•   Comments post

Connecting Strategy to Tactics

strategy_process

Like most people reading this, I have many, many ideas going on at once and many, many tasks that need my time and attention, both of which are in short supply. Recently, I’ve been cleaning up files and cleaning out my Dropbox and found countless lists and documents and mind maps signifying repeated attempts to wrap my head around big, complex issues surrounding work, web strategy, and my life in general. I’m a list addict, I’ve come to terms with that, and I would argue that writing it all down is better than not. I don’t do obsessive digital organizing …

Read more >

  •   Comments post

PROPER Web Development

May 18th of 2012, I decided to take a personal day to figure out what the next steps were, in a general sense, with my professional life. I had spent the last few months listless, intentionally overworked, and doing all the things I know make me less capable – too much coffee, staying logged into email 24/7, not getting any exercise, rarely taking breaks from the computer.

I started a journal exactly a month before this meeting with myself. Professionally, I felt stagnant. I was committed to my clients and still very much enjoyed what I was doing every day. I knew then, as I know now, that working on the web is where I’d be until I died, my crooked hands resting on a trackpad (or whatever newfangled control device we’re using in the future). But something had to change.

So I took a meeting with myself. I blocked off half the day and went to a Starbucks in the Columbia Center downtown (I’m not at all a fan of Starbucks but this place is one of a kind … see above). I turned off my phone, swore off email, and went to work. During this meeting, PROPER Web Development was born.

proper_banner_1000x250

Read more >

  •   Comments post

Thoughts on “Focus”

I think a lot about focus, what it means, and how to find it. Focus is something that does not come naturally to most people and can be very difficult when you live an over-connected lifestyle. It’s something that you have to commit to, practice, experiment with, and make a priority. I think Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has some excellent thoughts on the subject which he compiled into a free ebook called, appropriately, “Focus.” I read it and wanted to share my thoughts on the subject. That’s me below, reading it with my phone on.

Kindle on the ship canal

As soon as I started working for myself, I understood the importance of focus. It took running a business, though, to really make the time to start building a system that works for me. Like all good processes, this system is a work in progress and I learn something useful every day. Read more >

  •   Comments post

Don’t Screw Around with Your Finances

I have a lot of fun building things, both in and out of WordPress. I have even more fun watching great businesses perform better using the simple tools at their disposal. Being as web-centric as I am, this usually equates to online tools surrounding organization, conversions, search engine performance, and other website-related tasks. There is something that trumps your website, though, both in my mind and in reality.

Your business’s money.

How much do you know about how well your business is performing? If you had to correct your most critical financial problem right now, how would you do it? Do you even know what that problem is? How confident are you that your business will be around for the next 2 years? 5 years? 10 years?

What if there was someone you could talk to for an hour and get definitive answers to the questions above and a lot more? We’re talking no-punches-pulled, brutally honest, incredibly accurate information about your company’s financial situation. What if that meeting didn’t cost anything? 

I think I have someone you should talk to… Read more >

  •   Comments post

I write here, there, and everywhere!

The last few months have seen posts of mine popping up in  a few different places and I wanted to give them a bit more attention. Read more >

  •   2 Comments post

My WordPress Developer’s Wishlist

Let’s just get this out of the way: I’m a total WordPress fanboy. Most projects that come through my door can be – and are – built on the platform and I’m always finding great new ways to extend and improve the basic functionality. Most of my clients love the backend and I’ve yet to find a WYSIWYG system that works as well as WordPress’s. I feel silly even making a list like this but these ideas have popped into my head over the last year and I wanted to get them down in one place.

One caveat here: I’m trying to leave out anything that’s easily relieved with a plugin or some easy template code. The decision to incorporate something into WordPress core or leave it to the plugin authors is likely a constant struggle and far be it for me to try and play back-seat driver for the development phases. Read more >

  •   2 Comments post

Taking Your First Steps on Twitter: The 30 – 40 – 30 Plan

This post is for anyone who just signed up for Twitter and thought, “OK, now what?” It’s for the businesses and individuals curious about how to get started on Twitter and have fun with it. This isn’t about ROI, it isn’t about analytics, and it isn’t about strategy. It’s about what I like to create and engage with and, simply, where to start if you’re taking the first step and you’re already lost.

As always, I’ll begin with a disclaimer: this isn’t a rulebook. This is just a way to simplify your thinking about what can be done with this active and fascinating social network. I’m of the mind that more people using these networks to communicate, rather than just promote what they’re doing, makes the experience stronger and much more enjoyable. Read more >

  •   3 Comments post

How to be a better self-promoter in the creative industry

I was having coffee at a local coffee shop recently and came across one of the worse examples of in-person self-promotion I’ve seen in a while. This was a chance encounter and I certainly don’t know all the details of the situation but I left with a name, a URL, and a bad taste in my mouth. Because I’m sure this person wasn’t completely aware of their impact, I wanted to share the experience so you know where this kind of thing can go wrong.

Read more >

  •   1 Comment post

Working with a web designer: help us help you

I’m a very retrospective person, particularly when it comes to how I do business. I’m always looking back at projects, looking for what I could have done better and making changes to my planning process along the way. During this retrospection, I find myself coming back to the design process far, far more often than any of the other steps. There’s a million reasons why this portion can become so sticky, but that’s only indirectly why I’m writing this. This post is about helping me help you to come up with the best design we possibly can.

Design is just one of those things, isn’t it? First of all, it’s hugely relative … to a point. There are rules – alignment, sizing, consistency, contrast, etc – but even adhering to those leaves you with a near-infinite number of combinations of colors, fonts, shapes, photos, and sizes, all of which have fans and foes. What looks clean and elegant to one person can look boring and uninspired to another.

On top of that, design has to actually do something, it has a goal. Some of the best-looking web sites out there are hard to use, incompatible with various devices, and disturbingly hard to maintain. On the web in particular, looking good is just one component of a long list of requirements.

Oh, and let’s not forget to mention the pink elephant in the room here: budget. Maybe, just maybe, given an infinite budget and a due date of “at some point during your life,” perfection is possible (doubtful). But that’s just conjecture and, besides, it’s not the reality. There are limitations to how much money someone can spend, how long they can wait, and how long a designer can look at the same mock-up without ending up in an institution.

Despite these obstacles, there is a path of least resistance and it’s our job to find that path. So where do we start? Read more >

  •   2 Comments post

Analysis, Keywords and Monitoring: 3 Steps to Improve SEO

I’ll just say it right up front: the target audience for this post is for business owners and entrepreneurs who are online and understand the importance of optimizing their site for search but aren’t sure where to start. If you’re unconcerned with search traffic, that conversation is for another day. If you’re looking for in-depth topics, start with one of my other SEO posts like Choosing Keyword Phrases for Site Content. You know you’ve got a problem but you don’t know how to correct it. Don’t worry, Josh Can Help.

Think of yourself at the bottom facing up...

Once the SEO bug bites, it’s tough to shake the feeling that you’re not doing something - or anything – right. There are stated, universal things one can do to improve ranking but the black-box nature of search engine algorithms makes for a tense situation, especially if you’re already ranking well for a few key terms. Combine this mysterious environment with the stories everyone has about the almighty Google fist striking a site completely off the ranking pages and you have a recipe for abject paranoia.

Read more >

  •   Comments post

Using Google Analytics to determine a new page’s performance

I think data can solve most problems. Think about it… if you had all the right information and you trusted that information and you were able to get past your emotional response, you would always make significantly better decisions. This is a pretty vague, overarching statement but I believe it can be applied everywhere. Whether or not you’re half-robot, like myself, there’s one thing you can’t deny: data can help you answer some questions with surprising accuracy. The question today is, did I shoot myself in the foot by redesigning one of my pages. The answer: definitely.

Shoot yourself in the foot

I just read “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries and enjoyed it a lot, more than I expected to in fact. I’ll save the pontification about this “Lean” concept for another time but the main thing I got from the book surrounded collecting and using actionable information to learn about your customers and make decisions about changes and improvements. I wrote about this kind of iteration before, it’s something that drives everything I do and, before this book, I never knew there was a name for it. Read more >

  •   Comments post

Great Content Is Like a Produce Stand in Paris

It was a rainy October day in Paris. In an effort to see as many different streets as possible we ended up walking a long way from our tiny apartment in a purposeful but uneducated direction. Our journey took us to the outskirts of the city and then back towards “home” down a busy street we’d never seen before. The rain was coming in splatters and we tried to keep our hopes up despite looking – and feeling – like the unprepared goofballs we were. But then it stopped, for just a few minutes. The clouds hadn’t parted, we’d just come across a market that situated a fruit stand on the curb and connected it to his store, overhead, with an awning. It was a nice break and we ended up buying some fruit.

That’s the one.

With the rain off our backs for a moment, we smiled and paused for a moment, taking in what was around us. The fruit just happened to be really good and quite inexpensive too. We weren’t looking for anything to eat but, suddenly, it all seemed very appealing. Read more >