You do what you do, we do what we do

You do what you do, we do what we do

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Every once in a while, one of our clients comes along with an awesome story about how managed hosting has changed their business for the better. We adore those stories. And every once in awhile, it’s a story that’s too cool not to share with the rest of you.

The challenges of being a creative agency in LA

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Photo courtesy of Clay Larsen

Say hello to Funkhaus. It’s a creative agency that’s been in LA for about four years now. Maybe ninety percent of their clients are in the film, commercial, and TV production world of Hollywood. “They’re the production companies behind the actual execution of a commercial or TV show or feature film.” So says Drew Baker, the technology director at Funkhaus.

It’s a unique niche with a unique set of challenges. For example, the majority of the sites that Funkhaus produces are relatively lightweight. “At least from a technical point of view,” Baker said. “Some HTML, some JavaScript, and some images. And the images are probably bigger than most, but that’s kind of it.”

While Funkhaus does have some larger, more content-driven sites, the majority that they produce aren’t heavily trafficked. That’s just not what the sites are for.

Reliable sites for a small but critical audience

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Photo courtesy of Alden Jewell

“That’s the interesting thing about the commercial production world we operate in or the Hollywood world in general is that the traffic is different,” Baker said. “Think about something like Vogue or Cosmopolitan. Their whole business is built around getting as many eyeballs as possible. Get pageviews off the charts. But when you think about who our clients are normally, they’re trying to get someone at an ad agency to award them a job. The size of the audience isn’t that important. You’d rather get the right five people looking at the site than a hundred million people.”

One of the challenges of working with Hollywood production clients is that a lot of Funkhaus’ clients are all competing directly against each other. “We have to try really hard to think outside the box every time,” Baker said. “We have to build something that’s unique but kind of doing the same thing.”

Tough to do when clients frequently show up with requests like, “Make me something like x website but make it different.”

But no sweat. That’s Funkhaus’ job. The agency favors a minimalistic approach to design that puts their clients’ work on center stage. “Our goal has always been that people come to one of our clients’ websites and leave thinking, ‘Wow that work was incredible, and the website was good.’ Not ‘Wow, what a cool website,’” Baker said. “There’s a big difference, I think.”

However, the importance of the work being showcased led Funkhaus to another challenge. Their clients’ work may not be reaching a hundred million people, but it’s got to be available to the right people — eg, advertising agencies, directors, and other talent. And it’s got to be available at critical moments.

“When one of their sites goes down for a day or an hour or five minutes,” Baker said, “well, we can’t have that.”

Obviously, the reliability of managed WordPress hosting with strong hacker protection and fast customer support is a must.

Quick load times for content-driven sites with heavy traffic

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Photo courtesy of Ian McKenzie

Fortunately, the awesomeness that is Flywheel managed hosting isn’t just about reliably keeping sites online 24/7. We mentioned earlier that Funkhaus has larger, more content-driven sites in addition to their lightweight, audience-specific sites.

“Once we felt we had this kind of commercial, Hollywood-business angle under control,” Baker said, “we thought, let’s experiment with what we think is an emerging market in digital publication.”

The needs of sites housing online publications are, of course, different than a site designed to attract Hollywood talent. “Traffic-wise, their audiences are much bigger,” Baker said, “and it’s pageviews, pageviews, pageviews, and then all of a sudden you’re in this scaling problem.” These sites have to be fast and load quickly.

“In this tech world, one or two seconds equals slow,” Baker said. “But where are you going to chase your performance gains? Are you going to minimize all your JavaScript and minimize all your CSS and, you know, chase down these nth percentile performance increases? Which you totally could do but it would take hours and hours. And we do some of that stuff, to some extent.”

So, yes, you could chase those small percentages yourself. Or you could do what Funkhaus did, which was put a migration request into us. We have to applaud their grit: They put their own site on Flywheel before moving over any of their clients.

We must have made a good impression. Funkhaus is now moving their more content-driven clients over to Flywheel that need the extra speed.

Easy onboarding for the most change-averse clients

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Photo courtesy of Marko Zanoski

Of course, few people are huge fans of change, particularly when it comes to their business practices. Baker mentioned that a few of their clients were nervous about switching up their hosting.

“For global companies, the CDN stuff becomes really important,” he said. “And you have to prove the speed. So it’s always sort of tough.” For more reluctant clients, Funkhaus took advantage of our free migrations to set up mirror sites to allow for A/B testing.

Though the proven speed gains are attractive to their clients, Baker pointed out that it’s our low-barrier entry that’s attractive to Funkhaus. “It was the account management features,” he said. “You didn’t have to have 60 logins. All the password management problems went away.”

As a result, Funkhaus’ onboarding process has streamlined. They just invite a client to become an owner of an account on Flywheel, where they can enter all their credit information without Funkhaus having to get login info.

“Most hosting companies, they make you jump through hoops,” Baker said. “I have to learn how those guys do things.” What he gets at Flywheel, he said, is the ability to “let you guys do what you do, and let us do what we do.”

What Funkhaus does is create beautiful, minimalist sites for high-profile clients in the commercial production industry. What Flywheel does is make certain those sites stay online and stay fast.

“When clients stop calling, that’s the best compliment you can get,” Baker said. “When it works, it works.”

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