5 Things To Expect From WordCamp Miami 2013

WordCamp MiamiSo in just a few days the University of Miami will be hosting WordCamp Miami. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to since we sponsored and attended WordCamp Orlando in December of 2012. Now the one in Orlando was our first experience and I can surely tell you it was awesome. There were so many cool people who all loved WordPress. From the designers, to developers, to sponsors, and everyday bloggers. As we approach this conference in Miami, there’s a few things one should expect. These aren’t in order per-say and all have an equal amount of enthusiasm behind them.

Learning in-depth Resources and information about WordPress

I would say one of the main reasons for attending a WordCamp is to gain more knowledge about the platform. It really doesn’t matter your level of use, be it novice or seasoned developer, there are still things to learn. This WordCamp will actually feature three different tracks to follow. Users and Bloggers, Designers Track, and Developers Track. After looking at the schedule I already know we’ll be splitting up so that we can absorb as much as we can then collaborate later to unload. The sessions range from “Top 20 Plugins We Can’t Live Without” to “Amplifying your WordPress CSS with Compass & SASS”. There will also be news about what’s coming down the line with future updates and additions to WordPress that are sure to wet your appetite. This really will be a day to have fully charged devices to take in as many notes and tips as you can before reaching 2% life.

Meeting other developers and designers

For me I look forward to this very much. Designers and developers typically don’t congregate too much, and this event is a great mixer. In Orlando there really was an absence of competition, yet a great sense of comradery. If anything you could easily strike up a conversation about some failed plugin or theme house that we’ve all used and cursed. So we’re looking forward to meeting some other developers from the Miami area and hope to make some new Twitter connections too. We never take the attitude that we know it all, or that we can handle all on our own. One of the greatest things about this open source community is that all of us have the potential to create something awesome and be a contribution to the platform.

Networking with potential clients

A large part of our clientele are actually WordPress users. They sometimes have questions about how things work, but for the most part are great at just creating content while relying on us designers and developers to get their sites to work and operate the way they envision. If you’re looking for more clients, this is a great place to mingle. Your elevator pitch literally can be just “Hi, my name is _________ and I’m a designer or developer….” Chances are you’ll get cut off right there and the conversation will turn to what exactly you’re able to do for said client and begin exchanging cards and email addresses.


Not going to be able to make it? Were you late to register and now can’t because the event is sold out? Well you’re in luck, they’ll be streaming onsite for the weekend. That includes the BuddyPress session on Friday the 5th too! So you may not even be in the state of Florida yet still gain knowledge from this event. Oh by the way, this is the first WordCamp Miami to be streaming live! It is totally free and no ticket or purchase is required to view the live stream.

The Atmosphere

After a day of cramming your noggin with knowledge you’ll need to unwind. And no better way then with everyone you just met during your sessions over beer and food after the conference. Share some notes, meet more people, and engage. There is sure to be deals to be made between sessions, notes to be passed during sessions, and pictures from smart phones in full effect all day. Everyone social media feeds should be full of content, shares, likes, and RT’s.

So what are you looking forward to? For those of you that have attended a previous WordCamp elsewhere be sure to comment below and let us know some of your favorite or most memorable experiences.



Dealing With Setbacks

Frustrated WomanIf you’ve been in this industry for a while sooner or later you’ll come to a hiccup or worse a wall. Whether you’re a freelancer or the owner of a design firm or anywhere in between you’re not immune from the reality of circumstances and bad luck. Now some mishaps we actually can avoid, and that comes from seasoning and learning how to make good decisions early in time. There was a quote I got recently from a book I’ve been reading that really resonated with me.

Easy short-term choices lead to difficult long-term consequences, while difficult short-term choices lead to easy long-term consequences.” The Paradox Principle.

I’m here to let you know of some good ways for you to deal with those setbacks. I’m also here to tell you that you’re not alone. We’re all out there at various times of the day or night pulling our hairs out or slamming desks when things don’t work right. Until there’s an 800 number for 24 hour sympathetic support, we have each other.

#1 Walk Away

This tip is probably the most important; walk away for a few hours. When you hit a wall in development, it may not be best for you to fight your frustrations head on. More times than none the more you look at it, the more things will make even less sense. You also run the risk of double thinking some other strings of code you knew were good before but go back and tweak that in hopes that it will fix some later functions that had you messed up in the first place. Ugh! Been there before and probably will be there again. When it happens and it’s been about an hour already, just take my advice and walk away for a few hours to clear your mind. Coming back to it the next morning with a fresh mind and fresh eyes usually makes an issue stick out in such an obvious form you’ll be happy you took off.

#2 Get a Second Opinion

Get a second pair of eyes on your work. You can rub your eyes all you want but still never see clearly. And it may not be your vision, it may just be your lack of understanding or knowledge. One thing I learned early in this business is that I’m not the smartest, but if I can find others that are smarter than me to help when I need them, I’ll still win.

#3 Spend Time On Another Project

It’s never good to waste time. Especially when the weekend is fast approaching and you’ve been pulling some late nights on some deliverables. I refer back to my one-hour law; if you’ve made no progress in an hour, find another project that you know you can pick up and make steady progress on. There is a slight chance the time away working on something else may job your mind on what can help get you through your main setback. Even if there isn’t, you’ll get a sense of accomplishment at the end of your day knowing that you finished some things instead of lost 6+ hours making absolutely no headway on just one piece of work.

#4 Research and Read a Book

There is a possibility you may not know everything. I know crazy right? So why not take some time to look up your exact issue on Google? You’d be surprised at how many other people will have had the same question. While you’re searching the inter-webs why not check out a few forums like Designers Talk or FreelanceSwitch. Great places to put your questions out there and get support from other designers and developers. You can also take this time to read up on your HTML or CSS skills. Remember that bookmark you left on the second chapter of that “Build Your Own Website The Right Way Using HTML & CSS“, well why not pick that book back up and continue reading up. We’re part of a fast paced and ever-changing world so try not to get left behind in technology, otherwise you could be working much harder  or longer than you need to.

#5 Relax and Inform

For me it’s music or playing Wii with my kids. Go ahead and indulge a bit into something you enjoy to do. The work will still be there. If your project is pending, go ahead and let yourself off the hook and contact your client(s) and inform them of the setback and that you’ll need some extra time to complete it correctly. It’s key to be honest here because a mountain of other issues will arise later if you don’t. So go ahead and set that expectation to follow-up when you’re back on track, not a projected fix time/date, but a call or email when you action have it figured out and are able to move forward.

So what are your biggest or most recent frustrations in work? Do you have some other ways to handle setbacks? Let us know in the comments below.

Image credits: iStock Photo

The Thankful Season-Thanks for Giving Us Your Business

In this time of economic hardship, every business big or small is hurting.  Declines in product purchasing, or rationalizing the use of a costly service has many business owners trimming their financial trees.  However, I believe during this time of Thanksgiving, it is important to let your faithful customers/clients know just how much you appreciate them sticking with you and giving you their business.

Chachkies (Yiddish word for small gifts or collectables)
Small token gift ideas from business owners to customers can be accomplished in a cost-effective way.  Great, inexpensive product marketing sites like Vistaprint offer a variety of low-cost options that tout your brand while reflecting your customer appreciation. And Vistaprint is almost ALWAYS HAVING A SALEUnderstand that this inexpensive token of appreciation can translate right back to you with consumer loyalty and an increased revenue stream.  This category of business branded items can include:

If money is tighter than your pants will be at 6pm this Thursday, an inexpensive, higher-end E-card might be just right for your limited budget.  There are some great options out there with music and scrolling imagery using Flash Animation that will convey glad tidings to your customers/clients. Some clients might be happy that you are choosing to reduce your carbon footprint by not sending traditional, printed cards.  Check out some great interactive options at http://bit.ly/Q5qQUH or http://bit.ly/Q5sHsH.

Holiday Rewards
Let your customers know how special they are with a one-time Holiday special/promotion for them remaining dedicated customers. Make sure to let them know that you are holding the special at this holiday time in tribute to them.  If it’s a product, give them a percentage off their next order.  If it’s a service, give them $ credit on their account.

These small giftings for faithfulness should be a key consideration for small business owners.  Although I recognize that most don’t have the extra funds lying around to use on what might seem like a frivolous expenditure, the long term affects on those relationships are worth it.  I believe that it’s important to keep your business in the minds of your current clients since the impression can go a long way to keep those customer’s repeat business AND referrals to their professional & personal networks.  And if you do it right, you’ll see the ROI on this token of appreciation and jingle all the way to the bank.


Design Firm Tip: Industry Targeting

Industry TargetWhen I first started Design Theory, it was in 2008. I remember my first client like it was yesterday. Yea, it was a client from hell. I’m being honest. Instead of backing down, I made self assessments and made sure to learn from mistakes and vulnerabilities right out of the gate.  The ironic thing about that first client is that I never ended up doing something in that industry to date.

Target Tip #1 – Gathering more information on a clients industry. This is probably a basic marketing 1o1 tactic, but since I didn’t go to school for marketing, I learned it in the real world. Each client that you have is probably in business for a completely different industry than your other clients. One of our “theories” is to take time to understand our client and their business as if we work with them. We ask about your business, what makes your products special, understand your pricing models and workflow. Essentially we try to look at it the way you look at it, and then use that to offer great ideas to create or improve your website.

Target Tip #2 – Identifying the industries you understand best. If going through your portfolio you realize you have a few sites or designs that all are from a specific industry like models, industrial, real estate, etc; look for some similarities. Are the layouts similar? Are the fonts close in likeness? Is the content familiar? Chances are you have a good idea of this business. Maybe good enough that you could start your own business in it. That’s a good thing because it shows you really grasp the economics of the industry. So take that knowledge and create a package that speaks to prospective clients of that industry. Visualize yourself pitching them a sale, and use your experience and portfolio as your reputation.

Target Tip #3 – Use Linked In. At once considered the #2 social network, Linked In is still a powerhouse of networking opportunities for freelancers and job seekers. Chances are you may have a connect that is or directly connected to some franchise owners. Get a referral connection or reach out to them if you’re already connected and ask for a meeting.  They’ll be a little less reluctant to talk to you if you’re somewhat familiar to them or have a warm introduction from a mutual friend or connection.  Same rules apply here as in the second tip; express how familiar you are with their industry and tell them how you’d like to take their business to the next level of service. Do some homework and see if their website is on par with their parent company or other franchise owners. Nab this one, and you can go after the other franchise owners too. If you approach it the right way and deliver all that you promised, there’s no reason why you can’t have a large percentage of that franchise as your client.

Target Tip #4 – Rinse and Repeat. I don’t know that you’ll ever exhaust an industry dry, but in case you get bored or want to try something else, go back through all of your work and find another popular industry you’ve been working with and modify all of your marketing materials to speak to this new industry. The good thing is that you don’t have to recreate the wheel. Your first efforts can be redefined or “remixed” and be just as effective.

Target Tip #5 – Think big. At the risk of sounding cliché “You never know until you try.” It’s true. All you need is confidence in your work and a good number of clients who honestly appreciate your level of service. If you don’t have a marketing agent, hire one. Don’t have the right printed marketing materials, design them and get them printed professionally. Do your homework on the businesses you want to target and expose their weak points. Chances are they know them, so it won’t come as a surprise, but the fact that you noticed it will resonate on an appealing level for them in considering you for business. Shake some tall trees in your community and bid for their business.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it is to implement these tips in the month of June. I’d love to hear back from you on your progress in the comments below.

Dear Designers, Please Learn Development

Dear Designers, Please Learn Development

(and vise versa)

It’s been an ongoing debate since perhaps the beginning of time– can a person use their creative and analytical brains (right and left, respectively) with equal skill. Obviously, there were some who did it well– artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci comes immediately to mind– but what about in today’s society, in particular the gap between web designers and developers. Should there be an overlap in skill sets?

While I admit that having specialization of labor, as a whole, has brought many benefits to society, in this particular case of website creation the two divergent mindsets are working toward a common goal. It is less like a composer and a biochemist and more like an interior designer and an architect.

Because there is a shared purpose and desired product/outcome, even if the design and development work is split between two individuals, there is the expectation that they will have to communicate to each other to reach the client’s goals. It becomes necessary, even on a basic conversational level, for both the designer and developer to understand parts of the other’s job and associated vocabulary. Ignorance here will benefit no one.

How much more of an overlap might be necessary depends on what type of services you offer  individually. Obviously if you are a lone designer offering a PSD to HTML service, you’ll need to know HTML and CSS. If you are a solo web developer putting together a web app, being able to put together a cohesive user interface is a must. The right brain/left brain skill set overlap becomes then an extending of the basic level of understanding needed to interface with the other half– be it designer or developer. This is more, I believe, a matter of personal preference than a mandatory learning because it requires the individual to be confident enough in his or her skills to carry out the tasks of the other.

While we can argue the merits of separation all day, the fact is that neither designers  nor developers operate in a vacuum, completely cut off from the other. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two, put in place by the very nature of the work. Considering how tightly the Internet connects us all together, it seems even more counterintuitive to fight to keep the right and left brains completely divided. After all they do make up one mind.