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The Hedgehog Concept and Web Design

If you’ve read Jim Collins’ 3 million copy bestseller ‘Good to Great’, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.

Written By
Dan Partridge

Collins uses a simple story to demonstrate the difference between the hedgehog and the fox:

“The fox waits in cunning silence at the juncture in the trail. The hedgehog, minding his own business, wanders right into the path of the fox. “Aha, I’ve got you now!” thinks the fox. He leaps out, bounding across the ground, lightning fast.

The little hedgehog, sensing danger, looks up and thinks, “Here we go again. Will he ever learn?” Rolling up into a perfect little ball, the hedgehog becomes a sphere of sharp spikes, pointing outward in all directions. The fox, bounding toward his prey, sees the hedgehog’s defence and calls off the attack…

Each day, some version of this battle between the hedgehog and the fox takes place, and despite the greater cunning of the fox, the hedgehog always wins.

Collins explains that the most successful companies tend to be hedgehogs, not foxes. Whilst the hedgehog appears rather dull and one-dimensional, in a head-to-head with the fox there is only ever going to be one winner.

The principle is very simple. Companies that grow tend to find one thing that they are really good at, and do that thing better than anybody else. Companies with a scatter-gun approach, dipping their toes in multiple sectors and industries, tend to experience less impressive results.

Collins has expounded this principle into a simple venn diagram. He recommends that every business first finds their hedgehog concept before doing anything else and that every part of business strategy be focussed around the realisation of the hedgehog. Whilst this process took an average of 4 years for the companies that he was researching, finding the hedgehog enabled every area of the business to be geared for growth.

Hedgehogs and Website Design

The hedgehog concept raises two obvious questions for us as a web design company; ‘how do we help our clients communicate their hedgehog more effectively‘, and ‘what is our hedgehog?

The most effective websites find a way to immediately let the visitor know what the products/services/company are all about. This is achieved through the photography, branding and text that are used. If a client have identified their hedgehog, and have the self-awareness to know what it is that they are passionate about, have the ability to become the best in the world at and will drive their economic engine then it is our responsibility to ensure that the design complements this.

A recent example of this would be the website that we developed for Click’n’Grow, an innovate start-up with an exceptional piece of new technology. They have identified their hedgehog, and the website leaves the site visitor in no doubt as to the quality, uniqueness and attraction of Click’n’Grow products.

We’re also asking these hedgehog questions about our web design company. We’ve experienced significant growth in the last 12 months, and in this period we’ve had something of a journey of self-discovery. Whilst every web design agency builds websites, we’ve found ourselves particularly focusing on WordPress and Shopify development, resulting in our recent recognition as Shopify experts.

A web design hedgehog, perhaps.

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