Jeremie Tisseau of Morphosis tells about a user-centric approach to building websites & apps.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jeremie Tisseau: I didn’t get much affected by the virus. I just kept leaving my life as normal as I can in these conditions.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Morphosis.
Jeremie Tisseau: I was organizing an exchange language event back in Spain in 2016. Back then, Meetup or Eventbrite didn’t really exist yet, and to advertise the event; I had to create a website. I fell in love with web design right off the bat and decided to create a professional website straight away to sell my services. Three months later, I got my first client and started my freelance career. At the same time, I started to run a blog on my website where I would share some of my work with everyone for free. Eventually, that blog started to get some traction, and after one year, I was published in all the biggest web design publications on the web: Smashing Magazine, Speckyboy, etc… This brought a lot of traffic to my website, and eventually, more people started contacting me for work. After 2 years of doing this, I was ready to make the full jump and decided to start my business full-time. I initially created my business in Hong Kong back in 2010 but chose Thailand as my home.
For a long time, I worked as a freelance User Experience and User Interface (UX/UI) designer in Bangkok (meaning I design web interfaces), but as my reputation and demand for design grew over the years, it was time for me to expand and create an agency in Bangkok with a few designers called Morphosis Apps. Soon I realized it was hard to build quality products for our clients without controlling the full workflow from design to development. That’s when I decided to bring a partner who could help me build the technical department. Once that partner joined, we were able to grow the company from 8 people to now 60 people (and still growing) in less than 2 years. We now offer an end-to-end solution from design research and strategy, user experience and user interface design to web and mobile development, and now even SEO, Marketing, and Copywriting. Been a very difficult and challenging journey but also very rewarding.
How does Morphosis stay competitive in this landscape?
Jeremie Tisseau: There are a lot of digital agencies in Bangkok that are all offering very similar services at the same quality level. However, and because I was one of the very first UX/UI designers in Bangkok 12-10 years ago, we have been able to keep that edge despite the rapid growth, and we are still very well known in Bangkok in that field. This allowed us to always stay ahead of the competition until now.
That said, we don’t really see our competitors as a threat. Each of them has its own expertise and value proposition. Instead of competing head to head with them, we try to partner with them as much as possible by providing resources to them, getting help on specific domains of expertise for our clients, or simply augmenting our team when required. The demand for digital services is such that there’s enough work for everybody as long as you provide quality work.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Jeremie Tisseau: We really felt it at the beginning of last year since many of our clients are in the travel industry. We also lost some other clients who got affected a little bit that year, which really impacted our business. We were lucky enough, however, to be able to secure some large clients who helped us go through that year. 2020 has been a difficult year, but since then, the business has been booming again. We have more clients than ever and now need to double our recruitment efforts to be able to cope with the demand. I think this Corvid situation helped many businesses understand the importance of going digital, and they now all invest heavily into it, which really helps us move forward.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Jeremie Tisseau: We thought about it but never had to take action on it in the end (thank god!). Having to lay off people would have had a negative, if not disastrous, impact on our employees’ morale. We did everything we could to avoid it, including investing more of our personal savings into the company to keep it afloat during the difficult months. During that time, I have learned to keep a positive mindset, be resilient, focused, and creative. There’s always a way out, but you can’t let stress overwhelm you and cloud your judgment. It is also important to stay calm and positive in front of employees during difficult times and even more critical to empower them to make their own decisions and take more responsibility. You need all the help you can during a hard time, and your employees are always your best assets to help you solve these problems. I have to say, we came out of corvid with a stronger team than ever, and this allowed us to reinforce our operations faster than expected. A very positive outcome in the end.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Jeremie Tisseau: Going from 8 people to 60 required settings a lot more processes, having a middle management to deal with day-to-day operations, and keeping quality at a high level. To be able to manage projects, we use different tools such as Jira for project management, Harvest to keep track of the time, Confluence to document everything, and Gdrive to share the work and documents directly with clients.
Communication is also critical to our business. We mostly use Slack and Google Meet to communicate with our clients on a daily basis. Slack allows us to keep the conversation focused on different topics by creating different channels within it. As we are a design company, we also use Figma and Invision to share the design with clients and get constant feedback.
We also schedule a lot of User Experience (UX) workshops with our clients to be able to quickly and efficiently extract as much information as possible about their business, users, goals, technical constraints, and vision for the product. This allows us to build better products faster at a lower cost while keeping a high-quality level.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Jeremie Tisseau: Nope.
What’s your long-term vision?
Jeremie Tisseau: Our long-term vision for our business is to turn this agency into a consultancy. We partly offer consultancy already with UX research, but we want to take it to the next level. Doing design and development is only the execution part and has very little value to our clients unless we can help them grow their business by either improving their current solutions or creating new ones to target new verticals. To do so, we need to bring more experts and consultants to Morphosis to help us provide advanced user research, market research, technologies, business strategies, etc., to get a better understanding of what are the need of users, pain points, and opportunities in the market with the goal to offer stronger strategies and solutions to our clients. We also want to be more data-driven by tracking users’ usage (heatmaps, funnels, etc…) to get a better understanding of what works or not in our design and thus increase the conversion in the long term.
In order to reach our goal, we need to grow the company from 60 to 100-150 people within the next couple of years. Eventually, we want to compete against the likes of other digital consultancies such as ThoughtWorks or FrogDesign, for example.
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