We’ve Not Met, But…

In four years together as WeFail, web designers Martin Hughes and Jordan Stone have met just three times. And they don’t meet their clients either. Via email, we asked them how this works

CR: Good afternoon Martin, good morning Jordan. How are you both  and what have you been up to today?

Martin (Manchester, UK, 17:30): Today I’ve been to my local fish shop to buy food for my fishies, picked up some skirting for the new floor, washed my car… you know, it’s not always rock ‘n’ roll. Sometimes we like to act like everyday people.

Jordan (Austin, Texas, USA, 11.30): I’m okay. I hurt my ribs playing football and it was getting better but now it’s aching again after I spent most of yesterday moving house. Luckily you can’t do anything for your ribs, so I don’t have to feel guilty about not going to see a doctor.

CR: Let’s go back to the beginning. You both work remotely and have only ever met each other a few times in the four years WeFail has been going, how did you meet in the first place?

Martin: We met on a Flash forum laughing at websites that we thought were shit. All the other forum members told us we sucked and should get off the site if we didn’t have anything constructive to say. And to be fair, we didn’t: we were trolls. So we left and formed WeFail.

CR: So you had common beliefs in what good and bad web design was?

Martin: No, I once thought some site with ROBOT ARMS was pretty cool and Jordan LAUGHED out loud at me and told me I was crap. And I shouted (over the internet) “fuck you!! I hate you!!” but in hindsight he was right, it was shit. I can’t remember who made it. But yes, apart from that clash of opinions I’d say we agree on what’s shit and what’s not in Flash design. Most of it’s shit if you ask me. Dull, repetitive, shit.

Jordan: Yes! We did have a fight about robot arms! I have a terrible memory. Hahaha, that’s really awesome. Come to think of it I truly hated Martin for a little while, and then we clicked. (I’ve always hated him). I would say our sense of humour prompted us to work together. The older I get the more meaningless I think life is, so more and more I’m just out to give somebody a laugh. Does anybody remember laughter?

CR: Yes, often, there doesn’t seem to be much humour in web design, it’s often seen as something quite cold and digital. Is humour something you always try to add to your sites?

Jordan: Yes, it’s all about making each other laugh really. Going off to bed and knowing that I’ve left an incredible joke bomb waiting for Martin is a great feeling. I had a “moment” some years ago when I sat through this humourless movie with George Clooney called Solaris. It was really boring. Anyway, I asked myself afterwards “why did I hate this movie so much?” I mean, on paper, it seemed pretty good. Then I realised that it was humourless. And then I realised that life IS NOT humourless. So to have this completely humourless movie is to have created something completely artificial (so I couldn’t relate because I keep it REAL!). Hahaha, anyway. Like I said: “does anybody remember laughter?”

Martin: I hope we don’t always HAVE to add humour, like it’s a requisite or all we’re about? Can you imagine if with every client we trundled into the meeting room covered in funny gonks, bells and wearing jesters’ outfits?! “Here we are! Prepare to laugh laugh laugh!” Sometimes we make sites that don’t make you laugh. Well, we made one: BBDO.

CR: So you make what’s appropriate. But your work is very “different”; in that it’s often ironic, nonsensical, surreal. I imagine not every client finds that appropriate? And you don’t even meet them? Why not?

Martin: This always gets me, and you’re right, it’s expected that you meet in person. But when you look at it, we’re building them a website that users will go on and kind of meet the musician or whoever within our site. The user will never meet them in person (unless they’re mental and plan to kill them) so why should we? Meetings are a monumental waste of time. I’ve been to some meetings before now, travelled for a day, finally got sat in some meeting room someplace, then the client realised they’ve forgotten a fucking cable for their presentation and have to cancel!  Whatever we need to do or say we can do online. I don’t mind the odd meeting but too many just become pointless and a waste of time.

CR: How do clients react to this?

Martin: They sometimes don’t get it at all, but most of the time they want us to build a site and that’s what we’re good at so they leave us to it. Standing in front of a whiteboard trying to sell ourselves to a room full of people where 60 per cent of them are just skiving off an afternoon’s office work is crap.

CR: About the name – how long did it take you to come up with something so dispiriting? Why choose it?

Jordan: Oh! I actually know the answer to this one. At the back of my site sofake.com, which existed before me and Martin’s holy union, it says “sofake fails”. So Martin got “WeFail” from that. A long time ago a friend once said this really beautiful thing about “WeFail” but I can’t remember it. It was something about how everything is bullshit, this polished turd, if you will. But here is this statement right off the bat: “we fail”.

CR: Do you ever have to compromise much with your ideas?

Jordan: I’m sure there have been some edits I hated along the way: I’ll get really pissy and tell everybody that I’ll pull the plug on the site if they don’t leave a certain bit in. I’d hate to think I’m some pissy little “artist” though. The truth is I just care a heck of a lot about our work and want it to be put out there in the purest form possible. To have it crippled at all, even just a little, by some uptight cockjockey just upsets me terribly. © ß Martin: We usually get our balls kicked over the littlest, insignificant bits of a site, from all of the wretched, greedy, thieving pigs! We have millions of stories regarding awkward client situations, we should make a book of them as a warning to young design kiddies. Never retreat from a client! Never surrender! There’s also the clients that hire you and expect to be a major part of the design process. Kind of like those rich fat old businessmen that go to Africa to shoot chained up lions in a fake natural habitat. Some clients pay good money to utterly fuck us around and ruin our work. Haha. It’s all true!

CR: How do you guys work day to day? The temptation to meet’s never overtaken you?

Martin: We’ve met three times and each time the sex was sensational. Our life is like Brokeback Mountain, but with computers instead of horses. We tried Messenger for a while with the phone deal but it was stupid; it has a three second lag and Jordan lives in a big empty concrete room so it’d be me going “hello?” and, three seconds later, him – “HHEEELLLO?”

CR: Does it ever happen that you work “live” together online, or do you pick up from where the other left off?

Jordan: I would say we do pick up from where the other left off mostly, but there is overlap. Martin gets up around 3am my time and if we’re on a job, I’ll certainly still be up then so we have some overlap, a laugh, and then he’ll say “HOLD ME NOW AND EVER IN GOOD STEAD” and I’ll go to bed.

CR: The Dixie Chicks site is really different. Were the band OK with it?

Jordan: They were actually. It just took them FUCKING FOREVER (a term I do not use lightly) to release it.

Martin: To be fair the Dixie girls were OK with all the stuff we put in. I don’t think Natalie thought the crows were funny, but we had selective hearing and didn’t hear her ask for them to be edited out.

CR: So you’re happy where you are?

Jordan: I think we’ve got exactly the career I would have wanted. I mean, if jobs keep coming through. We do what we want, we get away with murder in our sites (even with major clients) and, like I said, we keep each other laughing.

Martin: Yes, we have quite a life. We do truly get away with murder on some client jobs but then it always pays off for them because they come over in the sites as more human.

CR: Are you getting sick of the media talking about “web 2.0”?

Martin: I think WEB 2 is something nerds say to one another to look more in touch with what’s happening tomorrow. Jordan and I now talk only about WEB 4. We just make sites to entertain people. Balls to WEB 2.

CR: If you hadn’t met each other, what would you be doing now?

Jordan: I reckon I would be doing all right over at sofake but there would be a great big blackhole in the internet, where there could have been laughter and in my heart, I’m sure web 4.0 will make everything okay.

Martin: Jordan would be making dandy Flash sites and living the vida loca, he’d probably be a lot healthier and into natural body-building. I on the other hand would be in a puddle of my own urine, homeless, destitute, crying in the gutter whilst looking up to the stars.

Jordan: Hahaha. You know all the books in the Divine Comedy end with the word “stars”? I think this interview should too.

WeFail are currently working on a site for US baked goods firm, Tim Horton’s

 

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