Auckland website design company Fracture has always aimed to be different and last month its unique approach was recognised by a significant international accolade. Its web design work for local architects Jasmax won the business category of the South by Southwest Interactive Awards, held in Texas. Co-founder and creative director Nick Shaw spoke to Simon Hendery about building a business that stands out in a crowded market.

There are a lot of website development companies out there. What is Fracture's point of difference?

We're pretty high-end in terms of design and creativity. From the start we wanted to create the most exciting things you could create on the web and not be limited by the constraints of technology. Because there are so many technologies and ways you can use them, we always offer a lot of thinking on ways we can tailor-make a solution for clients that feels right for their brand and talks to the right audience.

And presumably the award-winning 3D website you created for Jasmax is an example of that creative approach?

That's a great example of what we can do. They wanted a regular website [but] we hit them with this crazy idea of doing a virtual building. There are a lot of parallels you can draw between a website and a building - they both draw people who have a similar interest into a common space.

Originally the site was to be 2D but about halfway through the job we got to thinking if we could build it in 3D [to reflect the three-dimensional nature of Jasmax's architecture work] that would be perfect.

Why be creative when developing a company website?

Getting attention for your website is very difficult. The average time someone will spend looking at a page on a website before they decide whether it's something they want to continue looking at is about two seconds.

You have to pique someone's interest and grab them straight away so that they will keep going through the site.

The time spent on the old [Jasmax] website was pretty low and when we launched the new site we got the average time spent by users up to seven and a half minutes, which is pretty much unheard of. That's seven and half minutes that they're in there soaking up the brand, so that's a pretty awesome achievement.

Fracture was the only New Zealand developer recognised at South by South West this year. What does winning this type of award mean for the business?

Winning international awards helps differentiate us. It's somebody with a certain amount of authority ticking a box and saying: "These guys are awesome, they know what they're doing and they can do something creative."

Some [clients] just want that reassurance when they're making a decision, especially a website decision because it is a new technology and some people feel quite lost going into it.

It helps set us apart and helps get us to the place where I think we need to be - at the very high end creatively. Not just a factory that can turn out websites, but a creative agency that can look at the brand of a company and come up with something that responds to that.

That's an approach that ups the ante in terms of how your own business presents itself online. Tell me about the new Fracture website you launched last week.

We've been promising a new website for about 18 months and we've designed about seven and thrown them all out because they weren't good enough. But we think this one is worthy of Fracture. It's based in our secret lair on Rangitoto Island and we all have different dictator personas.


Nick Shaw's tips for effective business websites:

* Use an established web design company. Look through the portfolio of developers you are considering using for something that's exceptional or something that really appeals to you.

* There's no one solution for building an effective website. Talk to the developers about your company and what you want the website to achieve.

* Don't let budgets determine quality. It's better to build a site that does a few things really well than one that does 10 things that are mediocre.

* Building a website is not like building a house where you spend 100 per cent of your budget all at once to put it up. Spend 75 per cent of your web development budget getting the site up, and the remaining 25 per cent over the next year or two on ongoing development as technology changes.

* People have no attention span on the web so build a site that will grab their interest. The site has to work, but it also has to stand out and make a mark for your business.