We have gone through so many changes and now I feel really bad about not letting you know the details sooner! 1WD has been struggling a lot lately and that’s why we are busy reorganizing the site, taking a leap of faith and hoping that after all the changes we’ll come out better than we are now. Now you’ll get a peek behind the scenes of 1WD!
In this post I will explain what has happened behind the scenes for the last three months and what we are working on now. We really believe that by narrowing our focus, working on our own products, and really listening to your feedback, we will make everyone love this design blog!
You know how I like to share what I’ll be covering before I start? Here are the things I’ll be covering throughout this article:
- Survey results where we got more than 1,000 responses
- Slap from Google and the actions we took to recover and improve the reading experience
- Changing host in process
- Completely finishing 1WD redesign, call for feedback!
- 1WD Ebook launch summary
- 1WD Labzip product, learn what it is all about
- FounderTips website for web design marketing advice
Previous Survey Craziness
Three months ago we had a big survey on 1WD, asking you to help us understand what kind of topics you want us to focus on more? We received quite a few great and helpful suggestions and the lucky winners’ banners are now on the sidebar. :)
We also used the KissInsights feedback plugin to get even more responses to quick questions. Unfortunately, a lot of people really hated that feedback plugin so we removed it after only a week, but a week was enough to get a lot of very, very useful feedback.
Did you notice that 1WD is now super clean and it’s almost ad-free? We are trying to provide the best reading experience possible!
Here is what we learned from the survey:
- You want to learn how to make WordPress responsive, how to make/customize themes
- You want more tutorials, more design related articles covering WordPress, UI, responsive designing, A/B testing
- You love that we publish tutorials regularly and we have wide diversity of authors, daily updates and freebies!
- You hated that 1WD is not responsive, it had too many ads, pop-ups and it’s not mobile friendly (we fixed almost all of these problems by cleaning up the site, we have a mobile version now and we’re working hard on making it responsive).
- You struggle the most with marketing yourself, working at home, knowing what to charge and how to create contracts and being an original designer.
What we learned from KissInsights feedback (more than 1000 responses):
- Then we asked what you dislike the most about 1WD – most requests were to remove ads and pop-ups (KissInsights). Ironically the most requested change was to remove KissInsights feedback plugin! It was a necessary evil, but we removed it really fast!
We really listened to you and hope you can feel it already while reading 1WD! We also reduced the amount of articles we publish. Previously we published two to three articles per day, but we’re now down to one to make sure you get better quality, and more enjoyable, articles!
Slap from Google
I have already posted two in-depth articles about this topic and read a whole bunch of SEO blogs trying to find a solution for the lost traffic. Even now I cannot say that we have recovered from the loss or that I know what exactly caused Google to dislike us so badly. We learned a lot of good SEO practices to work on, one post was about how Google is changing its policies and general advice about how to recover from it using some advanced tools and practices. The second article was much more specific, focusing on how to clean up existing blog posts from broken links, spam comments and outdated tips.
I am confused who got that traffic we lost instead and what is considered better content by Google. Quite a big confusion. Still we are doing what we can to improve the overall site experience and hopefully you have noticed the changes already if you are regular visitor!
Our site now is much cleaner, faster, comments are cleaned from ALL spam leaving just the ones that are genuine. I went so far through 20,000 approved comments, still 900 pages = 18,000 comments are remaining but I’ll get there.
Here are few lessons I learned with the Google changes:
- Search traffic is very helpful, but you can’t really rely on it.
- Focusing on social networking and overall engagement in the comments is much more lasting and enjoyable. Regular readers are much less likely to spam, whereas spammers come from Google trying to steal traffic by spamming the article comments.
- Building your own list is crucial – build your email list aggressively. There is no other better way to work on relationships with readers than through email. Traffic doesn’t mean everything if readers are not returning, and most aren’t.
This is a strong advice for blog owners. For readers, no matter what we do here, you win by getting a better reading experience!
Recently, Sufyan did a really in-depth research about web hosts, cloud services and what to choose. That article is an awesome reference point for you while picking a host or transferring to a new one. You probably don’t know that we published that article because we are struggling with existing host Eleven2 ,and now after two years, yes, two years, of struggling with them and giving them countless second chances, we decided it’s time to let them go and make a switch. We are using the very same hosting article to decide which host to choose next.
Our Experiences with Eleven2
It has been a very bumpy ride with Eleven2, I must say the only reason I stuck with them for so long was because of Rodney, the founder of Eleven2. We established a very healthy relationship and he always helped a lot when we had problems. As time went on the problems started to happen more and more often and they really didn’t seem reasonable.
We had serious problems with the CDN the whole time, when some parts of the site was cached, but some weren’t, causing our site to break and create errors which weren’t actually there! Imagine only having some of a plugins code cached and some that wasn’t compatible with other plugins. Our programmer, Daniel, spent a lot of time fixing those errors and finding that in the end it was just a caching issue. A lot of wasted time went into that.
In summary their hosting is quite cheap (except CDN) and it can be good for smaller websites (maybe for high-end sites too, but be ready to pay a lot for that). But if something happens, don’t expect fast or helpful support. You can expect downtime about once per month, sometimes it only lasts a few minutes, sometimes several hours long.
I hope support is fine for small shared hostings, but for dedicated hosting it was really bad. A person who responded to a support ticket didn’t have any access to dedicated hosting and countless times I felt like I was speaking to someone who doesn’t speak English. It was painful. As I said, the only reason why we stuck with Eleven2 for so long was because of Rodney, who fixed all our problems quickly when he was around.
I am apologizing to you, 1WD readers about the downtime we had, it is my fault that we didn’t take action and make a switch much sooner.
Where is 1WD Moving?
Currently we are thinking about MediaTemple‘s dedicated hosting, where our programmer Daniel will set it up and maintain it. I think it’s a good solution because MT hardware is awesome and if you set it up with your own software, then you don’t need any support – you are in charge of everything! If you are planning on making the same move keep this in mind – the person who’s managing the hosting needs to be really good and reliable!
Completely Redesigning 1WD
Many people thinking 1WD has already been redesigned! But in reality we were just strongly reacting to the Google changes and it encouraged us to improve your reading experience. Even though our site is really clean now it doesn’t have a really good design that we can be proud of. We decided here that it’s better to improve the reading experience before working on a new site design.
One big takeaway from editing the existing design was how important it is to sometimes realign and not completely redesign. If you keep changing little by little you will get the time to track and test every change and this experience is invaluable! If you start completely fresh you lose any data you had previously and you’ll need to start fresh!
Now we have improved the blog post styling, removed a lot of ads and cleaned up the header! Big looks and the experience won’t change anymore, but you can expect some extra new features and much, much better user experience!
1stWebDesigner E-books launch
You probably noticed the serious advertising and word spreading over social networks and 1WD, because we had big news, we finally released our own e-books, which we are selling through Amazon now!
It really was an interesting and very experience-rich launch, if you’re interested I can share my experience on making all of it happen. We offered those ebooks free for three days for our active readers and newsletter subscribers which resulted in more than 6,000 downloads! We have sold over 500 copies so far!
I would gladly write full case study if you are interested, but you need to ask for it in the comments! If at least five people comment that they want to read a case study on the E-book launch, I will happily share my experience with you all.
LabZip: New Sites and Ventures coming to the 1WD Family
Here at 1WD we have started new ventures by working on our own products! We have joined forces with Spencer Forman, founder of Labsecrets. You can read more about him. We joined forces because 1WD is an expert on providing value to its audience and Spencer is an awesome guy, who’s very experienced with WordPress and product creation – skills we lack!
I really want to get my hands dirty on providing a lasting product where we can provide endless value for you! E-books are the starting point and we will continue with Labzip!
What is Labzip?
I mentioned it before on 1WD, but let me explain what we are building and why we think this WordPress plugin will be useful for you! Let’s look at some popular problems regarding website creation!
I know many of you reading this blog are experienced designers and developers and while this plugin will be most useful to starting web designers, everybody will find this handy!
Imagine this situation:
You need to build a quick website for yourself or a client with some custom functionality like membership, forums or a shop. You can take two routes:
- Use your own template or create a whole website from scratch using your favorite system to put everything together
- Buy a premium theme and try to customize it to do the job quickly trying to solve the problems that can come with another programmers code.
If you have the time and money it’s best to get a custom-designed website, where you know and control every single bit of code and functionality. You don’t need that, heck even I started 1WD with customized template, because I didn’t have time or enough knowledge to design my own blog and I definitely didn’t the have money to hire somebody else.
But know this, design is optional. For a blog, the most important thing is awesome content and community; for products, the most important thing is what pain it solves and that it works! Don’t get me wrong, having awesome design with unique functionality is great and should always be the goal, but usually that means the build time will take much longer.
Many websites and products fail because they spend too much time working on the idea and they end up drained, and even worse, what they thought people want isn’t what they need! To avoid this problem, follow the saying, “Skip perfection and launch early!”
I have seen this saying proven right in so many situations! Launching early will help you grow quickly! You are much more likely to improve your product if you spend $25 on the website than $2,000 for custom design!
Ok, let me get to the point. Why am I talking about this?
Because we are working on a product which will utilize the best premium themes available and bundle them together with great functionality.
The Goal is that you can:
- Pick a premium theme you like
- Pick functionality you need (membership, shop, forum, social)
- Launch! And you don’t even need to worry about hosting, we offer it together with Labzip!
How could you use the Labzip plugin? Well, let your imagination go wild:
- If you are a web designer you can build a lot of websites for your clients super fast!
- If your client needs changes you can change them instantly with our add/remove function
- If you are an internet marketer, you can launch as many sites as you want quickly!
- You can use our product as a starting point for your custom design, use the functionality you need, and change the design as you wish!
I would have loved to have had a tool like this when I started freelancing! And I know there are quite a few designers already piecing together sites using WordPress, premium themes and custom plugins! But now it will be even easier than before!
More features LabZip will provide:
- More than 80 WordPress popular plugins which work together with themes and do not break any code
- Video tutorials showing you how to customize designs, use WordPress to implement custom advanced features
- Support forums, where you can get your questions answered!
- ManageWP implemented so you can manage all your clients’ sites or your own sites from one place (we have a custom collaboration with them!)
- Responsive designs
I don’t know, but for me it seems like a win-win for everybody!
If you want to learn more, visit Labzip and watch the preview video there! We would love to hear your thoughts about this wonderful product (which is currently a web version while the WP plugin is being built).
We would love to answer your questions to help us understand what features you would love to have in Labzip and what features you value the most!
So far we have received a lot of interest from marketers who want to build a lot of websites, but not many freelancers or individual site owners though! How would you use Labzip and would it be useful to you?
FounderTips – Blog for Web Designers that are into Internet Marketing
Several months ago I created FounderTips because I was delving deeper and deeper into internet marketing, but that type of content isn’t really appropriate for 1WD ! For some time we worked there, created quite a few marketing articles and interviews with very successful people who have created their businesses, both big and small, online and are living their dream.
While these articles are very unique and interesting, I feel like we were lacking the focus that would make us stand out from all the other marketing blogs. A few weeks ago something hit me – many designers are really bad marketers! They often struggle to earn really good money online. Some designers start blogs to get more traction, but still struggle because of the amount of competition.
But there are so many really good ways designers can create their own products and earn extra income from freelancing. I realized that there isn’t a blog dedicated to marketing for designers!
And here is where FounderTips found it’s place!
We will focus on two types of content generally:
- Interviews with popular designers and developers succeeding by selling their service or product online like Jacob Cass for example.
- Marketing advice for designers to help them create their own products to sell.
You may be thinking , “I don’t feel like an expert in this niche, how could I sell anything?” Oh boy, it is much easier than you think, you just need to take action and become good at it.
Here are some ways designers can make more money by creating products:
- Write an e-book about something you are an expert in! Check Sasha Greif for example, how he created his ebook Step by Step UI design!
- Create and sell themes on marketplaces like Themeforest. Orman Clark used his blog PremiumPixels and freebies to really push his themes!
- If you are a web designer, collaborate with a developer to create an app which will solve a problem!
- Collaborate and create your own theme shop! A lot of designers are collaborating with WooThemes to earn extra money.
- Create a blog reviewing some useful premium tools and WordPress plugins and earn affiliate income from them! I know quite a few guys doing just that!
- Use Labzip to quickly create beautiful and functional WordPress websites and earn great money as freelancer!
- Start building a mailing list on your blog and communicate well with your readers! They can really help you spread the word or launch your next product!
- Create a video course teaching something you are an expert in, sell it as an individual product or create a premium membership on your site!
- Create premium icons, fonts, plugins – learn how to market them and earn money on the side!
- Become a writer, there are quite a few design blogs paying good money for articles! At 1WD we are paying $75-100 for each article!
There are so many ways you can succeed online! But I don’t think there is a good place to teach you that! I know, I know, you love web design, you love coding, but even if you are the best designer out there, you earn only when you work! If you do not work, you do not get paid!
What happens if you fall sick, have a family crisis or just want to travel for a bit? You don’t make money!
That’s why setting up some passive income can be really beneficial! If you have a theme on Themeforest, it still sells even if you are away! If you have an e-book on Amazon? It still sells even if you’re sick!
I have learned so much about marketing and traffic building, I really think I can teach you a thing or two. Even if marketing isn’t something you need to worry about wouldn’t you like to read interviews with some of the worlds top designers?
Let me know what you think! Here is our new site, which already has 52 published articles, so you can start reading right away!
This is definitely a period of big change for 1WD, and the whole team behind it is working very hard to make it all happen! I know, I asked you already for a lot of feedback, but with good reason. We need you to help us make the right choices and improve the overall experience here! We are in a beautiful place where we can afford to make anything happen, but we need a bit of your guidance!
Do you feel like we are moving in the right direction? How do you feel about our new projects: e-books, FounderTips, and Labzip?
Remember, if you are interested in reading about the e-book launch you need to request it in the comments or on Twitter!