We Are Full Stop.
Full Stop Interactive1 , the mutant child of Jay Fanelli and Nathan Peretic, was conceived, in a way, on this day one year ago. It had become clear at the time that neither of us would be satisfied by anything less than absolute control of the web design and development process and, more importantly, results that met our own exacting standards. Luckily, we had complementary skills and personalities — religious and political differences notwithstanding. Between the two of us, we had a designer and a developer. We had an obsession with making websites friendly, usable, and useful. We had experience and exuberance. We had gumption.2
Thus fullstopinteractive.com was registered. The first wobbly step had been taken towards a future partnership. Months of planning and prepping would still need to pass before we could finally unveil the newly formed company. LLC papers would need to be filed, a charter written, computers purchased, clients aligned, and projects from the old job wrapped up. Each passing day, however, confirmed that the path we had chosen was the right one. The economy was a mess, only the strong would survive. We couldn’t wait to get started.
This isn’t a look back at the first year, though, so we’ll get to the point. We’d like to introduce ourselves and lay out our core principles. Please enjoy.
A bit about Nate.
I have a reputation for … dissidence. This reputation is well-earned, I suppose. It is a predictable response to my personality3. I don’t hesitate to express my point of view despite the real and unfortunate possibility of hurting people’s feelings. This is not intentional. In fact, I work diligently to improve my interpersonal relations. Those who have known me a long time admit I’m less abrasive than I once was. Those who have just met me find that hard to believe.
While the potential effect of my intransigence is a wake of flaming bridges, the conviction that lies at its heart is real and unapologetic. I am arguing for truth and principle. (To be clear, it’s never personal and never petty.) We are in the arena of ideas, and to quote Richard Weaver, ideas have consequences. To concede a point in the interest of compromise or likability is to forfeit my role as advocate for your business, your audience, and your welfare. To accept your money and do anything less would be unconscionable.
Aside from being a cold-hearted freedom fighter, I’m also (subjectively speaking) widely-read, shamelessly egotistical, and no mean hand at HTML/CSS.
So when I had the pleasure of being bossed around for a few months by an older, wiser version of myself, I knew I’d found the ideal business partner. The unstoppable Jay Fanelli guides clients with ease from one mountaintop of euphoria to the next. He designs stunning interfaces that work. He upsets the industry apple cart with callouts and beatdowns. If only he could write more than 101-level CSS, he’d be a perfect ten.
That Jay kid.
Management and I never got along. Not at my first job, not at the one after that, nor the next one, and certainly not at my last one. By the time I’d reached my late twenties, I’d managed to piss off someone of import at nearly every interactive shop in Pittsburgh (along with a deli manager and the dean of a design school). At every stop of my career, I’d drop anchor and within weeks, start sniffing for the politics, the contradictions, the bullshit. I was unafraid to confront those in charge and suggest course corrections, the cumulative effect often leading to my eventual dismissal. After many misdiagnoses, I learned that I suffered from an acute and terminal case of “you’re doing it wrong”-itis. I hopped from job to job, sometimes industry to industry, hoping to find the employer that would reward me with a generous salary and comfortable working environment in return for my unveiled suggestions on the myriad ways they were ruining their business. I never found one.
It turns out, despite my altercations with the brass, I was quite competent at my job. I easily developed friendly, honest, and fun relationships with clients. My designs and creative direction resulted in portfolio-worthy projects. I endeared myself to my teammates by always being the one to step up and take the bullets. When I started meeting potential clients and winning business, I knew that I had the goods to run my own shop.
And when I met Nate a few years ago, a brash but alarmingly intelligent 22-year-old with a knack for bold—but thus far accurate—predictions about the future of the Internet, a young Jedi’s precocity for front-end development, and business guts to spare, I knew I had a partner.
In no particular order, we’d like to thank the following people and companies4 for providing the intellectual scaffolding for attempting this uncertain venture. Go read everything they have to say. When you come back (in about twelve months), what we’re going to say next will make a whole lot more sense.
- Andy Rutledge
- David Sherwin
- Eric Karjaluoto
- Kathy Sierra
- Jeff Atwood
- Seth Godin
- Jeffrey Zeldman
- Clay Shirky
These are the talented voices of the web. They are the leaders who balance words with action. Without their freely given advice and Internet pioneering, Full Stop would not exist, and the state of the industry would be poor indeed.
We’re about to pour a bucket of pink link paint in the next section and still miss half the bookmarks we would like to include. It might seem like overkill, but we want you to know something: these aren’t our ideas. They are the ideas of those who have come before us and paved the way. We respect them and want them to receive all the credit.
We owe them a debt that cannot be repaid.
Whether you’re a potential client or an industry colleague5, we want to make a few things clear.
Full Stop Interactive is just that — a shop dedicated to doing online, interactive work. If it isn’t online, we probably shouldn’t be doing it. We think ahead in our use of technology, our visual design, and our user experience. Our intuition for what’s next and what’s worth doing is highly developed by years of experience and immersion. We eat, sleep, and breathe the Internet. I wish I could say that was an exaggeration, but it isn’t.
Your typical agency is a gaggle of titles interested only in a paycheck. We are the anti-agency. We are a small team of people who care about the web. We feel the pain, do the work, support the product. We aren’t invested in the status quo. Remember 37signals? The original 37signals? Ditto.
We write straightforward, compelling proposals that aren’t stuffed with fluff about sites designed and built by people who’ve long since left the company. Our contracts are in plain English, no lawyers necessary. We trust you, you trust us. (If you don’t inspire trust, we won’t be working together. It’s quite simple.)
We believe price signals to potential customers how to value our services. Low prices mean miserable projects, manipulative clients, and shoddy work. These are unacceptable. We price our services on a per client basis. What we charge one client may inform but not dictate what we charge another client for similar or even identical deliverables.
We focus on networked media because that is the present and the future. The potent combination of large, crisp, color screens and always-on data connections is transforming society. We choose to be at the forefront of that wave—not beyond the bleeding edge where mistakes are too easy to make nor well back with the dinosaurs where money may eventually trickle but relevance has been abandoned.
Digital bits and pieces are infinitely malleable, copyable, and, ahem, stealable. We understand that the code we hand off to you at the end of the project does not constitute the value we bring, it reflects it. Our work is not a commodity. Our value is our experience, our accessibility, our authenticity, our ability to diagnose your web needs and meet them. It’s true you have a website when all is said and done, but we trust the lesson in digital distribution does not go unheeded.
Social media is not a fad. The Internet has only enabled what people have always done: talk to, observe, and entertain one another. Twitter and Facebook may fade way. The act of sharing information with friends and strangers online won’t. The Internet is a community, and each site is a microcosm of it.
Our primary audience is always those who will be using what we make. Those who pay us to build are best served by that commitment.
Before our work has even left our hands it is already old. We work with our clients to create fluid and lasting experiences. We do not print our work to be admired. We do not publish our work to rot on physical media.6 We teach and train those we partner with to understand the Internet’s peculiar rules and how to harness its immense power to delight their constituents.
We are not afraid to say no to projects. We demand respect, and we deserve to be paid fairly. We control the relationships with those we choose to work with, not because we are egomaniacs but because it is the only way to ensure the project is brought to its fullest potential and, well, we’re the experts. (To be honest, people we work with say we’re nice, so take that for what it’s worth.)
Although we are idealistic, we’re also realistic. Not every project goes according to plan; if there is a problem, we work to resolve it in accordance with our principles. The budget, the scope, or the deadline must shift to accommodate the new circumstances.
We do not compromise on what the client needs merely to satisfy what the client wants. Our expertise is unimpeachable, and we use it to steer the client toward the best possible product. If the client is intractable, we do not hesitate to part ways. We strive to avoid the appearance of condescension and arrogance. Though we believe in our principles, we avoid making enemies unnecessarily. Tact, diplomacy, and friendliness are the order of the day. We neither compromise nor shrink from a challenge. That said, we’re willing to admit when we’re wrong. The goal is to make a great website not prove a point.
These are our principles. They dictate our process, our relationships, the success of our projects. They are who we are in words. They are the end of the story, FULL STOP.
- Incidentally, Full Stop was the first and only name we considered. It’s clear, easy to say, and communicates exactly who we are. You might as well skip the rest of this post. [↩]
- Sadly for everyone else, we also had an itch to write long, tedious blog posts. [↩]
- INTJ, remember? [↩]
- Not even close to a comprehensive list. Perhaps subconsciously inspired by Contrast’s “My heroes…“. [↩]
- Timeout to pimp Unit Interactive’s excellent brand synopsis. [↩]
- But, you know, good for those who do. We love books and magazines as much as anyone. Newspapers? Not so much. [↩]