What was the scope of their involvement?
Nikalabs has worked on multiple websites for us. Like I mentioned, we’re 3 companies, but we have secondary sub-pages of our website—almost like microsites within our web pages. They’ve done the Cannes ad and other creative outputs for us. They’ve done some sales support material and helped me with presentation design. It hasn’t been a really long engagement, so they’ve really managed to ramp up. We’ve only been working together for 6 months, and it started with the website. Their capabilities are very robust. We’ve expanded our collaboration to so much more in the last 6 months.
I have an in-house developer, so that’s the other key thing. Nikalabs has to have the communication skills to design next to their developers and work with our in-house developer to create very clear specifications. They’re not doing any of the development. We develop on top of WordPress and do leverage templates and plugins when necessary. Nikalabs has worked within our constraints, but they are developing designs that are not constrained by that. They just work with us to understand how they can turn their designs into what we have currently on our site.
My development mantra is that I don’t like 100% custom development, largely because it typically tends to break. Because we’re not a huge development firm with 5 people doing QA on every aspect of the site, and because we frequently update the site, the last thing I want to do is introduce more risk. So, whenever there are existing themes on WordPress, we utilize our plugins because those are developed by larger engineering houses. Nikalabs has worked within that. They’ve helped us find plugins that make sense and themes that work within our technical limitations.
They started with a blank canvas and were responsible for everything. They come up with wireframes and pages. I work closely with them, but they provide end-to-end design services and all raw materials for my developer. They provide support afterward to ensure that he has what he needs from a development perspective. The only thing they don’t do for us is the copy. I write all the copy since our business is so complicated. I don’t expect them to understand the technology and the nuances of our business to design a great website. We have spent sessions just sitting down and helping them understand the motivation and overall aspects of the business so they can design appropriately.
How did you come to work with Nikalabs?
I was looking for someone local. I wanted somebody I could sit next to, as I’ve found it’s more beneficial to have someone I can go and talk to rather than trying to explain everything on the phone or via email. I’m more of a whiteboard session kind of person. We’ve tried to use designers outside the area, but it hasn’t worked very well. I was looking at the best designers, websites, and portfolios I saw that were built from companies in the area. It was very clear that Nikalabs was in the top 5. A lot of the bigger agencies were just process-heavy. Everything I talked to them about involved a really long turnaround time. I understand our business, and we need results fast. So, I narrowed it down to a couple local designers who were smaller. Nikalabs’ portfolio, professionalism, and overall ability to understand what needed to be done were key.
How much have you invested with Nikalabs?
At this point, we’re almost on a monthly retainer with them, which is under $10,000. They still estimate how much each project costs, but they bill me monthly. That allows me to spread the cost so that when we have big campaigns, we’re not paying huge amounts up front. They’ve worked closely with us to help us manage the financial situation. Altogether, it’s over $50,000.
What is the status of this engagement?
We started working together in November of 2016, and the relationship is ongoing.