It all starts back in 1999 with the Founder and CEO Paul, when he was still working as the first-ever web designer for GUS Home Shopping (now known as Shop Direct Group).
At the time, working for a blue-chip business often meant restrictions and red tape, meaning opportunities to have a greater impact were often lost in the shuffle. Paul wanted the business to become more customer-centric and work more cohesively, breaking down barriers to departments and changing the business for the better.
It was during Paul’s time at Shop Direct that his entrepreneurial spirit began to develop. Foreseeing the value of having the customers at the heart of an online experience, Paul made this the cornerstone of his new business venture.
Paul decided to take destiny into his own hands and start his own business. In September 2004, PRWD was born.
In September 2006, Paul finished moonlighting and dedicated himself to PRWD full-time. The rest, as they say, is history.
Paul moved out of his bedroom office and into the first official office for PRWD; an open plan managed office space at One Central Park, just outside Manchester City Centre.
Paul hired his first colleague, a highly experienced web developer.
Paul brought Katie Kelly into the business from MMU for a two-day-per-week summer placement. PRWD’s first-ever marketing strategy “to become respected industry leaders in conversion optimisation” was born and included the PRWD blog.
We experimented with UCDcommerce, a bespoke ecommerce platform centred on delivering a best in class, user-centred ecommerce experience. With the primary focus of the business being on user research and UX consultancy, UCDcommerce didn’t have the necessary levels of technical resources for it to become a competitor for Magento, which was just starting to build some momentum. Whilst we didn’t continue with the platform, the user-focused element informs our user-centred website designs today.
Paul published his first guest post on the Econsultancy blog (and is still writing for them today).
Paul’s delivered his first-ever public talk, at the PRWD sponsored ‘Usability: What’s The Use?’ in Manchester.
Paul delivered training for Econsultancy for the first time, focused on user experience for retailers.
The business fought through the recession following our biggest client (a manufacturer) pulling the plug on a major project that was sustaining the business.
We moved from One Central Park to 22 Lever Street in the city centre of Manchester, into the top floor penthouse office 🙂
Seeing a clear opportunity to streamline our services down to what was becoming a far more valuable proposition in customer-driven, strategic conversion optimisation, PRWD stopped offering web and platform development services, to focus purely on UX and conversion optimisation. Amongst the first brands we worked with were Speedo and Schuh.
We became one of the first agencies in the UK to partner with Optimizely.
Still working as a team of two, we made our third hire. Someone familiar with the business, Katie Kelly returned five years after establishing our first marketing strategy back in summer 2008.
We rebranded for the first time since PRWD was founded.
We won our biggest retainer contract to date with The North Face and Vans.
We moved into the flagship ground floor office at 22 Lever Street.
We delivered our PRWD Reveal conference for the first time (including a presentation by Paul on 9 years, 9 stories, 9 business lessons).
We were invited to become the sole UK representative of the Global Optimisation Group.
Paul was selected to go on Goldman Sachs’ Small Businesses Programme with other high growth SMEs from across the UK.
We won what was at the time our biggest ever contract when we started working with Steinhoff brands Bensons and Harveys, who are now two brands we still work with today in 2017.
We developed our six brand values, which are at the core of how we operate today.
We became the first-ever UK Premium Partner with VWO.
We were finalists in Optimizely’s ‘Opties’ for ‘Most Dramatic Business Impact’ for our strategic, business changing A/B testing with Get Revising.
We won an award at the Which Test Won 2014 awards for a strategic test for Get Revising, aimed at understanding what was the sweet spot to persuade students to take out a premium subscription rather than the free version.
We took our PRWD Reveal conference to London for the first time.
We took the PRWD Reveal conference online for the first time, with people attending from around the world.
The PRWD team doubled in size to eight people.
In January 2016, we published our first book on Amazon titled, “The Growth Strategy That’s Being Ignored.”
In January 2016, to allow for continued business growth, a restructure led to Katie Kelly moving into the newly created role of Operations Director and Paul Rouke moving to CEO, allowing him to focus on developing the long-term strategy for the agency whilst championing industry change.
Paul delivered his first ever keynote presentations, at Conversion World and Elite Camp 2016, getting more visibility on PRWD than ever before.
For the first time ever a major retail client recognised that strategic conversion optimisation could play a crucial role in establishing the foundations for their digital transformation. After a highly competitive pitch with the UK’s leading conversion agencies, we were appointed by Wilko on a long term contract.
In October 2016, we launched our first online tool, the industry’s most in-depth Conversion Optimisation Maturity Audit™.
We rebranded and set out to deliver a user-centered redesign of our company website that you see today.
During the year, the team grew to 15 people (including our first hires from outside the UK) to form one of the brightest conversion optimisation teams in Europe.
PRWD kicked off the year in January 2017 with the launch of a new brand and a brand new website, fully reflecting our increase in User Centred Design and Data Analytics services.
February saw Paul conducting Q&A interviews with some of conversion optimisations leading thought-leaders including Andre Morys from WebArts, Peep Lajay from ConversionXL, neuro-marketer Roger Dooley, Conversion specialist Talia Wolf and ‘The Conversion Scientist’ Brian Massey.
Paul was delighted to be invited to speak at three events in 2017: “Digital Growth Unleashed’s” 2-day conference and the data-focussed “Measurefest”. Paul also made PRWD history sharing the stage delivering his first co-presentation with Suntransfers, Nathan Timmins at Conversion Elite
PRWD predicted the value of clients benefitting from data analysis and in July we appointed our first Senior Data Analyst, who in addition to identifying test prioritisation and growth opportunities, independently evaluates test results and models predictive revenue forecasts. We’re asking how we did without one for so long.
From a client perspective we were delighted to be retained with high street and online retailers for a 3rd and 2nd year respectively and continuing to work with the growth expectations of our fintech, medtech, travel and leisure clients whilst conducting our biggest UCD opportunity with a complementary education provider.
In terms of sharing our knowledge with the Manchester business community, we successfully won a series of 2-day Euro-funded User Research workshops at The Landing in Media City aimed at creating awareness and upskilling SMEs which will continue throughout 2018.
We’re already preparing PRWD for an equally busy year ahead with some more PRWD firsts
Watch this space…
When a business is growing and you have the opportunity to expand your work space, it’s an initiative you need to seriously consider.
PRWD had that opportunity and grabbed it early in 2018. Adjacent offices became available and the space was converted into a multi-functional office and event space, combining our new Research Facilities with additional meeting room options and breakout areas for clients and the PRWD team.
A combination of a stronger online presence plus the new research facilities have enabled us to grow the business contribution from our research services – a vital element in our process and methodology to learn more about our partners audience behaviour.
2018 was also a year when we complemented our U.K. business growth with a European based global brand portfolio. We’ve started working with the world’s leading insurance provider Allianz, one of the world’s largest sportswear manufacturers and one of the world’s most recognised drinks brands.
PRWD was also complemented in 2018 with the appointment of three key senior positions: Senior Researcher, Senior Strategist and Senior Front-End Developer. Each of these three appointments recognises the importance of galvanising their role to grow the business and make the necessary efficiencies in their respective speciality.
In terms of outreach, Paul Rouke and Senior Data Analyst Rick Birtles, were invited to train on several occasions at Google Digital Garage, in both Manchester and Edinburgh. The vision for Digital Garage is to help 100,000 people develop their digital skills and grow their career aspirations in more than 200 towns and cities and PRWD are proud to be part of it.
In the second half of 2018 PRWD launched a new meet-up titled #PowerofUXResearch, with senior speakers from Booking.com, AutoTrader and MoneySupermarket all sharing their experiences and impact of user research.
PRWD also co-hosted a number of round table events with digital media publisher and event organiser, Business Cloud and analytics provider Content Square to discover the barriers why businesses don’t always adopt a more customer-driven and optimisation focus.
2018 was also the year we re-visited our mission, vision, values and strategy; an opportunity to reflect on the market, assess our position and continue to build strength with our client partnerships.
During 2019 we looked closely at where does PRWD add the most value to our clients, and where do we have the biggest long term impact.
Since Paul started PRWD in 2004, changing company mindsets from product and opinion led, to customer-led, has been the biggest long term impact we have delivered.
As we move through 2019 we are focussing our attention even more on our 3 core areas of specialism – user research, UX design and data. This trinity of services provides the foundation from which our clients benefit from working with PRWD.