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Advice from 10 video production professionals

Are you interested in making your next video project more effective? We asked 10 producers, directors and more for their advice on making it in the world of video production.

From focusing on the story to being cost conscious, these 10 tips will be useful for anyone involved in making a video, from production crew to marketing managers.

1. You don’t need film school to be a filmmaker

Saint West Filmworks logoOur Director of Photography had dabbled with video in college but it wasn’t what he was studying. I went to school for electrical engineering and our other producer studied journalism and was working in social media marketing before he came to us. We started teaming up to make videos and next thing you know we’re running a business.

Matt Jensen – Producer, Saint West Filmworks

2. Question whether your client actually needs a video

The first thing we ask clients is: “Do you need a video?” We always want to be clear about the problem they’re trying to fix and whether video is the right solution. So many people come to us wanting a video but without any real idea about what they’ll do with it.

Richard Farr – Founder, Digital Video Experts

3. No story should be told from a technical perspective

We’re interested in the story and what we’re communicating rather than the technical approach we’ll use. I spent time as an intern in Hollywood where I got to read a lot of movie scripts and this has influenced how we work. The script is the blueprint and if it’s not on the page, it can’t be on the screen.

Erik Arheden – Executive Producer, UPPERFIRST

4. There are no more rules about how long a video must be

Blue Chalk logoThanks to the internet, there’s suddenly a Wild West of places to consume video with no rules about fitting into the traditional parameters of 60 seconds for an ad or 27½ minutes for a show. Now you just produce whatever works for the story and the short form video format is exploding.

Rob Finch – Creative Director, Blue Chalk

5. The more you plan, the better the video

Our aim is to really understand our clients’ brand, so we know what will work for them and their audience. We always send a questionnaire, asking about the video’s key goals, the story they want to tell, how they would describe the tone of the video and the number one takeaway for the viewer.

Mike Welker – Partner, Flashframe Digital

6. Always looks for smart, simple solutions

We were shooting a commercial that was supposed to take place in a car during rush hour. Rather than take on the expense and hassle of shutting down streets for the shoot, we took over a parking lot, filled it with rented cars and shot the entire commercial there.

Steve Simkins – Director / Producer, North by Northwest

7. Data management is important

We are LAIKA company photoWe used to use FTP for sharing videos externally. With lots of people working in a largely unmanaged shared space, file naming was often arbitrary so finding what you needed was problematic as was protecting sensitive material. It’s worth your time to source and implement a simpler file sharing and collaboration solution in order to streamline your creative process.

Martin Pelham – Manager of Media Services, LAIKA

8. Be cost-effective

We are able to offer our clients a high-end product at a competitive market rate because we have hardly any overheads. We don’t even have an office and work from anywhere like hotel lobbies or co-working spaces in whichever city we’re filming. Digital content creation is changing and so should the way we work.

Mike Collins – Director, Cinema Mercantile

9. Quality content is king

Everyone’s a potential filmmaker. The barriers to entry used to be huge as you needed a lot of money to buy the equipment, but now you can get a laptop and a decent HD camera for less than ten grand and work out of your bedroom. Even smartphones shoot decent quality video. But you still need skill to make a good film and people will pay for quality content.

John Gubba – Founder, VSI TV

10. Cutting corners won’t save you time or money

SPL Pictures logoWhen I step on set I want to know that we’ve done everything to get the best image and on screen performance possible, because the last thing I want is to spend my client’s post-production budget fixing things. Clients often have a hard time justifying the front end costs of production. It’s your job to help them understand the value and benefits.

Scott Lyman – Founder, SPL Pictures

A simple, smart solution that will help your production studio, ad agency or marketing department take your creative process from concept to completion is Hightail.

To find out more about how features like timestamped video comments and visual versions will make your business more effective, visit www.hightail.com.

Friday’s favorite things: February 5th

Every Friday we round up some of our favorite finds on the web, from illustrations and videos to fonts and photography. This week, we enjoyed photographs of clouds taken from all around the world.

Cloud pleaser
Kaitlyn Herzog might be a self-proclaimed “weather geek”, but she’s also a fantastic photographer out of Milwaukee. Whether photos of people, natural scenery or city nights, she always showcases a unique and fresh perspective, like how this Denver sunset captures immersive clouds that look like ocean waves.

Kaitlyn Herzog, Clouds

 

Little fluffy clouds
Italy-based Riccardo Mantero is a landscape photographer who focuses on technique and instinct. Check out how those two components of his photography led to this brilliant photo of hanging desert clouds framed by a rock arch.

Riccardo Mantero, Riccardo Mantero Photography, Landscape Photography

 

Cloudy with a chance of cowbell 
Uber-talented photographer, Chris Herzog, captures amazing photos of weddings, sports, fine arts, landscapes and much more. This incredible photo was taken in the Swiss mountains and features these thick engulfing clouds…oh, and a cow or two! 🐄

Chris Herzog, Chris Herzog Photography, Clouds

 

Seen any interesting cloud photos you’d like to share? Add your links in the comments section below.

If you like this:
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Follow us on Twitter to see more great creative work.

Bringing project management to Hightail

Using Spaces to collect feedback on visual files is just one facet of creative collaboration. You also need capabilities like task assignment, approvals, versioning and project dashboards to unify the entire creative process from concept to completion, which is why we’ve added a range of new project management features to Hightail.

Until now, project managers and leaders of creative teams – marketing departments, design teams, ad agencies, video production studios, web design firms, etc. – have had to cobble together and manage disparate tools and processes to keep their teams productive. Guiding even a single project through this maze of tools is often cumbersome and time consuming.

With our new set of visual project management features, Hightail offers a comprehensive system for navigating the creative collaboration process. These new features let you:

  • Control permissions: A Space owner can control what others can do with their files, from full editing capabilities to Approve, Download and Comment only, or even Comment Only, which prevents files being downloaded.
Hightail Spaces permissions

 

  • Manage approvals: Ability to identify specific files or groups of assets that need approval and visually see who has approved specific versions.
Approvals for Spaces by Hightail
  • Assign and manage tasks: Users can assign tasks to team members with a simple @mention. Tasks can also be opened as “Needs Follow Up” or marked “Resolved”.
Spaces follow-up requested

 

  • Drill into project analytics: Project owners can now monitor the activity and overall health of their projects by viewing total number of comments, downloads, views and versions. A Space Health score is automatically calculated for each project by Hightail’s proprietary algorithm, based on activity, engagement, recency and other factors.
Hightail Space analytics

 

  • Keep track of new versions: Intuitive version control allows teams to go back to previous versions to see what comments were made and edits incorporated.
Hightail screenshot from Digital Video Experts

 

  • View project Dashboard: An information-rich dashboard helps managers quickly view which assignments and tasks are on track, and which ones require their attention.

In addition to these visual project management capabilities, we’ve added several more new features, including:

  • Spaces Google Drive integrationThe ability to upload files directly from Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive
  • An update to the email Untangler™ feature that, in addition to automatically creating a project Space based on an email’s attachments, will now also share the Space with everyone on the email thread by simply forwarding the email to untangle@hightail.com.
  • A new audio commenting feature that enables time-stamped commenting on music and audio files in addition to video and image files.

Each of these new features is designed to streamline team communication and improve efficiency throughout the entire creative process, from the first shared asset, through the iterative collaboration process and on to final approval.

To see how Hightail can transform creative collaboration at your business, simply sign in to your account or create one for free at www.hightail.com.

I’d love to hear what you think about all of these updates, so feel free to send me your feedback.

If you like this, try:
Creative collaboration is going Spaces
Control your Space
Need to follow-up?

Control your Space

Hightail Spaces permissions

 

Hightail is a great way to share visual files, especially because your clients and colleagues can view images, watch videos and listen to audio files right from your shared Space without having to download the file first.

But just because you share a Space with someone, doesn’t mean you want them to be able to do exactly what they want. That’s why we’ve introduced Space Permissions, which allow you to control activity on a shared Space, such as restricting the ability to delete, add or download files.

The next time you click the Share button, check out our new permissions under the All followers can menu. You have three choices for what you allow the recipients of your files to do:

  • Edit: full capabilities, including deleting files and uploading new versions
  • Approve, Download and Comment only: main collaboration features but cannot delete or add files
  • Comment only: can only add feedback and cannot download or edit files

To try out our new Spaces Permissions, sign in to your Hightail account now.

Does this new feature provide what you need to keep control of your content? Let us know what you think

If you like this, try:
Creative collaboration is going Spaces
Bringing project management to Hightail
Six tips for dealing with feedback

Friday’s favorite things: January 29th

Every Friday we round up some of our favorite finds on the web, from illustrations and videos to fonts and photography. This week, we enjoyed some creative poster designs for video games, festivals, and more.

Swiss in CSS
Detroit-based designer, Jon Yablonski, created a series of posters paying tribute to the pioneering graphic design movement, International Typographic Style. Click here to see an animated version of this poster.

SwissCCS, jon yablonski

Team husband and wife
Award-winning designer and illustration studio, WeThreeClub, is comprised of a husband and wife duo. Last year, Chris and Alex White created a number of colorful posters for the UK’s Green Man Festival, including this aesthetic piece promoting the performance of Swedish band, GOAT.

WeThreeClub, Chris White, Alex White, Greenman Festival 2015

 

Firewatch
UK based artist Olly Moss was recruited by video game studio Campo Santo to create a poster series for their new release called Firewatch. This retro piece references vintage travel posters in its depiction of the great outdoors and does a great job of taking you into the game.

Olly Moss, Firewatch, Camposanto

 

Seen any interesting poster designs you’d like to share? Add your links in the comments section below.

If you like this:
Check out more of our Friday’s favorite things.
Follow us on Twitter to see more great creative work.

Tool tips with Liana Tallarico

Tool tips is a regular series where Hightail employees share their life’s most essential apps, online services and websites. Next up is Senior Lead Generation Manager, Liana Tallarico.Liana Tallarico

Working tools
Balancing the art and science of marketing can sometimes be tricky. A lot of companies practice the use of hypothesis testing to make a business case for new programs. But where do you turn if you have no historical benchmarks to predict your outcomes? I tend to look at my peers at Hubspot, who have published a wealth of content on marketing best practices in my field through their blog. Any lead generation question I have, they’ve pretty much covered and sourced numbers through their own findings and analyst research.

Playtime
Snapchat has been my flavor of the month for nearly two years now – it’s not what you may think. I do a lot of walking around San Francisco Liana Tallarico Snapchatand often use Snapchat to capture random street findings that are not quite artistic enough for my Instagram feed but funny enough to give my friends a chuckle and break up their day for a few seconds. Add a few emoticons to the picture or a clever caption and maybe a filter then send it off without caring that it’s not perfect enough for social permanence. It’s a great tool for combining observation with imagination.

General resource
I like to know what’s happening in my neighborhood. Why did that shop close down? What’s happening this week in the area? For this, I turn to Hoodline. I can filter by specific neighborhoods in San Francisco and find out what local businesses are moving in or out, get a little history on local legends, read crime reports, events or city plans and much more.

If you like this, find more tool tips here.

Friday’s favorite things: January 22nd

Every Friday we round up some of our favorite finds on the web, from illustrations and videos to fonts and photography. This week, we enjoyed some creative packaging designs for all sorts of products.

Natural born cutlery
Denmark-based design agency, Goodmorning Technology, created a clever packaging design for Scanwood cutlery. Each piece looks as though it’s organic, naturally grown and made by nature.

Scanwood, Goodmorning Technology, Packaging Design

Shoe fly shoe
Ralf Schröder of S+F, a creative agency headquartered in Germany, designed concept packaging for Nike that used an air-tight seal and transparent wrapping to make their shoes appear to be floating in mid-air.

Concept Packaging, Packaging Design, S&F

Food or paper?
Sarah Fay and Justin Colt are the co-founders of Gift Couture, a company that designs and sells unique wrapping paper featuring original photography and designs. In this case, their insanely realistic cheeseburger paper will probably make your mouth water as you’re wrapping that gift.

Food Wrapping Paper, Gift Couture, Wrapping Paper, Packaging Design

 

Seen any interesting packaging designs you’d like to share? Add your links in the comments section below.

If you like this:
Check out more of our Friday’s favorite things.
Follow us on Twitter to see more great creative work.

Need to follow-up?

Spaces follow-up requested

 

Spaces is a great way to give feedback on visual files like images, videos and presentations. But when you leave a comment that asks a question or requests a specific change, you often want to be sure that someone will take action.

We’ve just introduced a new feature that allows you to request a Follow-up on your comment, which notifies your Space participants that you’ve asked for something specific from them. Your request will be flagged in the Space until it’s marked as Resolved, so you always have a constant reminder that the issue is outstanding.

Spaces follow-up marked resolved

 

To try the new Follow-up feature, simply sign in to Hightail now.

We’d love to hear what you think so be sure and send us your feedback.

If you like this, try:
Creative collaboration is going Spaces
Customer story: Tracie Spence Photography
Six tips for dealing with feedback

Don’t ask, “Is it a product or a feature?” Build solutions.

Product or Feature
An amended version of this article was originally published in Entrepreneur.

“That’s just a feature.” Most entrepreneurs will have heard this criticism of their new idea. It’s the ultimate dismissal – an indictment that the idea is too lightweight to stand on its own and will ultimately be subsumed into a broader product. Entrepreneurs scarred by such feedback may start second-guessing themselves, wondering if their innovation is a great product or a measly feature?

But dwelling on the question “Is it a product or a feature?” is the wrong mindset. It’s a product-centric perspective. Successful entrepreneurs embrace a customer-centric perspective. They understand that customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to their problems. The question every entrepreneur should obsess over is “Is it a solution?” Fundamentally, “product/market fit”, as Marc Andreessen described it, is all about figuring out the right basket of functionality – not too much, not too little – that solves a problem or need for a user.

A well-executed single feature that solves a real problem can be a successful solution. And a feature-laden product with no clear use case can flop. Here are five tips to help you get your feature mix right and give your product the power of a solution.

1. Focus an existing feature on a specific use case
I have two sports-mad boys so my life often involves a manic schedule of games, practices and team meetings. I could not do this without TeamSnap, an app designed to coordinate and manage sports teams. From knowing where we need to be to who’s bringing the post-game snack, I rely on TeamSnap on a daily basis. Yet, the product is not much more than a group calendar feature you’ll find as part of most email clients. By focusing this feature on the needs of sports teams, TeamSnap has turned it into a successful solution, as evidenced by its eight million users and the $7.5 million of Series B funding raised last year.

Tip: Look for useful features that might be buried in a larger product. By applying that feature to a unique pain point experienced by a specific group of people, your solution can break out.

2. Apply a horizontal solution to a vertical market
Home design app, Houzz, is like Pinterest for interior designers. Which begs the question: why wouldn’t you just use Pinterest? You can categorize Pinterest images as “home design”, so is Houzz really necessary? But Pinterest also has a lot of other content that, to someone specifically interested in home decoration, becomes unwanted noise. Just because a feature exists in a competing product, doesn’t mean your target audience will apply it to your intended use case. By identifying a popular niche and applying the image curation feature of Pinterest to that audience, Houzz became a successful solution for a specific audience. The company has recently used some of its $213.6 million funding to acquire GardenWeb, solidifying its lead in the home design category.

Tip: Ask what vertical market existing horizontal products are under-serving. Focus on super-serving what that vertical audience really needs and they will love you for it.

3. Throw out features to make a better solution
Even before the advent of smart phones, the idea of entering the camcorder market dominated by multinational giants like Sony, Canon and JVC would have seemed ill advised. Especially if your idea was to throw out all the features like powerful zooms, image stabilization and flexible viewfinders that had become standard for home video products. But that’s just what GoPro did with its stripped-back video cameras. Creating a smaller camera with no screen and use-case specific features, like a fish-eye lens, remote control and a headband (this one was new) aimed at the extreme sports audience shows how less is often more. For those users, the long feature list of the incumbent camcorders became bloatware, while GoPro rode its success to an IPO.

Tip: Just because incumbent products have certain features doesn’t mean your solution has to follow suit. Question every feature that conventional wisdom says you “have to have”. If it’s not essential, throw it out.

4. Remember that markets move on
Of course if you’re reliant on just a single feature, it’s all too easy to be overtaken. Flip Video was another product that stripped back the features of a camcorder to solve the problem of portability and open up the burgeoning digital video recording market to more casual users. Unfortunately for Flip, what it started to do to camcorders quickly happened to it, as the idea became a feature of another product: the smartphone. Hightail was originally a single-feature solution for sending a large file, but as that capability increasingly became a feature of other products, we’ve evolved into a solution for managing creative projects.

Tip: Don’t rest on your laurels once your initial feature set has found product/market fit – find the next use or evolution that will keep your solution relevant.

Approvals in Spaces by Hightail

 

5. Innovate with your go-to-market strategy
Why would you build a messaging app when every phone has SMS as a native feature? WhatsApp did just that and took off like a rocket – reaching nearly one billion users and getting acquired by Facebook for $19 billion. The key to their success was recognizing that the same fundamental feature (instant text messaging) distributed via a different channel (app stores rather than through carriers) with a compelling value proposition (avoiding carrier’s onerous SMS fees and limits) was a recipe for explosive user growth. From a product-centric viewpoint, WhatsApp shouldn’t exist. It doesn’t do anything your phone doesn’t already do. But from a customer-centric viewpoint, it’s an incredibly compelling solution to a pressing and widespread user pain point, unlocked by a fresh go-to-market approach to distribution and pricing.

Tip: Study products that are similar to your idea. What are they doing wrong in their distribution, pricing or messaging? If you can bring your solution to market in an innovative way, sky high valuations may be around the next corner.

So if you’ve got a great idea, don’t be deterred by a product-centric perspective that might tell you it’s not feature-rich enough, it’s been done before, or that a bigger incumbent will render it irrelevant. If you’re solving a genuine problem faced by enough people, even the simplest feature can make a great solution.

If you like this, try:
Five reasons why projects fail
Seven ways to establish a frugal corporate culture
Five creative process tools for the right-brain marketer

Friday’s favorite things: January 15th

Every Friday we round up some of our favorite finds on the web, from illustrations and videos to fonts and photography. This week, we enjoyed some creative calendar designs to kick off 2016.

Animal illustrations
Germany-based concept artist Sylvia Ritter created this beautiful 2016 calendar including all sorts of animals. Each month features one of her favorite animals, uniquely designed with intricate line work and detail.

Sylvia Ritter Animal Calendar

Radial dream
Iowa artist Michael Van Dyke designed a modern typographic calendar that holds all of 2016 in one frame, so you don’t have to go flipping through pages. Very cool.

Michael Van Dyke, Radial Dream

Wanderlust
The name’s Bond, Anna Bond, Co-Founder of Rifle Paper Co. and she created a 2016 calendar that takes you on a trip around the world featuring illustrations of Amsterdam, Cairo, Athens, and more.

Anna Bond, Rifle Paper Co.

 

Seen a cool calendar you’d like to share? Add your links in the comments section below.

If you like this:
Check out more of our Friday’s favorite things.
Follow us on Twitter to see more great creative work.

Six tips for dealing with feedback

Six tips for dealing with feedback

 

Collecting feedback on your ideas, creations and iterations is a hugely important part of the creative process. But not all feedback is created equal. For every insightful observation and useful suggestion, some comments can miss the point, lack context or just be plain wrong.

Dealing with the latter can be tricky, especially when you have to be sensitive to the personality and position of the reviewer. It can also be difficult not to start second guessing your own opinions when suddenly faced with a contrary viewpoint.

Our six tips for dealing with feedback will help you handle negative comments, while remaining true to your original vision.

1. Think about the reviewer
If someone gives you feedback with which you instinctively disagree, think about who they are. They may be offering expertize on a specific area that your skills don’t cover. Someone might have a proven instinct for making things better. The opinions of these people deserve deeper consideration. For everyone else, be confident and trust your own judgment.

2. Don’t get defensive
When someone offers a critique of your work, try not to be the first person to respond. Your gut reaction will often be to defend yourself, but first take some time to fully understand their comments and perspective. In the meantime, others reviewers may react either to back up your side or show that the original commenter may have a point.

3. Explore small issues for symptoms of bigger ailments
If someone doesn’t like a word you’ve used in a written piece, ask if the problem is the word or its meaning. Do you need to reach for the thesaurus or do a bigger rethink? Sometimes reviewers can’t see that minor complaints actually represent a greater underlying issue. Always question feedback to see if it’s actually the root of something more significant.

4. Be clear on who has the final say
You may be driving the project but if you don’t agree with the final approver’s feedback, you need to deal with this. Try discussing issues with this person in a 1:1 situation instead of at a wider meeting where egos (yours included) may come into play. If you have the final say, get a second opinion on contentious feedback from an objective friend or colleague.

5. Anticipate criticism
Before the review process, try to imagine what issues others may have with your work. Being able to say “I thought about that as well” and providing a considered counter-point is a great way to respond to feedback. If you’re doing something new for your business, people’s criticisms are often based on fear so show examples of how other businesses succeed by taking risks.

6. Never refuse to iterate
You may not agree with the feedback you’ve received, but that shouldn’t stop you working on a new version. Even if you don’t incorporate suggestions, having another pass with the comments in mind can lead to fresh insights and improvements. In addition, viewing a new iteration often helps a reviewer see that their original comments were not that important.

So the next time you’re facing the sharp end of a red pen, bear these tips in mind to ensure the review process is a creative benefit instead of a battle of wills.

If you like this, try: 
Creative collaboration tips from 10 top professionals
Eight tips for better teamwork
The top seven creative collaborations of 2015

Tool tips with Sarah Li

Tool tips is a regular series where Hightail employees share their life’s most essential apps, online services and websites. Next up is Product Designer, Sarah Li.

SarahLiWorking tool
I get pretty frustrated when apps don’t function the way I want them to, so I absolutely need plugins and extensions. On Chrome, my favorites are Browser Width and Window Resizer for testing in different window sizes since Chrome’s DevTools can sometimes be overkill. Divvy’s also a good standalone app for customizing your favorite window-to-screen ratios.

On Sketch, my favorite plugin by far has been the one Devin, one of our engineers, has been building for Spaces. It’s saved me so much time going between Sketch and Spaces. I’m also a fan of duplicator and swap elements — anything for more keyboard shortcuts.

Playtime
I have an on-again, off-again relationship with working out and right now I’m on a weightlifting kick. I’ve been using Strong to keep track of my progress and it’s the cleanest, simplest weightlifting log I’ve seen. I try to do yoga every week and Zenrez has been my go-to for booking a class at my favorite studio. The app puts up last-minute classes, so I can squeeze one in whenever I feel like it without stressing over scheduling.

General resource
I hate email, but for whatever reason I love newsletters. I look forward to reading Today in Tabs everyday because it’s the perfect combo of tech/media commentary, animal GIFs and lowkey good music. It’s basically my garbage fire Twitter feed curated.

The closest thing I have to a favorite design newsletter is Two Things, which is “two heartfelt endorsements, juxtaposed” by three designer friends. It’s personal, reflective and still perfectly design-minded. Also, shout-out to Everything Changes for putting more animal GIFs in my inbox. Now that I think about it, I really wouldn’t hate email as much if I were always promised animal GIFs.

For more Sarah, visit her website and follow her on Twitter.

If you like this, find more tool tips here.

Farewell IE10, you will not be missed

As of today, Microsoft is no longer supporting older versions of Internet Explorer, including IE10. Today is a good day.

Internet Explorer 10At its peak in 2002-03, Internet Explorer has a 95% usage share, meaning that for many people, IE was the internet. But with the launch of Firefox in 2004 and Google Chrome in 2008, IE’s share began a serious decline.

The reason it began losing users is simple: those other browser delivered innovative features and a better user experience, Microsoft did not, while failing to keep up with the new standards set by the younger browsers.

At Hightail, engineering and development teams work in small, independent groups. Not only do we have a lot of autonomy in what we build and develop, we’re also responsible for a lot of our own quality assurance (QA) testing. So when the time came to test all my team’s hard work on the new Spaces website, I took on the task of ensuring it worked perfectly across the major browsers.

I breezed through the likes of Chrome, Safari and Firefox, but when I got to Internet Explorer, it became a painful experience involving many fixes and workarounds. Here are some of the issues that I’m looking to no longer having to deal with:

  • IE10 did not follow many coveted CSS rules, like no !important CSS rule, no way of overriding inline CSS rules and incorrect positioning and scaling of SVG’s
  • Abhorrent versioning schemes for ECMAScript 5
  • Having to use compatibility mode to use all of JS features
  • Microsoft Windows OS / IE did not handle CPU resources efficiently enough to render more complex experiences
  • Slow adoption of new innovations in HTML5 (new Input types, -data concept, new attributes, WebSQL, WebGL, WebSockets, etc.)
  • In IE’s Inspector tool, objects – an important part of our data driven app – did not appear on the console while errors were output with error codes that are meaningless to humans
  • Forced Caching for images, unless “no-cache header” was provided in response call for images
  • Running stress tests or casually outputting content to the console and getting the infamous “Internet Explorer is not responding” window
Internet Explorer has stopped working

Microsoft new browser Edge replaces IE in all Windows 10 operated devices. It promises to be the browser that embraces the new standards IE neglected. Though user uptake remains low, hopefully this will change with the retirement of IE10 and we developers can treat all browsers equally.

Seven ways to establish a frugal corporate culture

David BeckwithThe popular perception of Silicon Valley is a world of Google-sized perks and “unicorn”-fueled excess, where companies spend lavishly in the name of (often imaginary) growth. But it’s gradually becoming fashionable at more and more venture-backed tech companies to rein in expenses. At my company, Hightail, the transition to this more frugal corporate culture happened just over a year ago.

Although we had raised more than $90 million since the company’s inception in 2004 as YouSendIt, we saw growing skepticism within the investment community (perhaps most vocally by Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital) about the big-raise/big-spend approach epitomized by vendors in our category, such as Dropbox and Box.

At the same time, we recognized the rapid commoditization of cloud file sharing and the need to innovate to stay ahead of that curve. We set out to build a totally new product, transforming ourselves into a collaboration platform for creative professionals. But rather than assuming we could just continuously raise additional rounds of financing, we decided to fund the transition ourselves. This approach required us to downsize the organization and reduce costs in order to maximize our financial runway and give us space to develop new ideas.

We needed a new culture of frugality at the company. As the only remaining member of the Business Development team, I renegotiated, settled or exited close to 40 partnerships. With much of our traditional business development on hold while we worked on new products, I decided to undertake a similar exercise of restructuring our vendor relationships to see if I could apply the practice of frugality here.

Town of Frugality - from Google Maps

 

For me, frugality does not mean “cheap”; it means intelligently purchasing the right services at the right terms from the right vendors. When I began examining our vendor contracts, I soon noticed two major issues.

First, many of our contracts were negotiated and managed by individual departments, which delivered mixed results and inconsistent terms. Second, because of our lack of central oversight, many contracts were on auto-pilot – renewing automatically without us being able to reassess our need for the service.

To solve these problems and bring the culture of frugality to our vendor relations, I introduced a number of new approaches. These best practices can be applied at any organization looking to trim unnecessary spending, so here are seven useful lessons that I learned along the way.

1. Centralize and standardize
It may sound obvious, but getting a list of all your commitments in one place helps you understand the magnitude of your issues, which deals to prioritize and how to standardize your approach on terms, communications, etc. across all agreements.

2. Look for patterns
Has there been excess purchasing in one area or absence of necessary services somewhere else? Do you have multiple vendors where one will do or have you noticed certain terms that have become problematic across agreements? Look for those things you want to retain and those you want to eliminate with your vendors, then execute accordingly.

3. Learn a vendor’s services
Before you talk to a vendor take the time to understand each key service or line item, how it works, why it is (or is not) important to your company and the rationale behind their pricing. When doing this, involve the functional experts or customers of these services at your company – have them teach you what you need to know.

4. Document your requirements
Too often, important and expensive vendor agreements are signed without a clear understanding of your requirements. Taking the time to document what your organization needs is incredibly clarifying and helps guide you to the right vendors and solutions and even to question whether a purchase or renewal should happen at all.

5. Investigate your options
Who are your vendor’s key competitors and should you be considering their products? If so, use your requirements list to begin discussions with these other companies. Make it clear to your current vendor the process you are running and the basis upon which you’ll make your selection. This approach should make the vendor work harder for your business and provide you with leverage when discussing a new contract or renewal.

6. Negotiate with civility
Knowing exactly what you need and understanding the competitive landscape gives you an advantage in any negotiation. But civility is key as it keeps discussions even and productive. Forcing an unwilling vendor to meet your demands is not a good long-term strategy. Instead, encourage bi-partisan cooperation toward agreement and lay the groundwork for a mutually beneficial partnership that can last for years.

7. Communicate the savings to everyone
Building an internal culture of frugality is best done by celebrating your successes in expense reduction and making sure everyone knows the part they played in achieving it. This can help make your procurement efforts scalable and, more importantly, fun.

Since implementing these practices, frugality is now akin to organizational “muscle memory” at Hightail. This culture has enabled us to diligently manage our cash and we have consolidated and renegotiated dozens of agreements, saving the company millions of dollars without sacrificing quality or eliminating essential services. In fact, for many areas, we have improved our situation.

Once employees started seeing the results of our culture of frugality, they started thinking about how existing agreements could be restructured, reduced or even eliminated. People have a new sense of pride around this frugal mentality, particularly in how it is helping our bottom line.

Thanks to this cost-conscious culture, Hightail has been profitable for the last year. By continuing to question and clearly understand every purchase and partnership, we will continue to benefit our bottom line and overall business.

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Friday’s favorite things: January 8th

Every Friday we round up some of our favorite finds on the web, from illustrations and videos to fonts and photography. This week, we pinned some brilliant button badges.

A mixed badge
UK based graphic designer Pâté (aka Paul Pateman) created this playful badge design of a pin-stripe suited gentleman reaching for his jacket buttons. Yet…it also a bit like a vinyl record with the DJ about to twist some club-pumping knobs. So fun.

Button badge design by Pâté

Simon says…
Create a button badge based on the classic 80s electronic game, Simon. Very smart shape matching by Geoff Moore of Studio Gpop. Bloop…bleep…BLEEERK.

Button badge design by Geoff Moore

Stumped
Is it a button badge or a tree stump? “A bit of both”, according to Keith Hancox – designer at global agency, The Partners.

Button badge design by Keith Hancox

Seen a badge design you’d like to share? Add your links in the comments section below.

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