Shadow Element


Audience-focused, Responsive Design

Good Webwork Is Invisible

We like good looking websites, but what can be seen is only the surface. The best work of experienced web developers goes unnoticed. We’ve all been frustrated by bad webwork even on websites with a pleasing appearance. Good webwork, experienced only through smooth operation and the absence of errors, is mostly invisible.

There are many professions where the best work is hidden and only shoddy work gets attention. Think of:

  • surgeons
  • mechanics
  • plumbers
  • civil engineers
  • commercial pilots
  • proof readers
  • sound editors

Looking at a list of things to consider for a web project makes eyes glaze over. A good web developer thinks about important things so you don’t have to.


Websites are collaborations with clients, and they change over time. Some projects have morphed or disappeared over the years. But here are some screenshots from some sites we’ve created. They look different from each other because each was designed to address a specific set of goals within a particular set of constraints.

Image from Richardson Pribuss Home Page

Richardson Pribuss Architects

Serving Marin County and Beyond

California Slate Home Page

California Slate Company

Slate roofing materials.

Computer Sculpture Home Page (top)

Computer Sculpture

Discount Products for Digital Sculptors

Scavullo Design — Projects

Scavullo Design

Interior decoration.

Gymworx Home Page


Personal training facility.

Large Screen Video — Home Page

Large Screen Video

Rental and sales of giant display technologies.

GEOinterns Home Page


Virtual Internships Provider

Cinta Aveda Beauty Institute Home Page

Cinta Aveda Beauty Institute

San Francisco beauty school.

Kent Marshall Photography - Capture the Elusive

Kent Marshall Photography


Access Decor Website

Access Decor

Buying and interior design services.

Diana Jenkins Personal Site — Home Page

Diana Jenkins

Human rights activist and entrepreneur.

Cinta Salon Home Page (v3)

Cinta Salon

Elegant San Francisco beauty salon.

Cinta Salon Home Page (v2)

Cinta Salon

Elegant San Francisco beauty salon.

Brent Black Panama Hats — Home

Brent Black Panama Hats

High-end hats fitted and sold online.

The Plough and Stars Irish Pub — Home

The Plough and Stars

San Francisco Irish pub with live music.

SDJ Foundation for Bosnia and Herzegovina — Home

SDJ Foundation for Bosnia

Charitable foundation.

Restore the Villages Project — Home

Restore the Villages Project

NGO working in the Congo.

Free Len Homeniuk Home Page

Free Len Homeniuk

Legal defense.

Wolfenden Cosmetic Surgery Home

William J. Wolfenden, M.D.

A San Francisco plastic surgeon.

Juxtamorph — the Home page of United Artworks

Juxtamorph & United Artworks

Portfolio & resources for artists.

Musync Home Page


Music acquisition service.

Paul Wood Works — Home

Paul Wood Works

Master woodworker.

Interfaces Blog on Usability — Home

Pipsqueak’s Interfaces Blog

Designing for usability.

Judy and George — Home

Judy and George

Corporate communications.

The Acoustic Vortex — Concerts

The Acoustic Vortex


The Rear Door — Puzzles

The Rear Door

Puzzle site for marketing campaign.

Capellino Sauces — Recipes

Capellino Sauces

Fresh & frozen pasta and sauces.

Runfly Studios — Home

Runfly Studios

Ear trainer app.

Choosing the Right Technology

Websites can be built using a variety of underlying technologies. All of these web-building solutions solve certain problems but not others; all have pluses and minuses; all have pitfalls, constraints, and sweet-spots. There’s not a “correct technology” choice for all websites. You can use any of them to build most types of websites, but choosing well at the outset means that the website will function better, be easier to build, easier to maintain, and better at fulfilling client goals.

It’s important not to let the technology drive the solution. Technology offers opportunities; design provides solutions. Starting with the tech is backwards; design and functionality become constrained by what the technology supports. Instead, design from your business goals within the constraints of the chosen media. Then choose appropriate supporting technology to execute that design.

If a developer only builds WordPress websites, the choice of technology platform has been made without considering the needs of the project. Like everything else, WordPress has pluses and minuses; sometimes it can be just the thing, but often it’s not the best fit for a particular project.

Imagine you’re building a house. If you hire a contractor who only builds brick houses, you’re getting a brick house. Maybe that’s fine. But there are also advantages to houses made of wood, stone, concrete, or steel. If you live in earthquake country, for example, a brick house might not be the best choice.

“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

It’s difficult to replace a software foundation after the website has been built. The choice of underlying technology is like a marriage; one needs to live with the pluses and minuses. A divorce is possible, but it’s unpleasant and expensive.

We build websites using a range of underlying technologies. We guide our clients through the web-building ecosystem to find the best fit for the needs of their project, now and into the future. We don’t recommend the same tech for each client. Instead, we consider the tradeoffs and help match projects to good technical solutions.

Featured Project —

The ICC Forum is an online law review designed to help the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court moot questions of concern.

Scholarly opinions are presented in long form. Experts and interested members of the public can weigh in on legal questions under debate.

  • Award-winning Justice Innovation

    The ICC Forum was named one of the World’s top three Justice Innovations of 2012 by the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law (HiiL).

  • Highly Secure Platform

    The Forum has been under constant attack since its launch in 2010. To date, there has been no comment spam, data leakage, or visible vandalism.

  • Designed to Penetrate a Closed Institution

    Sheds light on the inner workings of a closed judicial operation while simultaneously protecting the interests of the Court.

  • Created an International Criminal Law Community

    Created a library of thought on international criminal law issues. Includes the LinkedIn International Criminal Law Group, also run by Pipsqueak, which has over 81,000 members.

  • Improved Reading Experience of Scholarly Articles

    Some examples: rich media footnotes can be read in place in addition to linking back and forth from the main article to the note. Acronymns and legal terms are defined. Background materials are collected and archived.

  • Executed Under Strict Budget Constraints

    The Forum was created and is maintained in a highly economical fashion.

Before and After Example

Brent Black is a former ad man. (The Almond Growers’ campaign: “A Can a Week, That’s All We Ask.” That’s his.) Traveling to Ecuador, he fell in love with the art of creating fine panama hats. Hearing that the art was in peril of extinction, he decided to do some good in the world.

Fine panama hats are very far removed from the cheap versions available everywhere. The art is to convert the leaves of a particular palm plant into a finely woven hat that resembles linen. But master weavers were being paid pennies for their creations, and could make more money doing other things. They weren’t teaching the craft to the younger generation. The art was destined for extinction.

Brent decided he had to create a market for the best panama hats that would reward the weavers for continuing to practice their art. In order to sell their work, he needed to learn how to shape and finish hats. So he threw himself into the task—he’s now widely considered the world’s finest hat blocker.

Brent also decided to sell these hats over the internet to reach a world-wide audience. But it’s a hard thing to custom fit an expensive straw hat at a distance. Brent threw himself into the task with his customary zeal.

Brent is a terrific copy writer. He’s also a very good photographer. So when he approached us for web work, his site was well-written and had good photographs. But it wasn’t very inspiring. It needed a lot of work under the hood. It also needed organization and visual appeal. It needed interaction design, interface design, and programming. It needed to work better to tell his story.

Below is a before and after of his home page. His site is now the best resource for learning about panama hats that exists on the web. It’s also a great place to buy a very fine hat and help the weavers save the art from extinction.

Before (press or hover to enlarge)

Brent Black’s Old Home Page

After (press or hover to enlarge)

Brent Black’s Home Page after Pipsqueak’s Redesign.