We've come a long way since our launch in September 2003 (3 original founders from marketing, design and technical background), and the company has evolved through significant changes in technology, changing customer expectation of websites, our market, and some major economic events. Here's our story...
Two young entrepreneurs working from the basement of one of their houses. Tim Vaines, founding the company, with a background in programming and ASP development. Malcolm Maclean co-founder, background in CD-ROM training and web design. Our very first website is shown; believe it or not our Domain and hosting prices have not changed since.
Jon Ellard joined Urban Element in 2004. Having run a direct marketing company for the hospitality sector, he brought with him a considerable wealth of knowledge. This knowledge laid the foundations that allowed marketing to become one of our primary services. In these early years a lot of our initial websites were designed in Flash. However as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) became more important to businesses, the demand for Flash websites fell.
In 2006, 75% of our business was coming from enterprise level bespoke web applications We still continue to deliver bespoke applications for Smiths Group PLC to this date. Our technology was advancing down the Microsoft route with .NET. This focused our recruitment drive on back end and .NET developers and the remaining 25% of our business was coming from brochure websites such as Millingbrooke Lodge.
In 2007 the internet was changing. Users demanded fluid websites that provided up to date information on events, promotions, and sales. Instead of being updated year by year, websites now needed to be updated monthly. Clients looked for providers who could offer them more control and so we launched Web Control, a bespoke Content Management System (CMS). This CMS wasn’t to last, but by the end of 2007 we had fifty small to medium businesses on board.
The huge financial crash of 2008, hit with a ferocity nobody could have imagined. The crash directly impacted our financial services client base which in turn affected their investment with Urban Element. Furthermore the ramifications of the crash led to the credit crunch leaving many businesses unable or wary of expenditure. Despite the hit, we retained all of our staff. Client retention was key and we survived through our close working relationship with clients. This was built on managing small budgets and continuing to provide a return on their Investment.
Meanwhile the back end development team worked with our design team to develop creative front end websites with data base driven elements from e-Commerce and quote builders, to secure client zones.
Following the credit crunch came the lasting financial crisis, the impacts of which we are still feeling today. In this time we lost three of our biggest clients and our founding director left the company. We went into a period of restructuring and market identification. We invested in a senior graphic designer, with the intention of pushing our web design services using HTML and CSS3.
Yes Please Golf
Jon Ellard became the new Managing Director. Following market research and recognising the growth in web design and the emerging social media market for business, Jon re-marketed the company from Web Development to Web Design and Digital Marketing. This had several immediate positive effects:
- Design projects which had accounted for 25% of revenue became 75% by 2012, a huge turnaround in just 3 years.
- Our focus for Design switched to higher value and higher specification Projects.
2010 was also the year that we switched from Web Control and became a reseller of Adobe Business Catalyst, a powerful CMS. This SEO friendly service is business friendly and gave our clients more control over their website.
Released in February 2011, the change aimed at lowering the rank of "low-quality sites" or "thin sites", and returning higher-quality sites near the top of the search results. Site's containing large amounts of non-original content and advertising experienced a significant impact to their Search Engine positions.
In 2011 our Marketing plan was taking shape with typical clients coming from the professional, manufacturing and hospitality sectors. Our investment in Digital Marketing saw us hire our first SEO Expert. In addition, our increasing knowledge in web design allowed us to work with more advanced technology such as JQuery.
Announced in April 2012 Google's Penguin update penalised websites that used "black hat" SEO techniques to artificially increase the ranking of their pages by manipulating the number of links pointing to them. Sites with unnatural link profiles, and sites that displayed unnatural link activity such as sudden increases in links were targeted by this update.
Internally May 2012 saw us become heavily involved in SpecialEffect, a charity we have supported ever since. We built their first website and advised on how to optimise their digital marketing strategy. We also expanded the design team, hiring two junior Graphic Designers. By the end of the year we hit a landmark with 75 clients using Business Catalyst.
Natasha Ellard bought into the business and became Director and Co-Owner alongside Jon. Her influence was integral in driving our process, company structure and considerable growth. We introduced our three step core business process and recruited several new team members, key to which being our first Project Manager and Customer Service Associate.
Mobile technology and multi device behaviour continues to expand extremely rapidly. We keep pace with these innovations by taking our design and technical ability into a different league with regards mobile responsive and functionality. This has involved intensive training and development in HTML5 and CSS3. Since 2012 we have been developing high ROI mobile responsive sites for our clients. This training allowed us to create the AirTanker website shown.
In Sept 2013 we acquired another web development company called 310k Internet Solutions. This gave us 26 new clients several of which have not only invested in Digital Marketing, but have had completely new websites designed from ground up.
Social Media for business has been the real buzz / trend over the last 12 months and is an area we have incorporated into our core service offering in the last few years. However, being known as the experts in this area has required marketing investments and resource investment. Between 2012 and 2014 we have run over 30 complimentary LinkedIn and Twitter workshops and have educated 150 Oxfordshire businesses in the power of Social Media as a business tool. This has led to new business and Urban Element being seen as leaders in the industry. A recent success for us was having one of our clients SpecialEffect win the 2014 West Oxfordshire Social Media Award and our other client The Feathered Nest be runners up.
2014 has been our most significant year to date. We have completed our Customer service team with the recruitment of an Account Manager and Customer Service Associate.
We have also restructured our design team with two visual designers, Dan Shelton and Ben Goddard. Their skills and vision have allowed us to present unique design concepts and expand our service to offer print and brand design. With the addition of Front End Developer, Chris Sawyer our Core business team has been completed.
Our digital marketing team has also been completed with the team now featuring a Technical SEO Specialist, Content Specialist, and Social Media Specialist.
2014 has been a defining year in the development of Urban Element, but the progress we have made could only have been reached by learning from the successes and challenges presented to us over the past 11 years. That said we do have huge plans for the future and this is just the beginning – watch this space.
If your current website isn't providing the right results for you, if you are looking to take the next step forwards with your online business, or if you are launching your business online we'd love to talk to you to discuss how we can enable you to reach your business goals.