Our Studio Manifesto

In one of our previous articles Experiences Made Better, Louis talked about the new way of working that was needed in the age of customer experience. We've always tried to do things differently to everyone else, after all we started life building CD-ROMs. However, we always find we are labelled as a traditional 'digital agency', and with this title, comes the usual associated bad habits traditional agencies have.

So how do we explain our approach as a lean digital studio?

We have created a Lean Studio Manifesto; this contains the behaviours that we reinforce, as well as underlining how we are different from a traditional design and build agency.

This is our 'Lean Studio Manifesto'

  • SOLVE PROBLEMS over Predefined Solutions
  • EXPERIENCES over Designs
  • PRODUCT over Project
  • VALUE over Volume
  • DATA DRIVEN over Opinion
  • ITERATIVE over Big Bang
  • ADAPTABILITY over Constraints

Makes sense right? Let’s look at each point in more detail and add some context.

SOLVE PROBLEMS over Predefined Solutions

Code is home to some of the brightest thinkers and builders across digital, strategy, design, engineering and optimisation. They are clever and their talent is wasted cutting predefined shapes. Solving problems is what motivates us, it also allows us to innovate and create value where you wouldn’t expect.

"It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do" - Steve Jobs.

EXPERIENCES over Designs

It goes without saying that the customer should be at the centre of decision-making, but few put this thinking into practice. Design thinking is at the heart of our teams, our methods toolkit and our great facilities (like our very own UX lab) which allow us to gather insight and validate them instantaneously. The experience is then created iteratively as part of the delivery;releasing, validating and updating as fast as we can. This ensures that the best customer experience is supported with real data, reducing risk and increasing value.

"We spend a lot time designing the bridge, but not enough time thinking about the people who are crossing it." – Dr. Prabhjot Singh, Director of Systems Design at the Earth Institute.

PRODUCT over Project

A project mentality encourages a range of bad practices, from the constraints of the Iron Triangle*, to bloated requirements and slow, risky delivery.

Once a project is considered finished, the deliverable lacks investment to keep it valuable. This usually results in projects needing to be repeated just 18 months later.

Products (not projects) should evolve. We can focus on required features only, making a ‘skinny’ product that can grow, adapt and change as we gather data. This approach returns value immediately while spending less to get there.

"Building things is easy - building the right things is hard!" - Anonymous.

VALUE over Volume

Many businesses find themselves falling into a 'just build it' mentality, where priorities are skewed to hitting a deadline, feature list or budget. This almost always results in features that are users don’t want or need.

The more prevalent these unused user features, the more waste and inefficiency in your product and the more likely your site will suffer from poor performance.

We believe that product value removes this bad practice. We challenge value upfront, defining granular KPI’s to indicate ROI within the product.

"The Pareto 80/20 Principle; where 80% of the value comes from 20% work" - Joseph M. Juranof, Management Thinker.

DATA DRIVEN over Opinion

There is a common acronym making the rounds; 'HiPPO' (Highest Paid Persons Opinion). As we all know, decisions based on opinion are rarely supported by evidence.

Our methods mean that insight is core to any work that we do. Having data to support your hypothesis takes away the things that can derail what we do and why we're doing it. This is because it takes the emotion and personal opinion off the table and only leaves the facts.

"If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!" - Ferris Bueller.

ITERATIVE over Big Bang

First we agree on the functional journey which satisfies customer core needs. Then, we identify the features needed for each step (using lean hypothesis). This allows you to get a functioning journey in front of real people as soon as possible (as we do in our UX Lab).

Going live at this point massively reduces risk and delivers value much quicker. By iterating quickly, releasing feature by feature, gathering insights, data and feedback to drive prioritisation changes in your backlog. We deliver what people really want right now. This just wouldn't have been possible in a big bang world, as you would have built what you thought was right 6 months ago, and not what customers want right now.

"It's not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change" - Charles Darwin.

ADAPTABILITY over Constraints

We have seen a trend of new clients with sites that were not built with adaptability. These initially strategic products have been built in a tactical way by their supplier (through cheapest supplier and fixed cost, fixed scope and fixed time) with high amounts of technical debt and risk. This means the product has a realistic shelf life of only 6-18 months as the initial build has resulted in a high cost per change, high risk and a high total cost of ownership (the red line below). The client then falls out with their supplier and once again goes to market looking to build it all again.

Our approach, is to ensure that we use all of the practices in our manifesto, to create products that will be that strategic pillar for the client. From a technical perspective, we employ a loosely coupled architectural model to any integration (CMS, CRM, payment etc..), so that elements can be swapped out easier with less impact and no need to build it all again. We push modern engineering practices around test driven development, automated regression to minimise risk, and enable products to be refactored at a lower cost point for the long-term (the blue line).

Adaptability - Total Cost of Ownership / Cost per Change

Total Cost of Ownership

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein.

Need more info? Here's a video that summarises Code Computerlove.

We'd love to hear what you think of our studio manifesto, why don't you say Hello.

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A day in the life of a Principal Developer