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Andrew Armitage A Digital Craft CMS

Reflecting on 2019 for A Digital

So another year flies by and here we are again, taking a moment to reflect on another successful year and what lies ahead at the start of a new decade. In many ways 2019 has been transformative for A Digital. We’ve refocused on our brand and evolved as a business, so here are some of the highlights that tee us up for an exciting year ahead.

This is a post of personal reflection rather than predictions of what's we think will shape the year ahead. New technology including artificial intelligence (AI) and wider societal changes will all inevitably impact on all our lives, but rather than looking ahead, this list of predictions that have aged badly suggest it's not always wise to be over confident with the crystal ball.

Rebranding

We started to roll out our new brand around July after starting the project 6 months earlier with Bolton agency A Story Called. Having renamed to A Digital back in 2015, we never really took the time to consider our visual identity properly. Looking back it was really little more than a name change, but it needed to represent so much more. Fast forward to 2019 and while we weren’t wanting to change what we did, we needed to reposition ourselves in a more mature way with a greater understanding of why we do what we do and what drives us to do our best work.

Adigital logo 2019
Adigital logos

Our new identity was playful but confident, with bright colours layered on top of one another representing the approach we take with our projects. But we didn’t stop there. Having previously read the books Oversubscribed and 24 Assets by Daniel Priestly, 2019 was also the year we started to think more about creating assets in the business. So we created a full brand toolkit (ironically, something we always look for when working with clients) to make creating new content easier with a wider team of contributors. This has been one of the most valuable things we’ve done from a content creation perspective, giving us a framework to use every time we wanted to publish something new. We completed the roll out of the rebrand with our new website in September, although it’s fair to say these things are never actually ‘done’!

Developing Influence

Going back to Daniel Priestly’s books, it was important for the rebrand to build the profile of the agency. Ultimately though this comes from individuals within the business, (ie. me) and I was drawn deeper into the ecosystem of Dent Global. Their business accelerators go all-in on the approaches referenced in the books and it’s been an absolute privilege and inspiration to work with them through the year. Joining their Key Person of Influence programme has been instrumental in a number of decisions we’ve taken through the year, but I feel we’ve only just scratched the surface of the opportunities that lie in front of us, so there’ll be much more to follow on from this in the year ahead, including...🥁my first book!

Refining and practicing pitches with Dent.

Business is a life of a thousand pitches.

I’m told the best book isn’t one you read, but the one you write, and this is the first time I’ve announced it publicly. I suppose this adds the pressure to keep up the momentum on top of the 22,000 words I’ve written so far. I’m not going to say too much about the content here (it is of course web related), but the plan is for this to be published by Rethink Press in the first half of 2020.

The Clientside Podcast

Releasing a podcast was something I’d wanted to do for a while, but as things go, we simply hadn’t found the time to make it happen. However, as podcast growth surged through 2019, we were full of enthusiasm, but still only managed to record a meagre 7 episodes! Most of these included guests (albeit sometimes with our own team), but while it was great to start creating audio content, building a pipeline of topics and guests is a job in itself; not to mention researching the content. That said, there’s something authentic about not having things being too polished, so we’re looking forward to recording new shows over the coming weeks.

A Digital Clientside Podcast Recording

Recording the Clientside podcast introduced a new learning curve.

Speaking and Awards

To further build our profile through the year, we entered the Northern eCommerce Awards. This was our first award entry which saw us bring home the award for the Best Food and Drink website for the relaunch of the Hawkshead Relish online shop. We’re excited to have a few more award entries in the pipeline, so watch this space for news of those early in the new year!

Andrew Armitage and Dean Duffield collect an award for A Digital at the 2019 Northern eCommerce Awards

Winning the award for the Best Food and Drink eCommerce website was a particular highlight of the year.

September also saw a trip across the pond to speak at the Dot All conference for Craft CMS developers where I spoke about the key considerations for migrating websites to Craft. This came hot on the heels of recent projects for Burnetts, James Cropper plc and James Clay so was fresh with plenty of first hand experience to draw from.

Andrew Armitage talking on stage at the Dot All Conference in Montreal

Speaking at the Dot All Conference in Montreal, Canada.

Looking Ahead to Opportunities in 2020

Studio Workflow

One of the things we need to refine is our studio workflow, and how we move projects from start to completion. We’re still users of Basecamp which has worked well for us, but for fear of creating painful disruption both for ourselves and our clients, we’ve avoided exploring other platforms (we’ve tried this before and ended up right back where we began). Part of this puzzle lies with technology, but we’re also keen to recruit a project coordinator to our team as soon as we can, alongside a new digital marketing role.

Strategic Approach to Marketing and Development

We’ve always been very technically capable as a team, but this all needs to fit within a wider strategic vision for clients. 2019 saw us develop our approach we’ve called Going the Distance™ which breaks down our early stage project kick-off into 8 areas that are critical to success. Digital can’t work in isolation so its vital that the right people are involved and activities all pull together to work across multiple audiences and stakeholders.

We’re in the process of planning a series of webinars that explain this approach in more depth, and more details on these will be posted on our website and social channels in time.

Summing Up

You may have noticed there’s been little reference to projects we’ve worked on this year in this post (except did we mention our award winning project for Hawkshead Relish?!).

For me the year has been about re-visiting our core values and our reason for being, identifying where we do our best work and how we deliver it. As we move into a new year, there are 2 particular goals I'm focusing on.

The first is to work alongside people who we’re confident we can help and where there’s a shared vision for how to achieve the desired results. We want to make an impact in our client's businesses and feel the work we’re doing is adding value to them so they too can make an impact in their own communities. This might mean we say no to more projects, but ultimately feel more fulfilled in the work we do and achieve better results from it.

Secondly, we want to extend the impact we make for our clients to make a wider difference and support the UN Global Goals (also introduced to us by Dent) so our purpose isn't simply about generating revenue. Obviously commercial success has to come first, but we'll all feel more fulfilled if there's a wider sense of purpose to what we do. Building websites in isolation doesn’t exactly save lives, but even as a small business we have the ability to make a difference to our world, and we hope to be able to look back in 12 months time at initiatives we’ve been able to support.

I've loved the downtime and break from work over the Christmas period, but I can't wait to get back to build on the progress we've made in 2019. If you're looking for an agency partner in 2020, then please come and talk to us. Whether we're the right fit for each other or not, there's always a conversation to have and we can both take something away from that, regardless of the final outcome.