Martin Underhill of tempertemper web design

Behind the scenes with Martin Underhill and tempertemper

We're so pleased to be able to take you behind the scenes with one of our long-standing customers, Martin Underhill. Martin is really passionate about the work he does with the small business community through his small business tempertemper. As well as developing what he describes as "expertly crafted websites", we've also found him to be so generous with his vast knowledge of all things web-related.

So we decided to spend some time with him recently to find out more about him and his business, and to ask a few cheeky questions about website design and marketing. Here's what he said ...

tempertemper web designCan you introduce tempertemper, Martin?

Through tempertemper I work with small business owners to create a better (or new) website that delivers their message in the most effective way possible.

Why the name ‘tempertemper’?

Tempering is the process of making metal more durable. My thinking was that I’d be making my clients’ websites stronger, tougher, and more resilient. But I don’t explain that much these days – it’s more that it’s catchy and easy to remember. There’s a familiarity to it, from when we were small and our parents would tell us to keep our cool!

What makes what you do work for your customers?

The best website is a result of a collaboration of experts. The website owner knows their business better than anyone and I know websites. Not only does involving my client at every step of the process make for a better website, it gives them a real sense of it being theirs - and that ownership is great for the ongoing health of the website.

My customers often acknowledge that I’m careful to explain things—even the more technical issues—in layman’s terms. Baffling with science only distances the client from their website.

Finally ease of use for the end user is central to everything I design, and my clients get a lot of great feedback from visitors telling them what a breath of fresh air their website is to use.

What 3 pieces of advice would you give to small business owners needing a new website?

Am I allowed four…?

  1. Seek some advice before you begin. Paying for a few of hours of an expert’s time to help you clarify the road ahead is invaluable.
  2. Like most things, you get what you pay for. There are all sorts of ways to build a website; some are quick and low cost, others are more consultative and come at a premium. Work out what kind of budget you have available for your website and let your web designer work within that.
  3. Keep an eye on your analytics and optimise your design and wording accordingly. Nothing beats real visitor data. Not even the most experienced, well read, well informed web designer can get your site exactly right. Your analytics will tell you if your website’s visitors are leaving before they achieve what you want them to - send you an enquiry, join your mailing list, buy your product, etc. Your web designer will be able to help you optimise things over time so that your visitors are happier and your site achieves your business goals.
  4. Factor in ongoing maintenance work. Any piece of software (which is what a website is) needs maintenance – what was secure a couple of months ago may not be today. With regular care and attention any security issues will be patched and any bugs can be squashed. It can be time consuming and expensive to recover from after a hacked website so prevention is better than cure!

So what score would you give the tempertemper website out of 10?

This is a tricky one… In some ways it’s a Cobbler’s Children scenario. I’ve been working on lots of fairly intense contracts over the past 6 months or so and my poor website hasn’t had the attention it normally gets.

One thing I am very happy with is the design – stripped back and simple, works well on all screen widths, nice and readable and puts lots of emphasis on the content. Trouble is, the content could do with more attention! I’ve been getting back into a blogging rhythm and have been thinking about rewording the services section.

There are no big changes on the horizon as I tend to practice what I preach and work on my website iteratively: tweaking something, keeping an eye on how that tweak has affected visitors, tweaking again, and so on.

Let’s say it’s a solid 6.5 out of 10 :) but my customers always get 10 out of 10!

How do you market tempertemper?

I recently listened to a podcast where they were talking about the idea that you should have three avenues of creating leads. You can get away with sitting on a stool that only has two legs, but you’ve got to put a bit more effort in to sit comfortably – three legs is much more stable:

  1. The vast majority of my business comes from existing clients – referrals to another business owner they know or either fine tuning or adding features to their website.
  2. My second way to market tempertemper is by getting involved in the local web community – I run a monthly event (Frontend NE) where I meet lots of other businesses, some of whom have hired me to do their websites, some of whom have subcontracted me to work on one of their clients websites. Twitter also really helps here (I’m @tempertemper).
  3. The third way I market my business is often the most neglected… My blogging routine, email marketing, social media presence (Facebook in particular) and attention to search engine optimisation could really do with more energy.

Looking back, what marketing advice would you have given yourself when you started out?

Advice to myself starting out is to specialise. Don’t try and do everything yourself – find other people who are good at the things you’re working all hours to master. This frees up time to get really good at the things you love as well as spending more time with family. Also, get into co-working and desk sharing as soon as you can. Oh, and nobody expects you to give your time away for free, so make sure you charge for every hour you work.

What gadget, gizmo or app makes the most difference to you and your business?

Not including the various bits of software and hardware that I need to actually do the work I do, the gadget/gizmo/app that makes the most difference to my business is probably FreeAgent. As well as giving me a really good overview of cashflow and general income, it handles all of my bookkeeping, time-keeping, invoicing, payroll, VAT, tax, accounting, etc. Use that link above when signing up to get 10% off ;)

Why is a Newcastle base useful for tempertemper?

I’m not a Geordie, but I love being based in Newcastle (and the North East, of course). The local small business community is really welcoming and very generous with their time and advice.

Why did you decide on a Newcastle mailing address rather than an office address?

I enjoy renting desks at larger agencies or in co-working areas. I get to know lots of new people: other business owners to swap ideas with; other designers/developers like me to bounce ideas off; and other professionals with complementary skills (copywriters, brand experts, illustrators, photographers, etc.). Building these relationships is also a good way to get work, either directly from my co-workers or through referrals.

I like to make a change ever year or two, freshening up my surroundings and getting the opportunity to make new contacts. Changing my business address every time I move would be time consuming, so I have a Newcastle virtual address at Clavering House.

What’s next for you?

More of the same! I’m always on the look out for great clients who want to use their website to drum up new business.

Just contact me via my website

Thank you, Martin!