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Five Years, Bearded

Yesterday Bearded turned five years old. That statement alone just about blows my mind. But more than simply longevity, the current team is fantastic. My fellow Beardeds are smart, talented, highly-skilled web nerds that I not only respect, but look up to. Plus, you know … they’re my best friends. Lucky? Yes, indeed.

So what did 2013 mean to Bearded? Let’s take a look.

This year has brought incredible (and humbling) speaking opportunities to me and the crew. We spoke at great industry events like Artifact, Breaking Development, Converge, Web Design Day, and more. Getting to share our ideas with our peers face-to-face – and getting their feedback – has been fantastic. Not only that, but I’ve been able to meet many of my web heroes in the process – talented, generous people who I now have the privilege of calling my friends.

I started writing for A List Apart in 2012, but in 2013 it’s really kicked up a notch. In fact, I’ve recently agreed to begin writing my own column there, called Matt Griffin on How We Work. Flattered? Yes. In disbelief? Also that, too, yes. Like many of us, I’ve been reading ALA since I don’t even know when. Having those folks encourage my writing and welcome me into the fold has been unexpected, thrilling, and honestly a bit surreal.

And because clearly we didn’t have enough going on in 2013, we’ve started making a documentary about the multi-device web. So far we’ve interviewed a bunch of folks for it, including Ethan Marcotte, Luke Wroblewski, Stephen Hay, Sara Wachter-Boettcher, Josh Clark, Jenn Lukas, Greg Hoy, Jennifer Robbins, Val and Jason Head, Jason Grigsby, Stephanie Hay, Kevin Hoffman, and Ben Callahan – with even more to come. The experience of recording the ideas of all these super smart people in our industry has been profound. Humbled again!

But wait – there’s more! At the beginning of this year, we made the decision to focus on our business more. In the past our approach was simple: do good work for great clients, and hope the finances work themselves out. In our first years, I think this was the right approach. It kept us focused on what’s most important: the work and the people. But over time, and especially as we grew, it became clear that the business side of things needed some attention, too.

We work on the internet. And the internet is in constant flux. We’re always willing to change our working processes, techniques and technologies when it seems warranted. We aim to fall forward, and iterate our way to better and better products. So why not apply that iterative creative thinking to our business processes, as well? This year we looked at people’s motivations, at our values, and of course at the data. Then we made (sometimes difficult) changes to how we structure our estimates and invoicing, our contracts, how we manage client relationships – anything that seemed like it could benefit from our attention. For most of Bearded’s existence, it was feast or famine, and we were just scraping by every month. But now Bearded is on solid financial footing for the first time ever, and we did it without compromising our values or mistreating anyone. Feels good man.

What else has 2013 brought to the Beardeds? Well, in a few weeks we’ll gain a full-time content strategist. As far as I’m concerned, designing our content will be a hugely important addition to what we do at Bearded. The clarity it brings to our design and development work is invaluable, and I can’t wait to raise the bar on every project we do.

We’re also moving into a new, larger space in a few months. It’ll be rad, I’m sure – so be on the look out for a belated five-year party there in early 2014.

Is that it? Hardly, but we have to keep some of our secrets, right?

Thanks for hanging in there with us, friends. It’s been a terrific journey, but as I seem to say every year: we’re just getting started. See you on the interwebs!

– MG

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Bearded at Artifact Conf East in November!

Bearded will be at Artifact Conf in force on the East Coast (Providence, RI, to be exact) in November! The first responsive design conference in Austin, Texas was a rousing success, and this time around none other than the legendary Ethan Marcotte has been added to the bill, along with other RWD giants like Brad Frost, Ben Callahan from Sparkbox, Dave Rupert from Paravel, O’Reilly author Jennifer Robins, some of our favorite Happy Cogs, and more! It’s seriously the best damn RWD conference you’ll ever have the chance to be at, so get your butts down to the Artifact site and reserve some tickets before they’re all gone!

Not only that, but Bearded’s own Matt Griffin and Patrick Fulton will be teaching an intro to Sass and Compass 1/2-day workshop after the talks are finished. All of our front-end secrets will be revealed!

The talks are aimed to get web designers up and running with responsive design, regardless of their current skill level, and range in topic about how RWD effects everything we do, including:

  • Design Process
  • Technical Implementation
  • Team Environments
  • Client Interactions
  • Business Concerns

Our workshop will be a deeper dive into Sass and Compass for those who are hungry for it, RWD or not: here’s our description:

Are you still writing plain old vanilla CSS? Well, then your life is about to change, my friend.

Sass is a CSS preprocessor that does everything you ever wanted CSS to do, and then compiles down to regular old CSS for those pesky browsers to consume. Remember how, way back when, linked stylesheets made your life a million times better than using repetitive, inline styles? This is going to feel like that all over again.

In this workshop, Matt Griffin and Patrick Fulton from Bearded will get you up and running using Sass and Compass. We’ll start with the very basics and help you incorporate great Sassy benefits like:

  • Using variables to update color and size values across your whole site in seconds.
  • Creating mixins so you can apply multiple lines of CSS (think: button styles) to elements throughout your project.
  • Mastering the joys and pitfalls of nesting your SCSS so it reflects your markup, without getting carried away.
  • Discovering the wonders of Compass’ built-in mixins, so you never have to think about browser extensions again.
  • Implementing Breakpoint to wrangle your media queries, and provide better fall-backs for old IE.
  • Organizing your files into sensible groups of partials that will be imported into your final master CSS file, to save you and your team headaches later.

So please do join us. By the end of this workshop you’ll be happier, taller, better-looking, and you’ll never ever want to go back to plain old CSS again. Or anyway, at least the first and last ones, we promise!

We’ll see you in Providence!

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It’s that time of year again: time to go retrieve your SXSW PanelPicker username and password  (because who remembers what they were doing last year?) and vote for your favorite panels!

We’re hoping you like the idea for this year’s SXSW Interactive panel Working with Clients and the Multi-Device Web. It’s being lead by Lullabot’s Jared Ponchot and includes Paravel’s Trent Walton and Sparkbox’s Ben Callahan, as well as our own Matt Griffin.

Enough lollygagging, though, people: go cast your vote!

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Collaborating With In-House Teams

We’re in the midst of our second project collaborating with in-house web teams, and we’re loving it.

I doubt we’ll ever stop building projects from start to finish for some clients, but we’re finding that for larger organizations that can support their own in-house web staff, this new approach can be remarkably beneficial to everyone involved. Following is a description of a typical engagement.

Bearded’s In-house Team Collaborations

People learn and retain information best by using all their senses, and most of all by doing things for themselves. This is why Bearded is strongly committed to a collaborative process when working with your organization’s in-house team.

We want your team members involved in everything from the earliest planning meetings, to code implementation and site configuration, to the site launch.

Bearded’s small team is ideally suited to working on collaborative projects. We’re an adaptive team of web experts, but we only have so many eyes, ears, brains, and hands available for project work. This is part of why we love to expand our numbers – especially on larger projects – by collaborating with your in-house web team.

We’ll work with you on pre-design research and content strategy, as well as the redesign of your website. Throughout that process we’ll be focused on a constant transfer of knowledge to your team. By the time your new website launches, your team will be well on their way to self-sufficiency.

The support you’ll need after launch will taper off as your crew continues to build the knowledge, skills, and experience they need. By the time we’re finished with the project, your in-house team will be the world experts on your web properties. You’ll only need to check in with us occasionally to hear about the latest advances and techniques that will keep your team at the highest level of effectiveness and productivity.

Each organization is different, and our exact role and contribution will vary based on your team’s skill sets and specializations. The following represents how a typical collaborative process with your in-house team will work:

  1. Bearded conducts a content audit of your current web properties to determine the scope of the project and likely challenges ahead, as well as a gap analysis to determine appropriate content-oriented strategies for the future.
  2. We collaborate with you on research, planning, and meetings to arrive at an effective strategy for the project. All of this research will be collected in the project specification document.
  3. Bearded will provide any necessary training and consultation with your in-house team as they begin implementing the back-end code and CMS for the website, based on the planning documents we generated together. We’ll set up shared version-controlled code repositories from the outset to aid collaboration, and will get you up and running on their use.
  4. Bearded will execute the designs and front-end code, while in constant communication with key stakeholders and team members of your organization.
  5. We’ll join you on-site and conduct training workshops for the front-end technologies your in-house team will need to have mastery of.
  6. We’ll create custom training documents (consisting of text and/or video) as a primer and long-term reference for working with your new website.
  7. We’ll begin styling the CMS-driven site your team has been building, so it matches the approved designs.
  8. Bearded will hand off all approved final designs and front-end files to your in-house team for any further implementation, and will conduct on-site training on the files’ organization and logic.
  9. We’ll consult with your in-house team as they apply the designs to the site, as needed. We’ll also conduct planned periodic code implementation and site speed and performance reviews prior to launch.
  10. Bearded will be available for support as your in-house team deploys the new site to the live server.
  11. Everyone celebrates!
  12. Bearded conducts post-launch consulting, which may consist of the following (depending on your needs and in-house capabilities): content reviews and recommendations, SEO consulting, site analytics analysis, A/B testing, design reviews, and code reviews for back- and front-end developers.
  13. Bearded’s ongoing support is performed on an ever-decreasing as-needed basis, as your in-house team becomes the #1 experts on your company’s web properties.
  14. Bearded performs planned periodic 6- or 12-month check-ins to discuss the latest technological developments, possible improvements, or non-pressing in-house team questions or concerns. These can be performed over Skype or in-person, depending on the depth of the conversations or training needed.
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Client Relationships and the Multi-Device Web on A List Apart