Understanding how web design is changing allows us to be proactive, instead of wondering what happened when it's too late. In this article, I share my own thoughts on web design in general.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the changing landscape of web design and development, and I believe there’s already a fast-moving shift in how customers are approaching getting online. I may elaborate more later, but here are the overall thoughts. You Don’t Need to Code to Make a Career Out of Web Design
I’ve gotten a lot of pushback on putting this idea out into the world. You don’t need to code to make websites. With the advent of page builders and services like Squarespace, you don’t need to necessarily know HTML and CSS – at least not to get started. Will it make you better? No doubt. Do you need it to get that first (or first 50) website out there? Absolutely not.
You could focus on other skills instead: content creation, UX, color and font theory, etc. In my eyes, we’re seeing a shift much like the one WordPress brought about in the mid-2000s. As more people shifted to using WordPress as a CMS, there were the people who claimed that WordPress will never be as good a CMS as one they could make themselves.
Now, it would be ludicrous (in most cases) to code your own CMS from scratch, especially for a simple informational website. If
Not directly in the purview of WordPress, but Slack has become a huge distraction and I know we use it heavily in the community. Here's how I'm reeling it in.
One of my goals is to read 21 books this year, and I’m doing super well so far. After finishing the super dense (and very thought provoking) Homo Deus, I’m flying through It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work. While the hubris of Jason Fried drives me crazy, I’ve read all of his and DHH’s books, and they’ve all been excellent. So I suppose the hubris is well-deserved. In any case, I’m almost done with that book and I’ve decided to take my first action: turning off Slack notifications. Slack Kills Productivity
This might sound crazy to people in my space, as Slack has become the de-facto standard for communication for the lot of us. But it’s also a HUGE distraction. In the book, Fried and DHH talk about how distractions kill productivity, and just because I’m not in an office, I’m not immune. Slack makes it very easy for people to take you out of the moment – it’s the virtual knock on the door and, “hey you have a minute?”
I should note that they don’t call anyone out by name, but I’ve definitely felt like they were talking to specific people or companies at certain points.
Going to conferences can be a costly endeavor if you're paying for it out of pocket. In an attempt to justify the expenses (and track where my income is actually coming from), I've devised a plan to tie ROI to conferences.
As I start to plan my travel for 2019 (something I should have done in December), I’m thinking a lot about where I want to spend my time and money, and what will be the best for my bottom line. In general I try to tie real, tangible dollars to the conference I go to (in most cases). Because I’m using my own money, while education is a good metric for attending a conference, my goal is to recoup at least some of the cost. Here’s how I do that. First, let me say that this model might not be for everyone, but if you’re paying your own way, I think it’s important to determine what makes spending the money a win for you. With conferences like An Event Apart or Podcast Movement, what you learn can definitely be the ROI, because you take what you learn and apply it to your business, making you more profitable. For me, I measure success 3 different ways:
What I learn
Who I meet
Direct deals that happen as a result of me going to the conference
Let’s break these down.
What I Learn
If I’m going to sessions, I make sure I get some tangible, actionable advice from them. I take notes, ask questions, and when I can, I talk to the presenter. This requires
For 2019, I've decided I want to implement a new theme to help guide my decision making. I've focused it around learning and teaching, consuming and creating new content.
My favorite podcast of 2018 was Cortex, a show hosted by Myke Hurley and CGP Grey about their working lives. Each year they decide to come up with yearly themes to help them guide their decision making, processes, and hopefully improve their overall lives. I’ve decided that I will also implement a theme for 2019 – and my theme is the year of new content. There are 2 primary reasons I made this my theme for 2019:
I want to consume more new content (books, movies, TV, courses)
I want to create more new content
I Didn’t Consume Enough Good Content in 2018
While I (barely) hit my reading goal for 2018, I don’t feel like I mixed up the books I read, and to be honest, I counted a couple of summaries as actual read books – I mean, I got the gist, right?
I also didn’t see nearly as many new movies as I hoped, and over the last 2 years, I’ve only seen one “new” TV show: The West Wing.
For 2019, I want that to change. I’ve started a new habit of reading every morning before I do anything else. This will help me reach my reading goal of 21 books in 2019.
I’ve also made a list of TV shows and movies I want to watch this year. Instead
I've sold my laptop and replaced it with an iPad Pro. I go over the things it does really well, as well as some of the stuff I wish it did better (like development).
Since going out on my own full time, my tech stack has been a bit of a revolving door. In the quest to find the perfect set up I went from a MacBook Pro to a PC / smaller MacBook for travel. Less than a year later and I’m not too happy with that setup. Nothing against the PC, but living in two-thirds Apple land makes having parity between machines very hard (plus, Camtasia, my main video editor, is a hot mess). So when Apple announced the new iPad Pros, I made a decision to go with that and only that as my travel machine. So first, as much as I like the idea of an iPad-only lifestyle, I simple can’t (not yet anyway). The video and audio editing tools are not nearly as good on iOS as they are on macOS, and doing local development is much much easier.
Primary Machine: The iMac Pro
So what does 2019 have in store for my tech setup? Well, last year I cheaped out because I though a PC would be just as good as an iMac Pro. So I’m selling both my MacBook (sold) and my PC (still working on that one, if interested), and I’m buying an iMac Pro as my primary machine. This will bring me wholly back into Apple’s ecosystem and allow me to use all the tools I currently
In this tutorial I talk about how I built a simple. responsive price table using native Gutenberg Columns.
Last week I worked on an upcoming tutorial for a popular online publication on how to style the Gutenberg Columns block (I’ll be sure to send that along when it comes out). As as result, I decided to experiment to see what you could reasonable do, and came up with this Gutenberg Price Table: https://codepen.io/jcasabona/pen/RYvEYd. In this tutorial, we’ll go over some of the things we need to do to make this happen. Requirements
There are few requirements / constraints:
It has to be responsive
The stacking order for the columns needs to reflect content priority (e.g., the most important package should be the top one)
?While I won’t do a full blown tutorial on how I did this (you can look for the upcoming tutorial for that), I will highlight some important parts aspects.
How Gutenberg Columns Work
There are three things to know about Gutenberg Columns:
At the time of this writing, they use Flexbox. Originally they used CSS Grid, but the core team decided to switch to ?Flexbox for the better browser support
There are 2 classes by default: wp-block-columns for the overall columns container and wp-block-column
Starting a podcast is all the rage! This article will tell you 6 great plugins for your podcast website on WordPress.
WordPress is certainly the most popular CMS in the world, powering over 30% of the web. It also powers all sorts of websites, from blogs to giant e-commerce stores and everything in between. This includes podcast websites. However, recently I attended Podcast Movement, a fantastic podcasting conference, and discovered that many podcasters struggle with creating their own website. While there are countless tools that will automate the process for you, you’re at the mercy of a platform you don’t own. Still, finding the right tools can be hard. That’s why in this article, I’m going to tell you about 6 killer plugins for your podcast website on WordPress. Specific Podcasting Plugins
First, there are 2 really great contenders for actually turning your blog into a podcast website: Seriously Simple Podcasting and Powerpress by Blubrry.
Seriously Simple Podcasting
I love this plugin because it really is simple. It creates a new post type called “Episodes” and then builds your podcast feed based on that. You can even have “Series,” meaning you can host multiple podcasts from the same WordPress site. Set up for this is fantastically easy. It works
An affiliate program is only as good as the information your affiliates have. Here's how I'm making mine better.
Affiliate programs can be one of the best ways to drive traffic and sales to your products. Mobilized affiliates can become your best advocates. In recent months I’ve been working to improve my own affiliate program to make sure my affiliates are energized about Creator Courses as well as informed about what’s going on. Here are 5 ways I’m working to improve my affiliate program. 1: Not an Open Club
First, I want to make sure my affiliates can actually vouch for me. They don’t need to be students in one of my courses, but they do need to understand my teaching style. Maybe they are fans of my YouTube videos, have attended a workshop, or someone I’ve otherwise interacted with.
The program is not an open club for people who are just linking to my courses in hopes that they’ll make money. I want my affiliates to understand my work and convince people that my courses are worth taking.
2: Better Rates
If affiliates are going to go through the trouble of convincing people to take my courses, it needs to be worthwhile for them. My original commission was 20%, and I was selling my courses for between $24-69. That’s not a lot. So I decided to do 3 things:
As freelancers it's easy to say clients mess everything up. But if you find yourself saying that all the time, maybe it's not the client.
Imagine you’re buying a new phone. You walk into the store and you overhear a conversation with 2 of the sales clerks. One says to the other, “Ugh. One of my customers put an ugly case on the beautiful iPhone I gave them. Customers are so stupid. They always mess things up.” You probably wouldn’t want them helping you buy a new phone. Why would you want that kind of ridicule? Wouldn’t you take your business elsewhere? But somehow, we think it’s OK to say this about clients pretty regularly. How many times have you heard it – “Clients always mess things up?” Maybe you’ve even said it a few times yourself. It’s easy to get frustrated. But it’s dangerous to make that your default mindset because it makes you hostile towards your clients. Here are a few things to consider before you utter those words again.
Remember Clients Don’t Know What You Know
I know I talk about this a lot, but remember that your clients aren’t as familiar with our professions as we are. Perhaps they do what they think is right, or they don’t know how to do the right thing. Part of a project should include client education to
Last week I attended WordCamp US, and I feel it was the best one yet. It was an incredible reminder of the great community we have.
This year has seemingly been a tumultuous one in the WordPress community. Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0’s release cycle have caused tensions to run high. Opinions fly with reckless abandon – my own included. As many of us gathered in Nashville for the annual national conference, there was some worry that these tensions would hang over WordCamp US like a dark cloud. I’m happy to say that in my experience, that wasn’t an issue. And further, this year’s WordCamp US has been the best one yet. Here’s why. A Family Reunion
I always have fun at WordCamp US – I look forward to it because it feels like a family reunion to me. I show up and I know a large number of folks, many of whom I haven’t seen in months. It lets me catch up with those people in real life, not behind a screen, and talk.
As an extrovert, this fuels me.
I Met a Lot a Great People
I also got to meet a lot of people this year, which is always fun. This is the second year of self-employment for me, and it feels right. I’m not quite sure how to word it, but frequently over those several days, people came up to me and told me how impactful my work has been for them. This is the
Creating an online course can be tough - especially if you're used to teaching in a classroom. Here are a few things I've learned after a year of creating exclusively online courses.
Think about the last conversation you had via text or phone. Now think about the last conversation you had in person or via video. Consider the differences. How well were you able to pick up tone or meaning? Were there subtle communications you missed over the phone that you likely would have picked up in person? How much is lost when you’re not looking at the person you’re talking to. Teaching In-Person vs. an Online Course is Different
In the classroom, I knew who I was talking to. I could see them and had some information on their backgrounds. When I said something they didn’t understand, I could tell by the look on their faces. And when I needed feedback, they were more or less a captive audience that I could ask and talk to. When I transitioned from in-person courses to online courses, this was the hardest change to make.
Nearly all of that is lost online. That means you’ll have to do some more research on the front end, before you create the course. Over the last year or so of teaching exclusively online, I have finally picked up on some of these things. As I create new courses, I’m putting what I’ve learned into action.
If you’re thinking
I've spoken to lots of folks in the WordPress Community who are interested in starting a podcast and are wondering what I use and how I do it. So I decided to publish a long post on all of my gear, plus the recording and post-production process. I hope you find it helpful!
I tend to get a lot of questions about my podcast setup, especially lately. Lots of people want to get into podcasting and I love that! I’ve written about my setup before, and last week wrote about everything on my desk. I touched on some of my gear there, but in this post I want to dig into the real setup, and the current process, as well as improvements I’d like to make. Podcast Setup: Gear
First, let’s start with the fun part of the podcast setup – the gear. I’ll write everything here in the order in which the audio (my voice) hits the device, starting with the mic.
Microphone: Rode Procaster
The Rode Procaster: My Dynamic XLR mic. I went with this (and most of my equipment) at the recommendation of my friend Shawn Hesketh, who’s a pro with this stuff. I was between this and the Shure SM7B, which is a bit more expensive. The Rode Procaster, Shawn found, was a bit better for the Voice Over (VO) that both of us tend to do. Since I’m not singing, I’m not really in need of something with a huge range. Not to mention, I can tweak with my preamp, which I’ll get to in a minute.
This mic has a cardoid polar pattern, which means it primarily
Giving a great talk at an event like a WordCamp is not easy. As someone who's been speaking in front of people for 10+ years, I have some advice on what to do to give a good conference talk.
When Steve Jobs presented the iPhone for the first time, he didn’t get up on stage and say, “Hey this is an iPhone.” Instead, he told a story – specifically the story of Apple. He built up the iPhone in terms that people understood. This made for an excellent presentation. It sucked people in, it made them invested in what it was talking about, and ultimately, he announced the iPhone to huge cheers. Steve Jobs knew how to give a great presentation. Now, I’ve been speaking in front of people for a long time. My first on stage performance was at 7 years old, when I was in 2nd grade. I love being in front of people, whether I’m acting, teaching, or just talking. But giving a good conference presentation takes practice. After professionally speaking for almost 10 years, I know what works and what needs work. Here are my 5 steps to putting together a good conference talk.
Step 1: Tell a Story
My friend Chris Lema knows how to give a good conference talk. He also starts of most of what he says with, “Let me tell you a story.” He then regales us with an interesting, relatable story that grabs our attention. That’s your goal too: start off
I've been doing my podcast for almost a year and it's been sponsored for pretty much the whole time. I write about my experience and how both the sponsor and the podcaster can help make the most of the sponsorship.
It was around this time a year ago that I decided to start my podcast, How I Built It. I started it as a way to generate buzz around building things so I could send people over to my online courses, where you learn how to build things. But a funny thing happened. Thanks to Rebecca Gill (Season 1, Episode 2) I reached out to Justin Ferriman of LearnDash about sponsoring her episode and he said yes! Since then, basically all of my episodes have had at least one sponsor, Season 2 was sold out, and Season 3 is on its way to selling out. In that time I’ve picked up a few things that I feel can help anyone who is thinking about Podcast Sponsorship. Preamble: Find the Right Show
Before we get into the nitty gritty, I should say that if you’re going to do a podcast sponsorship, find the right show. As a relatively new podcaster, I can tell you that knowing who my audience is with hard stats is tough (I’m trying) but I can take pretty good guesses based on who’s sharing it, my subject matter, and the stats Libsyn & Google provide me.
I try not to accept just anyone who wants to sponsor my show. My reputation is at stake, from both sides, so I need to believe in the
Webinars are becoming a pretty important part of my business and I want to do them right. Over the last several weeks I've been trying out different webinar software. Here's what I've found so far.
Yesterday, I gave a fantastic webinar on creating an Event Registration Form with Gravity Forms and decided to try something other than Zoom Webinars. I love Zoom and use it for all of my meetings, but my goal for attendees is to make is as easy as possible without the need for them to download anything extra. So far, I’ve looked at 3. Zoom Webinars
Zoom Webinars is the software I used for a while when I first started doing webinars. I love Zoom Meetings because it’s super reliable and easy to use. It’s well worth the price to not deal with the headaches of Google Hangouts.
The only drawback I saw with Zoom Webinars was that users had to download Zoom in order to participate. That might still be the case to get the full effect (raise hand, become the host, ask Questions using their UI), but after I started writing about this, my friend Brian pointed out that Zoom Webinars lets you stream to both YouTube Live and Facebook Live. Looks like I’ll have to revisit them soon. Though another big reason I decided to move away was cost. We’re looking at $15/mo for Zoom + $49/mo for the Webinar feature. That’s a lot of bread!
I signed up for the
Making the transition to freelancing full time can be tough. Here are some things you should keep in mind if/when you decide to do it.
Note: this is an update to an article I wrote in 2010, when I went from college to full time freelance. I started freelancing all the way back in 2002, when my church came to me looking for a website. As a junior in high school, I used
Frontpage, and GMail had yet to grace me with it’s presence. And this seemed like a really good opportunity for me to run
the business I always wanted. I freelanced all through high school and college. It was at the end of my senior year in 2007
that I realized I wanted to keep doing it. So I went to grad school to learn more about my trade, and better prepare myself full time freelancer. I stuck with it for a time but sought full time employment for 6 years before coming back to self-employment.
So what does it take to transition to full time freelancing (from school or employment)? Let me tell you what I’ve learned.
Be Financially Ready
First and foremost, you need to have money saved. This is for the slow times, the extra bills you will likely incur, and
tax time. I recommend starting as early as possible and putting as much as you can in an interest bearing account. I
had 6 months income in savings I could draw from. And I needed it! Less
Patreon recently released their own WordPress plugin, which allows you to make posts only available to your patrons. This makes it very easy to get the content benefits of a membership without needing to manage payments or subscriptions. In this video tutorial, we look at how it works.
This week I wrote about how I’m doubling down on Patreon to deliver more quality content to my backers. Well, things have just gotten a lot easier for me, because their timing is impeccable. Patreon has recently release a WordPress plugin that allows you to take posts on your blog and make them viewable to Patrons only. This allows us to make membership sites quickly and easily, without having to worry about processing payments or subscriptions. In this video tutorial, I show you exactly how to make a Patreon WordPress Membership Site.
Patreon WordPress Plugin
I go into detail in the video (transcript below if you prefer), but with the Patreon WordPress plugin, you can connect your Patreon project, then lock down posts so that only people who pledge a certain amount can access them. This is a great way to quickly and easily build a membership site that has private content, without you having to worry about collecting payments, managing subscriptions, and more.
Setup Your own Patreon account if you haven’t done so
Install the Patreon WordPress plugin (in your WordPress Dashboard, go to Plugins -> Add New)
Go to Patreon Settings and click the
I've been a web developer and a programmer for *most* of my life; but recently I moved into the video/online course space and I haven't been writing a lot of code, much to my dismay. I made a decision this week to dedicate more time to writing code by making it my side hustle.
I did some thinking over the weekend, after I wrote the post about my learning plan. I looked at my project pipeline. I looked at what people were hiring me to do, and I reviewed the next few personal projects I’m working on. You know what I saw? No coding projects. Honestly, I shouldn’t. That’s no longer my core business. I turn down freelance jobs 90% of the time. But I still want to write code. I will have to for some of the online courses I’m taking. Luckily, there’s the whole idea of a “side hustle,” and since I made my side hustle my main gig last year, my side hustle has an opening. Coding as my Side Hustle
So I’m doing a little bit of a switch. At this time last year, coding was my full time gig; courses and the podcast were my side hustle. Now that coding isn’t part of my day-to-day, I’m going to do coding projects on the side.
I’ve taken the approach up until this point that 100% of my non-family time should go to my core business. But you know what? When my wife is at work on night shift, and the baby is down for the night, I don’t really feel like doing that stuff. So if I feel like working, I’m
Over the holidays I decided to completely rebrand my online courses, and I wanted it to coincide with the launch of my Gutenberg course. In this blog post, I discuss how I did this in a week, thanks to some experience and some even better themes and plugins!
7 months ago I took my business full-time. Being a freelancer for most of my life, and even doing it full-time for a while after college, I thought I had a pretty good handle on how things would work. But as it turns out, the product space is a lot harder to work in than the services space (for me). I’ve lamented over the last few months that it’s easier for me to sell one person on a $5,000 project, than 100 people on a $50 course. But after attending CaboPress and participating in an amazing Master Mind group, I was able to get some perspective and readjust. The Autumn and Winter have been much better than the Summer. But what does that have to do with a new site I launched called Creator Courses? Everything! I decided that as well as do an intro course on Gutenberg, I would launch a new brand. Here’s how I did it, and why.
What is Creator Courses and Why?
WP in One Month is not a great name, to put it nicely. When I first started the site, it made a lot of sense. It was supposed to be live, in-person classes that focus on WordPress. We’d meet once a week for 4 weeks. However, after several pivots, I’ve landed in a place where I do online courses, that
A great introduction to the new podcast on building things on web.
If you visit Florence, Italy, visiting the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly known as the Florence Cathedral or Il Duomo, is a must. From its completion in 1436 until the advent of modern-era architecture, it was the biggest dome in the world. Even better, it’s completely self supported. All without the help of modern technology. How? Filippo Brunelleschi, the designer and architect of Il Duomo, set out to answer that very question by starting in an obvious place: asking how the Pantheon’s dome was built. It was nearby in Rome and a grand structure. Unfortunately several factors in the Pantheon’s construction ruled out mimicking that design. Brunelleschi kept looking.
He sought inspiration for the construction from other great minds like Neri di Fioravanti, who created an early design for the dome; eventually he used part of Neri’s design. See, before doing something that’s never been done, he asked others, “How did you built that?”
Learn from Others
That’s how the world works! There have been many discoveries in the history of the human race, all built off of previous discoveries. We wouldn’t have any modern electronics
Podcasting can be pretty tough. In this article, I share some thoughts I have on how to deliver better quality, value for listeners, and service for sponsors.
Season 3 isn’t wrapped yet, but I’ve already started thinking of better ways to deliver for Season 4, coming in January. When I started How I Built it, I didn’t think I would see the success the show has had. It’s a formidable part of my income, it’s got over 100,000 downloads, and it’s growing in popularity. When you first start anything, you are just finding your sea legs. Over a year in (and a fun obsession with this project), and I’ve got my bearings. I’m ready to go to the next level.
There are 3 areas where I want to improve my podcast: sound quality, user experience, and delivering more for my sponsors.
I’ve written about this before. In the off-season, I plan to purchase some better equipment, and not just a mic.
I work in an upstairs office of a town house that shares a wall with a nursery. While software editing has been successful for me until this point, I want to handle as much as possible in the analog to get the best, noise free audio. A dynamic SLR mic will be a big step because it’s more forgiving of the environment than a USB mic or my current condenser mic.
On top of that, there’s a pretty
Very useful if you need to place a widget inside of a content area.
In this tutorial, I talk about how to move a WordPress Multisite from Media Temple to SiteGround, and what to look out for while doing it.
A few years ago, I wrote about domain mapping using WordPress Multisite on Media Temple. This year, I’ve been consolidating all of my hosted websites to a single SiteGround account and the very Multisite instance I wrote about needed to be moved over. I had been avoiding it but the time had come, especially since I was getting knocked for $50/month just for those sites. Here’s how I did it. This was a process I was dreading for several reasons. First of all, Multisite isn’t your normal, run-of-the-mill WordPress install. There are often complexities that cause issues you don’t usually see in a single WordPress install.
The other reason is that I’m not just pointing one domain. I’m pointing 10 domains that seem to rely on one domain, and I’ve never done that before. I wasn’t sure how the system would function if the main domain wasn’t the first to propagate, and this seemed like an all or nothing deal. So how did I do it?
Getting the Data from Media Temple
First, a note. This process worked for me, on these specific hosts, using this domain mapping tool. I suspect that the general rules apply in most places, but I can’t guarantee
In the Post Status community, we were presented with this question: Do you ever struggle with feeling like the work you do* isn’t meaningful (eg compared to doctors etc.)? How do you cope with that? The conversation was great with a wide range of answers. I’m lucky enough to not have to struggle find meaning in my work, and here’s why.
My wife and I do very different things. I sit in front of a computer all day, get to work pretty much the hours I’d like to work (within reason), and I don’t have to put pants on. Erin is a nurse, who works 12 hour shifts, taking care of the some of the sickest people in the hospital. Her bad day is much worse than my bad day. But when I say that, she tells me I shouldn’t devalue my work, and that I can still talk about my bad days to her; it’s not a competition. I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago, when in the Post Status community, we were presented with this question: Do you ever struggle with feeling like the work you do* isn’t meaningful (eg compared to doctors etc.)? How do you cope with that? The conversation was great with a wide range of answers. I’m lucky enough to not have to struggle find meaning in my work, and here’s why. *This is a community made up mostly of developers and designers.
To Find Meaning, Love What You Do
My answer to the question was this:
Generally I think it’s all relative, and if you get enjoyment out of your work (whether that’s by helping people, scratching your own itch, or something