It was a busy year and it wasn’t only work related, but personal as well. In December 2014, the greatest thing happened in my life when my daughter, Emilia, was born. So, I could title my entire 2015 year as “Parenting 101”.
Still, it didn’t stop me from working after hours and I managed to release The Essential Web Design Handbook in January, which was my biggest side project ever.
I still can’t believe how I found time between changing diapers, keeping my day job at Rainmaker Digital and working on some of my personal projects (check out my other post: Get Your Side Projects Done).
So, I wanted to put together a quick review of my 2015 and see what I learned, what I worked on and how it all will affect the upcoming year.
I believe we should never stop learning and we should constantly improve our skills. However, it’s a huge time and energy investment, so it’s very important to wisely choose the areas we want to get better at.
My main focus in 2015 was to learn more about user experience, designing for conversion and online marketing. I figured these were the areas that would help me to provide the most value to my work.
There was one big thing that I missed that I didn’t even consider. It’s the accessibility. Some fine folks like Gary Jones and Carrie Dils from the Genesis community reminded me about this important part.
I realized some of my designs missed these significant but also very easy to fix pieces that would help a lot of people with disabilities access the content and make the Internet a more friendly place.
So, my goal for next year is to explore this area more and make sure my websites are not only well designed and optimized for conversions, but are also accessible.
If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, I would recommend reading Carrie Dil’s series of articles here.
We never stop at Rainmaker Digital. The company has been growing like crazy in the last couple of years. As some of you know, we run multiple projects at the same time and have a couple of big branches (StudioPress, Copyblogger, Rainmaker) to manage.
I’m glad so many great people have joined our team, which helped me to switch my focus on our Rainmaker brand and take care of bigger design projects in 2015:
- Rainmaker Platform. I completely redesigned and coded the new platform’s website. My main focus was to create a design system that would help us to follow this style and re-apply it for other websites in the Rainmaker family in order to maintain consistency.
- Digital Commerce Institute. This is a completely new website I designed and coded based on the Rainmaker Platform’s design system. I’m planning to write a massive “making of” post next year which will explain the entire work in more detail.
- Rainmaker.FM. Continuing with the RM Platform and DCI style, I’ve started working on a huge redesign of the RM.FM website as well. It’s coming next year.
- Unemployable.com. Brian Clark’s project built on the Rainmaker Platform.
- ChrisDucker.com. I designed and coded a custom theme on the Rainmaker Platform for Chris Ducker. Check out my complete “making of” post here.
- ChrisLema.com. I designed and coded a custom theme on the Rainmaker Platform for Chris Lema.
- JayBaer.com. I helped to redesign Jay Baer’s new website, Calvin Koepke coded it and moved to the Rainmaker Platform.
I also I put a lot of work into the Rainmaker Platform user interface this year. We introduced new great features and improved some of the already existing ones. I hope I’ll have more time to make some major UX and UI improvements next year.
Additionally, I published two new articles on Copyblogger in case you missed them:
- How to Create a Visual Brand and Fight the Dark Forces
- A Simple Content Marketing Strategy for Creative Folks
As you can imagine, the baby took all of my spare time and energy. Still, I did my best to keep my website and ebook alive.
I didn’t write as many blog posts as I wanted to, but I tried to put more effort in making every single one count. Here are more interesting ones I published in 2015:
- What I’ve Learned From Selling My First Ebook
- A Simple Guide To Start A/B Testing On Your Website
- Here Are My Best 30 Tips For Designers – most popular one!
- 3 Common Challenges For Designers And How To Deal With Them
- Get Your Side Projects Done
- Making of: ChrisDucker.com Redesign
- I’m Not a Talented Designer
Additionally, I published one free Genesis child theme and a follow up “making of” post explaining how I made it:
The design challenge helped me to get to know you better and find out what your problems are and what you want to learn next.
I want to totally focus on building a bigger audience around my website next year (and that means only more good stuff for you!).
I see an enormous potential in having a big email list and I’d like to encourage every one of you to start building your own as soon as you can as well (check out my advice on building your authority in this post: What Really Sells Your Freelance Design Service?).
I had 4k+ email subscribers in January 2014 when I launched my ebook. I have over 9k+ email subscribers now, which I consider a huge success.
I believe I can double this number next year (and that’s my goal!). One of the ways to accomplish it is by publishing valuable content more often. You can expect more “making of” posts, tutorials and articles that address common challenges that we all face as creatives.
Additionally, I’m hoping to update my free design tools in the Designers Area and add even more resources and Genesis child themes.
While writing is a great way to build your audience, there are other mediums that I want to also focus on. So, my plan is to start my own podcast that will become a part of the Rainmaker.FM podcasting network.
The podcast will be, of course, all about creating simple, smart and effective websites. It’s not going to be just for designers, but for all website owners who want to improve their websites and online businesses.
I’m really excited about it and I’m currently putting a lot of effort into making it happen.
Because of the lack of time (or energy) in 2015, I left one of my projects, Typespiration.com, completely on the side.
I love the idea of this site and it got a lot of recognition in a relatively short time. I know it has a huge potential, so I started redesigning Typespiration and I’m hoping to relaunch it early next year.
So, as you can see, a lot of good stuff is coming next year
I’m really looking forward to it so please stay tuned if you don’t want to miss it!