20 year olds are too busy on The Facesbooks and all that social jazz. Taking photos of their own face in a mirror, that's where we're at today.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
I am Martin Hughes. Partner at Wefail. I make things for the internet.
What do you do for inspiration?
Get away from the computer. I usually figure things out in my head if I'm not sat dwelling on them. So I'll get out and walk the dogs to reboot my braincells.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
It's always the last thing we've done. So right now it's Les Enfants http://www.enfantsterrible.com/
One day a few months back I decided to sit down in front of the internet and start learning HTML5. I swore quite a lot and banged my head on various walls before it began to make sense to me.
How many hours do you work each week?
It comes and goes. If it's a hectic job then we're working 16+ hours per day. Other times it may be endless free hours without work, but those times can be equally stressful.
How do you relax or unwind?
I get out on the bike. I live at the foot of the Peak District so I'm usually up in the hills on my own, peddling through the valleys and trying not to think too hard.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
Crying in a ditch while inebriated on strong lager. Is that a job?
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
Favorite part is always the launch. Kicking it out the door and watching the response. Hardest part, probably when you're right in the middle of a contract and you've yet to see the finish line. You're tired and there's still a long way to go. That's pretty hard.
I dont really get stuck, there's many ways to skin a cat, you can always find one.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
Probably on a recent project.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
Jordan and I putting wefail.com together. 8 years on and it proved to be a splendid decision. We've had quite a time.
What software could you not live without?
Probably Photoshop if I had to pick one. I'm a layout fanatic. On Les Enfants I had the entire stage set out in one giant PSD so I could see the overall layout.
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
We are but two people. So it's not fair on the client or ourselves if we split our time up between too many contracts. We usually both work on the one project, it's better that way but also means you get dips in work because we'll sometimes have to reject contracts if we're currently busy.
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
I had a quick look at Adobe Edge the other week. It looks pretty cool, like Flash in its infancy. I hope it matures into something viable for Flash designers to get into.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
Really not sure at the moment. Neasden Control Centre would always be in there though.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
Well the last site we followed stats on was Die Hipster, and that got over 600,000 users in the first month. We had to shower mediatemple in love for that one.
Who is your target audience?
They've probably grown old with us. So they're no doubt now 30 somethings that have grown hateful of the world. 20 year olds are too busy on The Facesbooks and all that social jazz. Taking photos of their own face in a mirror, that's where we're at today.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Ideas. There seems to be a lack of original ideas at the moment. Especially with user interface work.
Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?
Not really. I think web design has stagnated a little in the past few years. I'm a grumpy old git. I want my Flash back.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
FWA always drives traffic to our sites. It's a key part of the launch process for us and the only award site we consider when releasing new work.
When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?
It can be tough if they have an idea that they believe in 100%, that you know isn't entirely solid. We've turned down a few jobs due to the concept being monumentally bad.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
and yes, it's still there. But doesn't have any TShirts stocked in it anymore. It was much easier to setup an account here:
So that's where the clothing lives now.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
We've always wanted to write a book. Our own little take on web design. A survival guide. We've just not found a publisher that would take us up on it.
Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?
I dont think there's ever really an 'outside of work' time. I'm always thinking about work whether I want to or not. It's usually sat on my shoulder, laughing at me.
What was the last digital effort you saw (or were a part of) that used social media in a way that really made sense. Why?
http://www.takethislollipop.com/ used Facebook in a really nice (creepy) way. That was a job well done and proves that there's life in the old Flash yet.
Have you been a part of a campaign that was rooted in digital and THEN reached over into other consumer touchpoints? Did this happen organically or was it a part of the plan from the beginning?
No. We're forever marooned on internet island. We've done campaign work for TV, but it wasn't initially based on web work. TV work is nice, you dont have to worry about user interaction.
The web is getting out of the web. Do you find that thinking in digital solutions alone hinders you? Do you feel the urge to solve the problem using all mediums necessary?
Is it? I'm not sure it is. I know there's a move towards creating apps for things like iOS, but that's a closed market. I'm not much of a fan of being moderated. Web design shouldn't have an overseer, young designers have a lot of bullshit rules and regulations to fight against nowadays.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
They can turn into robots and take over the world! I dont know, tablets will no doubt become the dominant share of the home computer market.
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
Die Hipster. http://www.thathipster.com/
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
I think it was probably Julian Velard's site. It spiraled beyond all control and became a bit of a monster. It took us 6 months to make in the end and it probably takes 6 hours to get through. I'm exaggerating, maybe 10 minutes, but that's the equivalent of 6 years on the internet.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
I'd like to think so. But clients will dictate whether it lives or dies. It's only as strong as the demand for it, if clients no longer buy into it, then it's dead. I think that's something a lot of Flash designers have to come to terms with, unfortunately.
There is perhaps a shift in web use these days. We are seeing a decline in the purely experiential sites in flash with huge production efforts, to a relationship with clients based on tools and services, that many times have simples interfaces. How do you see that trend developing? Will Flash suffer?
I remember making client sites that were based around tools and services in 1999. It was a really boring time for web design. Then Flash came along and added a much needed burst of entertainment. Alas, overtime Flash then became an abused format. Humongous loading times to show a 10 second HD clip that formed a loader to some other 30MB shitfest of a site. Fat, bloated websites that ran like crap and took forever to load what was fundamentally a really poorly thought out site.
It's bad design that's made Flash suffer, and there's a lot of it about.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
I think it's a great place to learn your skillset and mix with like minded people. I did both. I spent a year at design school before dropping out and joining an independent web design school in Manchester, they got me a work placement and I began making Flash sites.
If you're enthusiastic about web design you'll always find a way to get into the field, whether you go to design school or not.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
Follow your own work, don't pay too much attention to current trends. If your work's good it'll stand out from all the generic crap that's floating about today. I'm so bitter.
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
We don't hire. It's easier that way because then we don't fire. We're cowards like that.
How do you keep up with the latest capabilities of Flash or do you rely on other members of you team to do this?
We don't. The new 3D engine looks pretty interesting but I imagine it's going to be an absolutely massive ballache to develop for. AS3 and 3D will surely be migraine inducing to figure out. I'll no doubt take a look at it anyway but importing boned mesh and then making it interactive sounds like a royal pain in the arse.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
A space pod. Like a big perspex bubble with tiny jets on the back of it, and me sat for all the world to see. I'm not sure how it would steer, maybe with a massive rudder on the back. It sounds pretty hard to drive though, because you would drive it with voice commands.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Our work. You released a site, got it onto as many web design portals as humanly possible, then new clients came knocking. It was pretty simple in the old days.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
Through coming up against new obstacles. You have to find a way through them, especially if the client's adamant that they want something new and technically challenging in a site.
If you don't have a client, set yourself a tough goal and keep hammering away at it until you have it working.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
I don't. I don't want to either, unless it becomes apparent that it's something you really have to take a look at. Like jQuery. Or the time when every client started demanding Facebook and Twitter be tied into their site. Clients love the Social Network.
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
Paris! So romantic! No, there's none that stand out at the moment. I'd say we're all equally as tired when it comes to web design right now.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
I'd like to do a viral for Morrissey. He hates the internet though, he's a vegan.
What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?
Apart from the space pod? I'd not thought past that. I'm sure designing for tablets will play a part in it. Les Enfants was hopefully the first in a line of attacks on HTML. I'd personally like to get a game in the app store, too. Die Hipster LITE.
What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?
I've got the bug for HTML5 at the moment. So Flash hasn't been touched for a while. Next up I want to build some demo engines with rotate/scale/position and play around with them on iPad.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
Petrol. Am I right? Bit of politics there.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
I wear pyjamas. If i have to leave the house I wear tracky bottoms and a hoodie. I like to keep it Northern.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Learn jQuery. Quickly!
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
No, thank you!