Belfast Telegraph

Innovative designers spread web of talent over north and south

By Paul Gosling

Uproar Comics is one of Northern Ireland's newest and most distinctive small businesses.

Armour Interactive has just celebrated its first birthday - but it could be celebrating even more in the weeks to come. The graphic and web design company has been nominated for two Golden Spider awards.

The Golden Spiders are Ireland's premier annual online awards, recognising excellence in the use of the internet. The awards evening in November is a major event, sponsored by Eircom. It is impressive that such a young company should receive two nominations.

But while Armour was only established as a company last year, its founders - Andrew Dewdney, Jamie Casey and John Cunningham - had already established strong reputations separately. Armour has brought that individual expertise together.

"Jamie and I worked together as freelancers for a number of years," said Andrew. But, increasingly, Andrew, from Co Down, and Jamie, from Co Kerry, found themselves working in Galway, where Armour is based. And client expectations were a key factor pushing them into forming a single company providing an integrated service.

"I could only take projects so far," said Andrew. "Others needed to take them further." Clients preferred to deal with one service supplier, rather than a number of freelancers who would each handle part of a web design brief. "There was no accountability," said Andrew. "Clients got very frustrated. Projects could not work as well as they should."

Now the business employs four people. The full-time staff includes Andrew and Jamie.

John is a shareholder and director, but is not engaged in the company on a full-time basis. John's role is to assist with strategic direction and he provides many useful introductions. Through John's involvement, the company is engaged at present in a major contract for a Dublin client, as well as having other contracts both north and south and in Great Britain.

Andrew studied at the University of Ulster and then worked in London, before returning to his parents' home just outside Rostrevor. From there he worked as a freelancer.

"Coming back from London, it was a bit of a culture shock," Andrew said. Galway drew him south. "A lot of my clients were from the Galway area and my girlfriend lives here (in Galway). A lot of my business contracts are down here.

"There seem to be more software projects down south. There is just more demand for it."

Bringing together a pool of complementary skills, Armour is able to offer clients a one-stop shop for graphic and web design, building websites that use either Flash and Flex interactivity and for software development.

In practice, this means that Andrew can working on designing a very attractive front end for an e-commerce website, while colleagues ensure that it operates with full functionality.

One of Armour's current projects is an accountancy software website with e-commerce functionality.

Another, developed jointly with a Co Kerry marketing firm, is a games website with a difference - it allows users to predict sports results. For the moment, it is free of charge and without any lodging of bets.

But one thing can be safely bet on. Armour is well positioned to be a growing business that operates on both sides of the border.

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