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Astagatech: Web Design with the X-Factor

Astagatech is a full service web design and development company priding itself on developing elegant, user-friendly and mobile-responsive websites, on time and on budget. We meet with General Manager, Andy Roberts to find out more about the world of web design and build and Search Engine Optimisation. 

When was astagatech established and why did you feel the need to launch a web design and development company in Jakarta?

We started up fairly recently, in 2014. We were already working on cool designs for some other online startups of ours, and had a really good team together. We could see there was a huge gap in the market for funky, elegant web designs that took full advantage of open source technology to cut down on both price and development time.

Let’s talk about the name of your company. Was there any particular reason why you chose the Indonesian word ‘astaga’? 

Yes! We also own the astaga.com domain, so that was the initial inspiration. I also like the energy you get from the ‘astaga’ part (for those non Bahasa-speakers, a loose translation is “oh my God!”).

How many people do you have on your team today? On what basis do you hire your web developers and coders? What coding abilities must they possess?

We’re rapidly growing – we currently have around eight people working full-time on astagatech. We also have around five other startups operating out of the office, so it’s starting to get a little crowded.

We have a mantra here – we don’t hire jerks! First and foremost, you need to fit into the company culture, which is about innovation, inspiration and being proud of the work you do. Obviously design and coding skill is extremely important, but we’d rather hire someone who is a little more inexperienced and full of passion rather than someone who is technically brilliant, but jaded and lacking spark.

We’ve come a long way in the last five years in Indonesia in terms of internet speed, availability and the design and functionality of websites. What issues do you still see in Indonesia today with regards to web design?

I think companies are still getting their heads around the concept of ‘mobile first’. Every single one of our sites is mobile friendly ‘out of the box’, so to speak. Google has recently implemented ‘mobilegeddon’ into its search algorithm, which means non-mobile-friendly sites are automatically pushed down the pecking order. However, so many companies still put out sites that are non-mobile responsive. It’s crazy, especially with the amount of smartphones versus laptops/desktop PCs in Indonesia.

What do you do at astagatech to really get to grips with who your client is and what their brand represents? 

We always run a business analysis first, and figure out what your metrics of success are for the website. In other words, what will get you promoted? Whether it’s sales revenue, branding, unique visitors, sessions or page-views, or even Facebook shares – we gather an understanding of what your key drivers are before we even consider the technologies that might help.

Can you give us a brief rundown of your web-design and build process from beginning to end? 

Well, we always scope out the client, their business and their clients to begin with. Often, depending on how large the job is, we will split it into stages, with the ‘must have’ portion delivered first, and the ‘nice to have’ parts delivered in subsequent stages.

We try to use open-source platforms such as WordPress or Joomla! as much as possible, depending on the client’s requirements. It means that there are a tonne of cheap plugins that can do amazing things, as well as giving the client options to move to another web designer without having to re-do the site from scratch. Luckily, none of our clients have ever left us, but it just gives them that transparency.

‘Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance’ is a motto your company lives by. Do you feel these five Ps differentiate your company from the crowd?

Yes – that was a motto one of my old IT managers had back in Australia. Ex-army guy. I’ve kind of stolen it (thanks Ian!) since it really does save time and money. If you’re not 100% sure on how the job will proceed, don’t send out the quote.

You use ‘sprint methodology’ to communicate extensively with your clients. Can you explain to us what this is and why it’s an integral part of your business?

Sprinting is a term used in the Agile method of software development. In plain terms, it means that we split projects up into short sprints of a week or two each, culminating in the completion of a certain part of the job. Some jobs are completed within a single sprint, whereas others may take a few. The overall goal of this method is to agree on what needs to be done over a short period of time, and just get it done! If it looks like we are falling behind on a sprint, that’s when we put the afterburners on and clock some overtime. This means that jobs are generally completed on time, since we don’t allow blowouts along the way.

In your expert opinion, what is the most effective way of delivering a message to targeted audiences online today?

Keep it simple and visual. No one has time to click through mountains of text, and we often ‘eat with our eyes’.

Also, it’s worth understanding that different demographics have different browsing habits.

What’s the most challenging part of building a website?

I’d say communication, which is something we work very hard at. So many clients get upset at their web designer since their communication has been off since the beginning. Sometimes the client doesn’t really understand what they want.

I remember a client back in Australia asking “Can I please just have more, you know..” and breaking out into ‘jazz hands’, snapping her fingers. It’s then my job to break that down into tangible goals, often by asking the client to show me websites they think nail this indefinable aspect.

How do you ensure that your projects are completed on time?

Sprinting and ensuring we communicate well within the team. Don’t tell me something is rusak near the end of the sprint – let me know immediately, and we can try to mitigate the problem and come up with other approaches.

Your company also focuses on Search Engine Optimisation. What kinds of things should we be doing as website owners? For instance, what’s a good goal to set for our SEO?

Always use plain text URLs and ensure your XML sitemap is updated properly. Be mobile friendly. For example, we’ve just finished a promotion on our yacht charter site for the Thousand Islands (www.spiceislandcharters.com/pulauseribu) with some decent text, and it’s already showing up in Google organically a week later.

What about SEO has changed in the last few years?

There used to be a huge amount of black hat ‘link builders’ operating all over the world who would create dummy sites linking to yours in order to raise your search engine ranking, often with just the same keywords repeated over and over again. The web was in danger of sinking under a pile of meaningless garbage. Google cottoned on to this and stamped on it with a couple of updates that caused these dodgy companies to pretty much go bust overnight, along with penalising the websites that were using this method.

Google is getting better and better at spotting real vs. fake content. It’s almost scary – it can’t be far away from ‘Skynet’ stage. In any case, the real secret to SEO is no secret – it’s dynamic, engaging content that people can share on social media.

And let’s finish with a personal question. What attributes do you believe are important to being successful at business in Indonesia?

Patience, tenacity and a high tolerance for being stuck in traffic.

Thank you, Andy! To get in touch, please email: info@astagatech.com

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Angela is a freelance journalist and founder of Clean Up Jakarta Day. Outside the office she climbs mountains and dives oceans, all the while picking up litter.


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