Simple Web SolutionsFor Complex Problems
Rowan is a web development and digital marketing expert with 17 years of experience in designing, building, and producing websites. Rowan’s current focus is transforming Drupal & WordPress into simpler and more effective tools.
I was fortunate enough to work on the Tiffany.com site as a Sr. Web Developer at Oven Digital. I also worked on its non-US counterpart sites. 15 years on, Tiffany & Co.’s web presence has remained conceptually unchanged in terms of design and UX and is one of the most outstanding and successful enterprise e-commerce websites. Tiffany & Co. was an eight-figure, multi-year engagement that yielded a highly profitable online retail presence at a relatively early time period. The enduring success of the Tiffany websites, which traded on minimalist UI, top-line photography, personalized content, and email social sharing, has served me throughout my career as a frame of reference for what excellent Digital Commerce and User Experience looks like. Among the initiatives I led was a design and coding project that let users send friends a customized HTML email message that incorporated Tiffany’s superb product photography.
PetSmart Charities is the nonprofit arm of PetSmart Inc., and has a tremendous impact on pet welfare in North America, both as a sponsor of animal welfare programs and as a major grantmaker to thousands of animal welfare organizations. Our teams worked together with PetSmart Charities to revitalize their online presence with an enterprise Drupal implementation closely synchronized with propriety Luminate CRM and E-Commerce, Salesforce Luminate and many other powerful marketing and commerce tools. Over a series of several years, I worked with PetSmart to lead the rejuvenation and revitalization of their digital presence, overseeing a dramatic increase in fundraising and engagement with the public.
First, as a consultant for solutions for Blackbaud, engaged by the University of Chicago to build an alumni portal on its Sphere SaaS platform, and then as an independent consultant, I helped design technology solutions that met the demand for increasing alumni participation, networking, and fundraising revenue. The main challenge was how to build an online presence that catered to both younger and older generations of alumni.
Proceeding from that larger constraint, an interesting problem was the need to let students who registered online for accounts self-verify themselves, using either a social security number, a student ID number, or various other forms of proof of identity. This way the University of Chicago could involve the maximum number of students in the most economical way possible. As with other projects for alumni and membership organizations we had to create a complete digital experience, such that communications and events, whether conducted by a website, app, phone or in person, be synchronized among themselves in a holistic fashion.
Areas of Expertise
Producing Web-based Solutions
My core competency is bringing digital projects, usually websites but also CRM/data, to successful conclusions. As a digital designer/marketer, web developer, and project manager, I have learned the most important lesson: communicate well. On fast-changing timelines where everybody knows a little bit about everything, how clearly ideas and intentions are communicated is the deciding factor in how fast and successfully a project goes.
As a seasoned Web producer, I know how to do every part of any large and complex web project myself, from creative, to coding, to data management, to project management. But I am also adept at putting together large teams of digital professionals and focusing on the project manager role. As a PM, I may implement either Agile or Waterfall methods. Waterfall for the big-picture planning; Agile for the delivery and refinement of the solution.
Drupal AND WordPress
I started my career in the web business before Drupal, WordPress, and even the concept of CMS software existed. Since then, I have acquired knowledge of several CMS products and above all Drupal. Through much trial and error, I have learned the “Drupal way” of designing, coding, and sitebuilding simple website solutions in Drupal.
In recent years, WordPress increasingly makes more sense than Drupal for certain projects. Part of my value as a consultant is to gauge which is best for a given project; there are subtle drawbacks and advantages to each that influence how I make that selection. My approach to building “big”/sophisticated websites in WordPress is deeply influenced by my 11+ years of Drupal experience.
User Experience (UX) Design
In truth, any web developer or designer is a UX designer, whether they know it or not! But my modus operandi is to consciously make it a big part of what I do. I’ve been designing, editing and evaluating information architecture and UX since starting out as an agency web developer 16 years ago.
I think I’ve consistently cultivated my talent for UX design by adapting to changes in design shifts and technology — deep technical understanding of CMS software that I specialize in (Drupal and WordPress) is the basis of my approach to UX design.
As with many things in life, the key to UX is balance; too much weighs a project down and saps its momentum; too little leaves important stones unturned. For me, UX should make a project go not only more smoothly, but faster in the long run.
CRM Integration Design
I’ve observed first-hand that the value of my clients’ CRM implementations multiplies exponentially as they are integrated with other products. On top of CRM implementation best practices, in terms of business logic, field structure and data migration, I have deep experience in integrating CRM with CMS software, bulk Email Marketing, Marketing Automation tools, Event Management, and E-commerce & Payments, especially in the area of donations and membership fees.
To fully take advantage of the best commerce and marketing products out there, it’s essential to centralize efforts around a CRM. But integrations require careful design and consideration, especially when it comes to CRM and CMS, both of which are very complex technologies. It’s essential to understand how and why products are used on both sides of an integration. That understanding informs the precise niceties of mapping and synchronization. Part of my value proposition is the ability, won through experience, to not just implement a CMS-CRM integration but to design one. I have extensive experience in integrating Blackbaud Luminate/Convio and Salesforce CRMs with CMS-powered websites.
Digital Commerce & Payments
My very first Web project in 1998 was a retail e-commerce site, and since then I have worked on all manner of digital commerce, from subscriptions to membership to online donations. I’ve acquired a strong understanding of multi-channel commerce solutions that may begin on the Web but span CRM, Events, Telephone banking, and Email Marketing. I have a particular interest in Checkout Usability testing, since I think it provides a lot of insight into the broader world of digital experiences in general, not just on the Web but everywhere.
From a technical and business ecosystem standpoint, I know the Payments industry pretty well; I understand how to assess features like vaults and wallets, multiple currencies and languages, security/compliance, fee systems, and the technical niceties of payment processing and APIs as they relate to integration with CMS software products like Drupal.
Over many years, I have taught myself the art of business data analysis, and now it’s an important part of what I provide as a consultant. My method is to understand the opportunities and challenges of each project by examining relevant data coming from Web Analytics, Email Marketing, CRM, ECommerce, and any decisive data points that an organization’s CRM system might provide.
Conducting analysis informs work proposals, estimates, and important project assets like a Statement of Work, UX diagrams, or a functional requirements document. It also helps me advise clients on creating RFPs and selecting software and services. Looking at the data in a systematic way helps me understand how to respond to what clients need — at the onset and throughout the relationship.
Before becoming an independent consultant, I worked as a web developer, project manager, User Experience designer, and digital technology consultant for several digital agencies, including one that I co-owned and helped build from scratch. I still do all those things. For me, the common theme has always been to build simple solutions to problems using the web.
I’ve helped design and deliver about 140 website and CRM initiatives, some small and some big, for clients ranging from Tiffany & Co. and IBM to the University of Oregon and the Smithsonian.
During the past decade, I’ve woven my work around Drupal and WordPress integrated with CRM and e-commerce of the nonprofit variety. I’m kind of a tech generalist, but I especially love marketing technology and that’s left me with pretty advanced expertise in web-CRM integration, A/B split testing, conversion tracking/funnels, SEO, and personalization.
I am a generalist in my personal life too. I love art & design, basketball, playing music, travel, meditation, dogs, and swapping good stories.
Design is usually what gets perceived,” says Felber, “but we’re very strong in design only because we have very strong technology and strategy that makes it actually happen. My deep belief is that a good design company today is not possible without having amazing technology and strategy teams, because those three components work so tightly together.
Micheal Felber, Design Director at Oven Digital, New York, October 2000
ROWAN, HARDIN & PRICE
04/2017 – Present
Independent practice focusing on $8,000 to $28,000 WordPress and Drupal builds, with expertise in CRM-powered websites. I also help with software selection and data integration services for pretty much any software tool or service used in digital marketing, e-commerce, and communications.
Freeflow Digital LLC
Partner / Client services focus
09/2008 – 01/2017
With responsibility for the success and growth of all aspects of Freeflow Digital, I helped drive the transformation of a three-person crew into a trusted and reliable twenty-person technology consulting firm with long-term partner and client relationships. I was instrumental to reshaping the company identity from “Drupal shop + data integration” to a data-focused WCMS and CRM consulting firm.
My focus has been on business development and designing ambitious solutions for clients. By excelling at those responsibilities and mentoring my team along the way, I helped Freeflow cultivate a broad, loyal base of clients with many successful, long-term engagements.
Beyond client relationship management, the essence of my solution consulting work breaks down as follows:
– Reading and research: reading in-depth publications about a clients’ business/industry and conducting discovery workshops and customer surveys
– Analysis of marketing information sources like analytics data, SEO diagnostics, split testing results, in-site search logs, and activity histories from CRM and/or ecommerce
– Web Customer Experience analysis, with a focus on usability testing high-value areas like authenticated-user dashboards, help & support, navigation, search, and ecommerce
– Authoring and/or review of estimates, work proposals, and statements of work
– Delivery of information architecture, including web/mobile sitemaps & wireframes, Drupal architecture, data mapping of migration and integration, CRM/Ecommerce structure, and multi-product system diagrams
– UX design for the web, both as a sales tool for building understanding and as an implementation resource for guiding delivery of creative design and Drupal development
For me the recurring goal among all kinds of organizations I’ve worked with at Freeflow is to leave behind me an effective system for making strategic goals come true. While the specifics may vary, the systems often take on the format described in the diagram below:
Project Manager / Consultant
12/2003 – 08/2008
I came to Blackbaud via its acquisition of Kintera, where I’d been working as a delivery manager. I worked as a project manager and consultant on multiple 6 and 7 figure projects for clients like the NAACP, Heifer International, University of Virginia, Notre Dame, Amnesty International, and the United Nations. The company has about 4,000 clients, and I typically worked on the largest projects.
The core of my work was as a solutions designer and project driver around Sphere, an enterprise SaaS platform of integrated products, including CMS, CRM, E-commerce, Bulk Email Marketing and Event Management. The challenge was about how to create solutions in a way that Blackbaud’s products didn’t allow for; the Sphere platform was large and offered several useful products, but it was not Open Source and had a limited API, so it as difficult to modify it for particular business requirements.It often fell on me to lead projects which integrated Sphere with other systems, including Raiser’s Edge, Authorize.net and other Payments providers, and Drupal. This experience prepared me for success at designing the integration of CMS software with CRM and with SaaS products in general.
The thing that most impressed me from my tenure at Blackbaud was that when ideating a complex, enterprise solution, the only way to success was to start with design, Information Architecture, and the User Experience, and from there finalize the scope of work and the accompanying technical specifications.
Sr. Web Designer / Developer
03/2000 – 02/2002
I worked in the Manhattan office of a global design and web development agency, working on projects of all kinds; a Hong Kong-based dating site, the Bank of Japan, IBM (PC Division), Tiffany & Co, Consumer Reports, the MoMA, Harper Collins, Snoop Dogg, and more
At Oven, I was fortunate enough to work on the Tiffany.com site and its non-US counterpart sites, which 15 years later remains unchanged design-wise and UX-wise. That’s remarkable because most websites are (and should be) redesigned every 2 or 3 years. Tiffany was an eight-figure, multi-year engagement that yielded a highly profitable online retail presence. The enduring success of the Tiffany websites, which traded on minimalist UI, top-line photography, personalized content, and email social sharing, has served me throughout my career as a frame of reference for what great Customer Experience looks like.
E-commerce Web Development
06/1998 – 12/1999
I got my start in Web Development working on book publisher’s website, www.pelicanpub.com and book-selling site www.oldchildrensbooks.com.