Technically Speaking, with Frank DePino

Frank DePinoFor this month’s Technically Speaking column, we had the pleasure of speaking with Frank DePino, President and Founder of mediaBOOM, a Webby Award winning interactive agency based out of Guilford, Connecticut. After first noticing mediaBOOM’s impressive portfolio, and hearing about the exciting work they’ve been doing, particularly with Flash web development, we wanted to get to know Frank a little more and get his thoughts on the state of web design, what role marketing plays in a project’s life cycle, the future of Flash, and more.

Newtek Technology Services: So, Frank, why don’t we start with you telling us a little bit about about yourself and mediaBOOM.

Frank DePino: Before I started mediaBOOM, I was working for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), flying all over the country and living out of a suitcase. In many ways it was a great experience, but it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. What I enjoy most is being able to work in-depth with clients and I prefer a highly interactive process. You can’t do that with a one-hour client meeting and a couple of emails.

In 2003 I started mediaBOOM. For the first six months I worked out of my house, doing web development for small to mid-sized companies. Several things happened over the next few years. I was lucky enough to hire some talented people, and together we built the mediaBOOM brand and portfolio. When we won a couple of Webbys in 2006, things really took off.

mediaBOOM is now a full-service interactive agency. Our client list ranges from large institutional brands like Four Seasons to MLB All-Star Curt Schilling and magician David Copperfield. We’ve also had the opportunity to build brands for companies like Parkmobile and Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina. Our design and marketing team works closely with clients on every aspect of their marketing and communications strategies.

There’s so many different ways of describing what we do because we offer a broad range of services. At the highest level we’re known for our website design, development and branding. But we’re also doing print work. Video production. Copywriting. Social media. Application development. Email marketing. SEO. Hosting. Photography. Illustration. 3-D animation….the list goes on. I think it’s important to provide clients with every kind of opportunity out there to market their brand. I like the diversity and the intense client interaction that comes with our work.

NTS: The mediaBOOM website, as well as the sites showcased on your portfolio, are, to say the least, visually stunning. Why don’t you share with us your thoughts on what makes a good website, and what good web design means to both the designer/developer and to the clients you serve.

FD: Thank you. What makes a good website? It depends. It’s a pretty subjective term. At the most basic level of course a good website helps to sell something: a brand, a product or a service.

I use the web so much in day-to-day life. What I appreciate in a site: It needs to be user-friendly. It’s the whole Steve-Krug – Don’t Make-Me-Think philosophy. (That book, by the way, is required reading when people come to work here.) The challenge is to make a site not only user-friendly, but also engaging and creative. That’s what we try to do.

On a personal level, I love atmospheric sites, ones that are strong enough to set the mood in a room. But it doesn’t work for every brand. Each client has a unique target audience. A good site for a bank is going to be completely different from a good site for a clothing company. It’s critical that whatever you do, it’s done well. In this increasingly competitive market, there’s no room for broken links, poor quality programming or unintuitive navigation.

NTS: The services you offer go beyond that of just web and application design/development. What role does marketing play in the success of a client’s project, and how important is it when mapping out the lifecycle of a project?

FD: Everything we do is tied to marketing. Our job is to sell the person/product/service or brand. Web design and development are a means to an end. We need to make sure there’s consistency and a really good brand experience. Everything we do is focused on building a client’s brand, whether it’s establishing it, re-inventing it or updating it . From social media to website development it has to be consistent across every form of communication.

NTS: With the emergence of some newer technologies, such as Adobe AIR and off-browser capabilities in Microsoft Silverlight, along with the growing popularity of mobile applications, it would appear to some that there is a growing shift away from the web browser. What are your thoughts on the future of the web? Is the way we experience the web evolving away from the web browser?

FD: It’s true that AIR, Silverlight, and (to a greater extent) the growing popularity of platform-specific mobile applications are drawing increased attention and developer resources these days. But the web browser is the single common runtime environment available across almost every computing device. Innovations in and increased support for the next generation of web standards will allow developers to create web applications that approach their desktop counterparts in interactivity. So I think the focus on the web browser as *the* application platform is only going to expand, rather than decrease.

If you want to reach the greatest number of users without redeveloping your application specifically for every device / or platform, it makes sense to go with the web, and improved support for building desktop-like applications only helps matters.

Having said all this, who am I to say? New technologies – what takes off – is such an organic process. I’m not going to pretend that mediaBOOM has some secret insights. We’ve been lucky enough to attract and retain people who are imaginative and who aren’t afraid of new ways of getting it done. We’re not using technology in the same way we were three years ago.

NTS: Are there any other trends you see emerging in the next couple of years?

FD: I think we’ll continue to see the adoption and support of the next generation web standards across a wide range of browsers and devices. Given that mediaBOOM does quite a bit of Flash development, we’ll be watching closely the continued discussion of Flash’s role in the future of the internet. Though HTML5/CSS/javascript comprise a fine platform for building web applications (particularly with frameworks like Cappuccino and Sproutcore), they’re still not quite up to the task of providing the sort of high-end immersive web experiences that we love to create, especially in the context of supporting the full spectrum of browsers. This is why, for example, our current site still requires Flash. Building something like mediaBOOM’s site using web standards would be prohibitive from the standpoint of development time. As the suite of web standards matures to the point of being able to deliver immersive, richly interactive websites, Flash may finally find itself on the way out, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. For now, we’ll continue building two versions of our more immersive sites: one that delivers the full-blown experience, and one that can be viewed across all platforms whether Flash is present or not.

NTS: Thanks, Frank, for talking with us.

>>Now it’s your turn to chime in.  What are thoughts on what we’ve discussed?  Let us know in the comments below.

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