3 Rules we will never break. And a few times when we broke them.

I think about rules a lot. I own a business, Im soon to be a new mom, I have people to manage and clients to keep happy. Some rules just work: Say thank you, be on time, use really cold butter when making pie crust.

In my own life, Ive never been one to follow arbitrary rules or listen to authority just because someone said I had to. Ive quit jobs, had many run-ins with authority figures ??the list goes on. So over the years Ive created for myself a company and a career where I can do just about anything I want to do. It works out great for me.

But that doesnt work for everyone. Most people need structure and parameters, and Ive found that I even have my own set of rules that I live by. These are for myself, of course. Personal Rule Number One: The only person you can control is yourself.

Over time, in order to be more process-driven and seamless in how we work at LimeRed, Ive been working on codifying the business practices, or rules, that we use to do our work. Here they are, all three of them.

Of course, rules are made to be broken, too. But only under the best circumstances.

1. We never split design and code.

This means: Were never going to program someone elses work and were never going to design something and hand it off to a developer to implement. Think about how closely your grandma guards her family recipes (at least mine does). Im pretty sure shes simply afraid that no one is going to make her meatballs as well as she does and most people arent going to look for the nuances that make her cooking hands-down the best on this planet.

Seriously, its the best.

Its not that we dont think that there are lots of talented designers and developers out there; I know for a fact that there are many wonderful people in our industry who do great work. The problems are the nuances and the processes. In our web development process, design is only a piece of the third phase of a web build. It comes after a serious amount of planning and strategy around: user goals, client capacity, CMS system, information architecture, user case scenarios and more. Unless were a part of that strategy upfront, the design (third phase) and development (fourth phase) is going to fall completely flat.

In almost every case weve handed off design or have been handed development work, the project gets close to a major fail.

EXAMPLE TO THE CONTRARY: Moomah.com (coming on November 15th – ish). We worked with an amazing designer to create this site. Shes one of the most talented people I know in design and illustration and we programmed her work. To be fair, we were in on this project from the beginning and also guided the thinking process in the first stages of planning, so it wasnt a totally cold hand-off. But still, we didnt design it.

2. We never outsource development.

We will never outsource any development work to another country. All of our developers who we use on a regular basis are in Chicago or very close to it. I know there are lots of great developers in other countries and its really cheap to outsource. But we dont.

We do this for a few reasons, some philosophical and some practical:

  1. We like to meet in person. Meeting in person solves issues faster than email, Basecamp, texts or phone calls ??even Skype. The best ideas come out when we meet in a group.
  2. We think that local dollars should stay local. Were big believers in feeding and growing our community and part of that is hiring people who are part of it. We created two jobs last year and were planning on three more in the next 12 months.
  3. Its better for the long term. Planning and training are huge components of what we do for our clients. When we build a site with a CMS (every site has one), we make sure we set it up to make the most sense for them when they need to go in and edit content. Its important for us to have full control over that development process from the beginning through the end because we know how our clients use their sites.

EXAMPLE TO THE CONTRARY: Our Strategic Design Director Demetrio Maguigad spent some time in Morocco this past year doing communications and web training as part of a cultural exchange sponsored by the U.S. State Department. Demetrio met a developer there, Aid Hamza, and was taken by his incredibly wide skill set and commitment to the same mission-driven work Demetrio was already doing. Since then weve contracted with Hamza to do some development and have been more than impressed with him.

3. We never discount our work.

Our big huge brains that make our big huge ideas are our most valuable assets. Were really smart, the things we design and build for our clients are excellent. Our thinking and process isnt different from job to job, the jobs themselves are different in terms of scope and time. Things cost what they cost. Nothing gets discounted. Ever.

EXAMPLE TO THE CONTRARY: Actually, we never discount our work. Ever.

 

These are the ideas we live and work by:

We keep our commitments.
We are committed to everyones success.
We take time to think.
We are smart, friendly, and fun to work with.
We know that good enough isnt good enough.

This is what makes us different. This is how we know when and how to break the rules.

Its also what makes us great.

 

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