Interview with Rick Knudtson, Co-Founder and Chief Designer at FlywheelInspiration June 25, 2013
The premium WordPress hosting company called Flywheel was designed to support and enhance the workflow of web designers, developers and creative agencies. If you are a web designer, Flywheel’s cloud-based service will help you easily launch and manage your clients’ websites from a single dashboard without the technical mumbo-jumbo of traditional hosts.
Rick Knudtson, co-founder and chief designer of Flywheel joined us in an interview, talking about his creative principles, inspirations, and more about Flywheel. Check out the interview below:
YTD: Hi Rick, welcome to You The Designer! Tell us something about you and your creative work?
RICK: I am one of the co-founders and Chief Designer at Flywheel – a premium WordPress hosting service built specifically for designers and agencies. Before Flywheel, I was a freelancer doing a lot of application design for startups in the midwest.
In college, I studied Computer Science and became interested in learning not only how to make software perform well, but in learning how to make the look and feel of the software just as great. My primary focus quickly shifted from code to design after school. I’m lucky enough to work with super talented developers who value design just as much as I do.
YTD: How do you usually start your day?
RICK: I often try to get to the office before the typical work day starts to take advantage of some quiet time to finish up design projects. Otherwise, my day starts with tackling email. As with any early stage startup, each member of our team wears many hats. At Flywheel, we all handle support. My priority in the morning is making sure our customers are happy.
YTD: Who or what are your major creative influences?
RICK: I wish I had a clever answer for this one since most designers have that one designer who they can’t imagine the world without. The typical answer would be Dieter Rams… right? I’d tend to agree with everyone’s sentiment on that :)
However, because of my interest in UI, I’m now very influenced by beautiful application design. When I think of great UI/UX, I think of Grant Gold and the rest of the Rdio product design team. I am also a huge fan of companies that can inject their brand into their application. Mailchimp is a great example of this. At Flywheel we strive to maintain a playful, fun brand, along with a clean, simple UI that transcends the brand.
YTD: Do you like music? Share us your playlist.
RICK: Not sure what I would do without music. It may be the only thing that allows me to focus while I’m in Photoshop. I grew up during the rise of pop punk so you’ll find me listening to bands like Taking Back Sunday and Yellowcard. I’m also into some obscure acts like Astronautalis. Indie rocker turned rapper? What’s not to love.
As for a playlist, you can find me on Rdio. No shame!
YTD: How do you deal with creative block?
RICK: Lucky for me, there’s always something else that needs to be done. If I’m stuck, I just step away for a while – maybe even the rest of the day. I mentioned earlier that we wear a lot of hats around here. We also have no shortage of work to be done. If I’m not designing, I’m developing. If I’m not developing I’m on a phone call demoing our product. If I’m not demoing our product… well, you get it.
YTD: Describe to us what Flywheel is.
RICK: Flywheel is a premium WordPress hosting service built specifically for designers and agencies. We make it simple for designers to launch and manage client sites from a single dashboard. We also handle all of the technical details that go into making sure WordPress sites are fast, secure and stable. Basically, we want you to focus on designing websites and let us handle the details of hosting.
We also make it easy for designers to launch sites for free and pass billing to their clients when the site is ready to go live. This means the client doesn’t have to navigate a clunky hosting site, pick a plan and send account information to their designer to set up the site. With Flywheel, the client receives an email asking them to purchase hosting. The click the button and land on the billing page. It’s one step.
Another cool feature we have is the ability to easily add collaborators to a site. If you work in a team or have subcontractors, giving someone access to a site is as easy as knowing their email address. No more creating FTP accounts or sharing logins.
YTD: How did you come up with the concept or the guiding principle behind Flywheel?
RICK: My co-founders and I all come from web development backgrounds and have all worked with clients in the past. We know what a pain it can be to have to debug hosting environments or work with support that aren’t experts with the framework you’re using.
Hosting is a necessary evil when you’re a designer. Your client wants a website, you need to host it somewhere. Having to deal with the details of setting up or managing their hosting account is not what you want to do and probably isn’t what you should be doing. Flywheel is the hosting company we wish existed when we were in your shoes.
YTD: The company is dedicating its service specifically for web designers and developers. What made you decide to tap this specific segment of the creative industry?
RICK: Ten years ago, most people building websites were technical people. Today, designers are responsible for countless sites being launched every day. This is because of tools like WordPress that have allowed non-technical people to create very dynamic and powerful websites. However, typical hosting companies still assume you understand what it takes to make sites fast and secure and they don’t take into account the new workflows of designers and agencies.
We built Flywheel because designers need a hosting solution they can call their own. One built with their workflows in mind and without the headaches of traditional hosting.
YTD: What is the advantage of Flywheel compared to other WordPress web hosting services?
RICK: We have designed Flywheel from day one to work with a designer’s workflow. We focus heavily on building software tools to improve the daily routine of our customers. Features like free demo sites, billing transfer to clients, simple collaboration and the ability to easily manage sites owned by your clients from a single dashboard make Flywheel unique.
Being a managed WordPress host also means we handle the technical details that go into making WordPres sites fast, secure and stable. We do things like built-in site caching, nightly backups, nightly malware and hack scanning and managed WordPress core updates all on an architecture built specifically for WordPress sites.
YTD: When can people start using Flywheel and how can they be a part of it?
RICK: We are currently in a closed beta, but you can sign up at http://getflywheel.com. We’re rolling out beta invites to our list every day.
YTD: Describe to us your workplace.
RICK: Our office is located in a building called The Mastercraft in Omaha, NE. The Mastercraft has organically evolved into a hub for creative companies and startups in Omaha. It’s filled with amazingly creative companies like Grain & Mortar, Secret Penguin and Edison Creative. We get to work with and be surrounded by the types of companies that inspired us to build Flywheel.
YTD: Things that you and your colleagues enjoy doing aside from designing and coding.
RICK: We try to get together outside of the office as a team as often as we can. Typically this means family dinners. We also are all big music fans and enjoy going to shows. Except our CEO who is what we call a music agnostic. Who doesn’t have a favorite genre of song or band?
YTD: One thing/tool you can’t design without.
RICK: A passion for the end goal.
YTD: A piece of advice to those who are just starting their way in the creative industry.
RICK: If you’re interested in web design – learn to code! I know it’s easier said than done but It goes a long way in understanding how to design a great interactive experience.
YTD: Thanks Rick for spending some time with us. You got our full support in the success of Flywheel! Anyone you would like to be thankful for?
RICK: I would like to thank our crazy hard working team at Flywheel. We all get up each day on a mission and it’s fun to work with equally as passionate people.
And thanks to You The Designer for giving me the opportunity to share what we’ve been working on with your audience!
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Stay awesome everyone!