Every project involves multiple meetings, phone calls, emails, conferences,interviews, etc. The end result of all this discussion would just be a bunch of words unless each can be distilled down into discreet action items or a list of “to dos” for both client and agency. Sudden doesn’t want to waste your time. We want to make the process as easy for you as possible. And for that reason, we do our best to explain your responsibilities and offer you distinct tasks along the way. We want you to understand and take ownership of your project and feel responsible for and take pride in the end results.
Agile refers to an iterative approach to software development that advocates a lighter and more people-centric approach than traditional “waterfall” development processes. Agile processes use iterative feedback from all team members as the primary control mechanism of development. The feedback is driven by regular tests and releases of the evolving software.
You may hear Sudden referred to from time to time as a “boutique agency”, but what does it really mean? We don’t style hair or sell fashion accessories. It seems to imply cute, special, unique, out-of-the-ordinary, eclectic, trendy, elite, highly specialized, and intentionally small. We can’t say that Sudden is any of these things, though you may find a little bit of each of these qualities within our business. If a S.W.A.T team can be considered a “boutique” army, then I guess Sudden can be considered a “boutique” agency.
Broadband Internet access, often shortened to just broadband, is a high data rate Internet access—typically contrasted with dial-up access using a 56k modem. Of course, if you ask anyone under the age of 25, they barely even recognize that there ever existed internet that was not broadband. Sudden was one of the rare companies that began its business creating broadband experiences for clients back in the 90’s when it seemed like George Jetson’s futuristic dream. Though that was a long time ago, it set the stage for our approach to what is truly important when thinking about creating an engaging experience. Put simply, we got all that “bells & whistles” stuff out of our system early, and our clients are happier (and more successful) for it.
Let’s admit it. Everyone has a budget and it’s rarely ever enough to cover the breadth of their dreams. But here at Sudden we do our best to manage client dreams and expectations. We do that by finding ways to stretch the budget dollar to ensure that our client is investing in the most critical solutions to their business goals and not wasting time or money on features that would be “nice to have” but that don’t really advance their business agenda. Because of this approach, our clients feel that they are getting the most value for their expenditures, while still providing their customers with an engaging web experience.
Business analysis is about of assessing the business needs and challenges of your organization through internal interviews and in-depth study, followed by a documentation of those findings and recommendations for solutions. At the beginning of every project, Sudden spends an intense period of time getting to know your business and your staff, so that we can better understand what solutions make the best fit for your organization.
A changelog is a log or record of changes made to a project, such as a website or software project, usually including such records as bug fixes, new features, etc. For Sudden, a changelog is an important piece of our documentation as it is the primary tool in our approach to change management and keeping a project within scope. With multiple stakeholders and many moving pieces that need to be integrated, it’s impossible to keep track of how, where and why changes were made through the course of a project. A changelog is the one document that helps mitigate the dreaded phrase “But I assumed that…” when there is a question late in a project based on a decision made weeks or months before.
Sudden is very proud of the long-term relationships that we enjoy with our clients. The fact that most of our new business is based on the referrals and general word of mouth suggests that we must be doing something right.
A CMS is designed to simplify the publication of content to web sites and mobile devices, in particular, allowing content creators to publish content without requiring technical knowledge of HTML or the uploading of files. Several web based content management systems exist both as open source (Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, etc.) and commercial solutions, but because of factors like speed, flexibility and economy, most clients are choosing the former over the latter.
Content strategy is the practice of planning and defining the entire editorial content development process for a website. For Sudden, that means we help our clients get the best out of their current content by surfacing more content across more pages. We also help them plan ahead for their future content needs and then propose a system that will allow them to sustain that strategy going into the future.
Drupal is a free and open source content management system (CMS) written in PHP. It is used as a solution for anything from personal blogs to larger corporate and political sites. Sudden has used Drupal to create “Facebook-like” social media sites, community gaming platforms, and large-scale video portals for many of today’s biggest entertainment and media brands.
The technology was popular in the late 1990s with the increase of computer usage. Music CDs often included music videos, wallpapers, and other various content. When Sudden started, we all thought Enhanced CDs were going to revolutionize the music business, much like music videos did in the ‘80’s. Why not, right? Didn’t count on the MP3. We’re sorry, music business, but it was nice while it lasted.
If you know Bob or Lan, you know they already had a few careers before Sudden, so they decided from the beginning that there was no sense in starting a new business if they weren’t going to enjoy it. One of the guidelines of Sudden is that you enjoy the work you’re doing. That doesn’t mean that everything is going to be easy. We also love a challenge. But it does mean that we bring a certain sense of passion to everything we do. And that kind of passion and joy can be contagious.
Freemium is a business model that works by offering basic Web services, or a basic downloadable digital product, for free, while charging a premium for advanced or special features.
The business of gaming has out-distanced almost all other types of entertainment world-wide. One of the core services that Sudden provides is helping our clients find new ways to use gaming to support their core business goals – including education, marketing, publishing, and promotion. Our gaming solutions involve a number of monetization strategies including, free play, subscription, “freemium” and virtual goods that help our clients reach their business goals while earning revenue at the same time.
Information architecture is the categorization of information into a coherent structure, preferably one that most people can understand quickly, if not inherently. For Sudden, IA is the important intersection between design and technology – and more specifically, it is the interrelationship between usability and database design.
An intranet is a private computer network that uses Internet Protocol technologies to securely share information and operations within your organization – as opposed to the internet, which refers to a network between organizations. Sometimes the term refers only to the organization's internal website, but also may be a more extensive part of the organization's information technology infrastructure, and consist as a platform for internal communication and collaboration.
This one can be as hard to explain as iTV, but in very simple terms it can be described as an internet experience delivered through a television viewing platform. It sometimes is described as a television experience delivered through a web-based platform. Sudden has been engaged by media brands like Reuters, to help them concept new ways to view and navigate their content in a “10 ft. experience” for ITV.
Describes a number of techniques that allow viewers to interact with content as they view it. It can mean a lot of different things to different people, everything from voting for your favorite performer on “American Idol” to clicking on Jennifer Aniston’s sweater so that you can purchase it. When it comes to ITV, brands come to Sudden to help them create the best user experience. Over the years, we’ve worked closely with the AFI’s Digital Content Lab, Rainbow-Cablevision and Viacom to create innovative and engaging iTV products.
Java refers to a number of computer software products and specifications from Sun Microsystems that provide a system for developing application software and deploying it in a cross-platform environment. Java is used in a wide variety of computing platforms from embedded devices and mobile phones on the low end, to enterprise servers and supercomputers on the high end. Even with the proliferation of other open-source LAMP stack solutions available, clients are still turning to Sudden as Java remains an important part of their business, with legacy systems that require updating and the integration of new content applications.
Kiosks are usually standalone interactive experiences, powered by computers that are either web-enabled or not. They usually employ some type of touchscreens, trackballs, computer keyboards, and/or pushbuttons and for this reason can represent a much different user experience and navigation challenge than a “3 ft.” computer experience, a “10ft.” television experience or a “1 ft.” handheld experience. Media and publishing companies have come to Sudden to help them find solutions for everything from downloading music files in fast food restaurants to accessing the internet from the back of an airplane seat.
LAMP is an acronym for a solution stack of free, open source software, originally coined from the first letters of Linux (operating system), Apache HTTP Server, MySQL (database software), and PHP, principal components to build a viable general purpose web server. The software combination has become popular because it is free of cost, open-source, and therefore easily adaptable, and because of the ubiquity of its components that are bundled with most current Linux distributions.
Like slang or jargon, lingo is the language used by people who work in a particular field or who have a common interest. It can be used as a kind of short-hand, to express ideas that are frequently discussed between members of a group. We try to do our best to speak plainly with our clients, but sometimes we find ourselves falling into the bad habit of using lingo, which is one of the reasons we thought a Glossary might be helpful.
Of everything Sudden has accomplished since we began, probably the thing that we’re most proud of is the long-term relationships we have with our clients. In a business that is always looking for the next hot trend, software, or design, it’s nice to know that our clients continue to keep engaging us for new projects based on the quality of the service we have provided. We think it’s also based on our “high-touch” approach to project management and our ability to successfully shepherd our clients through difficult projects.
This is an image from our office window if we had been in business in 1903. We’ve been around a long time, but not that long.
Once Sudden feels that we have a clear understanding of the internal needs, opportunities and challenges of our clients and their project, we spend time looking at the marketplace doing a market (or competitive) analysis. We study trends and determine “best of breed” solutions that most closely resemble the needs of the project at hand. Finally, knowing that no two businesses have exactly the same challenges and opportunities, we use our market experience to position our clients and to help differentiate their offerings.
Almost everyone knows what a mobile phone is, because almost everyone has one, right? And due to the popularity of smartphone technology (like iPhone and Android), more and more people are taking for granted the variety of applications and experiences that these devices offer. But do they ever consider what is involved in trying to concept or design the product in the first place? Few do. If you’re like a lot of our clients, you want to be in this space, but you don’t know where to start. Sudden can help you decide how your brand can be best served by mobile technology, and we can help you define what that product might be and the best solutions to develop it.
In Sudden’s case, this applies specifically to the monetization of online and digital offerings. That includes the process of converting your site traffic into a sustainable revenue stream. These days there are many options for online publishers, including advertising, sponsorship, subscription, pay per view, “freemium” and virtual goods. Lately, it seems the best strategy for most of our clients is a combination of a few of these approaches, though which solution might work best for your organization depends on your content, your audience, and the competitive nature of the general market.
The concept of “open source” refers to software whose source code is published and made available to the general public, enabling anyone to copy, modify and redistribute the source code without paying royalties or fees. Open source code evolves through community cooperation. These communities are composed of individual programmers as well as very large companies. Sudden supports the open source approach through our efforts in developing technologies including Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP (otherwise known as the LAMP stack). We also support Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress, to name a few.
Though it may seem like most of our time is spent on train platforms, coming to and from work, that’s not what we’re talking about here. A lot of people ask us “What do you mean when you say platform?” Well, in computing, a platform describes some sort of hardware architecture and software framework (including application frameworks), that allows software to run. Typical platforms include a computer's architecture, operating system, programming languages and related user interface. Now aren’t you glad you asked?
Pre-engagement refers to the time you spend with Sudden before you hire us. It may start with a phone call or an RFP. Heck, it might even start with a conversation over lunch or a beer. This is the time when Sudden starts looking at the business opportunity of working with you the client, and you begin considering the benefits of working with Sudden as an agency. We hope that you’re like us and feel that the “fit” needs to be just right, because there’s a good chance, that if engaged, we’ll be spending a lot of time together (see “long-term relationships”). And to ensure that we’re the right agency for you and that you’re the right client for us, we do a lot of home work (or due diligence) before every possible engagement. In many ways that means that we’ll begin what looks and feels a lot like a “Discovery” Phase before we are even hired to do the project. This “consultive approach” to sales ensures that our proposals are crafted specifically to your project and never appear “cookie cutter”.
If you spend any time with us or listen to what our clients have to say, you’ll hear the phrase “process-oriented” a lot. We pride ourselves in our ability to have the standards and processes in place that you might only hope to find in larger agencies. Our ability to work methodically through discovery, analysis, recommendations, design, development and testing helps ensure that projects stay on track, on budget and on schedule.
If you were paying attention you may already know that Bob Holmes, the founder and CEO, was once a “recording artist” and we do use the term “artist” here very loosely- unless “artist” means that you sport an impressive mullet, while jumping around a stage playing new wave versions of country-western classics. I guess the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences thought so, as Bob was nominated for a Grammy as being an early music video pioneer. Go figure!
Most everyone loves sausage but do they really want to know how it’s made? Everyone says they do, and some people even act like they already know, and maybe have even done it themselves a few times. A little knowledge can be a terrible thing. We’re talking about making sausage, not websites, right?
The key to successful project management lies in keeping all the moving parts of a development process running smoothly and on schedule. Strict scheduling is important but Sudden is also realistic enough to realize that, especially with large projects, schedules can change based on unforeseen changes in scope, approach or resource availability. The most important thing in these circumstances is make sure everyone on the team, especially our client, understands the impact of these changes and that expectations are managed accordingly.
Scope refers to the extent of services that are agreed upon between Sudden and our clients. Scope is something that is very hard to define unless it is well documented. And when it’s not, it is something that can spin out of control, threatening to derail even the best laid plans. Since most f our projects tend to be on a fixed fee basis, rather than time and materials, managing scope and change control is critical to the successful release of your next project.
Sudden’s social media strategies usually involve a combination of appropriate content and technology that helps brands attract attention, generate online conversations, and encourages your audience to share their thoughts and experiences with friends and family. Sudden has found it a great way to increase brand awareness and trust, while allowing organizations to receive direct feedback from their audience or target markets. Of course, it takes two to tango and businesses need to be prepared to take an active role in the conversation. Part of Sudden’s role is to help tie this dialog into a business’s mission and overall content strategy.
Status Reports are the backbone of our transparent approach to project management. They become the main thing that our clients rely on during the course of a project to ensure that everything is staying on track. Even when schedules start to slip and scope begins to creep, there’s nothing like a well documented status report to keep everyone honest and on task. We use an online issue tracking system known as Mantis that has quickly become a favorite tool with our clients where they can follow as closely as they want how the sausage is being made (see “sausage”).
Technology strategy (otherwise known as Information Technology or IT for short) is the analysis and creation of recommendations relating to the technologies that your business or organization uses. It is Sudden’s general rule that the best technology strategy is based around the ultimate business goals of your organization rather than finding a way for your organization to adapt your business goals to fit the restrictions of the technologies. We’re always amazed that some people find this approach unique.
The success of any project relies on the quality of the communication between client and agency. And quality communication relies on a combination of conversation, listening and documentation that is openly and frequently shared between client and agency to ensure that everyone knows the current status of a project. Sudden refers to this quality as “transparency” which is the exact opposite of the “black box approach” that so many other agencies provide – an approach that keeps clients in the dark during a large part of a project until an agency feels that it’s “appropriate” to reveal the results to their client.
For online and digital experiences, these terms are used to describe what and how a user (or viewer) sees when he or she is navigating through an experience. This entails how one chooses to move through sections or pages of a site, where the content is positioned and how messaging is translated. Though everyone may be thrilled with a unique a art direction that dazzles the eye, the true test of a design’s success is whether the experience is intuitive and easy to use. The best designs are the ones that put the user’s experience ahead of the fancy “bells & whistles” and satisfy or exceed the viewer’s expectation and create a brand trust.
As most of Sudden’s clients are in the media, publishing and entertainment business, the publishing and leveraging of video content on the web is a natural extension of their business. With the constant enhancements of software like Adobe’s Flash and Microsoft’s Silverlight, the ability to display high-quality video is becoming easier than ever. And with the simplicity of video platforms, like Brightcove and The Platform, the management of large online video catalogs is becoming as standardized and the publishing of text as images to the web were a few years ago.
When our grandmothers ask us what we do for a living, it’s always easiest to say “we make websites.” They don’t have enough time to hear the whole answer and wouldn’t care even if they did.
WordPress is an open source CMS, often used as a blog publishing application powered by PHP and MySQL. It has many features including a plug-in architecture and a templating system. Clients, like IFC Films, have come to Sudden to help them push the limits of what is possible with WordPress, and we have helped them create sophisticated CMSs that enable extensive media publishing.