Web International Awards

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FEB 2007 1

We bring you the head of Cabedge LLC, Chris Blanz

Webia: Who are you and what do you do? Tell us something about yourself.
Chris: I'm Chris Blanz. As "head of cabedge", I do more strategic planning work with our clients, as opposed to hands-on design. However, I still do a lot of creative direction for many of the projects that come through our doors. Aside from work, I'm a proud husband and father of a 4 year old tornado named Collin. As for cabedge.com, we're a 15 person company of creative designers, developers, and strategists who specialize in building usable tools for communication on the web.

Webia: What designs do you like the most and why? Describe your design style.
Chris: My design preferences lean towards utilitarian and clean. We stress that to our clients every day. Mostly corporate, these clients want and need to get information to their visitors quickly and easily.

Webia: Of your favorite hobbies, which one has a chance of eclipsing your web design career and why?
Chris: Photography for sure. I love just taking my camera out and shooting whatever I find. Then again, I feel at home in the studio too.

A few years back, there was a big struggle for us to get original content for the web. It seemed like we always had to beg, borrow, and steal from existing print campaigns for text and photography. Nobody wanted to spend the money on a professional photographer. We wound up making a deal with a client, that if we provided original shots, he would help us subsidize some studio lighting equipment... but only if he liked what he saw. The trade was great. We wound up with some incredible new toys and he got the images he needed to set himself apart from his competition. Starting with a ping-pong table with a piece of white shower board for a white seamless background, we grew and included a full-fledged photo studio, complete with psyche wall in our offices. This makes for much more affordable content for our clients and a lot more control over the final images for the sites we design.

Webia: What is your specialization (Flash / XHTML / PHP / Graphic Design etc)? Why have you chosen this particular domain.
Chris: As a company, we specialize in 3 areas: Design, Development, and Strategy.

Design is the obvious. It is what everyone sees. But if you dig a little deeper, we stress usability over entertainment in a site. That's mostly driven by our clients' requirements, but it just makes sense if you're trying to communicate.

Development has changed a lot from just a few years ago. At first, we worked with full Flash sites. Lots of Actionscripting and animation. But as Google got to be more popular, so did SEO. Once things started to shift, we dropped back on the Flash and started to concentrate on XHTML/CSS driven sites with some Flash elements if needed. Of course, nearly all of our sites are dynamic. The technical transition(s) in recent years have gone from PHP, to Ruby on Rails, to Python with Django.

Strategy is another big area we stress. At about 1/3 of our business, we definitely want to be in a partnership with our clients. It really helps effectiveness when they teach us about their business, and we educate them about technical possibilities and utility best practices. It really comes down to educated choices. If we're free to communicate and debate best practices *with* the client, as opposed to one side dictating to the other, the results are overwhelmingly more successful than if we're just pushing pixels. We feel lucky to have these kinds of relationships with our clients.

Webia: What is more crucial in design - professional look or usability?
Chris: Without a doubt... Usability. If a site is beautiful, but you can't figure out how to find the info you're looking for, what good is it?

Webia: What are the three things any web designer (freelancer) should know?

  • 1. Content is king. It is what gives a site shape and purpose for being.
  • 2. Budgets are important. Freelancers - make sure you spend less than you make. Sounds pretty basic, but so many people forget this.
  • 3. Be nice. Another simple basic, but so very important. Karma can catch up with you pretty fast if you're not.

Webia: What sort of attention has your online portfolio brought you? Would you say it's profitable to have one if you're a web designer?
Chris: As a web designer, it is absolutely necessary. Whether freelance or full-time, an online review is the first step in evaluating new talent. This goes for print designers too.

Our online portfolio *is* our business. No matter how someone hears about us, they always visit our website first to see if there is a good fit.

Webia: What is your favorite software? What would be the ideal web graphic design software? What software couldn't you live without?
Chris: Photoshop. Photoshop. Photoshop.

Webia: Where do you see the development of your business? Any future projects in mind?
Chris: Most of our work is repeat work from existing clients. I'm certain this will continue, but we're also developing a resource workflow product called Almanac. We tried a lot of different tools to help us juggle internal and external resources. After a long and exhaustive search for that perfect tool, we wound up creating our own. After several clients and peers commented how they thought it could benefit others, we decided to open it to the public. There are other product ideas floating around out there. Now, it is just a matter of finding the time to spend on them.

Webia: What do you think about web 2.0?
Chris: It really depends on who's definition you use. I love the idea of new usability and presentation practices associated with web 2.0 and Flickr is one of my favorite sites.

Webia: What is the first graphic software you ever used?
Chris: I'm not sure. It was either Aldus Pagemaker or Aldus Freehand.

Webia: How did your very first project look like?
Chris: Like shit. Oh... can I say that? I meant to say... "Like doo doo". I was very proud of that first project at first. I used New Century Schoolbook, Helvetica, Courier, and one or two other fonts that were available on my boss' Mac Plus. I managed to squeeze in a big piece of clip art. But as with most designers, I hated it the second it left the press. Maybe that's how designers get better.

Webia: Do you have any information or career advice to offer to our reading audience?
Chris: Find something you love to do. Then figure out a way to make money doing it. Then learn to take constructive criticism. Don't ignore it. Just learn to use it. Finally, ask a lot of questions.

This was Chris Blanz, head of Cabedge. Thank you for your time Chris!

Published on Monday, February 19th, 2007 at 4:02 pm in 2007.

About Bogdan Pop

Bogdan Pop is a young Romanian entrepreneur who runs WebRaptor. He is a web developer with awesome design skills, who enjoys writing about everyday's work and usability. He relaxes by taking photos every once in a while and by mixing french electronic music. Connect with him via Twitter.
  1. Past interviews round-up says: April 12th, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    […] Monday, February 19th, 2007 Published in 2007 | No Comments » […]

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