Alexandru Paduraruand Cristina Conacel created a network called Creative Tim as an upcoming freshindependently crafted HTML / UI marketplace that sells stylized kits for thenext generation of design forward founders, focusing on creating products thatusers wanted to see themselves in. Grids, cards, and UI elements for the nextsocial network have been crafted in a way that shows authentication. The simpleBootstrap HTML, CSS and JS assets are said to get the job done, and donebeautifully with the team working wee-hours into the night.
Before Creative Tim,Alex and Cristina had a small design agency positioning themselves to createsimple one to three page websites for clients. "We were working ondifferent web projects for our faculty courses, then our friends asked if wewould like to create a simple website that they could use. Since we liked tocreate 'out-there' and user focused products, our friends loved what we builtand then we've got other clients, seeking a website of the same breed. At thetime we were only 2 people working from Starbucks".
Duringtheir design discovery process for a particular project, they realized therewas a large amount of redundancy in creating new assets for every client."Every time we created a website for a client, we had to recreate all theelements from scratch. Because there was two of us, we needed to optimize thisprocess in every way in order to give our clients a prototype at a deadlinethey required", Alex said and continued by saying that in simplifying theelements through its CSS they created basic templates and plugins that they"template" to speed up our development process. "We thought thatif we had this problem there must be other agencies or freelancers who alsohave this similar issue. So we decided to share these elements for free withothers" - Cristina .
"Inthe beginning we got inspiration from Apple. Starting with their iOS7 we lovedtheir apps design, their colors, their gradients, their buttons, theirminimalistic interface, everything seemed as it should. We knew that the bestway for us to learn how to create great web design was by setting a very highstandard. Then we started to move to different design trends and ideas, most ofthem inspired by top designers from Dribbble", Alex said. The team atCreative Tim has grown to seven, whom all of have a unique sense of style andhave the technical resources to deliver large HTML files again focusing on thequality and richness in code, layout and color options. Alex, at the beginningself-performed most of the Design and the HTML/CSS conversion while, Cristinatook care of platform growth. Now with five more designers, marketers andcoders the design implementation and product promotion is shared, and thesuccess is obvious. Their assets and kits are in homes of over 110,000designers and developers.
Wesit down with the team to cover the ins and outs in starting an agency fordesign assets and where they are headed to next.
So Alex, walk me through a busy day for you. Where doyou start. I'm not a morning person, so I arrive at the office around11am. Today, we have a small team, 7 people, and we are a group ofjacks-of-all-trades and master of none. For a couple of hours I take care ofthe customer emails and support, helping the team with different items andmanagement stuff. In the afternoon I implement different design ideas forcurrent products or our ways to uplift our website. I am also looking to getnew collaborations and affiliations with other companies. My creative spark comesto me in the middle of the night. Here, I go deep into design mode, to testcreative or crazy ideas all between 1am and 3-4am.
Share with us your success and how you measured it.I think that I can measure my success and our startup's success by how manypeople we help with our web interfaces. We want to see that there are greatwebsite everywhere, that's why we offer a lot of great web interfaces for Free.At this moment our products were used by over 110.000 web developers, some ofthem use them for their projects, some of them used them for their clientsprojects. If we take into consideration that each website, built with ourproducts, is used by thousands of viewers then the success scale iscontinuously growing.
Walk me throughthe start of a new product. Most of our products are a result of whatour customers requested so we start by getting a lot of feedback for newproducts. Then based on the trends and ideas that are on the web, we create aproduct that will help our users and is following a current web design trend.If we see buttons and elements with big colored shadows, then our users deservethe best so we add those to our products. We create a big list that outlinesfeatures, pages and sections that will be created for the new product and then wespend a lot of time doing research on Dribbble. I also like to keep in my“secret ideas folder” everything that I see during the day: if I see a newinteresting animation or a design idea on a website, I save it there and on thefirst occasion that we have, I add that idea to our products.
Out of all ofthe kits, which one is your favorite and why? At this moment I'm veryproud of the UI Kit that we've built over Google's famous Material Design. It'scalled Material Kit and it is taking the Material Design to the next level byadding to it some style, class and elegance. We like the structure of MaterialDesign and how Google created a standard for all devices using Android, but wedidn't like how it looked. It was like a product that was released in thedevelopment mode, they didn't want to polish it. So we joined the game andadded our design ideas. At this moment this is our most popular product, basedon downloads and revenue.
How did you start to market your free and paid kits?We used multiple platforms for sharing our products. Since the kits were welldesigned and used a verity of color schemes, they sold themselves, and manytimes were featured on communities like Product Hunt, Reddit, Hacker News. Weare also sharing our products on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+,Pinterest, Behance and Dribbble pages. I think the best strategy is to bepresent on all the mediums, so you don'thave to depend on a single source of traffic.
You mentionedApple was a large influencer for your team. Do you have a runner up? Weare still looking at what Apple is launching and what design trends they aresetting. We like Startups that are design-driven like InvisionApp, Stripe,Medium etc. We also follow what our Romanians friends like Cosmin Capitanu (https://dribbble.com/Radium), IonutZamfir (https://dribbble.com/ionuss),or Virgil Pana (https://dribbble.com/virgilpana)are posting on Dribbble because they are trendsetters with tens of thousands offollowers.
Would you tell your younger self to freelance or startat an agency? I think the best way, for a young creative to learnquickly is to go into an agency so he can learn the basic staff, get someexperience and also get paid routinely. Then after the job, he can work at hometo develop his own design ideas. In this way he gets experience from bothsides. If he is a great designer and wants to take this to the next level andwork only as a freelancer, then he can slowly move from working with the agencyto getting his / her own clients.
What is Creative Tim's largest challenge? Iwould change the way web developers and freelancers interact with webtemplates, ui kits or dashboards. Today, when user download or buy a web kitthey get it as an archive on their computer (like in the olden days, when onepurchased CDs and DVDs). So, when there is a new release, our users have todownload the kit again and replace the files with the new ones. Moreover, theyhave a lot of dependencies with the new files. Probably each web developer ordesigner is using just 10% from what they buy, and that 10% is always differentdepending on each end user's needs. In the future we want to change this with asolution that is in the cloud. You will be able to configure what you will buyand you will have always everything updated.
"Anessential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail” - EdwinLand. You should be open to new design trends, you have to learn the basics ofdesign, typography or how to combine colors and you should be proud of what youcreate. Don't be afraid to show peoplewhat you've created and you shouldn't take the feedback about your creation toopersonal (I know, this is the hardest part when you present to the world yourawesome baby). You should try to solve aproblem with your design and not to create one just because you like how the“buttons can fly over the page”. I recommend the “Don't Make Me Think - ACommon Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug (https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Make-Me-Think-Usability/dp/0321344758)”