5 With… Mike McAlister, SixOneFive Design
Since launching Lowell.com, I’ve constantly been asked who I use for a designer. Knowing how difficult it is to find a reliable designer who does great work, I have always been reluctant to give most people his details. With the new year approaching, my efforts will be on monetizing my websites rather than development and design, so consider this an early Christmas present. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t give out his contact information, but Mike has been great for my business this year, and I am happy to highly recommend him to my friends.
When I wanted a new look and feel for a company logo (Top Notch Domains, LLC), I turned to a design competition on Sitepoint (now 99 Designs). Mike won this competition fairly handily, and I began asking him to do other projects, including the logo for ElliotsBlog.com. Mike is responsible for creating just about all of the design work for my two companies, their corporate websites, and the websites they operate, including Silver Internet Ventures, LLC.
Mike founded his company, SixOneFive Design in 2000 to provide creative design to clients all over the web. Although currently located in Milwaukee, WI, Mike’s client base remains largely dedicated to clients mostly throughout the United States. He has served clients from California to New York, and even clients as far away as Australia. Whether you need a logo created, a new website presence or a complete identity rebranding, Mike can do it – at prices that are truly affordable.
EJS 1) How did you get involved with development and designing websites?
MM: I’ve been designing websites for about five or six years, learning along the way. For three years I split my time between working a full-time job at a digital photography studio and working freelance at night, trying to gain clientele. Finally, I decided it was time for a change. My plan was to quit my job and find something more suited, maybe as a web designer, but then freelancing took off. I started out doing mostly graphic work and smaller websites. It wasn’t until I met Elliot last year that I began developing large-scale geo-domains.
EJS: 2) How can you leverage your skills to add more value to category killer domain names?
MM: The biggest advantage I have is that I started in graphic design and then learned web design later on. This helps me provide my clients with complete solutions that look AND function great on launch day. You rarely find a developer with good design sense and programming skills (if you do, hire him immediately and don’t let him stray too far). Although I am not the best programmer on the block, I am learning every single day. Every project is a learning process and adds to my skill set. Also, if I ever decide to develop some of my own domains, I can do so at little to no cost.
EJS: 3) Since working on my projects, what have you learned about development and yourself?
MM: First and foremost, I work better off of lists versus multiple emails ;). Honestly though, working on projects like Lowell.com and Burbank.com, especially, have taught me SO much about developing a large-scale website. I have become more familiar with dynamic navigation, coding for affiliates, working out .htaccess issues, and more recently RSS feeds. I have found that with enough research and testing, I can pretty much solve any issue I run into. It gives me confidence going into large projects, knowing I can accomplish exactly what the client needs.
EJS: 4) With your busy work load, are you still taking on new clients, and what projects are of interest to you right now?
MM: I will definitely be looking for my next big project around the beginning of the year. My girlfriend will agree that I deserve the holiday break that’s coming up! I have been working tirelessly all year to grab as many clients as I can and next year will be no different. I am really up for any challenge at this point. Since development is a hot topic, I want to bring more aesthetically pleasing and functional websites to the domaining world. All those great domains need a place to call home!
EJS: 5) Have you worked on integrated marketing efforts, combining web design and development with offline marketing efforts?
MM: Working remotely, it is really hard to provide any kind of offline marketing. I would love to be a jack-of-all-trades but I try to leave the marketing to the marketing specialists. So far my experiences are that clients either want to do their own home-brew marketing or they just don’t want any marketing at all. A friend of mine is a marketing guy and he just can’t convince businesses of the value of marketing. More and more SEO strategies are becoming the new wave of marketing. Once it’s perfected, it basically does the work for you.
EJS – 6) What can domainers do to cut down on costs of development?
MM – This may sound like a no-brainer but the best thing you can do is take a little time to learn some basic web design skills. You can stop by Barnes & Noble and get any beginner web design books and learn some really valuable information that could cut down on hourly costs. Think of it this way, the cost of one web design book is probably less than one hour of billable work from SixOneFive Design ;).
Another great thing which is sweeping the web is Content Management Systems. CMS will allow you to update your content without needing a developer around all the time. WordPress can be a great CMS and it’s growing every day. I am actually finishing some WP themes myself, aimed at different domaining niches. You will have the ability to customize your logo, colors, ad banners, AdSense, RSS and many other things from an easy-to-use theme admin panel. I’m trying to make it as easy as humanly possible to use as a development tool.
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