“Helping people and the planet through the power of website design is my mission” – Ruby Lee
We at BoxHuman are passionate about highlighting and celebrating inspiring humans; especially the ones who are inspiring, helping, and bringing light to the world. We do this to rebalance some of the negative messages we often hear, see, and receive daily. We met up quickly with one of these amazing individuals…
Hey Ruby, thank you for taking part in our BoxHuman Business Inspire Series. Let’s get started! Can you please tell me a little bit about you and what you do?
Hey! I’m Ruby and I run a website design studio in London, Studio 77. We create all sorts of websites from smaller scale Squarespace websites to advanced WordPress builds with custom CRMs.
We work mainly in what I call the feel-good sector. We love to work with brands and companies who specialise in creating moments of joy in people’s day, so health brands, fitness brands, vegan brands, ethical and sustainable brands.
Thank you for such a great introduction! Can you please tell us – How, when, and why did you get into website designing – What inspired you to do this?
I studied Graphic Design at college and immediately fell in love. I love the communication capabilities that design has when used intelligently. Design can be a powerful and influential tool. I tried my hand at a few different ‘strands’ of design, as you do when you’re in college. I tried fashion design, typography, interior design, photography, and whilst they all excited me, and satisfied my creative niggle, none of those quite felt like ‘the one’ for me.
I fell into the digital design space by accident to be completely honest. I had my first taste of a design job when I was around eighteen. I worked as a stylist in an independent fashion boutique. As the shop was pretty small, there was a lot of downtime in between styling clients and looking after the clothes, so I spent a lot of time on Photoshop on the laptop behind the counter.
I spoke to the owner of the shop and asked if I could get involved in helping design some social media posts, blogs and emails, as it would be great to put the skills I’d learned at college into use. She was thrilled and happily handed that responsibility over to me. So I started designing the weekly newsletter, writing blog posts, and creating graphics to accompany them. I created ‘looks of the week’ as they had in Grazia magazine, I loved it! So I continued to explore that route.
My next job was an in-house graphic designer for a larger fashion boutique selling designer clothes, think Vivienne Westwood, Armani, Versace. The role was quite similar but I was also tasked with updating the website and creating banners and web graphics. This was when I realised, hey, I’m actually pretty darn good at this stuff.
After working in fashion for a few years, I started to get bored. Everything had the same look and feel and I wanted to branch out and try something completely different, still within the digital design space, but something that would really challenge me. So I accepted a job as a front-end designer for a B2B technology agency. Quite a jump I know, but hey, variety is the spice of life.
I stayed there for two years and they taught me all the basic principles upon which I base a lot of my designs off today. I learned about user interfaces, user experience, personas, wireframes, all the basic website design principles. I suppose that, is the VERY long-winded answer to how I got into website design!
In terms of what inspires my designs. When designing anything, I think it’s really important to know who you’re designing for, so I ask a lot of questions in the form of personas and questionnaires before I begin any design task. So it’s more the strategy that inspires my designs as opposed to visual cues.
I do love looking at websites on awwwwards.com for inspiration though, they have some mindblowing website designs on there!
Wow, it’s really inspiring and interesting to hear how you’ve made it to where you are now! You can really ‘see’ the connecting dots in your career path. Tell me, what is your proudest achievement so far with running your own business and why?
Oh, that’s a toughie! Proudest public achievement probably has to be, being shortlisted as Enterprise Nation’s Female Entrepreneur of the Year 2019. I didn’t win, but being shortlisted was such an honour and the lady who won definitely deserved to win!
But I suppose the biggest achievement for me was actually having the courage to decide to start the business. Making that jump from having a safe regular(ish) salary (I was freelancing before I started Studio 77) and regular life, to running a business takes a tremendous amount of courage, effort, and ‘fuck it’s’ – so I’m proud of myself for that too. I’m not sure if I can swear so feel free to remove the ‘fuck it’s’ – sorry lol
That’s okay we like ‘realness’ in this magazine (lol)! Congratulations! Starting a business is something you should really be proud of because running a business isn’t easy. Knowing this, can you please tell us about any challenges you’ve faced and how you’ve overcome them?
I think a big thing I struggled with when I first started out was deciding how much to charge. It’s just one of those things you have to play around with until you find your happy place.
If you’re struggling with pricing, the best thing to do it talk to people in your space and ask them how much they charge. One thing I’ve found is that the business community is extremely supportive, entrepreneurs are always willing to help each other out! Community over competition!
Starting a business is a mini minefield of hurdles and challenges, it’s how you handle them that determines how successful you will be, in my opinion anyway! You’ve just got to accept that not everything will go the way that you plan and that’s ok! Be proactive and not reactive to frustrating situations, if somethings consistently not working, maybe you need to accept that what you’re doing isn’t working and you need to approach the situation from a different angle.
Don’t be stubborn to change! (I’ve made that mistake so you don’t have too!)
Some great advice Ruby, thank you! With so many websites looking so different…What do you think the top 3 trends will be in website design for 2020?
I’m going to say a very wanky ‘designer’ thing here, I don’t think people should base their website designs (or any design really) solely on trends. If your website is based on the latest trend, then when that trend fades, it’ll look ‘so last year darling!’.
Instead of trends, base your website on core principles, such as ensuring you have a clear navigation menu, clear call to actions using verbs, i.e. Schedule a call (you need to tell your users what you want them to do), using high-quality imagery, using the correct tone of voice, etc.
Some great ‘insider’ advice! As you previously mentioned ‘Community over competition’ Can we please now ask…What do you think people should learn or take from your own business story?
It took me a while to settle on website/app design (and I know I won’t be a website designer forever), I think taking your time to explore what you’re good at is always a good idea. Once you think you’ve found what you love, keep exploring!
I touched on this previously, but you’ve got to be adaptable. Our business is constantly growing and evolving and shifting, and that’s essential to a running healthy business. We used to just create Squarespace websites, which was quite limiting to our customers in terms of functionality, but now we have a development team that can build advanced custom applications and bespoke CRMs for our client base.
Which brings me nicely onto my next point – don’t be afraid to outsource/hire people to do the tasks that you can’t / don’t like to do. The last thing you want to do is start a business to end up creating a job that you hate because you’re always doing the tasks you don’t like!
Lastly, be positive! You’d be surprised how far a positive outlook on life can take you. If you get down every time you get ghosted by a client (it happens!), or if things don’t go perfectly as planned (as much as you try, you can’t control life’s outcomes), just smile and move on! There are no lows without highs and vice versa, just enjoy the journey of being your own boss! It’s very cheesy, but it’s true!
We like a bit of cheese here at BoxHuman and that was the perfect amount! Some brilliant and inspiring advice Ruby. If you don’t mind, I’d like to now ask you two more questions…What’s the hardest thing about your job/business? And…What piece of advice would you have liked to have known before you started your design business?
When you run a business, there’s a neverending list of ‘stuff’ that you need to / should be doing. FYI, you will never get the bottom of that list, and that is TOTALLY FINE.
I used to struggle a lot with time management. When I started out I was doing absolutely everything myself, social media, lead acquisition, designing websites, building websites, going to meetings, web maintenance, emails, accounting, and even phone calls. I had so many bloody hats I couldn’t fit them all on the hat rack, let alone my own head! This is a very common situation for most new business owners.
I think the most important thing is to be able to prioritise what is important and focus on getting those things done first. I organise my time using the default diary.
A default diary is a weekly plan of the specific, often recurring, tasks you have to complete each week, i.e. on Mondays I write out my weekly goals, Wednesdays I have an accountability call, Fridays I review my goals and finances and plan the following week.
It sounds simple, but by blocking out chunks of time in your diary to complete important business (and personal!) tasks really does help you focus more time working ON the business and not IN the business.
I would urge everyone to introduce a default diary into their routine, it will change your life!
With the different ‘hats’ situation, as the business starts to grow you can hire people to help you with these tasks. I now have an accountant, a web development team, a VA who helps with blog posts and social media. That gives me space to work on the more important things like client acquisition and living my life!
Also in terms of advice, I would also say, don’t start any work until a deposit has been made! Again, I have made that mistake so you don’t have to.
I could probably write a book on all the business advice that I’ve received and learned over the last year!
What advice would I like to have known? Don’t forget to have a life too! When I first started out I was working so hard I would neglect important times with friends and families to get the business off the ground. Whilst a huge amount of effort needs to be put in at the beginning of the business you need to make time for your friends and family! The business should work FOR YOU, not the other way around.
I think writing a book is a great idea! The amount of really useful and inspiring knowledge and advice you’ve shared today has been amazing! I think you should write a book specially written for newbie website designers. If you do ever decide to write one, we’d like a copy, please 🙂
Ruby. It’s sad to say, but we’re nearly at the end of our time together. I think this the perfect time to now start our quick BoxHuman Inspire questions…
1) What do you do to empower yourself on a daily basis?
2) Who inspires you and why?
3) What is your favourite quote and why?
I do daily affirmations in the morning which help put me in the right frame of mind for the day. I also read a lot of books on business and self-improvement, I’ve always got at least one book on the go. I’m currently reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I would highly recommend it. I think reading is a great way to continue learning new things every day!
I also exercise most mornings, which boosts my endorphins and gets me ready to face the day.
I am surrounded by so many inspiring people every day, it’s hard to pick just a few. One fearless female who is absolutely smashing life at the moment with her business, Twerk After Work, is Bami. (Would highly recommend booking a class, it’s like therapy for the soul, and the booty). She inspires and connects women through twerk fitness classes across the globe.
My favourite quote changes on a regular basis, but the moment it’s
“you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”.
Brilliant! Finally and to conclude this very inspiring interview…A BoxHuman is an empowered individual. They will not be defined by society’s labels. They show the better qualities of humankind, such as strength, kindness, and inspiration. Can you please tell us what makes you a BoxHuman?
We’re trying to combat climate with our website designs, for every website we design we donate £150 to Friends of the Earth through the Work For Good Scheme. We’ve donated just shy of £1,000 since July 2019, and we were actually in the top 10% of business donors in the Work For Good Scheme last year!
However that’s not quite enough for us, we like the more hands-on approach. Every quarter I also design and build a free website for a charity or NGO. I like to get to know the people and the causes that I’m helping personally and help them create a digital space to accept donations or secure investment from funders or grants.
In terms of me, separate from the business side of things, I also ran the London marathon back in 2015 with four colleagues and we raised just over £13,000 for Parkinson’s disease. That was a pretty epic experience (that I will never do again!).
I have also built a fair few websites for my friends who have been interested in starting their own businesses and helped them with the early stages of their businesses. Basically, I love helping people, and the planet, where I can. That’s what makes me a BoxHuman!
“Thank you, Ruby.”
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