Web Design Business Owner, Matt Shuey

The latest in my oh-so remarkable series of interviews with design business owners is a great one. OK, I know I keep saying that but this one is great, believe me.

The fantastic thing about this interview was that I didn’t really know Matt Shuey before I spoke to him. We were introduced via Google+ which is becoming a remarkable place to network.

It was wonderful to speak to someone half way around the world about web design business and find that we agreed on so much.

Here’s one bit of advice to web designers that I very much concur with:

Learn the basics!

It’s important to learn how websites work. Web designers should learn about design (how the website looks and functions for the user) as well as development (how the website works “under the hood”, so that’s HTML, CSS, PHP, JS, WordPress, etc.)

You should always be able to create a beautiful visual of a website in a graphics program first. Matt and I believe that this work in the primary stage will stop problems occurring later.

We both agree that web designers need to learn how to code and that they should understand both the design and the development sides.

Both Matt and I struggled with static HTML sites. Matt then went on to learn PHP server-side includes before coming to WordPress via an unfortunate Joomla detour. I lucked out by being introduced to WordPress back in 2006.

matthew shuey

How to compete against website templates

Matt has been in the business for a long time. He’s gone from static HTML to WordPress-based sites for his clients. Recently he’s recognised potentially stiff competition from the WordPress template business. Nowadays, virtually anyone can buy a template from WooThemes, bung a logo on it and charge a client $700 for their “new, bespoke” website. This is competition at the lower end of the market (and I’ve warned against cheap and easy website builders) but it’s competition none-the-less.

His answer? Build templates.

Matt is now in the process of creating multiple templates for his own clients. Eventually his clients will be able to buy templates directly from his site, which is a form of web design business passive income that interests me.

With templates, Matt points out, that clients need to choose one that is 99% what they want, otherwise a custom solution will be necessary.

SEO and diversification

Matt has kept up with SEO since he first started designing websites in 2002. And it’s changed so much in 10 years – hell, it’s changed so much in the last 10 months!

In order to compete and ensure constant income streams, Matt has had to diversify his web design business into other areas, like SEO.

The SEO industry, Matt concedes, has a terrible image problem of fly-by-night, salesy-types offering high Google rankings by dubious means. You need to work hard with a client, persuading them of the on-going effort that is necessary. Matt provides his clients with content for their websites which is then linked to and shared in a natural and white-hat manner.

As Matt provides value in this way – both to his clients and to the internet as a whole – he is rewarded with repeat income and ongoing recommendations.

10 Worst Websites of 2013

Matt mentions in our interview a great post on his site that is a example of “link bait” or an article that will attract a lot of links or social media shares. The 10 Worst Websites does have some painful examples of awfully badly designed sites.

5th worst website of 2013

Above is my “favorite” – only the fifth worst website of 2013 (1995 more like!) Surely there aren’t 4 worse than that?

You can do it

You can stay in business for as long as Matt has, but only if you are prepared to really know your stuff and stay ahead of the game by observing the threats and maximizing opportunities in the way he has.

Did this help you? If so, please share!

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  1. says

    Nice article Rob! Your interview w/ Matt is a good example of how social media relationships can blossom into these kinds connections. Matt may have found + seen your G+ post call for design SME and how my small social intercept helped connect you 2 guys from across the pond with relative ease.

    • says

      You were a great matchmaker, Neil. It was great talking with Matt as he was exactly the sort of business owner I’d wanted for the show. Thanks so much again! :)

  2. says

    Thanks Rob. I really really enjoyed this and could relate with it.
    I learned Joomla, as way back it was considered a proper CMS, but I’m so pleased I switched. I don’t know if it changed, but it used employ HTML tables to create content areas.

    Templates seem the way forward now . In fact my link here is a new site where I was overjoyed to find a theme so close to what I wanted. It needed to be as I had to create all of content to (that’s family for you!). I still had to mess with the php though.

    I completely agree with Matt on how awful these templates can be. I think many of the popular Themeforest ones will never see the light of day. The size of some clean looking templates there are 2MB+ just so the “designer” can make changes without learning code.

    Anyway, great stuff Rob. Nice to be catching up on your blog again. I’ve missed it.

    • says

      Thanks for the comment. I hope you didn’t think I was hinting for you to leave a comment over at FB 😉

      I absolutely love that site. That is such a good theme/template. Where did you get it from. I think you can safely say that they’ve got the nicest website of any builder in Lincolnshire! And responsive too!

      Glad you liked the interview. I thought it was good as well (modesty!)

      • says

        Much appreciated coming from you. It called Nimble from Elegant themes. Woo and Genesis ( Epik -through a third party) have all come up with these big sectioned homepage sites (following the trend).

        Nimble even had a brick like orange that I was planing to use. I’m going to be doing a similar green version to update their Landscaping site so the theme will earn it’s money.

        I had great luck too in finding some cartoon characters over at GraphicRiver that needed little adjustment to look like the guys. For once it was nice to have no content.

        No I did not take it as a hint. I have popped over here a few times and never got as far as a comment. Life got seriously manic on my return to the UK and I’m making plans to return to India for the end of the year.

        Yeah, for me this was one of your best interviews. You are now relaxed with it. Matt was great. What is it with all these American web designers – they are all so damn cool.

        • says

          Nice, I see it’s got 5 different colors. Good for a business website.

          Glad you thought it was the best interview. Americans do make good interviewees maybe they have less hangups talking about themselves than others. :)