3rd Decade of Website Development. TemplateMonster Interview with John Beima [Part1]

It's always a good idea to learn from experts. The person whom we have reached for an interview knows about all the things related to pro website creation.

John Beima has been in the web design industry since 1996! It seems he has an answer to every question that comes to your mind. John is very interesting to talk to. There are so many crazy ideas coming to his mind, and he is ready to share them with you.

As we talked, we covered the topics of website creation in general, the way their company builds sites and how they commonly choose themes for their web projects. John is one of the happy owners of both versions of the Monstroid template. He worked with both the first release of the theme and the latest Monstroid Squared versions. As a result, our dialogue covered all the topics imaginable, which gave us a push to divide the conversation into two big parts. The first part of TempateMonster Interview with John Beima (let's call it "Familiarizing") comes today. Here the story goes ...

: John Beima
Occupation: Co-Founder & Co-Owner - President at CDCI Development Inc.
Site: www.cdcidevelopment.com.
Location: Edmonton, Alberta.
Favorite car make: Nissan.
The mobile software of choice: iOS.
TemplateMonster: Tell us a couple of words about you.
John Beima: Just a couple? I am a single stepfather to two incredible boys. One in high school and one in elementary. Unfortunately, they live very far away, so I don't to see them as much as I would like to.

On the professional side, I am a person who wears many hats. From Custom IT solutions for a few companies local to me to doing senior-level data center support, to web development. I go and do what is needed of me at the time.

I am one of the co-founders of CDCI Development Inc.


TemplateMonster: For how many years have you been into web design?
John Beima: I first started doing web development in 1996. This was a few months after HTML 2.0 was released. I remember that was a big deal for us back then, since we were just in the process of getting form based file uploads and tables. I have just started my 3rd decade of website development.

TemplateMonster: Do you commonly use ready-made website templates in your work or create custom designs as well? When you use custom themes, in what cases do you opt for ready-made solutions?
John Beima: When I started there were no templates or as WordPress would call them “Themes”. Everything was custom made. Things have changed a lot.

Over the last 2 years, I have been spending more and more time working primarily in the small business sector with startups, entrepreneurs, and companies with an outdated or rarely used web presence.

With these companies - yes, the use of pre-made themes has become a part of my daily workflow.

However, not in the way, you may think. I like to send my clients to the TemplateMonster website to look for color schemes, layouts, or designs that they like.

With my clients, there is a 50/50 mix of which ones have a logo already, which in turn means they already have chosen or defined their company colors, and clients who are starting from square one.

With the companies that are starting from scratch, pointing them at TemplateMonster for ideas gives us a starting point. We find colors and designs they like, often across say ten templates. This gives us a great starting point and helps to cut back on the number of revisions done in the future.

We then select one, purchase it, and alter it based on the comments on what they liked from the other templates and did not like in the selected one.

I would note that this often means the template purchased has nothing at all to do with the sector the client’s business is in. Meaning the images all have to be replaced, but it is the design and layout that is kept and used. You might say the template becomes the “muse” for the website.

TemplateMonster: How much time does it normally take you to create a website based on a theme?
John Beima: This is an interesting one. Especially given Monstroid and Monstroid Squared. If a client has provided me with all of their content and the images they wish to use, I can normally produce the first version of their site in 16-20 hours.

Based on the client feedback, we then normally spend around 4-10 hour “polishing” the site, by applying designs and styling to it. Then we are done.

For a finished product, with a client that provides us all the content at one time, as short as two days and as long as four days.

However, with most clients, things take roughly 3-4 weeks. They send us additional information as they see the site evolving. It gives them ideas on additional content they want to include and the kinds of things they can do on their budget.

When we produce a site, we work on a live URL which we invite our clients to view at any point in time. Thus involving the client in every step of production. We found this simplifies the process and produces a better end result with a much happier client. This involvement also facilitates early detection of anything we may have missed.


TemplateMonster: How fast do custom-made projects launch?
John Beima: These are entirely different animals. Most of our custom work is creating online systems for companies. Traditionally we have written them in Perl, but have since moved to Ruby on Rails.

All of these tend to be database driven and highly specialized. A smaller project would be 3-4 months and having something take a year is not unheard of.

TemplateMonster: What's an average bill for a theme-based website creation?
John Beima: We have designed an entire business model around what we call our “Starter Website Package”. The theory behind this concept is we help you either get your business online for the first time or “reboot” your website from scratch for companies with older neglected, forgotten, or simply outdated websites.

Believe it or not, our Starter Website Packages start as low as $500.00 US. This would be for a 10-page website, based on WordPress, the Monstroid/Monstroid Squared Theme, and a few other plugins we add in.

Most of our clients tend to add one of our Social Media Startup/Integration packages to that, which puts the average website around $750.00 US.

Other things that can affect the fees include if the client needs a logo produced, stock images, and/or content written for them.

This model is working very well for our customers and allows us to spend the time to get to know them. Build a solid relationship with them. Get personal with them, understand their business, their business needs, and form a lasting dynamic between their company and ours.

All too often web developers create a site for a company and then cut all ties to them. We encourage our clients to stay in touch. This way when they need something, they know they can rely on us for all of their online needs.

We like to know our clients and in turn, have them know us. Building stronger lasting dynamics. Personal service all starting with a $500.00 website.

TemplateMonster: How much does it cost to launch a custom-made site?
John Beima: A small one would be $3500.00 to $5000.00 US. Most are around $12,000.00 to $20,000.00 US.

These projects can be many things.

They can be as simple as an eCommerce store with a product catalog that has quite a more complex set of options to it. Think custom-made wooden furniture. Like a chair. What size, style, type of finish, paint, stain, color, lacquered or more.

If you take some of our projects into the insurance industry, we linked online rating services to the agency website and then tied input back into a customer management system. In this case, we might be connecting 3 or 4 different pieces of software and/or computer systems, across multiple companies, and then bringing it all back to one place.

In one case we worked on a website where you could book a hotel. The website drew listings from roughly a dozen sources live at any point in time.

It can also be as straightforward as a larger more well-rounded company website, where you have a client portal, order entry system, client support system, knowledge base, product manuals, and more.

You can see how these can become sizable. The sky really is the limit here, and I love working on projects like this, since we truly get to innovate.

TemplateMonster: How long have you been with TemplateMonster?
John Beima: Many years. We have our own data center and have worked with many resellers over the years. Helping them in any capacity they needed at the time. Resellers can be fun to work with since they come in all sizes and specialties. A reseller is simply someone who rebrands our offerings and then in turn, sells it to their clients.

We have always had very affordable entry points for smaller development firms or even individual consultants. With us, they concentrate on development and let us manage the data center services end of things.

This is how I was first introduced to TemplateMonster. I was in support and working with your products and through natural progression simply became a client of yours.

TemplateMonster: How can you evaluate the results of our collaboration?
John Beima: TemplateMonster has allowed my company to produce quality websites for affordable fees to small businesses. Including single person ventures.

This market often gets neglected, since they work on much smaller budgets.

I personally love working in this sector, since I have the ability to really get to know each and every client and provide that personalized service that has been lost these days.

TemplateMonster: What do you enjoy the most?
John Beima: Believe it or not, discovering new ways I can display our client’s content using the Monstroid family of products.

I know this is an expected answer, but the truth is these two systems are so flexible, with every new project we discover something new we can do.

I really enjoy innovating and these two systems let me do that.

TemplateMonster: What should be changed/enhanced?
John Beima: Do you really want to know?

There are a few things here.

The support team and support policies at TemplateMonster are challenging at times. The policy is to respond to every ticket within 24 hours. However 99% of the time that response is a waste of time. The support person responding does not read the support request. They simply see 2 or 3 keywords and send a stenciled out or generic response. The responses can be so bad that the support person is so off topic and off base that I sometimes want to stop talking to your company. Another hot button with this “rushed” support policy, the support person answering the ticket does not read the ticket history, to see that the very answer they are sending was already in the ticket 3 messages above. Extremely frustrating. Reading the ticket history is extremely important, and probably 2/3rds of the TemplateMonster support team does not do this.

However, I have found a couple of excellent support people who deserve to be mentioned by name. Both Tyler Warren and Martin Clarke go above and beyond for the clients they are helping. They actually read a support ticket and answer what is being asked. They remember a client from one message to the next and even one ticket to the next. They know me, and when I ask something, they remember what I do and how I do it. Then give me an answer I need, not just some rushed generic, dare I joke “templated” answer.

Your company needs more people like these two!

Next images, from clip art to stock photos.

Often I purchase a template or theme for its structure and design. In the case of Monstroid and Monstroid Squared, I bought these as development tools to produce websites.

Being a smaller web development company stock photographs can be anywhere from $15 to $25 per image to obtain. When we produce a $500.00 website, this is just unfeasible, even unrealistic.

Clients ask, why can’t we just take it from a Google search, and we have to go over the entire concept of copyright and image ownership with them.

We flat out refuse to use any illegally obtained images or images we do not have the clear rights to use.

Like TemplateMonster sells templates, it would be nice to be able to purchase “On Demand” quantities or stock images from various Stock Image Providers.

I say on demand, meaning we can download them when and as we need them. As opposed to only having, say 30 days to download them.

I did notice on one of my last invoices from TemplateMonster that I could now purchase a 15 image download pack from Deposit Photos for $19.00 US. This is a huge saving from their ten images for $49.00 US stock offering.

With every site, we design we need new images. Getting at quality images for an affordable price helps everyone.

I am hoping this will become a purchasable item in your regular offerings and not just an add-on to another purchase. It would help all of us immensely.

TemplateMonster: What is your audience?
John Beima: That one is hard to answer. My clients are across the board. I love learning new industries, so I don’t try and target just one.

The best answer I can give to this question is my audience would be any individual or company that is looking to form a long-term dynamic with a developer who will actually take the time to learn their specific needs and give them the personalized service they both deserve and require.

TemplateMonster: What niche do you target?
John Beima: I think for today I would say our biggest niche is smaller business ventures, be it a one person company or say, 25 people.

Although we enjoy working with larger companies, I personally obtain a great deal of personal satisfaction in helping another small business startup grow, or giving a 10-year-old website that was ignored and forgotten a much-needed modernization and facelift.

TemplateMonster: Do you target foreign markets or prefer working with customers from your country only?
John Beima: I am open to clients from anywhere.

Yes, we are a Canadian company. However, our primary clientele base is out of the US. We have provided services to customers in the UK, Ireland, Australia, China, and many others.

We enjoy getting to know clients from other cultures or regions.

However given this, I will share that it is a drawback we only speak English. Which can sometimes be quite challenging.

TemplateMonster: How do you attract new customers and keep them coming back?
John Beima: We spent 2 months simply going old school. We got on the phone and called people. We talked to them about their needs, where they were at, and how we could help them.

From there, customer referrals started to happen.

How do we keep them? Forming positive personal relationships with our clients. We get to know them, and encourage them to get to know us; couple that with caring about their success and their business. This goes a long way for client retention.

That's only the 1st part of TempateMonster Interview with Mr. Beima. There is still a lot to learn about his experience of working with TemplateMonster's themes and Monstroid2 in particular. So, keep track of MonsterPost updates for more!

Have any questions or reflections on what was shared above? Drop us a line in the comments section.

Are you eager to have your story published on the blog? We are waiting for your email at [email protected].

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Katherine Crayon

copywriter reporting on tech news and all aspects of the web design industry. Anyone looking for more inspirational posts, tips and advice or simply the latest industry news, meet her in person on Quora and Twitter.

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