Surf the Dream A discourse of links and articles from Justin Avery

Category Archive: Writing

  1. The Futures so bright, you gotta wear SHADES

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    This morning I came across an great article from http://practice.typekit.com/. Typekit are a font service that allow you to use beautiful webfonts on your website without the additional costs or complexity of purchasing a font from a foundry and converting it to all of the web formats.

    Now they are taking type a step further by providing lessons on certain typographical elements and show you how you can use them on your sites to improve the visual appeal and ease the consumption of content on your site.

    I’ve forked a few of their code pens from their examples and make it a little more RWD focussed. Check out those below and read the full list of Shading possibilities on their blog post.

    Using Shades – Typekit Practice Series

    Drop Shade

    See the Pen RWD Weekly Drop shade example by Justin Avery (@justincavery) on CodePen.

    Offset Shade

    See the Pen RWD Offset shade example by Justin Avery (@justincavery) on CodePen.

    Printers Shade

    See the Pen RWD Printer’s shade example (invisible secret) by Justin Avery (@justincavery) on CodePen.

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  2. Get ‘Designing for the Web’ for free

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    In 2009 I wanted to improve my web design capabilities. I was recommended reading Mark Boulton’s book “Designing for the Web” and it was the best thing that could have happened.

    Mark covers all aspects of design on the web and because of his background in print design you also get all the lessons learned from there as well. He doesn’t just focus on the design aspects either, Mark touches on the business and work/life balance side of things also.

    The best part of the book for me was the focus on freelancing and working from home.

    In particular this point…

    Keep work and home separate. When you work at home, this can be difficult. When I had my workplace in my house, I made sure it was a completely different room which was furnished like an office–not just your spare room with a desk in it. One tip which worked for me: wear your shoes during the day, when you’re working, and at night, take them off. It’s a silly little thing, but you will soon associate shoes with work. So, when you take them off, that’s home time.

    The book is now free following the announcement that Mark Boulton Design is being acquired by Monotype — huge congratulations to Mark and Emma!

    Download Designing for the web

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  3. A new blog

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    After many many months without being to update this site I was finally able to set aside enough time to finish off the migration, moving from Squiz Matrix CMS across to WordPress.

    This is the second move of this blog. It was originally migrated from Blogspot across to Matrix back in 2007 and it served as a playground for me to test new web trends while ensuring that it could all be done within a CMS that I was working with on a day to day basis.

    The site changed over to a new design when responsive design first made it’s splash and I re-designed the site to be more responsive.

    Why the change?

    The main reason for this change is because the version of Matrix I was using was going to take too long to upgrade, and worse of all I needed an outdated version of Java to create any new content (which is why there was such a huge gap between posts).

    Matrix is a super powerful CMS that gives me the power to build a complex site, however this site has come full circle over the past few years to be back to a basic blog where I can publish my thoughts on a variety of topics (mostly the web these days).

    It was moved to WordPress because I have become just a familiar with it as a CMS over the past few years and run several other sites off WordPress. It’s a great tool if you’re requirements aren’t too robust.

    Has anything been lost in the changes?

    Fortunately not.

    In this process I’ve migrated all of the posts from the previous Surf the Dream Matrix site across to an existing WordPress site I had been running for Javery Design. Once that was done I updated all of the Javery Design URL’s to become surfthedream.com.au and set up a series of 301 redirects to hopefully catch any old site links and google indexes.

    What changes are likely next?

    I’m not entirely happy with the look of the site or the layout of the homepage. I prefer the header in this one but there are some issues with the Archive pages and the Search listings which need to be fixed up.

    The footer needs some work as well, I need to put a link to my other side projects – Am I Responsive, RWD Weekly Newsletter and ResponsiveDesign.is.

    I’m happy with things now though, and it means that I’m able to get back into the swing of writing more often.

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  4. 2013 dConstruct review

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    Today was killer.

    As I hit send on the weekly newsletter at 1:30am I was regretting the time I spent and amount of beer I consumed at the Moo Summer Party. Actually it wasn’t so much regretting as pondering if it was the wisest way to spend my Thursday evening.

    As my head hit the pillow it seemed to bounce back up with the sound of my alarm waking me at 06:15. Today I’ve taken the day off so why on Earth is this thing vibrating and screeching an annoying tune?!?!

    Well, today I’ve taken leave from work to head down from London to Brighton to attend the dConstruct Conference.

    dConstruct is a bizarre conference. This year it featured some amazing speakers, but not talking about the things that they are more commonly well known for but instead about something completely different. The talks aren’t focused around specific technology or approaches to current web trends, but instead they’re a step back from the technical application of things and more around the general theory of approaching the web.

    Three years ago I attended the same conference for the first time. We planned a weekend retreat in Brighton because I had never been before and Laura came down to meet me after work on Friday at the pub to hear about what I’d learned. When she asked me what it was like I think my words were “Yeah it was alright, but it was pretty shit” as I wandered off to get us some drinks.

    Okay, so you might be wondering why I’ve returned to a conference I thought was rubbish, but there’s more.

    On my return to the table with a few refreshing pints Laura asked if I learned anything at all from the day. I started that answer with “Yeah, I kinda liked…” and then finished that thought about an hour later. Laura had finished her Cider while I’d only got through 1/2 of mine because I didn’t really shut up the whole time and it turned out that I did actually enjoy the conference and learned a tonne.

    In my opinion that’s the beauty of dConstruct. It’s a slow burner. You leave the conference with an invigorated sense of wonder and excitement to do more in the industry, your job, your project. I think that is one of the most valuable and the most difficult things to deliver in a conference.

    Hightlights

    I’m going to break up my highlights into two sections. The first are the talks themselves, while the second is the social aspect of conferences.

    The Talks

    While it had more to do with my state of cloudy hangover mind than the talks themselves, I enjoyed the talks more as the day went on.

    Some of the highlights included

    • Ambers story of the first cyborgs and approaching Calm Techology
    • LukeW’s review of the sheer number of inputs we need to deal with today (and his smooth handling of a crashing keynote)
    • Nicole Sullivans talk around Trolls and not something CSS related (and nailed the shit out of the talk regardless)
    • Simone’s unintentional near reference to Talkie Toaster (“you’re friendly breakfast companion… anyone want any toast?”)
    • Sarah’s amazing musical performance (that somehow outshone her brilliant talk… I also loved the 1984 shot of the crazy space walk and learning about the Castrati) – see the video below.
    • Keren’s interesting insight into internet security
    • Hearing from Maciej Ceglowski (the guy that created PinBoard). He’s amazing. I can’t say much more. AMAZING.
    • Dan Willams. I’m going to say it. Talk. Of. The. Day. The entire talk was really really good and even better when I found out later that it was the first time he ever delivered it.

    The Social

    So on top of those amazing talks is the after party and in between chats.

    The best thing of all was that I got to meet Aaron Gustafson and Brad Frost in person. How jealous are you right now?

    Both of them have done a tonne of amazing stuff on the web, most recently around responsive design but they’ve also contributed above and beyond (and before) that too. Both of them are also super genuine guys who are very down to Earth, and while they already do so much for the web they have helped me out with requests whenever I ask them.

    I was also fortunate enough to meet Kelly (Aarons wife), Anna Debenham and Nicole Sullivan — all brilliant folk who are as smart as they are awesome and that just made the day even better.


    The conference in the same as it was the last time. Not a single piece of code was discussed, yet you’re left at the end of the day inspired to do better and strive for more in our industry.

    That’s a pretty good take away from any conference.

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  5. migrating a wordpress site to a new domain

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    I previously pointed out the reasons behind needing and wanting to move content from one domain to another.

    Moving your wordpress website from one domain to another is a tricky process. Aside from the problems you will have to deal with specifically with your site (links), you don’t want to damage your page rank and all the good SEO work you’ve done not to mention all your external links that have been built up over time.

    These are the steps I took towards migrating justinavery.me to javerydesign.com

    The overall approach I’m taking here is to install WP on a new server, back up the old site, restore it to the install, do a little dance.

    1. First step was to install WordPress
    2. Next problem was getting access to the wordpress site. Everytime I tried to get to javerydesign.com I was redirected off to the responsivedesign.is website. Once I FTP’d onto the server I noticed that I had previously added a .htaccess file to redirect all traffic. I’ll need another .htaccess file later on, so I just commented that out with # Redirect / http://alpha.responsivedesign.is
    3. Now that I can see the new site, it’s time to take a copy of the old site at justinavery.me. I FTP’d into the site and downloaded all of the content. This takes some time, especially if you’ve got an image rich site.
      Aside from the wordpress content I also had a dev subdomain, dev.justinavery.me, which I wanted to move across as well. This contained a bunch of testing areas I created for clients to demonstrate functionality and features. While that was downloading locally I started on step 4, the database.
    4. After spending 5 minutes trying to find my username and password for myphpadmin I realised that the plesk had a “download database” button. I downloaded the database as a justinavery.gz file. Now I needed to update the new javerydesign.com database with the old justinavery.me database. To avoid any issues, I also took a copy of the existing javerydesign.com database.
    5. Updating the database: Go to the phpmyadmin for javerydesign.com, selected the existing database and exported it for backup. Then head to the import tab and select the justinavery.sql database on you local. This broke my site. Forget the blue screen of death, I got the white screen of nothingness. No source code, no errors, just white. plain simple white. ARRRRGGGHHHH.
    6. Update the wp_options site url to your new URL and all is well again
    7. Next you will need to copy across all of your other wp-content files (your uploads, plugins, themes) and reactivate them all.
    8. Your site should be taking shape now, but you’ll probably find that a lot of the internal links are still pointing back towards the old URL. This is something which I think is a big drawback for wordpress (although easy to get over), realistically it should link to the page/post ID and rewrite to the url when it is processed. Anyway. You need to get the Update URLs plugin and that will give you the ability to update the urls from within wordpress (safer then running database queries)
    9. Finally it’s about sorting out Google and your SEO. You need to set up your new URL with Google Webmaster Tools and redirect your old url to your new one. As part of that they will ask you to include 301 redirects for your site. I’ve gone with the following to achieve the redirect.
      
      RewriteEngine on
      RewriteRule (.*) http://surfthedream.com.au/$1 [R=301,L]
      
      

      I advise you also update your existing Google Analytics settings to point to the new URL rather then recreating another instance and starting your page views all over again.

    And that should be it I think.

    As soon as Google register the redirects to the new domain I will remove the redirect and replace it with my one page resume.

    You should probably note that any external links that are coming into to the old URL will not change and you will need to get in touch with those sites if you want them updated. For me it doesn’t really matter. The links are pointing towards the site and they’ll be able to see who it is and my other available sites.

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  6. Finding inspiration for writing

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    Blogging is something that can be really hard. Sometimes the topics come thick and fast and we have too much to write about, but often we sit down in front of our site and stare at the last post from more than a month ago while we beat ourselves up about how we need to do better.

    Late last Thursday evening I received a jabber message from a mate at work with the following questions, and below my responses.

    Hey dude, how do you get inspiration for writing content?

    a jabber question from Chris Burnell

    A: Inspiration is a funny thing. I would say that 1 out of 30 things that I write are inspired, and the rest are just churning out the keys because I want to recap on something that I did. If you look through the list of stuff that I’ve written on the http://surfthedream.com.au (ED – this site) they are mostly churned out. They’re usually stuff that I want to keep track of myself, so to that end you should always write for yourself and not others. Write about how you approached a particular problem and why you did it in that way, the tools that you used and the trouble that you had and how you overcame it.

    Remember that a “blog” came from a weB LOG. The idea is that it’s an online journal of things that you do, so write about things that you want to go back and read and see how you did something and are able to compare against the present.

    I’m having a hard time thinking of what I want to write about – I have plenty of ideas but they’re all covered elsewhere on the internet by more famous blogs in better detail and better writing, sooo. Regardless, I want to get started on something to hopefully have me ready when I do find somethign unique.

    a jabber question from Chris Burnell

    A:There is nothing unique. It’s all a rehash of something else. What is unique is your opinion or take on the subject, that is something that no one has ever or can ever write about.

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  7. Review of the Slide and Stage

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    Thank you.

    That’s how today ended, with a rousing applause of Aral Balkan’s day long speaking workshop he finished with a simple thank you.

    The conclusion tied the day nicely together though. Speaking isn’t rocket science, but it is a science. There are things that you can do to prepare and make the entire experience more enjoyable for both yourself, the audience, and the conference organisers, but at the end of the day the talk itself… the content, delivery and execution is all down you to you and your preparation.

    Sound daunting? Well it is… but let me tell you why it doesn’t always need to be.

    More to the point, let me tell you what Aral told us, and why it doesn’t need to be daunting.

    You are not the centre of attention, your message is. You are the conduit. You are the messenger. People aren’t worried about what you look like, how you stand, what your past is… people are keen to hear about the message you’ve got to share with them. If you know your topic, if you know the message you want to convey to your audience, if you have practiced delivering that message to friends or a video camera or a mirror… if you have done all of those things then you don’t have anything to worry about.

    Simply walk on stage, introduce yourself, and then relay that message. The audience will love you for it.

    Aral used a great metaphor early on in the workshop. He ran through a situation where you were the only person who knew about a fire and how you would run into the room, announce that there was a fire and get people out safely.

    That is your talk.

    You have a message. You tell people that message. People are grateful for your time in telling that message. It doesn’t matter how you deliver it, it doesn’t matter about your presentation style, what you were wearing, or that fact that you’ve never spoken before. The thing that mattered was that you had a message that you were passionate about, and the people were there and keen to know that message.

    A look back

    Earlier today I created a list of things that I wanted to take out of today. Lets have a look at each item and see if it was addressed.

    Preparation: How to write and frame your talk (beginning, middle, end)

    Aral talked a lot about preparation. He talked through a checklist that you should have before speaking at an event as well as a check list for event organisers.

    Some of the rules included

    • microphones – lapels bad, headsets and handhelds good (in that order)
    • Clickers – simple, not a phone app, forward and back buttons only
    • Always use new batteries
    • Always plug you laptop in
    • Always have a timer with you
    • Always pack a VGA/DVI attachment
    • Pack foreign power plug converters
    • Do a tech check the day before
    • Never have slide notes in presenter mode

    There were more nuggets of information, but come on… buy a ticket to the next event if you want to know more.

    Story telling: Get some tips and tricks on what makes a better and more compelling story

    I asked this question in the QA session at the end because I felt that the organising of your ideas and how to tell an engaging story were missing from the session.

    To be totally fair to Aral, he can not tell you how to frame your content because each topic probably needs a different approach. At the end he did allude to doing a combination of capturing content into EverNote, writing out your story in long form as a stream of consciousness to get you started, building up your slide deck to start to frame the order. The main point was to get your ideas down and out of your head, but into a format that allowed you to move them around and reorder them easily.

    The things he did point out that were quite helpful include

    • ensure that you have access to a presenter display so you can see your next slide (allows you to hit words that segway nicely)
    • have your current slide and next slide in your peripherals so you don’t need to break gaze with the audience. As soon as you break connection with the audience you lose them a little
    • Don’t do bullet points. If you must, reveal them one at a time (but just don’t use them)
    • Your presentation is a conversation with the audience. Don’t regurgitate a talk but instead know what you want to get across and speak to that.

    Stage Presence: Most great speakers look great before they utter their first few words, and the same goes for speakers lacking confidence.

    Nailed it. NAILED IT! The first thing we had to do was get up on stage in front of everyone and say

    • who we were
    • what we did
    • what we were passionate about
    • why we were passionate

    One by one we all were clapped up on stage, and clapped back off again. In between Aral watched our performance, right from the point we started walking up until we walked off the stage, and critiqued the performance. Early speakers had it the hardest because we all made the same mistakes, but one by one, person by person he instructed how we could make a good first impression in the first 30 seconds.

    Speaking Rhythm: While story telling is focused on the actual story, I’m keen to learn how that is best delivered.

    Aral touched on this and explained the rule of threes based on his TED talk. He talked about the fact that we need to incorporate

    • Pitch – change your pitch as you speak, go high when you’re excited and low when your serious or making a point… just don’t stick at one level and stay there (boring).
    • Tempo – same as the pitch. As you get excited speed things up, but yet when you want to make a point then you should make… a point.
    • Three’s – Explain important parts three times, but use different wording each time. The first time people will be “whaaaat?”, the second time they’ll be “Whaaa Oh I think I…” and the third time they’ll be “Yes. I’m on board with that. WOOT!”.

    Power point – how do you make those slide transition things.

    Oh man. I threw this in as a joke. To be fair to Aral he didn’t do anything about PowerPoint, but it was on KeyNote.

    To be even more fair with Aral I actually learned a few tips during this session that I will certainly use in the future, particularly around how responsive design changes the orientation of content elements and I’ll use the Magic Move to accomplish that.

    To be unfair to Aral, sorry, I think that this is stuff that can be taught by anyone at any time, and people could read tutorials online to get this kind of information. In saying that I did actually get something out of that session so I shouldn’t be so critical, but I think that with all Aral’s amazing knowledge and experience we would have benefited more about constructing our presentational stories or maybe even, dare I say it, another impromptu on stage exercise.

    Wrap. It. Up.

    The day was awesome. Aral’s teaching style is really simple and easy to follow, and that combined with having Seb Lee-Delisle do an on stage coding session made the day more complete.

    There were plenty of great people attending, and I enjoyed the lunch chats and after workshop beers as much as the workshop itself.

    I was amazed and very pleased by some of the content that Aral shared with us, particular around the business side of talking and I think that session alone would be worth the price of the ticket if you’re thinking about getting into speaking or running a conference.

    I recommend anyone that is interested in improving their skills in delivering presentations to attend.

    Thanks Aral.

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  8. Slide and Stage

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    Today’s weather might be grey but I’m in a good mood. Today I’m not taking my usual journey up the Northern Line to Old Street, instead I’m on the train in the opposite direction down to Brighton to attend the Slide & Stage one day workshop with Aral Balken.

    A few years ago I made a similar journey down to attend another workshop also by Aral, that time it was on iOS development and it was a time when I was looking to get more into app and mobile development. The iOS workshop itself was great with an even amount of theory and practical exercises and plenty of takeaways to ensure that if I wanted to continue to keep learning I had what was required.

    This time the talk is less technology focused. In fact, the talk is entirely technology absent (unless of course Aral breaks out Powerpoint and teaches us how to create transitions between slides�.. unlikely I’d say).

    Today’s workshop is all about becoming a better speaker, whether that be in front of your work colleagues or in front of a conference audience.

    It’s not that I want to become a speaker, I’ve had opportunities to speak in front of audiences on a few occasions in the past. Instead I’m looking to become a better speaker.

    With that in mind I thought I’d write a few things that I was keen to get out of today’s session and look back at the end of the day to see if what I thought made a better speaker is in fact on the right track.

    1. Preparation: How to write and frame your talk (beginning, middle, end)
    2. Story telling: Get some tips and tricks on what makes a better and more compelling story
    3. Stage Presence: Most great speakers look great before they utter their first few words, and the same goes for speakers lacking confidence.
    4. Speaking Rhythm: While story telling is focused on the actual story, I’m keen to learn how that is best delivered.
    5. Power point – how do you make those slide transition things.

    Not really with number 5.

    There’s going to be 50 people as part of the day so I’m not really sure how it’s going to run as I imagine there will be some very confident people looking to tweak some of their current skills and some beginners who have never spoken before in their life.

    I’m somewhere lost in the middle, so lets see how it all goes.

    Oh, and I’m also really looking forward to catching up with 2 time award winning Laura Kalbag as well as visit Paul and Andy at the ClearLeft studio.

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  9. .net Magazine Awards 2013

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    Holy F&CK. That is the message that I sent to my pregnant finance just after I picked up the award for Best Side Project of the Year at the .net magazine awards ceremony.

    Award and the site that won it next to each other
    A quick snap of the side project and award together on the train up to Leeds.

    As I write this I’m on the train up to Leeds to spend the weekend with Laura and our friends which also gives me the perfect opportunity to try and express exactly how feel about the award.

    First off there’s two things I wanted to make clear up front:

    1. I nominated myself (that’s embarrassing); and
    2. I nominated myself twice! Once each for two of my projects (Am I Responsive and Responsive Design Weekly)

    I never expected to win the award. Partly because I had built Am I Responsive to solve my own problems and I didn’t think it was all that awesome, and mainly because for me there were two stand out winners in the Pastry Box Project and Sidebar.io.

    Both of these projects provide me so much joy. The side bar gives me 5 great links on a daily basis that further my knowledge, while the pastry box project give me one new blog post every day from an amazing field of 30 authors each posting 12 times for the year.

    Both of these projects are simply amazing and I highly recommend you subscribing to both of them.

    what was the actual project that won the award?

    The side project that won was something I built to achieve one thing. Saving time.

    I send an newsletter email about responsive design once a week. The newsletter takes me about 4 hours each week to put together (give or take) including additional research, curating, writing introductions etc etc.

    Each newsletter contains a feature site for the week and as part of that feature I include the site as the lead image in the newsletter showing off it’s responsiveness in a desktop, mobile, tablet and mobile views.

    Prior to “Am I Responsive” I used to open the feature site in a browser and systematically take screen shots at each view port as I dragged the browser window from full screen to mobile. Then I had to upload those to photoshop and position them within a layer containing the device image and position them as required before exporting to jpeg.

    I suck at photoshop, and because of that it took me up to half an hour to do this each week.

    After previously playing with iframes for some responsive testing back in 2010 I decided that I could shorten this process immensely with a similar approach. Over the weekend I put together a series of iframes that sat nicely inside some desktop, laptop, tablet and phone device images.

    Voila. Am I Responsive was born.

    accepting an award you don’t think you deserved

    Unfortunately my beautiful fiance wasn’t able to make the award ceremony so I brought along the next best thing, my good mate Al Cattell.

    A screenshot of a responsive site showing off what the tool does
    This is the sole job of the side project, to help me take screenshots just like this.

    Before the awards we both had shared a pint while he jokingly asked what I was going to say if I won. I laughed it off and explained why I thought the other guys should definitely be in front of the tool I built.

    At the table I spoke with Craig and Amy from Be Squared, an amazing initiative that produce brilliant conference videos that develops want to see.

    As they showed the finalists and then the final finalists I was super chuffed to see that “Am I Responsive” made the final three along with my favourite picks in Sidebar.io and the Pastry Box.

    When Am I was read out I really couldn’t believe it.

    The thank you speech was a bit of a shambles. I know that I thanked the most important person which is Laura, but I feel a little bit bad because a few people said I gave Sascha a bit of grief (pardon the pun). I have since followed up with Sascha on twitter and he assures me there was no harm done. I hope that’s not really true because I honestly didn’t mean that and hope everyone now goes and buys his book Learning Meteor now.

    Even as I sat down I couldn’t believe it and it wasn’t until I chatted to another winner, Laura Kalbag (otherwise known as New Comer of the Year), where she set my mind at rest.

    Justin Avery and Laura Kalbag smile with their .net awards
    Me and Laura Kalbag smiling and shocked with our .net awards

    She said that I should be looking solely on the tool itself, but also on the contribution to the community as a whole. When you take into consideration the time spent on the newsletter each week I began to realise where Laura was coming from.

    On returning to the table I bumped into Craig Lockwood from Be Squared. As I went to explain again how I thought I was lucky he pointed out that he used the tool a lot for his next release, and the people sat next to him also used the tool often without even realising the person that put it together was sitting at the same table. It turned out that most of the people I spoke with had at one point or another either heard of or used the tool itself.

    accepting gratitude

    For me this is the hardest thing to do.

    When working for a company and publishing a client website after 3 months of hard work I would always send the thanks along to the implementors.

    I think in everything that we do there are always people that you believe contribute more towards the achievable goal, it is very rare that you allow yourself to accept thanks directly.. often because you’ve built it as a team.

    In this case the only other person was my finance Laura who put up with me being in a different country while we sorted out visas. I had no one else to pass thanks to except for every single person that found it a useful tool.

    THANK YOU for everyone that has used Am I Responsive and who have also subscribed to RWD Weekly. Each and every one of you make all of the late nights working on side projects so much more worthwhile.

    At the end of the day I’m really proud to be able to say that something I built was able to help the wider community

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  10. Running a Successful Weekly Newsletter

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    I umm’d and ahh’d about the title of this post for a while because I wasn’t sure I could call the responsive design newsletter successful. To me that seems a little big headed and it wasn’t until I had someone at a bar come up and tell me that they loved the newsletter that I let myself believe it qualified as a success.

    Responsive Design Weekly started in April 2012 as a way that I could share all of the links that I found while researching Responsive Web Design (RWD) for a resource site I was, and still am, building.

    Getting Started

    The rationale behind starting the newsletter was

    1. I was already spending time collecting links because they helped me a lot when building and consulting on websites
    2. I thought it would only take a few more minutes each week to collate those links into a newsletter
    3. Mailchimp was free up to 2000 users so there was no costs involved

    Since that first newsletter went out to 18 people the list has grown to 6874 at the time of writing this post. Over the 11 month period the process has been refined a few times and I wanted to share that process with you in case you were thinking about starting a newsletter of your own.

    Before I get started on the how’s of putting together a newsletter I wanted to introduce you to what makes up the creation of newsletters.

    Understanding the cost of newsletters

    While my three step rationale seemed logical at the time it quickly became apparent that, just like transformers, there was more than meets the eye.

    The basic steps are still the same: Collect & Curate links, add to newsletter, send newsletter; however the time it takes to go through those steps became much more than I originally anticipated.

    Lets break those costs down…

    MailChimp

    • Estimated Cost: Free
    • Actual Cost: $75 p/m

    Mailchimp is great and is free for the first 2000 subscribers and up to 10000 emails per month. I was sending the email weekly so there was never any chance that I would reach the monthly sending limit.

    You should take into account that if you’re going to be successful with your newsletter then the number of subscribers are going to grow over the 2000 mark at which point you will need to start paying for that out of your own money.

    I found that the growth from 0 – 2000 was slow, but once I hit 2000 the growth to 5000 (the next pay point) was much faster. Fortunately Mailchimp provided me with a ‘not-for-profit’ discount so I got 15% off the costs, however I have now got to the point where I’ve introduced advertising within the newsletter to cover the Mailchimp list and website hosting costs.

    Design

    • Estimated Cost: $0 (never considered)
    • Actual Cost: a portion of $700 design + ~15 hours learning html emails.

    You have templates that you can choose from within Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor but you don’t really want to look like every other newsletter – do you? I partnered up with a designer to do some work on my responsive resource site and included a newsletter design as part of that scope of works.

    Along with the actual cost of the designer you also need to put time into developing that template. Don’t be fooled, it’s a lot easier to build a HTML web page than it is to put together a HTML email.

    Research

    • Estimated Cost: 2 hours p/w
    • Actual Cost: 7 hours p/w + $4.95p/m

    This is all your time. You are probably reading a lot anyway but when it comes to the newsletter what you’re doing is separating the wheat from the chaff. I use a few tools to try and catch most of the content including:

    • RSS Feeds – a series of feeds from sites that I know produce good content
    • ZITE – an iPad application that pulls through content related to topics I like. I can

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