Did We Say We Don’t Build Websites, ‘Cause We Do

My History in Web Development

The year was 2010 and I was planning my next career move.

I had just spent the last decade building websites. It was an exciting time. I and my various teams at various companies battled Netscape, fought Internet Explorer on the Mac, wrestled with actual dedicated hardware servers, and saw the introduction of the mobile web.

Web Development Services Used to be Expensive, Really Expensive

There was a time when we were selling websites for $30k-$60k on the regular and e-commerce was something we built custom each and every time. My website-building career was good.

I had launched websites for major companies like Hewlett Packard, MasterCard, and Ford Motor Company. I had very much infiltrated the nonprofit/association world of Washington, DC. I had delivered websites to Senatorial candidates, Congressional candidates, and Gubernatorial candidates (some of them actually won).

I was managing websites that got high traffic and were processing high dollars.

Some of our sites became “internet famous,” some of them more infamous. 

Shane doing web development

My Portfolio Was Very “Washington DC”

Not as boring as it sounds!

Rachel Maddow TV Screenshot I was a true Washington, DC developer. Everything was trade, issue, or politically based.

Our sites were featured on the national news somewhat regularly. There was the time that a site I built for a political client was shown over Rachel Maddow’s shoulder as she had an absolute fit about what it stood for.

There was the time I got a call in the middle of the night with the request that a website be taken offline immediately, our client was being held prisoner overseas and wouldn’t be let go until the propaganda-filled website was taken down.

How about the time we got a call from the Washington Post for an explanation regarding some photos a designer had chosen for a particular website?

We had built websites for royal families and for organizations that we swore were CIA fronts, I mean what kind of “small business owner” calls with an emergency web update from a private plane after being “allowed to leave” a foreign country?

I can actually say I once held the record for the most expensive website built for a member of Congress.

All Bubbles Must Burst

Sounds great, sounds exciting… Then 2008 hit.

The economy took a tumble, and new technologies and frameworks like Drupal and WordPress were coming on the scene and dropping the prices of websites. The days of $30K-$60K websites became the days of $10K-$12K websites.

The price was going down and demands were going up, now it was expected that the site be mobile friendly and fully dynamic.

I know $10K can still sound like a lot but at the time I was a partner in a design firm that had 12 people on payroll and office rent on Capitol Hill.

I watched our design studio fall from 12 people to 3 and then we decided to go our own ways…. I was done with web development. 

If Not Web Development, Then What?

Shane with beer My problem: I only really knew one thing, web development.

My other problem: My network only knew me for one thing, web development.

So, despite dreams of opening a brewery, I figured my easiest path to self-employment was to build something to do with web development.

At the time I looked around and realized that there seemed to be a million firms, freelancers, studios, and agencies that were building websites.

The problem I saw was that they didn’t seem very good at supporting them. Even at $100-$200/hr in support rates, these companies seemed more focused on busting out the next large project and moving on to the next.

I didn’t blame them, that was where the money was. I understood it, when I was building websites, I hated the support aspect of it. 

Web Support Became the Focus

So, from this observation, FatLab Web Support was born. Did I mention I was totally fried on building websites?

However, over the years, I still built a few websites. I built them for people who knew me for that. I built them for agencies that we worked with as partners but when we got website build leads, I would turn them down. I would say, we just do support: We don’t design them, we don’t build them, we just take care of them.

I likened it to Levi Strauss who provided clothing to the gold miners but didn’t seek the gold themselves. I’m still waiting to become the Levi Strauss of web support, so that is a bit comical at this point. 

Wait, We Do Build Websites, Don’t We?

Shane working at computer About 2 years ago, it occurred to me that we were actually building a lot of websites for a company that said it doesn’t build websites.

We were getting faster and faster at producing these sites and they became less of a distraction to the web support side of the business and more of a compliment.

We had started to build our own framework to streamline our development process and we were telling people we could not only build the website but of course support them once launched… because… well… that is what we do, we are a web support company. 

I gave this whole service of building, hosting, securing, optimizing, and supporting a name. It was called Genius Stack. 

Good Web Developers, Bad Marketers

However, we clearly haven’t made it known that we do in fact build websites.

Sadly, we lost a long-time client a couple of weeks ago. They had a new website built without talking with us… Why would they? I had specifically told them over the last 10 years that we don’t build websites.

So here I am to shout to the world, that I have gotten over my funk, that I have found a new passion in our new processes and methodologies that we call Genius Stack, and I am having fun developing, launching, and supporting websites for new and old clients.

Call us!