Life’s like an hourglass glued to the table. - Anna Nalick
After listing everything from the past year, I feel a deep realization that more than half of these items should have been their very own, thoroughly written blog post. Be that as it may, I’ll do my best to sum it up below.
I recapped AIUX in my 2015 post, but it was near the end of year when I first launched the course and much more has happened since then.
In an effort to increase automation last year, my friend Jess and I built a feature into the AIUX course back-end system based on the concept of launch tokens.
My “funnel” is far from optimized at the moment, but here’s how it works...
- You sign up for my case study emails at learnaiux.com
- That triggers a campaign inside of Drip that sends out all of the emails I’ve written, beforehand.
- At the end of the Learn AIUX campaign, you’re moved into my bridge campaign. It’s a short 2-3 email campaign spread out over a few days and gives you the opportunity to let me know that you’re interested in the full AIUX online course I built.
- If you click that button you go a special launch page I made for AIUX. It thanks you for your interest and lets you know that the course will open soon.
- When you land on that launch page, your email is passed through the URL and into my backend course system.
- My course app then creates a launch token based on your email.
- Your email is now tagged to receive my sales campaign emails, starting the following Monday of whenever you confirmed your interest in the course.
- If you visit the same launch URL before the following Monday, it was still say “thank you for your interest.”
- The launch token created in my course app, coincides with the sales email campaign inside of Drip. It gives you a 5 day window to register for the course before it closes again. After that you’ll see a legitimate course closed page and you can’t access the enrollment page until I physically open enrollment again.
It was a little complicated to setup, but works really well and it’s all automated.
This little foray into app and email integration on the pre-sales side of things got my friend Jess and I really interested rebuilding the app as a whole to be SaaS product for course creators.
We’re in the super early stages of that now, but I’ll be posting more later on.
I did lots of experimenting with email in 2016. I started on MailChimp, moved to ConvertKit, and moved again to Drip. In the end I really like the way Drip’s visual workflows worked and they’re API is pretty easy to work with.
It's been a challenge to dig into email marketing, and I still feel like I suck at it in a lot of ways, but that's how you get better right?
My buddy Taylor watched all of my email mojo from afar with AIUX. We worked in the same coworking space early last year.
He wanted some help with his new app on the email funnel side of things, so I worked with him for a week or so making a pretty giant email strategy—segmentation, custom sequences, etc.—that can be implemented within Drip.
Siempo, then called “Ebb,” was a project that I got roped into by Matthew Smith. I made the trek to Greenville and helped out with a strategy and planning workshop for the new minimalist phone. Here’s an excerpt from the website to give you an idea of what it’s all about:
Siempo is the first mindful phone that limits distractions, without compromising access to the modern services that we depend on - including synced contacts and calendar, group messaging and wifi tethering. Siempo is the only phone designed with your best intentions in mind, helping you be more focused, present and fulfilled.
After the workshop, I was tasked with coming up with new operating system design concept based on a “single-field input” concept that we talked through during our workshop.
I designed some wireframes, UI designs, and made a few detailed animations of how the new operating system could work. No small task. I still haven’t been able to show all of the designs and animations, since they want to wait for their kickstarter campaign to launch before revealing too much. Here’s a little preview...
It was definitely some of the coolest work I did interaction and animation-wise last year.
12Stone is a large multi-campus church in the southeast and they reached out to me to help them with a new mobile app. This was quite a large project and was a lot of fun to work on. The 12Stone crew were great to work with.
In the spring I spoke at Generate Conference along side Dan Mall and others. Dan and we had lunch together and he mentioned a project that was coming up that might be good for us to work together on.
A few months passed and the project finally got teed up. I had the pleasure of working with Dan, Brad and Ian Frost, and Josh Clark during the 2-3 month project.
We designed and built a pretty gigantic design system for Exxon Mobile. Josh Clark wrote a pretty big case study here, so I'll direct you to that instead of writing my own recap.
I had an amazing time working with the team. We moved fast and furiously and got an enormous amount of work done. I got to put my coding skills to work, almost exclusively, for the last 2 or 3 weeks. So much fun.
Here’s a bird’s eye view of the UI component design file.
At some point during the year, I got super motivated to design a new site for myself. I’d been using the default Ghost theme, with a custom hard-coded navigation for the last couple of years and was getting really tired of it. So, I designed a new site (in the browser) for myself and chopped it all up into a Ghost template. I wrote a lot more about it here.
As of today, I'm already dissatisfied with my current site design. I want to redesign again, but it's not a priority at the moment.
A friend of mine in Athens, Jacob Thomason, put me in touch with a lawyer based in Augusta who had an idea for a mobile app that automated much of the personal injury case process. I’m always up for a random, real-world design challenge and put together a big interactive prototype for them to use as a part of their pitch to would be investors and partners.
The project went pretty smoothly and it looks like we’ll be designing the full app pretty soon.
Analog Devices, Inc.
Analog reached out to me for iPhone app design, a user portal design, and a marketing site design. They also needed front-end development for the web pieces. I hired Phil Goodwin and Greg Corby to help me out on the design and dev front due to the size of the project. Things went nice and smooth.👌
I can’t share much about the product due to the NDA, but just know that it was a complex problem to solve and it was a lot of fun doing it. This was the first project I used Adobe XD entirely for the wireframes and flows.
Monero is a cryptocurrency. It’s like bitcoin, but uses an entirely different code-base. I’m still a little foggy on all of the nerdy details of cryptocurrency in general, but in short Monero is much more fungible, and truly untraceable, unlike Bitcoin.
The idea behind Monero is that it is truly digital cash. The same way you can look a $20 bill and not know all the places it’s been.
MyMonero is a digital wallet for sending and receiving Monero. I worked directly with Paul Shapiro, partner at MyMonero and the lead developer on the desktop app. Super fun project that stretched my problem solving skills on a whole new level. Paul is also a really great guy to work with.
You can see a lot more of the designs here on Dribbble.
In mid-December I got invited to join Adobe Live in San Francisco to show off some of Adobe XD’s features while designing an app “on the air.” Lots of fun hanging with the Adobe crew! Here’s a post all about the 3-day session.
Adjunct Professor at the University of GA
I taught my first higher-education class during the fall semester at the University of GA. The class was in the Graphic Design school, where they still don’t any digital design-type classes. There were some students who had little experience with the web and product design, but overall not so much.
I had them all go through the AIUX course for the first half of the semester coupled with in class sessions every week. The last half was dedicated to helping the students with a final project using user personas, user flows, wireframes, UI designs, and such for a design project of their choice.
I guess I can now officially call myself Professor Smith. 😉
I read a lot of books last year. I made this page to keep track of them all, and future ones too.
I believe conferences are a vital part of my work. Especially as an independent designer that doesn’t live in a giant tech hub like San Francisco or New York.
Conferences, both attending and speaking, provide me amazing opportunity to make friends with people all of the world. Good relationships are the single greatest factor of running a successful business, and conferences are an amazing way to forge friendships with the other-wise online-only world.
Here are the ones I went to in 2016.
- Epicurrence No. 3 – Attended my second conference hosted by Dann Petty. It was amazing. Super pumped to head to E5 next month.
- Generate Conf – Spoke at Generate in New York and had a blast. You can see the talk here.
- Creative South – A super fun conference in my state. Driving distance is always good. Will I see you here in 2017?
- Adobe MAX – My first-time attending MAX and it was a lot of fun. I co-lead a pre conference workshop teaching the ins and outs of Adobe XD. I also lead three other icon design workshops using Illustrator. Speaking of, I’ve got a free icon design course coming out based on this workshop.
In March of 2016, Mattox Shuler and myself found a new office for our collective businesses in the Leathers Building just behind downtown Athens. It’s super rad. Kyle Key also joins us from time to time.
Fast forward to the time of this writing and we've gotten an even newer, bigger space that I'll write about later.
Sound Booth Build
The new office was super echoey due to the massive amount of concrete, brick, and glass. I leveled up my 3D design and carpentry skills to make this custom sound booth for our office. It cuts down on echo dramatically for things like phone and video calls plus it’s great little place to record tutorials, vlogs, and such.
After Dann Petty paid me a visit while shooting his FR$$LANCED film last year, I kind of got the itch to start doing some video myself. I had already created video tutorials, but only using Screenflow for screen recordings and my crappy iSight camera.
I did a lot of research on a good, but not too crazy of a price, camera that I could use in a small space for my continued design tutorials, as well as something I could use on the go, to practice filming and editing chops.
I ended up going with a Sony a6300 along with some other items. You can see all of my video gear here.
The AthHalf, is an annual event in the city I live, and every year over the past few I’ve thought, “I’d really like to run that thing.” 13.1 miles is way longer of a distance than I’ve ever ran before, but I was tired of just simply not doing it.
I had been strength training for most of the year until around June, and decided to start running more seriously. After chatting with a few folks and looking up some training programs, I got to work.
I was ecstatic to run in the event and ended up beating my goal time by over 15 minutes. Not a fast run relative to “fast runners,” but it was very fast for me. You can view the full details on Strava.
Family Vacation in San Diego
Though I’ve lived in Georgia my entire life, I have some family that lives on the West Coast near the bay area. In June of last year my wife and I bit the bullet and purchased cross-county plane tickets for ourselves and our four kids.
We flew into San Diego and rented different Airbnbs throughout our 2-week trip. First we stayed in Carlsbad, then San Diego, then Encinitas.
The timing worked out perfectly for me. I had just wrapped up the 12Stone project as we were leaving for the trip and the next one with Dan and SuperFriendly was starting right at the end of the 2-weeks.
This trip with my family to California for 2 weeks was absolutely the highlight of the year. We’ve got to travel more as a family.
My Honda Element’s transmission started slipping and showing its age, so I did what any aging married man with 4 kids would do and started looking for sporty cars.
The sportiest I could find that could still fit up to 4 kids (barely) and not break the bank, but still look super cool and have a manual transmission, was a Nissan Juke. I did lots of searching around my area and found a Nismo RS up in Asheville.
Taught myself and my two oldest kids how to solve the Rubik’s Cube last year.
One of my goal’s for this year was to solve it in under a minute. I just so happened to crush that goal on New Year’s Day while my son was watching. He previously had a faster time for me, so it felt good to get my name back on the family leaderboard. ;)
My family is and continues to be my number one priority. It’s still tricky to balance work, conferences, new projects, etc. But above all I want to prioritize my time with my wife and kids.
Sometimes that means putting in extra work to buy us more time in the future. So in the short term it might not look that way. As long as I can remember the ultimate goal and stay disciplined with my time, I'm confident this can be effective.
It's no easy task to continually be in agreement with your spouse about how you spend your time. Especially when you have a business to run and 4 kids to raise and a wife you want to spend time with. But, it's critical to be on the same page.
Each year, I feel we get better at this. So here's to the next year with my beautiful family!