Devrims #Techtalk 041: Isabelle Desouches Interview

8 Min | 04 January, 2024

Devrims: Hi Isabelle, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. We’d be very interested to hear when and how your journey with WordPress began, and if there’s an interesting story or pivotal moment that sparked your passion for it.

Isabelle: I started as a project manager in a small team of two devs (one fullstack and one front dev) and a graphic designer. I was then still a student at SciencesPo. Paris and I only joined them because one of them was my ex, and they needed someone to do the job for a very low price.

Then, the front dev quit mid-project, and we were left with a website that was only half done. That’s when I decided it couldn’t be that complicated, and put my hands into the code. The project was finished on time, and beautifully delivered! I realized I love to make beautiful things and go from concepts to concrete.

Devrims: You have over 7 years of experience designing tailored websites with WordPress. What makes WordPress such a powerful platform in your opinion?

Isabelle: What I enjoy most about WordPress is its versatility. You can make almost anything with the right plugins, making it one of the best scalable options for start-ups and solopreneurs. Also, the community is so big, with so many companies invested in making plugins and themes making it so much easier to keep a running up-to-date website.

A bug has risen? You’ll always find someone on forums who has the same experience and found a way around it.

Devrims: As a freelancer, what types of services do you offer clients when it comes to web design, WordPress sites, and digital communication? Walk us through your end-to-end process.

Isabelle: I do anything from zero to finish regarding digital communication, but usually, it goes like this: first I talk with the client about their needs and expectations. We discuss who their ideal client is, and how they will use their website. Then, I suggest three options for their brand identity colors and fonts (based on their company ADN, and their ideal client). Once that is chosen, I create options for logos and do as many back-and-forth exchanges as needed to have the client 100% happy with the final design. Then, I make a stunning first page that will serve as a guideline for all other pages through the website. I work a lot with the Impreza theme, because it offers a very wide range of customizable options, and is very versatile.  If the client is available and quick to choose, the whole process can be done within 7 days! But usually, it’s more than 2 weeks from the first downpayment to the website being live.

Devrims: You mention putting UX (user experience) at the center of digital communication. What are some key UX principles or techniques you implement when designing user flows and interfaces? How do you optimize the UX on WordPress sites specifically?

Isabelle: I always ask myself the following question: “Is this clear enough ?” and make all my design choices accordingly. Menus should be to the point, short, and easy to access. Not having a sticky menu in 2023 is unacceptable. Websites should all be 100% responsive and accessible: alt and titles in pictures are necessary, and color contrast is too! I usually ask my aging dad to have a look at what I created so he can tell me if he has issues reading/using the website or not. Even if he is not the main client, a website should always be accessible to anyone. I also make sure to use caching and optimization plugins, as well as security ones, to offer the most seamless and secure experience to the end users of my clients.

Devrims: What emerging web design, CMS, or UX trends are you most excited about right now? How do you stay on top of the latest best practices in the industry?

Isabelle: I love the more immersive experiences that are currently emerging. Getting people to interact with websites, and tell them stories, is awesome!

As for staying on top of the latest best practices, I regularly read blogs and newsletters on the matter, and follow some key accounts on LinkedIn!

Devrims: How does managed WordPress hosting better optimize site performance, security, scalability, or ease of use? What criteria would you recommend businesses use to evaluate which hosting solution is right for their needs?

Isabelle: Managed hosting is the way to go unless you have very specific technological needs (for which, in my opinion, you should not use WordPress and use more sophisticated tools). It means you don’t have to worry about updating and maintaining a whole server on your own. Managed hosting providers often optimize their servers specifically for WordPress, resulting in faster loading times. They often handle WordPress core, theme, and plugin updates automatically, reducing the risk of security vulnerabilities. Managed hosting providers also offer easy scalability, allowing businesses to increase resources (CPU, RAM, storage) as their website traffic grows.

I always tell my clients to think of performance, scalability, security, and support to choose the best solution for their needs. The latest one is the most important because most managed hosting services propose the same things, but you’ll notice the difference once there is an issue and you have to wait 3 full business days to get an answer.

Devrims: On social media, you discuss topics like ecology and workers’ rights. What role do you see web designers playing in driving positive social change and raising awareness on important issues?

Isabelle: Well, first of all, design is all about getting the information across. So even if the data is impactful, and the subject is important, if it is not well designed, it won’t have the expected outcome. I am very proud of working closely with businesses and organizations fighting for social justice and ecology. I know I participate fully in helping them get their word across the room, and build a better future for all of us.

Devrims: Let’s do some quick rapid-fire questions:

Devrims Isabelle
Movies or Games Movies! I love a good story.
Mountains or Beaches AHA ! Trick question, I live in Barcelona, I have the best of those two worlds (and one of my favorite beaches is right next to the Pyrenean mountains, and it’s splendid)
Day or Night Day because I couldn’t live without the sun. Even a day full of bad news can’t be a bad day if I’ve felt the sun’s hot caress on my face.

Devrims: For students and junior designers interested in freelancing, what tips would you have for them when it comes to acquiring clients, scoping projects, and pricing their services?

Isabelle: Hi, fellow young students and junior designers! First of all, please I beg you: SAY NO. This is the most important thing you’ll need in your career. Even when you feel like you can’t pass on that client if your guts tell you to run, run. Tell them no, it will open up a space for a better client to say yes to!

Also, always scope very tightly all your projects, from start to finish, to ensure everyone is on the same page, and avoid client frustration.

And finally: update your prices yearly. You gain experience, your services gain quality, and it has a price. Don’t lower yourself to get clients, you’ll get the bad ones, those who will try to exploit you. If they are having issues with the amount of the project, offer paying options (like paying in 2, 3, 4 times), and make sure the last one conditions them getting access to your work.

Devrims: What separates an average website from a great, high-converting website in your experience? What key ingredients does a site need to truly engage visitors?

Isabelle: My secret for a high-converting website is personalization and personality. The website should be specifically addressed to the ideal user, and talk to them directly, in very specific and simple ways. It should also be authentic. The user should immediately recognize your brand’s identity through its website. That’s how people remember you, and engage with you, because they crave authentic relationships.

Devrims: Could you give us a glimpse into your creative space and describe your desk setup?

Isabelle: Trick question! I don’t have a desk, I usually work either from my couch or from my dinner table. But both of them are in places I have fully designed. I make my furniture and paint a lot, so everything is handmade by myself, and I feel very cozy and inspired when in those two places of my home. Here are some pictures, so you can enjoy my non-digital design work too! (And please bear with the messiness, I have a kid and get to choose my battles, and having a tidy place isn’t a luxury I can afford) (and yes, I love green !)

The Author

Rimsha is a Digital Marketing Executive, specializing in social media management, backlink creation, community engagement, and outreach campaigns. She excels in driving brand visibility and engagement through strategic digital marketing initiatives. Apart from this, she enjoys reading books and continuously learning new skills, reflecting her passion for personal and professional growth.

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