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"They were very eager to make sure that they did a good job and pleased us."
As a brand new startup, a government organization wanted to establish their digital presence and improve their public awareness, so they hired NYN for their web development services.
"They were very eager to make sure that they did a good job and pleased us."
Jun 24, 2021
While there are no metrics to be shared, the internal stakeholders are still satisfied and impressed with the product that NYN delivered, particularly on their approach to design and functionality. The team was also highly receptive to client queries and concerns.
A Clutch analyst personally interviewed this client over the phone. Below is an edited transcript.
Introduce your business and what you do there.
I am the director of communications at the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority, known as WDBA. WDBA is responsible for the delivery of the Gordie Howe International Bridge between Windsor, Canada, and Detroit in the United States. It’s one of the largest infrastructural projects in North America today with an approximal cost of $5.7 billion dollars.
What challenge were you trying to address with NYN?
We are what’s known as a crown corporation, which means that my organization is owned by the Government of Canada — but unlike a department of the Government of Canada, we operate independently. We were formed by the Government of Canada back in 2012, and we became operational in 2014.
We were a brand-new start-up and at that point in time, it was just me and the CEO of the organization. We had to build awareness for the project because it would be significant to the public, and we had to have an online presence. The online presence was important because we’re talking about billions of dollars of taxpayer money being used on a project, and our constituents aren’t just people in Canada, but also people in the United States — obviously, the bridge is going between the two countries.
What was the scope of their involvement?
We needed to have awareness of the project, or a portal, where not just the people on both sides of the border like the communities, but organizations who are working with us such as the Canada Border Services Agency, Homeland Security, and US Border Protection Services need to know what’s going on.
We also had challenges, because Canada is a bilingual country where we speak English and French officially, so we had to have a website that would accommodate two languages. We also needed to accommodate a community in Southwest Detroit known as Delray, where the majority of people are Hispanic-Americans — many of whom only speak Spanish, so the website also had to cater to their needs.
We did all the digital marketing ourselves. I was very heavy-handed in the design and I knew what I wanted for the website, but they were responsible for the design and initial graphics of the website. I didn’t have the expertise, nor did anyone in my office do all the content management, HTML coding, and everything of that sort. NYN not only provided me with web services, but also design services.
They used their own bespoke platform for the website that they custom-built, and they also designed our logo. I was very specific in the type of logo I wanted, as it had to be bilingual, and it had to show some sort of movement. Coming up with the design of the logo was one of the initial challenges we had, and then we had the challenge of how it would be implemented in our print materials, business cards, cheques, and including that branding into the website. The biggest key feature was that it had to be accessible, as we had accessibility requirements. It’s a requirement from the government for people with visual impairment or any type of impairment of the sort.
The biggest challenge was that we had to essentially mirror two websites. We had to have a website in English, and we had to have the same content in French. Visually, the aesthetic is going to be a little bit different because you want to make sure it looks the same, but by the same token that it also had to be readable without accessibility issues.
I think the other challenge that we had is that we went through a change. When the WDBA came into being, we didn’t have a name for the bridge at that point in time. A few years later, the Prime Minister and the President of the United States decided on a name for the bridge. we very quickly had to change the website to reflect the name of the bridge as opposed to WDBA because we are now trying to publicize the bridge, and not the organization that is building the bridge.
We also had to very quickly change the content of the website overnight to something that was completely different than we had before where we could put on things such as construction notices, traffic notices, with the emphasis only on the bridge itself and the other components of the construction project. However, we still needed to keep all the information we had to date as a subset, which was under our corporate pages.
Part of the challenge for NYN was that they had to be very nimble, they had to be able to react very quickly, and they also needed to have a high degree of confidentiality. The confidentiality thing was important, because some of the material that they were involved with isn’t public information. We made sure that the company and its employees would pass a secret clearance, which had to be given by the National Police Agency.
What is the team composition?
Primarily, I worked with Robert (Founder & Partner), then Michael (Partner) who was more responsible for the HTML and the backend of the website. I spoke with Robert probably every day. The daily contact was with another employee, and he was the one that my staff would liaise with — he would be the one we would go to when we had something coming up, but for anything that required a bigger design element, I dealt directly with Robert.
How did you come to work with NYN?
When I first met them, they were a young company with just two people. They have expanded, and it was important to us that we gave opportunities to young and emerging companies. Because we’re a Canadian organization, I wanted to make sure that other Canadian companies would have an opportunity to bid on the project. This was clearly one of the most high-profile projects in Canada and along the northern border of the United States, and for them to get the contract was very important — they were very eager to make sure that they did a good job and pleased us.
They had great enthusiasm, but I think more importantly, and this is probably something bad about me, but I’m very hands-on when it comes to public-facing materials that we have such as posters, photos, videos, social media, and the website — I put in long hours and I can be very demanding. I wanted someone that I was comfortable with and if I needed something done at 8 o’clock at night or on the weekend, they would answer that phone. I had a good relationship with the owner of the company and whenever I called, he responded no matter the time or day.
How much have you invested in them?
We paid around $100,000 CAD (approximately $80,300 USD) a year. I also paid for a number of extra projects. When we had to have the accessibility and migrate the content management system, I paid for that above and beyond the contract. I think it’s fair to say that the total investment we made was in excess of $600,000 CAD (approximately $480,300 USD) over the six years.
What is the status of this engagement?
Our partnership began in the fall of 2014, and we completed our work with them in December 2020. We had a one-year contract that was extended for five years. We had over six years with them, but we can’t extend contracts here without going through a procurement process. We went through a procurement process and unfortunately, they didn’t win the second procurement process. I can’t get into the reasons for that, but it had nothing to do with their ability. We had to take a look and consider their price point.
What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?
There are no real metrics other than the fact that we can take a look at how many visitors we have on the website, and what the page visits are. I think the success is a combination of the design, functionality, and the ease of navigating the website, but it has probably more to do with the subject matter because there is a huge amount of interest in the Gordie Howe International Bridge both in Canada, the United States, and internationally. Regardless of how good the design is, people are still going to visit — though I believe that their design element was part of that metric.
Anecdotally, the evaluation was how good I thought they did on the job and the aesthetic of it all. Beyond that, it is the evaluation of how responsive they were to me. Again, I pay a lot of money to a lot of contractors and it’s probably a failing on my behalf, but when I have a contractor, I expect them to be responsive. That means picking up the phone when I call, and I want them to immediately and effectively respond and react to issues as they come up — NYN did exactly that and we had no difficulty in considering them for a new contract through the procurement process.
Additionally, the biggest metric was that they kept within budget and they delivered on time, which was partly my responsibility.
How did NYN perform from a project management standpoint?
I think they performed very well. There were challenges with project management because they had other clients so they had to fit in what I thought was urgent. If I wanted to have something completely accessible in two weeks, they might’ve not been able to do it because the job would probably take a lot longer than two weeks. I think from a project management perspective, there were two issues; I am not a technical guy, and I don’t know anything about it. I just know what I wanted, and I expected it to be done.
They had to explain that what I was asking for would take much longer than two weeks. On several occasions, we had to have negotiated scheduling which was fine because they were able to explain why we needed more time.
We have a very large project management system that we use called e-Builder, which was a licensed software that had more to do with construction and constructability. With NYN, it was strictly on a personal relationship basis, and we emailed back and forth. We did what is known as a vendor scorecard so if there was a problem, we will submit a vendor scorecard — they didn’t have any negative vendor scorecards.
What did you find most impressive about them?
They were responsive and they didn’t let the ball drop. I am probably a difficult guy to deal with as I can be very demanding — I would have an idea of what I want, and I leave it to the people. They had a good ability to work closely with me, and understand the needs of the client. It wasn’t just down to Rob, but also the people who were doing the coding. There were some issues, and I let them know I needed to have something put up right away because we had an event coming up — this was during COVID-19 when everyone was working from home. He gave me his own personal cellphone number and told me to call him, and said he would make sure that it gets done. He got it done and that was pretty impressive.
Are there any areas they could improve?
I can only think of maybe one or two times where their output was not as satisfactory to me as I thought it should be. When you think about it, over a six-year period, one or two times isn’t that dramatic.
Because they were a small organization, some of their billing was not as prompt as it should be. Sometimes it was a couple of months before they sent the bill, and it impacted me because I had to have it before every quarter, since I had to justify my budget for that quarter to see if I was over or under. Without a bill, I would have no idea what my budget forecast is.
There were a number of times where I had to ask them for the bill and the timeliness on the administrative side was failing a bit, but again, it didn’t impact me necessarily. They were the ones who had to pay their employees, and if they don’t have money from me, they wouldn’t be able to pay them. Other than that, I can’t think of anything else.
Do you have any advice for potential customers?
My advice would be two-fold. For people who are not technical savvy, be patient because NYN has a good grasp of technology and I would suggest that you don’t expect what is an impossibility. The other thing I would recommend is that they should be aware that a small company can be incredibly responsible and responsive to your needs. However, you have to establish a relationship with them — I do that with all the contractors I have.
I need a relationship with the people that I work with, so I can have that comfort zone. Anyone working with them will be very pleased working with NYN, and I would suggest building a relationship with them — it’s a lot easier to work with technocrats if you have a relationship.