Web development
doesn't have to be
so complicated.

Who We Are

FirePig Partners, LLC is an independent web consultancy firm based in Arlington, Virginia, founded by people who care a little too deeply about creating standards-based, accessible web solutions. We left long careers building these kinds of solutions at a prominent behavioral and social science research firm to take our strongly held beliefs and philosophies on web design and put them into practice in our own firm.

So, what are these beliefs we're touting? Most importantly, that technology should be made to fit the organization, not the other way around. There are plenty of web professionals out there who understand the technical stuff - XHTML, CSS, SQL, OLAP, and all sorts of other acronyms and jargon designed to make you feel less confident in your ability to contribute to your organization's internet strategy. At FirePig, we feel strongly that the most important activity we engage in isn't typing - it's listening to our clients. It's figuring out exactly what they need, even when (especially when!) they aren't quite sure themselves.

But getting the technology to work for you is only half of the equation; we also make sure it works for your users as well. We emphasize usability and accessibility in every product that we deliver, from straightforward informational sites to complex web applications. After all, without an intuitive interface that anyone can use, all of the fancy typing and clever programming in the world won't help you meet your goals.

FirePig believes that the internet has the power to help virtually any business or organization, by reducing costs, increasing reach, and answering questions that couldn't even be asked in any other way. We are committed to working side by side with our clients to figure out how best to harness that power for them.

What's in a Name?

No, we don't sell barbecue. We don't advocate an all-pork diet. What we do advocate are easy to use, breath-taking web solutions.

So what's the deal with the name?

We formed our company during the year of the Fire Pig. In Chinese Astrology, "Fire Pig" years have powerful, dynamic effects that transform everything. We feel that a well-designed, accessible web presence can have the same sort of powerful effect on your organization.

See? Nothing about animals at all. Please tell PETA to stop calling us.

What We Do

We take an abnormal delight in crafting custom web solutions for our clients. We build these systems primarily using a combination of Microsoft technologies such as .NET and SQL Server and existing free web services and tools such as Google Analytics. If you have a problem that can be solved in a web browser, we can help you. If you think it can't be done in a browser, please give us a chance to prove you wrong.

Content Management Systems

How many times have you visited a website and noticed within seconds that the content is woefully out of date? Perhaps it is promoting an "upcoming event" that came and went five years ago, or the latest news mentions "President-elect Clinton". The clues may be different but the end result is always the same - you immediately discount the usefulness of the site, and (fair or not) call into question its owner's dedication and professionalism.

Lots of times, it's not that the site owner's fault. Small businesses and non-profit organizations often can't afford to hire in-house web experts, and updating standard sites can be a bit intimidating to non-techies. That's where a content management system (or CMS) can come in handy. A good CMS allows non-technical staff to add pages and edit content without knowing any HTML, and without worrying about breaking anything. That means your CMS-enabled site belongs to you, not to your technical consultants.

There are lots of good content management systems out there. We work with a great one: Umbraco. Umbraco is an open source CMS built using Microsoft .NET technologies. It is flexible enough to allow us to build sites using our own standards based templates, powerful enough to fully support for any .NET controls we can throw at it, but transparent enough that you could look at every last line of code. In short, you get all the benefits of a CMS with none of the limitations.

Data Collection Systems

Every business, association, non-profit organization and project has one thing in common: they only perform as well as the data available to them. The web makes it possible to collect all sorts of information easily, but it does not ensure the quality of the data you collect. We work with you to identify what data you should be collecting, and how to make the people supplying it invested in its quality.

When we build data systems, we adhere to four simple, common sense rules:

  • Make it painless. Do your best to make it as easy as possible for your users to provide you with information. For example, if they provide you with key data (identification codes, perhaps), can you grab additional data from other sources? Is there a (relatively) standard format that your users could just upload, instead of having to re-input into web forms? Adding a little bit more effort on the back-end to save your users work on the front end can pay huge dividends.
  • Explain yourself. If users understand why you are asking for information, and what you plan on doing with it, they'll feel better about providing it to you. Ignorance breeds resentment, which greatly undercuts the reliability of the data you will collect.
  • Protect privacy. Take every precaution to protect any sensitive data you are collecting. Use security certificates when transmitting it. Encrypt it in your database when possible. Let your users know what you're doing to keep it safe. Above all else, if you don't really need it, don't ask for it.
  • Don't ask for data; provide a tool. If you want to get your users to really care about the data they are providing, make it useful to them. Would they benefit from having access to a reporting system for the eventual data set? Could you develop a tool that helps them manage the information on a day-to-day basis, so that your data collection feels organic and seamless? Nothing improves your data collection efforts more than making it in your users' self-interest to improve your data collection effort!

Custom Reporting Tools

Collecting data is an important first step for any enterprise; it provides the basic information required to achieve your goals. In order to turn that information into knowledge, you need excellent reporting tools.

We work with your organization to develop intuitive, user friendly reporting systems that help reveal the relationships hidden in your data. We typically build custom reporting solutions using Microsoft Business Intelligence Tools, following these simple rules:

  • Avoid jargon. You understand what all those terms mean, but chances are that someone in your audience does not. If some jargon is unavoidable, make sure that definitions are readily available.
  • Explain limitations. Be honest about what your data can and cannot do. If two variables aren't comparable, don't use them in the same table.
  • Use charts when possible - and meaningful. The human eye is capable of handling a much higher data density than a data table provides. Charts, graphs and maps offer users a more immediate, intuitive feel for the data. By all means, provide the raw data as well - users with visual disabilities will especially appreciate them. Just be sure you are using every tool available to you to enhance your users' understanding of what they are looking at.
  • Ask yourself: What would Tufte do? To see farther, stand on the shoulders of giants. When it comes to displaying quantifiable information, they don't get much bigger than Edward Tufte.

Internet Presence Management

Yeah, we know - "Internet Presence Management" sounds like one of those awful, jargon filled terms we usually make fun of. The problem is, this one just fits so perfectly. We love to build great websites, absolutely love it. But we love to provide a holistic approach to our projects even more. With the proliferation of social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Digg, the web has evolved. Sometimes it may feel like keeping up with the state of the art would be a full time job. It is. It's our job.

Our goal is to help you find the networked tools and services that will further your organization's goals. We start by sitting down with you to discuss how your organization works, and how you think the internet can help. Typically, this falls into a few broad categories:

  • Increased awareness: how can we get more people to know who you are and what you do?
  • Improved productivity: how can we help you do your work faster and better?
  • Value-added services: what can we add to your offerings through the internet that you couldn't do in any other way?
We then take this broad framework and apply our knowledge of the existing tools and services to the task at hand. How can you benefit from a Facebook page for your organization? Is there a way to integrate video, and if so, should we go with YouTube or Vimeo? Does a Twitter account make sense? What about a Google calendar? Once we have exhausted the array of existing free services, we consider what third party customized solutions make sense. We then return to you with a comprehensive plan for maximizing your internet investment.

Sounds a little overwhelming? Don't worry. We work with you to develop a schedule and budget for rolling out these additional features. We don't want you spending so much time working on your internet presence that you stop doing your actual work! And most importantly, we want your internet solution to fit you, not the other way around.

How We Do It

Where To Find Us