...we tend to create experiences that require a level of commitment and time to be put in from the visitor if they are to get the most from it.
Please give us a brief bio.
Preloaded's been going since late 1999, we're based in Shoreditch in the London Eastend, and we're all passionate about digital media. The team is currently 8 strong - our small numbers often surprises people - but we're definitely currently the strongest we've ever been.
Our client list covers MTV, BBC, Sony, Coca-Cola, Disney, Microsoft, Sky and EMI to name a few of the bigger ones.
What do you do for inspiration?
Oh all sorts. Preloaded does a lot of game development, so most of the inspiration here comes from playing games obviously. We've had quite a few arcade cabinets of original 80's machines come through the studio in our time, plus we obviously have the statutory PS2 and GameCube always set up in the corner.
We made a MAME cabinet recently - that's proven to be a mine of ideas. Other than that we do the usual gallery visits, film viewing, book reading. We don't have any tricks that send us down the path of true inspiration; we just try and expose ourselves to as many different things in as many different mediums as we can. We rarely switch off!
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
That wouldn't be possible, we have to many!
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
To still be going strong and enjoying what we're doing 5 years in.
What software couldn't you live without?
Photoshop and Flash without a doubt, after that it all comes down to personal preferences at Preloaded. Everyone has their favourite little tools and utilities to make the workflow process easier.
To be honest, we're not all that fussed about what we use, as long as we get the results we want as quickly as we can.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
First up and due to go live in late May is a project called Jamie Kane for the BBC. In a nutshell it's an online murder mystery, about a Robbie Williamsesque pop star who dies under mysterious circumstances. The storyline is the brainchild of Matt Beaumont, author of the best-selling "E".
Participants get involved over 20 days tracking down clues across the web, as well as some real-world sleuthing too. Preloaded's created 9 interactive elements for the project - the applications the participants will need to use to help solve the mystery.
It's especially interesting as there's no accompanying broadcast show - it's purely been developed for online. What's more, it's aimed at a young female audience, which makes a pleasant change for us as we're usually making toys for boys.
We've also just completed our design and build on the new Kiss100 site, which has now been handed to the client for integration. We anticipate that will go live early June. It's proved an interesting project as it's the first large-scale website we've put together entirely in CSS. We're very proud of it.
Other than that, there's not much we can talk about at the moment!
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
They all have very recognisable styles and are all run in completely different ways from a business perspective, which makes it interesting to see them all develop alongside Preloaded, especially as we're all roughly about the same age.
There are many, many others, and we'll probably get elbowed next time we're down the pub with any of them for not mentioning them!
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
We've learnt from experience to carefully plan hosting, we've had too many sites buckle under the strain otherwise. Generally speaking our sites do a attract a lot of visitors, and that's always great, for us and more importantly our clients.
Who is your target audience?
We don't do much Business-to-Business work as most of our output is aimed squarely at the entertainment and leisure markets.
In terms of the audience itself, we tend to create experiences that require a level of commitment and time to be put in from the visitor if they are to get the most from it. We do build in quick routes through everything we do though, to be sure we don't alienate people.
A lot of our work is quite playful, so for the most part we appeal to people who like to be engaged and drawn in. Projects like Spooks are designed to cover as many different groups of people as possible, whereas something like Aliveis is definitely aimed at a very niche audience.
Both have done phenomenally well, so we cross over between styles and audiences well.
What area of web design lacks the most?
The web has come a long way over the last 5 years, there's not really any areas that seem to be lacking these days. It was easy to have a pop at the corporate world and what they did online, but the reality is that they too are now very savy when it comes to using online well.
From our experience the one thing that still needs to make some inroads is the process of developing with clients, even today getting them to understand that what they want isn't always what they need, and that in reality they should be thinking about what their audience wants ahead of themselves.
The only other criticism we'd have would be there's still too much "me too" mentality online, where clients and individuals are still more than happy to replicate something someone else has already done rather than take a brave step forward and trying something new.
Fortunately we're usually able to convince our clients to not copy the latest fad, and to endeavour to be different to and think progressively. At the end of the day, everyone benefits from those sorts of steps forward, clients, audiences and agencies.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
It was orange, and very minimal, it's still online at the site... http://www.preloaded.com/v1/. It was put together in about 2 hours and was only ever meant to be a temporary holding page - it ended up being online for about 10 months!
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
None to date, though our work has been featured in quite a few now. The idea of getting a book together does appeal a lot though, and we've considered doing something to sit alongside the linkdup for some time now - but finding the time is difficult.
We'd prefer to get a new linkdup online ahead of getting a book out, it's well overdue an overhaul after all. We've gone through at least 2 new designs for a new linkdup that never made it live...
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
The toughest thing to date is probably the Spooks season 3 games. From start to end the project took about 10 months - there was a lot of planning involved - from how everything was presented and what tasks the user would experience, to the development of a storyline through all the tasks and scripting for bespoke video.
It really was a labour of love and we hope it shows. To really enjoy the whole experience visitors have to really get stuck in - there's a lot there.
There were quite a few tough parts in the development cycle. At the start of the process the hardest thing was to not rehash old ideas, or anything from the season 2 games. Also tasks couldn't feel too gamey, the client wanted it all to feel believable so we had to be true to that.
As a result some of the tasks really do require a combination of skills - problems solving, good reactions and perseverance.
We also needed to allow both types of visitor to enjoy the site, those that like a challenge and those that like to dip in and out of things, so further complexity was introduced via the two play modes - Quick and Story. Those that persevere with the Story mode, the harder of the two, are rewarded with an additional game.
Finally to allow people the chance to really track the performance, each task is scored in three key areas, again, speed, logic and reactions. As visitors engage in the tasks, the system learns about the player's strengths and weaknesses, allowing for the video of Harry to be tailored on the fly.
If a player is particularly good or bad at games with a heavy logic element, Harry will introduce the task accordingly - there's about 80 video clips in all to ensure diversity. The result is that different players have different experiences.
The games launched in October 2004 and are all still there to be explored... . The BBC plan to keep it for season 4 too, so there's plenty of time to go and study at MI5...
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Definitely, though now Adobe has bought Macromedia it'll be really interesting to see if this has a positive or negative effect on where Flash ends up heading...
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
Absolutely. There's very few people in the Preloaded team that studied the exact areas they work in now. Our educational backgrounds cover film, television, photography, print, engineering and many more.
We've all ended up in digital media accidentally for the most part, rather than some great master plan. If you're not put off by computers, and you are driven enough to want to create things and get better at what you do through trial and error, there's nothing to stop you.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Doing good work and word of mouth. In the five years that Preloaded's been going, we've very rarely had to look for work, it's found us, we've been very fortunate that way.
We've always made sure that the work we put out is high quality, as we know that our portfolio is what keeps the work coming in. If we let standards slip, the quality of the work we got offered would inevitably change accordingly.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
Look at other people's work and deconstruct it. Ask yourself what is different about it, why does it succeed or fail, apply that thinking to what you do and never just copy, there's no point.
At the very least use the inspiration you see online to generate ideas of your own, not to replace them, and if you don't have any ideas of your own, become an accountant.
What is the most expensive thing you've bought in the last week?
A brand new PC for £240. Bargain.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
Plain old dirty is probably fine, though some people as Preloaded might prefer it to be Prada if possible...
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
If you can't do nice things, do good things...