A number of applicants for our designer/developer job have sent us questions. I’ve responded to the most common ones below:

Is this a full time position?

Yes. Though we’ll start with a trial period that you can do on the side. This is a big decision for us and for you. A try before you buy approach allows both of us to make sure it’s a great fit before committing to something long term. We’d give you one or more small projects that you can do nights and weekends, paying you an hourly rate that we agree on.

How would you describe the company’s management style and company culture?

Flexible and output-focused management style. There probably isn’t much of a culture today, as we’ve been fragmented and working through a loose team of contractors. Hopefully you will help us change that.

Another, more positive way think about it: we have a small startup culture — where you have a lot of autonomy, variety in the skills you use, and impact — without the financial instability or the single-product monotony that you get at many startups.

One of the example projects was to train a client’s dev team. Would there be travel involved and if so how much?

Unlikely given our current clients and engagements. We do almost all of our work remotely; our clients are comfortable with screen sharing and other online collaboration tools.

Does this position honor flextime or require 100% availability during working hours?

I’m a fan of the 37 Signals approach to working remotely, which supports flexible hours as long as there’s enough overlap to be efficient and to collaborate. They advocate 4 hours of overlap a day. I’m not sure what the right amount is; it’s something I’ll want to get your thoughts on and discuss. In the meantime, here are some things about me and our clients that may help:

  • I work during East coast working hours, as does our one other full-time person. The rest of the team is part-time and more scattered in terms of when they work.
  • Our clients are a mix of all 4 US time zones. Those on the west respect that we’re in a different time zone; i.e. we don’t have calls starting at 7pm ET.
  • I only check email twice a day, and try to sell our clients on the idea that immediate responses to their emails isn’t effective (better to have us focus for long stretches on their big challenges with minimal interruptions).
  • I generally hate conference calls. For our biggest ongoing clients, I have bi-weekly calls for an hour. You’ll be on some of these, maybe all.
  • I generally prefer to work in isolation for long stretches of time. Yet I’m pushing myself and our team to move to a more collaborative workflow. (See #5 in my recent blog post.) I’ll be looking to you to help us get there.

After you select your right fit, when are you looking to have them start?

As soon as possible after a successful trial run (see above). We have plenty of design and dev work lined up.

How long do your typical client engagements last?

We do take on some one-time, short-term projects. But increasingly we try to only work with clients that are looking for a long-term partner — and are on board with a build-measure-learn approach using many small iterations. Many of our clients have been with us for 2+ years.

As a small consultancy, what is your typical client interaction concerning the design and development process? Does Marketade usually develop for provided designs, or provide the whole package?

We usually either do both design and development or — for clients who have their own developer — just the design. Though most clients in that second group would rather us do both pieces, because their developers are swamped, don’t know responsive well, and/or don’t have a good design sense.

We’ve done very few projects where clients come to us with the designs and we develop them.

All that said, design and development have not been core competencies for us. Most of our clients come to us initially for SEO. Eventually we show them that we can help them in other areas: paid search, usability testing, UX design, web analytics and conversion optimization. And often that has led to visual design and front-end dev work — but we haven’t delivered great work in that area, and we’ve had to turn away a lot of it.

Having a talented team member focus just on design and dev will transform the way we work and open up a lot of opportunities.

SEO often leads to a not-so-visually-pleasing product. How much of your design is driven by SEO?

We try to make user experience the driver of everything we do, including SEO. We believe that, done right, SEO and UX are inseparable — and this overlap continues to grow as Google becomes better at rewarding sites that are fast, responsive, usable and useful.

Most of the work we do under “SEO” could easily be considered UX work — and to a lesser extent front-end code improvements — that are worth doing regardless of search engines. We often label it SEO because many of our clients and prospects care more about traffic from Google than “user experience” or “standards-based code”.

SEO is also a good check against overly slick, fancy design. Losing a ton of Google traffic tends to open clients’ eyes more than hearing that they’re creating a poor user experience.

How often would we need to meet in person?

Rarely or never. If you’re in or around DC, it will make sense to get together once in a while. But even then the default would be remote communication. At least that’s how I think about it now. If you love in-person collaboration, I’m certainly open to doing more of it.