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Growing up, my father and I used to build computers together. He was a programmer, and we were the first family I knew to have internet at home. Dial up. My dad became a web designer back in the late 90’s, and by the time I grew up, I too had taught myself to code.

I’ve always enjoyed the mechanics of turning bytes of information into pixels, and my passion for it has allowed me to keep up with the technology as it has evolved (I started coding before CSS… </tr> lol.); in short, I find a lot of joy in the ability to manipulate digital matter.

Technology is an extension of language, information, and the mind is the realm wherein we process it. This may sound existential, but there are a myriad of cognitive and perceptual factors that go into creating a great user-experience. The experts say the key is “empathy” – the ability to understand and feel what others do.

In a way, each website is a kind of virtual world, a video game you want your users to play – and fulfilling user needs is the name of the game. And we can measure it, with analytics, and we can qualitatively assess it, with user-testing. These feedback loops are what separate a mediocre designer from a great one.

I don’t claim to be elite, but I am a proud unicorn. In the tech world, coding and design are typically handled by two different teams or individuals – largely due to the fact that the two personality types [creative vs. logical] are usually not found in the same person (1), so those who do successfully do both are said to be as rare as unicorns. 

Further exalting my unicorn status is the fact that I am a competent internet marketer. I have built my own landing pages and run my own ad campaigns, personally managing a over 1MM in ad spend. In doing so, I learned the quantitative value of the user-experience, and I learned how to identify and optimize the numerous on-page elements of the user- interface for better marketing performance. The math is simple: a well designed page will outperform a poorly designed page two to one, easy. This meant we could double revenue without increasing ad spend if we doubled our conversion rate (2).

The clients I work with are those whom I know I can make an impact for. This creates a symbiosis, and this quid pro quo dynamic is the foundation for a great working relationship. I am proud to have so many long term clients who I have built two, three, and four websites for – often rebuilds … and when we return to the drawing table in another couple years, I will be even more unicorny.

I suppose it’s my goal to find clients who want to grow with me. I’m not trying to redesign the Nike website (Though I do have a few thoughts…). At the end of the day, my objective is to deliver value. I’m fortunate to be able to do it via something I love. And it feels good.

All that said, what are you waiting for, let’s roll.

Lawrence Black

Footnote 1: While design and development have typically occurred in their respective vacuums, the experts are no longer operating under this “waterfall” method of product development, where designers pass their designs over a wall to be built. Instead, the understanding of the ‘holistic product’ – as pioneered by Apple, under Steve Jobs – has lead to an increase in these processes of design and development happening in tandem. You actually won’t find a large tech company not structuring their design and development teams to work together under smart product managers. Although, this does not make them unicorns, per se, it simply means the unicorn can employ the same approach as the larger agency and internal product teams do – without a team.

Footnote 2: If a business receives 2 phone calls for every 100 visitors to their website, they have a 2% conversion rate (Conversion rate = number of daily visitors divided by daily leads or sales generated). Now, in order for this business to receive 4 calls a day they can do two things: they can double the amount of people visiting their website (Neither cheap, scalable, nor easy.), or they can double their conversion rate by creating a more compelling, effective user-experience. I am not in the business of sending more traffic to your website – though giving you a sub 2 second load time and strong on page SEO  factors will boost your organic web traffic – this said: your website visitors will only be of as much value to you, as you are to them. Quid. pro. quo.

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