Alright, alright, alright. A new year is upon us and that means it’s time for a recap post. This was my 10th and most successful year of full-time freelance. I passed on many projects and only had a handful of longer engagement clients. That really helped me focus on my side project, AIUX. More on that in a bit.
I kicked off the year with an extension of the work I had done the previous fall in 2014. I got involved with Roadie when it was just an idea and worked with as a part of the core team to bring it to life.
Last year I collaborated on the UX and designed all of the UI for iOS and Android apps. This year we refined some features, created a better onboarding sequence, and crafted a big style guide to help position Roadie for building their own internal team.
I made a fun little website to hand things off in style. (actual dropbox links have been removed from the site)
Skyscanner is one of the largest flight and hotel search companies in the world. A small team they recently acquired was building a new version of their business traveler app and they contracted me to help design their UX and UI.
This was a great project. Not only did I have an amazing team to work with, they flew me to Scotland for a week to have a solid working session with the team. See a few pictures here #mdsinscotland
I had a pizza eating competition with Ross, the Head of Corporate Travel, and tied. He likes to say he won, but we very clearly agreed that the side arugula salad did not count towards the final tally. Side note: I hate arugula salad.
The Skyscanner business traveler app is called TravelPro. It lets multiple from the same organization search for and book flights and hotels, then forward the itineraries to a manager for purchase. Employees within the same company can see who has booked certain flights and hotels to make travel collaboration easier.
The largest task was designing the responsive web app, followed by the iOS app. They were constantly building the app in tandem while it was being designed, to things moved really quickly.
I haven’t posted any of the work online, because they wanted to wait until it was publicly available. I’ll be sure to post the designs soon. Definitely proud of the work we did together.
This was a project for a client in New York. I designed the UX and wireframes for a comparison shopping application focused on baby and kids items. I flew up there and had a few working days with them and spent a few weeks designing a solid set of wireframes to help flesh out functionality and map out a vision for the initial release of the product.
Involved is an initiative from the New Growth and Development department of Cox Communications. The web app allows parents with children in public school sign up for a free account, log in with their parent portal username and password, then get texts or emails of their kid’s grades as they’re available.
Half of my project efforts were dedicated to creating conceptual demos to help the internal team sell the idea upstream to get budget, and the other half was designing the actual project. It can be tough to switch gears between those two extremes, but it’s a necessary challenge for some organizations.
This was my biggest goal for 2015 and one that I’m proud to have accomplished and shipped. The idea took root back in May of 2014 so I started small with a variety of blog posts loosely covering the topic of using Illustrator for UX design.
The files and tutorials I produced gained traction and momentum, so I started planning a full online-course. I knew the course videos would be the most difficult piece to create so I focused on those first. Once they were complete I started exploring options for where and how to host my the course.
Pretty quickly I decided to design and build my own course software web app. I used the same techniques I teach in the course to build the app—eating your own dog food some people call it.
I recruited my friend Jess Brown to help build the Ruby back-end while I designed and coded the front side of things.
This project ruined me for future projects in the best possible way. Now it’s going to be incredibly tough to NOT write the front-end code for the projects I design. Pushing design updates to a live app via code is a pretty invigorating feeling. Much more so than handing off a set of static designs.
I hit a few bumps along the way, but I’ll cover that in a much more thorough post. The first two quarters of 2015 were pretty slam packed with client work, but that gave me the flexibility to take off all of June and July to get cranking on the AIUX course.
Here’s a rough breakdown of the time it took to build and ship the product:
June - July (7 weeks, took 1 week off for family vacation) Created the videos for the course and started preliminary designs for the course app.
August - September (3 weeks, took roughly 5 weeks off for client work) Refined the designs for the app and coded the entire front-end.
October (1 week, spent the other 3 weeks working on a client project) Launched the private beta to over 100 people. Got great feedback on the app, the videos and more. Took this time to re-record some of the lessons and continued to refine things.
November (2-3 weeks, hodgepodge of client work and writing and designing the sales page for the course)
December (2 weeks, launched the public version of the course, refined the sales page, and did a ton of customer support)
Total 16 weeks (4 months)
All in all I’m pretty satisfied with the first launch. I had about 60 people buy the course for a total of $20k~ in revenue the first week and another $10k~ that will come in over the next 5 months from people who opted for the payment plan.
This isn’t enough to be profitable (yet) based on the amount of time and money I’ve spent so far, but definitely enough to validate the product. Now there’s a great foundation laid that I can build upon with AIUX and any other course I want to create in the future.
The beta feedback was great, but now that I have paying customers, I’m expecting even more candid comments to help make the course even better.
I'll open and close the course publicly at least 4 more times in 2016. Each time I'll gather feedback and improve the content.
I took a day or two while coding the front-end of AIUX to make this little plugin. It helps you see a mark between the 45th and 75th character of any paragraph, so you know where to optimally break your lines when styling the front-end of a site. See it in action here.
I was really into cycling in 2014. A friend of mine helps run a local, amateur competitive cycling team and I designed their logo and cycling jerseys.
They needed some additional decals and merchandise designed, so I took the original logo I created and made a full font out of it.
The font is 99% complete and I even submitted it to myfonts.com. They gave me some great feedback to correct a few things, but I decided to put my focus on AIUX first. It will probably only take a day or two to wrap up the font for release.
The Quad turned 1
In April of 2014, I helped start a coworking space called The Quad. It’s alive and kicking with 12 full-time members and a handful of part timers. Being 100% independent, it’s been awesome to have this little community of people to work around. You can read about the origin story here.
This is a secret project that Mattox and I began toying with last fall. It's going to be huge, I can feel it. It’s a new approach to an icon/font that will super-charge your projects. If you want to stay in the loop, go here and enter you name and email.
I coded this up while working on the Skyscanner interface. It’s fun to supply developers with actual code they can plug in instead of expecting them to recreate it 100% identical to what you’ve designed. You can see Good Button in action here.
Speaking is weird. It’s stressful to prepare for and kind of stressful doing, but once it’s finished it really doesn't seem like that big of a deal. It’s kind of exhilarating.
This year I worked on a presentation called "Responsive Design in the Real World" and gave a slightly version of it 5 different times.
Last year I went cycling a lot. 1,646 miles to be exact. This year I only got in 301.8 miles on the bike and 60 miles running.
What I didn’t do in cardio though, I did in strength training. I lifted weights roughly 3 times per week and got my deadlift max up to 415 lbs.
I feel way stronger now and I’m planning for 2016 to be a blend of continued lifting with a lot more cardio integrated.
10 Years of Marriage
This year marks a full decade of being married to my best friend. We dated for four years before we got married so now we’ve been together now for 14 years. Fourteen. Years. That’s insane. I can wholeheartedly say that I would not have accomplished half the things in my life without this incredibly strong and supportive woman by my side. I can’t imagine living life and raising four kids with any other human on the planet.
This year will be focused primarily on fine-tuning the AIUX course, possibly revamping the whole thing for AIUX 2.0, maybe even another course or two. I’m also incredibly into learning about email automation and creating evergreen sales funnels to make the course be sustainable throughout the entire year as opposed to one-off public launches.
Some other random goals:
- Redesign this site by the end of Q1
- Write for a minimum of 30 minutes daily
- Publish a blog post and email newsletter weekly
- Start more design tutorials for Illustrator, Sketch, and Project Comet. Maybe even some code tutorials for designers.
- Release my Freelance Fire book by the end of Q2
- Buy a Nissan Juke Nismo by the end of Q3.
- Have a noticeable six-pack (instead of a two-pack) by the end of Q1. Abs not beer.
- My wife bought me a new guitar for Christmas and I’m pretty pumped about it, so I want to learn more scales, modes, licks, and runs in 2016. Nothing too specific, just playing more.
- Attend at least 3-5 conferences. Excited that I’ve got 2 lined up to speak at already.
- Play more with my kids and have a date night with one of them at least twice a month.
- Have at least 2 date nights a month with my wife.
- Have our current house ready to be sold by the end of Q3. Our 3 bedroom and 2 bath can only cut it for so long with four kids.
- Say NO to more things.
- Laser focus.
Alrighty. That’s all for now. Happy New Year!