Review of 2016

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…

annual review 2016

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!

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Comments

  1. says

    Hey Alice,
    I loved reading your reflections. It sounds like you’ve done a ton of learning (and refactoring old code is no small effort!!). Congratulations as well on refining your business processes. I don’t think those efforts ever end (at least they don’t for me).

    Onward!
    Carrie

    • Alice Gardiner says

      Hi Carrie,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and reply. (Am I allowed a little fangirl ‘squee’ of excitement that the great Carrie Dils commented on one of my blog posts?)

      I think writing this was a really useful process for me too: as a freelancer, it’s all too easy to carry on doing the same old thing, without stopping to congratulate yourself on your achievements or work out where you could improve. I’m now starting the new year feeling really optimistic and full of ideas, which is great!

      As you say, onward! 😉

      • says

        You only think I’m great because you’ve never lived with me. HA!

        I like the remind to celebrate the wins along the way. Here’s to many celebrations in 2017!

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