About Jennifer Feurer
“Designing a website is a lot like making a film. There are countless contributors and elements to keep on track plus unexpected challenges to be overcome — and in the end, many pieces join together to create the whole. To me, code really is poetry, and a well-designed website is pure art.”
My Website Career Started With Film School
My first post-secondary education was in film production, and I graduated with a diploma in Cinema, Television, Stage and Radio Arts. For a kid who was supposed to grow up to be a lawyer (according to my grandmother, anyway), discovering that path was a long-shot.
I got my love of movies from my Dad, but never imagined I could do more than watch them on screen. Then, the summer before 12th grade, I landed my “dream” job as a movie extra. I was one of a few hundred samurai in a film and spent weeks learning how to march in formation, dodge charging horses, and carry a sword. Some of the “older” extras (in their 20’s) grew disgruntled because it was so hot and the armor was heavy. But I loved it and just kept thinking, “I can’t believe I get paid for this!” After my previous fast food jobs, this work was heaven.
During the shoot, I got to know a few of the young adults who were in charge of the extras. They were all students or recent graduates of Canadian film schools. It was a revelation to discover that there was a place to study filmmaking and turn it into a career. Of course, I started exploring my options and applied for the program at SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary — film production, camera, lighting, and TV studio work. It was a hard program to get into, and I didn’t even tell my parents I had applied there until I got the acceptance letter.
Once I got the acceptance letter, I had to do a bit of convincing. My extended family assured my parents that “She’s ruining her life” because I wasn’t going to university. Luckily, my parents had enough faith in me to let me pursue my passion. The money from being an extra paid for my first year of film school.
Working in Film Was a Total Immersion Experience
Film school–and the film industry—is total immersion. You live, eat and breathe film 24 hours a day. It is all you talk about, think about, or care about. During school breaks, I worked on film projects for room and board which led to paid gigs after graduation. I spent a few years mostly living out of hotels with movie crews. Alberta was a hot spot for filming at the time, and I worked alongside Hollywood stars like Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins and Jon Voight.
I started as a grip (grips are lighting and rigging technicians) because I always loved being in the thick of things. It was a physically demanding job and I was the only female grip in the province at the time. I remember being up to my knees in wet, freezing snow in the dead of winter and wondering, “Will I still be able to do this in 20 years?”
Moving Indoors in Film Let Me Discover the Computer as a Design Tool
My freezing backside and “advancing years” (I was 22) drove me to seek indoor work in the film production office. I worked on various shows as an assistant production coordinator, a production coordinator, and an assistant project manager. The work was in a nice warm office but I missed being in the middle of all the action. I no longer felt connected to the shooting process. Still trying to find my niche, I kept exploring jobs on set to see what could be a good fit but nothing else appealed to me like gripping.
I was still driven by the clarity that it would be wise to move on before I was too old to keep doing what I was doing—and before I was so entrenched that I had no other marketable skills outside of the film industry. Then, luckily, I got loaned out to the props department and created some set decoration pieces on their computer. I remember thinking, “This is how we should be doing everything.” In those days, scripts and script changes were still being typed and re-typed on a typewriter! I’d grown up playing basic computer games but now I was inspired to start learning all the software I could get my hands on. I started by buying the assistant director’s computer at the end of my last film.
Next Career Adventure—Desktop Publishing and the Digital Age
After some research, I decided to explore desktop publishing. During a seasonal lull in film work, I completed a few desktop publishing classes. Those led to an internship for a technical writing company, which turned into a job. As I worked for the company, we advanced into the digital world, delivering more and more of our work online and on CD.
This transition inspired me to study HTML and sparked an interest in delivering content across multiple media (print and online). At this point, the job became a multimedia tech job and grew to include project management. As the production specialist, I was the last person in a chain of writers, illustrators and editors. A constant source of aggravation was when work from others was delivered late to my desk. That meant that, because client deadlines did not change, it was up to me to make up for the lost time.
Working as a “Cog in the Wheel” Motivated Me to Study Multimedia and Manage My Own Projects
The consistent frustration of slipping deadlines (by others) had me spending many late hours playing catch-up. Once again, I decided to re-examine my options. I was asking myself how I could isolate myself from crises caused by the poor planning of others. More than that, I yearned to be in total control of my own time and projects.
Around this time, SAIT Polytechnic started a new Multimedia program. I enrolled in the second year of the program, and because I had a good deal of experience under my belt, I got in pretty easily this time. Again, I totally immersed myself, and added a specialty in Multimedia to my diploma program.
After finishing my Multimedia training, I went back to the technical writing company, and negotiated a different position for myself. I had continued working for them part-time while in school so I proposed that if they wanted someone who could move all their company deliverables online, we should create a job for me to do it.
I helped move them into the digital age, along the way winning an Award of Excellence from the Society for Technical Communication for user-friendly design in online communication. By the time I left, I was the Director of Online Communication.
Downsizing Opened the Door to Freelancing
A shakeup between the firm’s partners eventually led to major downsizing. Since I had already been freelancing part-time, I decided to launch my business as a full-time operation, and the transition was fairly easy. The clients I had built up helped make Arch Web Marketing successful from the start. My clients have included YWCA, Canadian Pacific Railway, Challenger, EnCana, M-Tech (Hitachi), and Stantec, plus work for dozens of entrepreneurs and independent professionals.
A Passion for Usability From the Start
From my earliest days creating websites, I’ve visited countless dismal sites that just did not work for the user — and as a result, for the owner of the site. Early on, there were no educational programs that talked specifically about web usability (the study of making something easy and intuitive to use). There were next to no guidelines or standards for web designers on how to make the site visitor’s experience enjoyable and productive. I had a passion for usability and absorbed everything I could from industry leaders like Jakob Nielsen and Jared Spool.
I was one of the first to receive designation as an HFI-Certified Usability Analyst (six month online self–study), or in layman’s terms, certified in designing websites from the perspective of the user. My goal was to be able to build websites that combined the best of form and function. It was no longer about just putting up a site and making it pretty—the focus has to be on the person in front of the computer—your target market. My main intention is to make sure your site visitors get the information they want as quickly and painlessly as possible.
My Conversion to Websites Built to Market Your Business
For years I studied marketing indirectly, following the advice of established marketers like Robert Middleton and Jill Konrath, and I’ve taken courses in marketing as part of my ongoing studies toward a BA of Professional Communications. My own business has done well, but like any service professional, I’ve experienced the ebb and flow of attracting new business. Finally, I became convinced that the best value I can give my clients is to create websites with the marketing strategy already built in.
With this major shift in my approach to website development, my next logical step was to learn everything possible from one of the best marketing professionals. After deep research, I chose to study with Robert Middleton. I was attracted by both his open approach and sensible, well thought out methods. I took the leap to join his extensive training program and his principles now completely inform all my web projects.
Now My Passion Is to Make Websites That Market for You
Over time, I’ve grown frustrated seeing clients fail to understand and embrace how effective online marketing contributes to their overall business success. A successful website requires ongoing, consistent activity and refinement. Just putting up a website is not the end of marketing your business. It’s really just the beginning of an exciting new way of connecting and engaging with your prospects.
All too often I hear from people who have wasted their money, time and resources building a site without ever considering how to market their new site. The only approach that makes sense is to build all the needed marketing elements into the site from the beginning, and to make it a platform that simplifies and systematizes your marketing efforts so you can focus on the work you do best. My commitment to my clients is to incorporate that approach into every site I design, create and build.
Where to Next?
Now that you know who we are, take a minute to read testimonials from happy clients. Or if you’re ready to explore working together, go ahead and contact us so we can learn more about you and your business.