Interview - “We need to plant TYPO3 in more people's mind”
This year’s TYPO3 Conference in The Hague sees a promising program with talks and workshops, marketing and development tracks, new and old faces. One of last year’s speakers in Berlin, Daniel Fau from DFAU GmbH, will also be returning to the stage with a topic that keeps haunting him – and that has shaped a completely new business strategy: How to market TYPO3 to a wider range of users. We have written about this on several occasions, also in this blog (here and here). What can this year’s attendees expect from DFAU? We asked the founder himself.
First off, we want to get to know you a little bit. Why did you start building websites? When did you make it a profession of creating the web?
Daniel Fau: I started out of pure curiosity! In 1996, I was fascinated about surfing a very slow web. Being able to create webpages with relative ease became an addiction. This new passion, and early online gaming lead to high monthly bills at the Deutsche Telekom … Anyway, I was hired by a local dancing school to create a webpage at the age of 16. Two years later, in 2000, I registered my own business at the age of 18.
“The first TYPO3 version I remember using was 3.6 …”
What was your first experience with TYPO3?
During the first years of entrepreneurship, I took a shot at any CMS I could find, which also included own approaches on developing. In my opinion, everyone should try to write their own application or CMS – you learn a lot! TYPO3 must have crossed my path around 2004, but not in a conscious way. I lingered with many CMS. That was until Tom hopped on board (Thomas Maroschik, CTO at DFAU GmbH) and we got more serious with TYPO3. The first version I remember is 3.6, and the first event I will never forget is T3CON 2008. I actually met a lot of people there who were deeply involved with closed source solutions years before.
At some point you decided to concentrate on TYPO3 as the CMS for your clients. Tell us a bit about DFAU GmbH. What kind of customers do you cater to?
We do not specify our clientele to particular branches. We created a lot of tourism solutions, but we also cater to the industry, technology, sports and the government. Our clients usually stick with us in long term relationships as we are now starting to celebrate ten-year anniversaries. We trust in service, integrity and honesty. I guess this is what makes us stable and authentic to our customers. I am also trying to fight the term “agency” as it doesn’t really express the long term values we have in mind.
“I was frustrated having to reject clients for budgetary reasons.”
As some readers might know, in 2018 you presented a website builder to the TYPO3 sphere that was created entirely in house. Why did you develop “toujou” in the first place?
Honestly, out of frustration. Our order situation got bigger and bigger and we had to reject projects and clients for budgetary and time-related reasons. TYPO3 projects just couldn’t start fast and easy enough. On the other hand, we were never satisfied with the results we got with other CMS, especially regarding maintenance. Actually, we first came up with the name “toujou” and the basic idea of a TYPO3 website builder back in 2011, but we kept delaying going further with it due to higher priorities within our regular projects. Then we noticed “t3kit” and “t3quick” as first official attempts at facilitating access to TYPO3 – but we were not that satisfied with them. So we finally decided to go all in with developing toujou at the end of 2016. Spoiler: We have not rejected any project or client since then.
Can you explain a bit about the technology behind “toujou”?
Thomas would say I shouldn’t (laughs), but I’ll try anyway. toujou is a service consisting of a basic TYPO3 solution with a wide range of integrated content elements. We only add well maintained extensions like Yoast SEO, the forms module or the Blog extension to get the biggest bang for buck with the technology everyone expects in a simple website. Plus hosting, updates and maintenance.
When building “toujou”, were you doing a lot of configuration, custom development, or both?
Both. Configuration is key as we want users to be able to easily access the technology. The entire setup is basically pre-tuned and clients usually start with a fully configured website. All they have to do is set the system up to their corporate design and start building up content. Custom development on the other hand is something we underestimated in the beginning.
What other obstacles or unexpected pitfalls did you encounter?
Of course there were some setbacks. That’s what happens when you are creating a reliable structure and basics that won’t fall apart with the next step of development. It took a lot of effort to approach those things early on, and without making compromises. Also, the work that went into the documentation ... It makes a huge difference if it’s a custom system for a specialised group of editors or if it’s toujou, which has to fit standards that a larger variety of users can trust.
“Small companies weigh many arguments before deciding on a technology.“
How did the software – or the service, as you called it – grow?
Overall, in the first year toujou developed as expected. Apart from quiet weeks during holidays, there has been a rapid seasonal growth we didn’t expect. We had one month with nearly 60 demo installations that were running at the same time. That’s when we learned a lot about the rhythm of business decisions. Smaller companies weigh many arguments before deciding on a technology. In other words: We now know why Jimdo heavily advertised their website kit back in January and February ...
What do you see in the future of “toujou”?
Three things: We want toujou to be a real alternative to low-cost solutions, the entry-point into the TYPO3 environment and the appreciated weapon of choice for agencies and developers before they start rejecting projects or clients. They are the ones that benefit the most, because they gain more capacities in projects that really need dev manpower.
“Our goal: to get TYPO3 into people’s mind whenever SMEs consider building a new website”
Last year at T3CON you spoke about new market segments that might not have been TYPO3 target groups before, especially SMEs. What will you talk about to this year’s attendees in The Hague when you take the stage?
Last year, we concentrated on the philosophy behind toujou. This year, we want to share our learnings from the first year and the reactions we received while marketing toujou. We have gotten great feedback by target groups that never really suspected TYPO3 as the right solution in terms of cost and benefit. That’s what we intended to achieve. With that seed planted, we now want toujou to grow even more in order to get TYPO3 into people’s mind whenever SMEs consider building a new website.
Meet us in The Hague! Daniel will be speaking on Friday, 18.10.2019, 15:15 - 16:00, in the Engine Room.
>> All about toujou
>> T3CON19: See full schedule
>> Register now and be a part of the 2019 TYPO3 Conference!
>> Another blog post on the topic:
TYPO3CON - A Tech Conference Made for Business Decision Makers