Some Thoughts from Building Our New Website

We did a little upgrade on our website recently (about time!). We are pretty frugal, and think it’s nice to flex our operating muscle every now and then, so we didn’t hire an outside firm. Instead, I got to play product manager again with a terrific designer and developer we know.

There are a bunch of things that aren’t quite perfect about the site, but in the spirit of the Lean Startup, we put out our MVP pretty quickly and will continue to improve it over time.  I also learned a lot going through the process. Some observations.

1. I never really noticed the shift towards flat design over the last couple years. We made a subtle upgrade to our logo based on this, and reduced a fair bit of the layers, shadows, etc from our former design aesthetic. It does look cleaner and more lightweight. I’m curious if the flat design aesthetic will continue to persist or not.

2. It’s amazing how quickly designs look old and out-dated.  We built our old website a couple years ago, and I found it pretty old school two years later (but I was pretty happy when we first launched it).  Time moves fast.

3. I like how simple a site seems when you restrict it to a single page.  For a VC fund, it totally makes sense because our business is reasonably simple and what you see is what you get.  Not sure if the continuous scroll design will continue to be a standard, but I’m happy with it right now.  The other nice thing is that the continuous scroll aesthetic works pretty well on mobile without too much effort.

4. Speaking of mobile… it’s pretty important. Duh. ~20% of our traffic is on a mobile device, and this is true of our blogs too. That said, mobile traffic often has different intent from desktop traffic. That’s why “mobile first” is a bit of an over-simplification, and I believe you can’t simply do “responsive design” and have a great mobile-optimized site.  Our goal was to have a first version of the site that looked great on desktop and worked for mobile.  Ultimately, however, we’d like to build a great mobile version of the site that really meets our customers’ needs.  Specifically, this means catering specifically to entrepreneurs and others who are hitting our site on-the-go, probably on their way to a meeting with us.  This actually means thinking less about a “mobile site” and more about what the “mobile landing page” is for someone in this situation, and crafting the site around that.  This probably means a mobile site with only a few options: links to big mug shots of our team, one-click to launch a map and get directions to us, and one click to get a condensed version of our content in a way that is easy to scroll through quickly.  The good folks at BlueTrain mobile have some smart thoughts about this here.

5. The little things really really make a big difference.  That’s something that I really had an appreciation for this time around.  Our designer spent a lot of time perfecting the actual interaction of every click and hover state, and was very detailed about the timing and overall “feel” of the site.  I’m more of an 80/20 kind of guy, so this was fun and really instructive.  I particularly like the steam you see when you go to the “invited guest” section of our ethos.  Next time, we’ll try to put in more fun “easter eggs” in the site. I already have a running list.

These things are always a work in progress, and we will do another site refresh in not too long.  If you have comments or suggestions, please let me know!  Also, many thanks for the people who helped make this happen. Specifically:

Moses Ting who worked with us nights and weekends for his design and development work

Chris Keller who took time from running to help develop the site

Junhee Chung for his terrific photography



Rob Go

Thanks for reading! Here’s a quick background on who I am:
1. My name is Rob, I live in Lexington, MA
2. I’m married and have two young daughters. My wife and I met in college at Duke University – Go Blue Devils!
3. We really love our church in Arlington, MA. It’s called Highrock and it’s a wonderful and vibrant community.  Email me if you want to visit!
4. I grew up in the Philippines (ages 0-9) and Hong Kong (ages 9-17).
5. I am a cofounder of NextView Ventures, a seed stage investment firm focused on internet enabled innovation. I try to spend as much time as possible working with entrepreneurs and investing in businesses that are trying to solve important problems for everyday people.  
6. The best way to reach me is by email: rob at nextviewventures dot com