Mass Impressions.

Mass Impressions is a web design agency full of talented online marketers, web designers, and WordPress developers based out of London and Oxford in the UK. They pride themselves on their ability to translate complex business goals into simple, easy to use and beautiful, fresh online experiences. They design and develop websites that are appealing to the eye and emotions, easy-to-use and engaging.

The Mass Impressions team have come to trust and rely on Avada for its web design solutions, endorsed it publicly and use it exclusively for all their client sites. As part of our ongoing customer spotlight series, we had the chance to catch up with Sam Isbister, their Managing Director, and understand more about their business. Let’s meet Sam!.

From Aspiring Comic Illustrator to Founding a Reputable Tech Business

Q: Hi Sam! Can you tell us a little about your personal background and how you got involved in the world of web design?

I’m the kid who spent more time sketching comic books than doing homework. I dreamed of illustrating Marvel Comics.

Sadly, somewhere down the line, I found myself nudged into ‘academic’ subjects, ‘better suited’ to a competitive job market. I emerged from University at 24 armed with a Politics degree and not a clue what happened next.

The web was still relatively young – Facebook had just launched and everything was exciting. I picked up a copy of Photoshop and a lifelong love affair with all things web design was born.

Having grown up in a small family business, I saw the impact this new medium could have on the health, happiness and fortune of those who did it well. I wanted to make a difference to small business owners like my folks – I still do.

I also owed that kid who loved to sketch comic books the opportunity to do what he does best. He’s carried me further than any Politics degree ever could have.

What Sets Mass Impressions Apart

Q: The Mass Impressions site is a seriously impressive piece of work – no case of the cobbler’s children there! Can you tell us a little about the planning that went into it?

Creating your own site is deceptively hard. Fortunately, I’ve a great team that keeps me focused. The first key step was to establish what we were good at and what we wanted to do, which is delivering world-class design through WordPress – primarily through Avada. The rest just got in the way.

We A/B test our site a lot and it serves the agency well. Avada gives us huge flexibility and we are continually tweaking little bits to make it more and more effective.

Q: Mass Impressions is approaching a decade of providing top-notch WordPress solutions for high-profile clients. What’s been the most exciting part of the journey so far?

There have been many highlights, but it’s difficult to point out a single project – we learn something new from every client. We’ve learned how architects, television companies and lawyers differ in their approaches. Every sector is unique in itself.

Having said that, I’d point towards two developments that have fundamentally changed our game. The first was the rise of WordPress; the second was meeting the Theme Fusion team and embracing Avada. As a platform, it really allows us to create world class sites that clients love.

Q: The Mass Impressions site has an excellent portfolio section showcasing work done for some renowned names. In addition to your work on the Avada demo sites, we noticed a strong comedy theme running through many of the portfolio pieces. Is there a particular connection there behind the scenes? How was it to work with some of these household names?

I really wish there was a funny story to this, but we fell into it quite by chance. Working with some of the biggest names in the industry pushes us to deliver our best work to huge fan bases hungry for content. In other cases, clients are looking for us to build a big audience for them.

We take our learnings from these projects and add our expertise to every company we work with. We especially enjoy working with smaller companies – the impact we’ve had on every aspect of their business is far more clear.

Q: What makes for a perfect Mass Impressions client?

  • the client values quality over quantity – let’s do it well or not at all.
  • the timing is right and there’s a genuine business need – timing is everything.
  • the client really wants to do something special and is invested in the outcome – that’s why it’s often more rewarding to work with smaller firms than larger brands. The results matter more.

We are usually quick to sense if a client is a good match, and we pride ourselves in saying ‘no’ to far more work than we could ever say ‘yes’ to. We believe it’s important to focus on what we’re best at and work with people who genuinely value it.

Transparency and Constant Innovation – Cornerstones of Mass Impressions’ Success

Q: You’ve got an interestingly straightforward pricing page breaking out sample projects in the context of a flat hourly rate. Why do you think more agencies don’t follow that lead?

I think pricing is the most underdeveloped aspect of this fledgling industry. We want to be completely transparent about our pricing structure. We’re too busy dealing with good clients to elicit a budget from a bad one. We also appreciate how hard it is for anyone to establish how much they want to invest when they don’t know how much things cost.

Being honest about our pricing from the offset is one of the cornerstones of our success. It puts the client back in control. As an industry, we’re primed to believe that he who mentions price first loses, and so much time is wasted as a result. Our model may not work for every agency, but I think many agencies could buy back a lot of wasted time by adopting a similar approach.

Q: There’s obviously a team of talented people knocking out the quality work you produce and building that sort of roster can’t be easy. What are the lessons you’ve learned in assembling the current multi-disciplinary crew?

Finding the right talent is tough and good teams don’t build themselves. I’m lucky to work alongside brilliant people every day.

I think the temptation with any WordPress agency is to hire technical people. We hire people we get on with and who we think will bring something new to the team. Sure, they need to have a decent skill-level, but that can be taught. Being a decent person who cares about the clients they work with can’t be.

Q: Speaking of which, the newly launched MassWP support service looks like a great solution for offering people as much access to the team as required. Can you tell us more about the offering and the rationale behind it?

It’s slow, quoting for every job. We wanted to create a simple, straightforward and affordable way for clients to have access to our team whenever they needed. Sure, clients love being able to update their own sites. Avada is great for this and we encourage it, but they often find it invaluable to have an expert on hand.

We also take care of all the less glamourous bits like updating plugins and themes. We like to think of it as WordPress made simple.

Q: Mass Impressions has enjoyed considerable success on ThemeForest with its best-selling PSD WordPress templates. Building a strong product arm next to your existing client work must be a tempting path to explore further. Can we expect more moves in this direction in the future?

I encourage all my designers and developers to publish independently on ThemeForest. Our designers are second only to Luke in terms of the best selling PSDs. It keeps them actively on trend and pushes them to design with a freedom that isn’t always possible on client projects.

I’ve worked very closely with the ThemeFusion team and I know just how much work is involved in building Avada. I’m convinced that in Avada, we stand perched on the shoulders of giants! We owe them so much of our success that I think we’re better placed in supporting them. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Q: As a high-profile WordPress agency, you’ve got a unique insight into how WordPress is used at the sharp end of the business. What are your thoughts on where the platform is heading?

I still had to sell WordPress to clients as recently as two years ago. Now virtually every client specifically requests WordPress. I think the trend is set to continue and I’m pleased we’re along for the ride.

I think the next year will see big developments in front end editing which will push some of the older custom CMS’s into touch. I’m excited to see what Automattic do with WooCommerce; I’d love to see WordPress take on Magento.

Where Avada Fits into the Mass Impressions Picture

Q: You’ve done some amazing work with Avada on a number of client sites. What made you plump for it as a theming solution? Is there one implementation in particular that stands out?

Avada’s remarkable flexibility allows the team to work faster with almost any design and clients love its ease-of-use.

I guess after almost ten years, I’m trained to say my favorite project is the next one; that’s even more true as we look to push Avada in newer and more interesting ways. Recent projects that stand out are a very successful architecture firm and a prestigious IT Support Firm we’re busy working with.

Q: Is there a particular Avada feature that made it stand out for either the design or development teams on particular client projects?

I love the Avada design and the demos just highlight its vast scope from a design perspective. Ultimately, that’s what draws the clients in and I think it’s often a big factor in why they choose to work with us.

From our perspective, the development side has been truly revolutionary. It allows us to spend more time with our clients and less time in darkened rooms coding everything from scratch. The result is better sites and faster delivery.

Q: Mass Impressions’ work on the Avada demo sites blew the Theme Fusion team away and there’s a great case study on your own site. What was the most interesting part of working alongside them from your team’s point of view?

I love the Avada design and the demos just highlight its vast scope from a design perspective. Ultimately, that’s what draws the clients in and I think it’s often a big factor in why they choose to work with us.

From our perspective, the development side has been truly revolutionary. It allows us to spend more time with our clients and less time in darkened rooms coding everything from scratch. The result is better sites and faster delivery.

Q: Is there a particular area of existing functionality you’d like to see us build out further with Avada, or any missing features you’d love to see in the next release?

It would be wrong of me to pre-empt the direction the team chooses to move in. Each of the updates is so well considered. I’m excited to see clients start working with the new fusion builder, but that might not happen in the next update.

I’d love to see the team move towards front end editing. I think clients would love it, but like anything ThemeFusion does, I’m confident when the time is right, they’ll do it better than anyone else.

And Finally…

Q: There’s a great curated collection of free design resources on the Mass Impressions site. If you could give one piece of advice to a young web professional (designer, developer or both) just starting out and recommend one book to read, what would they be?

The things that really matter are how often you see your friends, family, or even daylight! Hold on to that simple belief and it will set you on the way to finding good clients, working sensible hours and surrounding yourself with likeminded people.

There’s never been a better time to embrace WordPress, but my advice would be a little more personal: value your time. It’s important to remember that for better or worse, most designers or developers end up selling their time too cheap. Place the right value on what’s important to you and your clients will too.

Instead of a book, I’d like to recommend a service I wish I’d had for the past ten years. It’s called Invision and it has changed the way we work profoundly. Grab yourself a free trial and never look back!


It’s seriously tough to thrive in the web design and WordPress development industry, but Mass Impressions are showing us how it’s done.

Their constant innovation with the Avada framework coupled with truly innovative thinking has enabled them to push the boundaries of web design and create some truly extraordinary websites. Sam’s conscientious approach to everything from design to recruitment has caught the eye of some high-profile clients.

The fact that the Mass Impressions team uses Avada for their work is an astounding endorsement that gives us no small sense of pride. We are delighted that he considers Avada to be the optimal base upon which to build every single client website that Mass Impressions crafts.

We’re thankful to Sam for this in-depth insight into a constantly evolving space. After taking a closer look at some of the groundbreaking work his team has produced we are truly inspired by them. Check out their website yourselves and see some of the great work they have done!

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