Introducing Something Familiar: A UK-Based Design Agency
Something Familiar is a UK-based web design agency, and one of the five Elementor’s End-of-Year showcase winners. They are an experienced group of creatives who love what they do and the people they do it for.
You may be wondering about the name “Something Familiar”. The reason they chose it aptly defines their values and their approach:
“The word familiar meant something to us, because a major part of our model is having a direct relationship with a client, and we were drawn to the idea of being familiar.”
In this webinar, they’ll discuss everything from pricing your Elementor site building services to making your work stand out, and down to more technical questions like which plugins they use.
This webinar is a must for every web creator who wants to get inspired by leading Elementor agencies. So, as the team so eloquently puts it, let’s get familiar.
Table Of Contents
Which Clients Does Something Familiar Work With?
Being able to understand your client makes it easier to design for them, but it’s even better when you share similar values.
According to the team, when you’ve got a direct link with the client, you’re truly understanding what their needs are and you’re able to discuss things with them on a level where the client isn’t always wrong and neither are you. You work together and you always come to a solution that works best for you both.
Their location — Bristol, UK — has a strong impact on the type of clients they are comfortable working with. Bristol, according to the team, is a culturally rich and very proud city, with deep roots in sustainable development and is, in fact, the green capital of the UK.
Something Familiar’s mantra is “do good, get good”, and they are working in an environment surrounded by other companies that share similar values and with whom they love working.
For example, they are currently working on a new project, which is a strategic brand refresh, for an ethically driven PR agency that itself works with companies that share similar values — to drive positive, social, and environmental change.
How To Kick off a New Web Design Project
According to the team, they start off by asking lots of questions in what they call the discovery phase. That’s where they look into the client’s business, objectives, and competitors.
They normally do a small brand audit where they look at how the company looks, feels, and sounds like. It really helps to step into the company’s shoes and see things from their perspective, but also more importantly, from the perspective of their customers.
If it’s a large website project, their process involves weekly check-in meetings with documents that show timelines, the weekly agenda, etc. It’s very structured and everyone can add tasks and ask questions. The team is very responsive and they are always there to answer questions and to collaborate.
Essentially, their business model is around investing and developing strong and lasting relationships with their clients. They truly aim to deliver value to their clients, and they take the extra step to assure that, like, for example, offering ongoing support for 30 days after the completion of the project.
It’s really important to map out the client’s expectations and your own expectations early on. During their discovery phase, they gather all those insights and define business objectives. Then, they choose one goal that’s measurable, and they call it their north star. Clearly, there will be many other measurable goals and KPIs, but this one will always be the thing they measure against.
An example of this north star for one of their projects was: to drive more leads to the website. There were a lot of other goals, but that was the most important one. The company wanted to drive more traffic through their HubSpot forums to that website site and that was the one metric that would guide their project.
How To Handle Scope Creep
“It’s very likely to happen. The important thing is to just not be afraid of that.”
According to the team, scope creep happens for two reasons:
- You haven’t really been clear in the initial setup about the requirements that you’ve agreed with the client.
- On a more positive note, it’s because you’re doing so well, and you are adding value, that the client wants to add more of it.
Either way, you just need to be honest and upfront and address the fact that it’s out of scope and come to a solution with your client.
And then, if there’s scope creep that is outside of those deliverables, the team usually works out a way of achieving those results or optimizations in addition to the initial proposal.
How Elementor Helps Streamline Workflow
The good thing about Elementor is that everybody can use it. There’s no need to rely on having a developer come and build or make changes to the site.
Any one of the team can jump on the project and tweak a copy or progress the build. It’s super easy to learn so even new employees can get up to speed really quickly and help with those projects.
An interesting thing that the team does is, create a master page of their style guide. This is where they apply all their global stylings to one page and then set the rules for the rest of the website. Essentially, they build a hidden page that has all the frequently used assets for the build, and then they can just copy and paste from that page — which really speeds up the process.
The Strategy Behind the Design
The strategy behind their design is, as they say, something intrinsic to their nature as designers. They can’t just make something look good — there has to be a reason, there needs to be a problem that they are solving.
The strategic part has always been there and it normally comes hand in hand with website projects. When people are looking at a refresh, they’ll be looking at everything, they want to rethink how they come across in the digital space — how they look and sound. It makes sense, then, to come from a base of strategy before moving to design.
There are two different types of designers out there — people that just design to make stuff look
good and people that design for a reason.
The team behind Something Familiar are designers first and foremost and it’s always been a personal goal to them to make sure that when they are delivering a design, that it’s got purpose and meaning and it provides value and it communicates fundamentally.
Something Familiar's Dev Environment
The team uses and relies on several core plugins, alongside Elementor, to design and deliver websites which include:
- Advanced Custom Fields – which they find useful.
- Code Snippets – they use this because they don’t like editing theme files.
- Custom Post Types
- Updraft – which they find to be a really good, super easy backup service.
- WP Rocket – for optimization
- Yoast SEO – for SEO optimization
Beyond that, they have a couple of plugins that they install alongside Elementor:
- Elementor Custom Skin – which helps them design loop templates for custom post skins.
- Elementor Super Cat – which includes a post filter bar that enables adding filters to your posts.
They try to steer clear from large plugins that have numerous addons. They only use what they need. Additionally, for the sake of simplicity for their clients, they’ve started using plugins to simplify the WordPress dashboard.
- Admin Menu Editor – which simplifies the menu on the left in the dashboard and enables you to hide a lot of things that the client doesn’t need to access.
- Wicked Folders – for when you’ve got lots of posts or lots of pages. It enables you to put pages into folders and get more organized.
Every client is different. Some clients focus solely on blogging, for example, and don’t update the website frequently, while others take a more hands-on approach. To understand their clients, the team has a conversation with them at the very start. They try to understand what their frustrations are and how to solve them.
Most often, it’s about not being able to make simple changes to their website. The team found that clients value having control and that’s what Something Familiar is trying to give and make it easy for clients.
Optimizing Website Performance
“We always try to build optimally so we don’t add too much clutter.”
The team achieves this by avoiding adding too many inner sections and having long pages. Also, from an SEO point, they make sure that everything is tagged appropriately.
They are also very conscious about image size and image quality. They avoid image optimizers, and instead do everything manually via Photoshop, to make sure that the end result is both of high quality and of a small size.
Additionally, they make sure to use the right file types, like SVGs, PNGs, JPEGs, etc. where appropriate to optimize the loading speed. The introduction of Lottie animations to Elementor has been very helpful, and these are used now, where previously MP4s were used.
Lastly, they configure WP Rocket. They’ve found someone from the Facebook community named Maxime Desrosiers, who has a website element.how and who helps them optimize websites, and solve technical problems that are outside the skill set of a designer.
They always take a page speed test at the start of their website refresh and they set benchmarks. Then, at the end, they take another one and they always try to improve the speed test. Ultimately, it’s a balancing act between engagement and speed.
Sometimes, there are other factors out of their control, like a server the client insists on using, which they wouldn’t recommend, etc. But they always aim to improve load times.
Building Advanced Websites With Elementor
The team says that the process doesn’t change greatly, and that essentially, it all comes down to organization.
They use their process, which involves identifying the purposes of the website, setting the north start, and then work backward to identify the end goal.
They challenge the client and ask them what they really need — the actual goals. Usually, the answer is about simplifying and making the website easier for everyone — users and clients.
A recent example is the appcast website. It had a lot of custom post types, so the team decided to recategorize the website’s entire library of blog posts, resources, videos, and webinars.
Some of these were linked internally, some were linked externally to HubSpot’s landing pages. It was a laborious process, but they got through it. But, as they’ve mentioned, it all boils down to identifying what the goals of the website are and simplifying things.
The Impact of No-Code
According to the team, ultimately, it allowed them to maintain design control, maintain close communications and understand the task at hand.
It also helped with collaboration. There were times where there would be two or three people building the same website — working on different pages. That really sped up the workflow.
It removes a point of contact from that level of communication where they had to pass over their designs to a developer and then manage that developer to ensure the designs were being brought to life.
This has given them much control and it allowed them to work within their design bubble, and get things exactly how they wanted them. It’s changed their workflow for the better.
They bring an example of the recent use of custom code which enhanced functionality. The website they’ve worked on had to have Lottie animations on some of the product pages. As the user scrolled down, those Lottie animations would be triggered to play. The team had to match these animations with text, and they did so with code.
How To Price Your Project
Generally, there aren’t many base costs other than the team’s time and project costs. Something Familiar do, however, factor in a few third-party costs like paying for Elementor, hosting, and any other subscriptions that they need.
They don’t tend to include any other third-party costs, like typefaces, stock photography, which are charged separately to the client.
They like to work on a fixed project rate. They use value-based pricing, which is related to the value that they think the project can bring to the business that they are quoting to.
Working With Big Brands
“I think there’s this kind of stigma attached to larger companies or people that you may associate with having a higher hierarchical structure and it’s a bit strange, because they’re just people, at the end of the day. So it is no different.”
If anything, the team says, sometimes it’s easier working for a larger company than it is for a smaller company because they’re experienced in marketing. They understand that there’s a lot that goes into design strategy and the development of a website. So, if they’ve got experience with that process, it often streamlines the work.
Their advice is: Don’t be afraid. Reach out, talk to people, be straight, be who you are and be true to your values because they’re just people, and everybody wants the best result.
Q: Are There Any Prerequisite Assets To Ask the Client Before a Project?
Something Familiar suggests that assets should be requested, but clarifies what they should be used for. If the project is a refresh, then the assets are required as a reference, or to keep certain elements from the old website that are associated with the brand. If the website is a new one, however, and there’s a need to adhere to certain guidelines, then assets like typefaces, colors, and others should be requested and used.
Q: How Can Web Designers and Creators, Who Are Just Starting Out, Level up Their Prices?
Something Familiar recommends evaluating your living costs first so that you can understand what’s the lowest you can afford to live off and make a profit on. Then, you need to think about how much value you provide your client with and calculate accordingly. Above all respect your craft and know it’s worth paying for.
Improve Your Web Design Service and Provide Value To Clients
Our discussion with Something Familiar has helped pinpoint the issues that most designers may come across and how to approach solving them.
From the very first step of choosing clients with shared values to initiating the right questionnaire at the beginning of the project, avoiding scope creep, using the right tools, and pricing your work correctly. Their insight and expertise can help designers of all levels, so be sure to take advantage of this in-depth interview.