At this time of year, many people stop to take a look back at the previous year and to plan for the year ahead. So, with my work hat on, here goes…
What I’ve achieved in 2016:
- I’ve launched five new websites, and have another one ready to go live (as soon as I get the go-ahead).
- I’ve launched the first phase of an online membership system for a society of calligraphers. This included a collection of custom back-end tools to make the membership administration easier. I did some of the work for this last year but the testing process was lengthy and threw up some unexpected issues. In 2017, we’ll move on to phase two!
- I merged an artist’s blog (with almost 1,000 posts) with her gallery and sales website. She also wanted to keep a record of the blog in physical form, so I created a Word document containing all her posts, which she can edit and print.
- I’ve changed the way I offer website maintenance. This will give more flexibility to clients and hopefully simplify the admin’ too.
- I started to migrate client websites (and my own) to HTTPS. With Google’s increased emphasis on encryption, I think we’ll see a lot of sites switching to HTTPS this year, so I’m getting a head start!
But a lot of the things I’m most proud of aren’t as visible.
- I’ve continued to learn about WordPress coding standards and have polished up a lot of my code to make it better. I’ll carry on doing this throughout 2017 as there’s always room for improvement here.
- In particular, I’ve learned the ‘correct’ way to create a child theme (courtesy of Carrie Dils’ excellent course on Lynda.com).
- Following on from this, I’ve created my own WordPress ‘starter theme’. My starter theme brings together all of the standard elements which I like to include in (almost) every website. It’ll make my theme development more efficient.
- Similarly, I’ve updated several bespoke client themes to make the code cleaner and make them load faster. I also threw in a few other improvements, e.g. adding a ‘hamburger’ style mobile menu where I hadn’t already done so.
- I’ve offered a lot of free advice, and hands-on help, to less tech-savvy WordPress users, both in person and via bloggers’ forums. Quite apart from the fact that I really enjoy helping others, I’ve learned a huge amount from more advanced WordPress developers, so it feels right to ‘pay it forward’.
What’s been frustrating:
Early in the year, I was approached by a charity to build a site that they’d designed in-house. I knew it would probably need a few tweaks, but it quickly transpired that the design was a long way from what they really needed – and I then realised that they weren’t sure what they wanted at all!
This shouldn’t have been a problem. Normally, I’d start from first principles and work it out with them. However, on this occasion, the charity made clear that I would be working via an intermediary. This meant I couldn’t discuss the website with their Chair (the decision-maker) directly. A lot of information was lost in translation, and I didn’t manage to deliver what the Chair wanted, since I didn’t fully understand what that was!
Ultimately we parted company on good terms. However, it was frustrating as I was enthusiastic about the cause and I still believe that we could have done great things together. At the time of writing, the charity’s website is still a holding page. 🙁
I should have insisted on speaking to the decision-maker myself, rather than accepting the go-between, and trying to second-guess what was wanted. Lesson learnt!
Aims for 2017:
- To keep on learning and stretching myself. This is a repeat of a goal from last year, but constant learning is one of the things I love most about my job. It feels good and it helps my clients, so this is a complete win:win.
- To continue improving my business processes. I spend too much time answering emails and doing admin. I know that some of this could be automated or made more efficient. If I want to be able to take on more projects (which I do), I really need to get to grips with this.
- To refresh this website. I still like the look of my website, but it doesn’t do everything I need. For example, it doesn’t show related posts, which is a silly omission as (from a website visitor’s perspective) related posts could be useful or interesting, and (from mine) if more people read my posts, it makes it more worthwhile writing them!
- To blog more. I enjoy writing but struggle to find the time, and to think of interesting topics. I have a plan for this but I’ll save that for – you guessed it – my next blog post!