Authenic Style is a top rated UK web design company that offers affordable, custom web design and branding services. Website Planet spoke to Director, Will Smith, to find out more about how the company started, their top tips for social media merketing and some of the challenges faced when dealing with international businesses.
Please describe the story behind the company: What sparked the idea, and how has it evolved so far?
Authentic Style officially began operating in April 2009, but it began life roughly a year before.
I was working as a Designer and Front-End Developer in the web design industry when I decided I needed to look at creating a better portfolio presence, so during the evenings and weekends I put together a simple single page website featuring my work. Somehow (I’m not sure how), I came up with the name Authentic Style and managed to grab the .co.uk domain.
When I launched the website I was really keen to see if I could get it featured in the big CSS galleries of the time (think CSS Remix and Best Web Gallery) and after submitting it to a couple of these online web design showcases, to my delight it was accepted – then everything snowballed.
The design of my portfolio at the time was fairly unique – single page websites with jump links to each section were relatively rare and the overall colour scheme itself (orange and brown) was very unique too, so I’m pretty confident it was these two things that helped it gain traction.
My new portfolio started cropping up in blog articles on various websites too. Articles with titles like ‘Best Orange & Brown Website Designs’ and ‘Top 10 Single Page Web Design Portfolios’, and I even had my website featured in magazines such as MacUser Magazine and Web Designer Magazine.
Getting all these inclusions really skyrocketed the traffic to my portfolio and whilst I was still working full-time I was getting enquiries from start-ups for design projects. After rejecting a few, I thought I was missing out on an opportunity, so I accepted some of these requests to work on in my spare time.
Very quickly I reached a point where I made the decision to hand in my notice at my full-time job and make the leap to freelancing. Being only 21 years old at the time made the decision pretty easy – after all I was still living at home back then, so I always felt if it didn’t work out, I’d just get another job.
Thankfully, after working on my own for a year and a half I reached a point where I needed help to handle the volume of work coming in, so I rented office space and took on my first employees – another Designer and a WordPress Developer so I could focus a little more on trying to grow the business.
Over the subsequent years we grew to 5 people and started picking up projects for large local clients (such as Sunseeker Charters). We also started creating bespoke e-commerce websites too, as well as producing branding for start-ups and established businesses who were looking to reinvigorate their tired brands.
Roll forward to 2022 and the business operates a little differently today. Authentic Style is now 100% remote, so we all work from our respective homes. We’re still a very small web design agency with myself handling new business, project managing and being responsible for all the creative output, and then three other web developers (Toby, Lee and Bonny) handling the WordPress development side of things and any custom plugin development our clients need.
What process do you follow when assisting a customer with Branding & Web Design?
Process is everything when it comes to branding and web design projects. It’s how you ensure a project is a success and it also helps give client’s confidence working with you too.
Branding projects start with a discovery phase. We need to listen to our clients goals and aspirations for their business and how they want to be perceived. We also need to understand what makes them different so we can create a brand that really resonates with their target market.
Once we’ve gathered all this information we create 3 unique logo concepts, each coming at the clients brief from a different angle. These are then presented to the client and we go through 3 rounds of revisions to arrive at the finished company logo.
From there we produce a simple brand guidelines document so it’s clear how the new branding should be used out in the wild and how all the different elements will work together online and also offline.
For bespoke web design projects the process is similar in that it begins with a lot of listening. The biggest challenge is getting clients to open up completely about all the issues and pain points they are currently facing with their existing website. But if they can do that, we can then come up with a new website that not only looks great, but solves these headaches too.
Firstly we wireframe all the key pages of the new website on Desktop AND on Mobile, so we can be sure the user experience is spot on. The wireframing stage also helps us think about SEO before we’ve written a single line of code or added any design, as we can ensure that all the right content is included on each page to target each respective key phrase.
Once the wireframes are approved we then create the design concepts for the website, so the client can see how their new website will look on both Desktop screens and Mobile phones.
And finally once the designs are signed-off we then begin hand-coding the new website as a custom WordPress theme making all the content editable.
We provide our clients with a free training session over Zoom, so they can be confident administering their website moving forward. We even provide video tutorials too so that the client can store these if they forget anything, or a new member of staff joins and needs to work with the website.
What are your top tips for Social Media marketing?
Our biggest tips for social media marketing would be to plan ahead and to be consistent.
We typically plan out a social media calendar 1 whole month in advance with each client we work with. That way all the visuals can be created in bulk ahead of time and then everything can be scheduled with tools like Buffer.
Any ad-hoc updates (like important industry news or job vacancies that month) can then be interspersed along with all the planned updates.
Finally, you need to be consistent with your social media efforts. Results take time and it’s all about raising brand awareness and creating a community around your brand.
If your business posts interesting updates, with a little bit of character thrown in, you’ll be front of mind when one of your followers is looking for your services, or someone they know is.
Are there any unique challenges that you face when dealing with international businesses?
We generally work with businesses in the UK, but we do have clients in the USA and also Saudi Arabia too.
Generally speaking, design trends are the same globally and design should be all about showcasing what you’ve got to say (the actual content) in the best light anyway, as opposed to making something look good for the sake of it.
The only thing we have noticed is that businesses in Saudi Arabia tend to be much more conservative when it comes to asking for the sale.
For example, where a UK or US business might include a “call to action” at the bottom of each page of their website asking the visitor to get in touch or request more information, Saudi businesses prefer to exclude these elements and just let the contact page itself be the only “call to action” so to speak.
What level of support can your customers expect from you?
Support is one of the things we like to think we do really well.
We’re extremely responsive to our existing customers over email and on the phone and we also provide a range of ongoing services to help our clients get the most from their websites.
We have a Monthly Website Maintenance service whereby we ensure our clients’ WordPress websites are running all the latest versions of plugins and the WordPress software itself. This ensures their websites are super secure and definitely lengthens their lifespan too.
And we also offer ongoing SEO (search engine optimisation) services too, to help our clients obtain the best possible rankings. This involves making on-site changes to the website and also creating content for them too.
We have many clients who have been with us since those early days in 2009 and we love helping them refine their websites as their businesses grow and evolve.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
Helping people is what we love doing, so each branding or web design project we work on is ultimately all about that – understanding where you are today, where you want to be and helping you get there with the best possible solution.
If you’re reading this and would like a free consultation to discuss how we might be able to take your web presence to the next level, take a moment to complete our contact form and we’ll get back to you to set up a short call.