functionality, and accessibility. Analyzing site metrics, identifying creative, technical or branding/marketing problems, and defining short- and long-term goals. Finally, assessing the aesthetic aspect. Too often clients (and yes, even some designers) think only in terms of aesthetics which is short-sighted. An effective Web presence depends on much more than how pretty your website looks.

Today your content can — and often does — find its way onto multiple platforms, intentionally or not: mobile, social networks, desktops, and even apps. As a business owner you need to view your target audience in much broader terms with regard to how visitors access your information/product/service. Equally important is the quality of the user-experience on those various platforms. Can your business thrive with an ineffective Web presence? Is your current content, website and brand an asset or impediment to your goals?

The Inevitable Question: “Are you expensive?”

Or, “How long is a piece of string?”

Answer: How do you define ‘expensive’? It’s a relative term without context. By ‘relative’ I’m referring to the value the client places on their website, brand, product/service and business in general, and on my ability to improve upon those aspects.

I find that my services are viewed in one of two ways: as an essential business investment or a peripheral expense to be kept to a minimum, and which way the client leans depends greatly on perception and context. My clients value the creativity, knowledge and experience I can offer in helping them be successful, that’s why they’re my clients. The terms ‘expensive’ and ‘value’ are not always mutually exclusive.

Client Screening

There’s a prevalent belief — especially in this economy — that “a job is a job”, but I don’t buy into that mindset. There are numerous reasons why I might turn down a client, but in order to make that determination I use a preliminary questionnaire that helps paint a picture of both the project and the client. Screening benefits both Parties and is the crucial first-step in providing the best service I can, even if that means recommending another designer.

I take my work seriously and I choose to work with clients who approach their business and clients the same way. If you treat your project as an afterthought then why should I do any differently?

My 2 cents

My 2 Cents

Clients often judge a web designer's skill solely on how their work looks. And why not? Aesthetics are obvious and easier to assess than arcane technical voodoo. And after all, you’re hiring a “designer”, right? But aesthetics only tell a small part of the story. Making something look pretty and making it work well — for the visitor and also under-the-hood — require different skills, both of which are important. This is design.

Presumably you want someone who is creatively and technically proficient. After all, under the veneer websites are complex beasts built on code. If aesthetics are Yin then surely code is Yang, forever intertwined. It's the blending of the artistic and technical, or if you prefer, form and function. Seems like obvious skills for a web designer, so why mention it?

The situation is common: many designers are unwilling to learn the most basic technical aspects of web design. It's a liability sometimes compensated for by an over-dependancy on software to fill the knowledge gaps and is, to me, the difference between actual craftsmanship and point-n-click construction. But it's not about understanding everything, it's about fundamental literacy. It's difficult to effectively design something when you don't understand the tools, structure and language with which you're building.

It’s fair to say a “professional” in any field is obligated and expected to possess an understanding of their core field of expertise, so the ability to confidently and efficiently navigate the medium and problem solve effectively is not just relevant to the task but an indicator of a broader skill-set. It's your money so know who you're hiring, ask questions and get what you're paying for.

—Todd