SXSW Interactive – One week to go.


Public speaking really isn’t my bag, ya know. I’ve done it at various times in my lifetime, when I’ve had to – but usually never voluntarily. Though, when I was in high school and college – I was in all those public speaking type deals like the debate club, forensics – – and even the drama club and have umpteen gazillion plays and musicals under my belt. In addition – many years of singing in various different bands.

So obviously, there is a part of me somewhere deep inside that does not fear the stage and embraces the spotlight. What happened to that part? Where’d it go? I’m going to have to meditate on this with some seriously large amounts of coffee and chocolate, I think.

To top it off, I missed the conference call between all the panel members because my attentions were in the hospital with my mother. That conference call took place and all the panel members (minus ME) talked about the agenda for the panel, what topics would be covered and probably a logical sequence of that discussion. I missed it. I’ve written and asked for anyone to share their notes with me on it, and I’ve yet to get a return answer on that – and with just a week to go, I’m beginning to bite a few nails, ya know?

In the meantime, you can read about our panel here

The description of our panel discussion is as follows:

This panel will take a close look what blog design really means – both in terms of art and practice. Explore how to price your design services, and find out what other blog designers have learned about blog clients. This session is geared toward blog designers and Web site designers, with a special focus on business blog design practices. Topics being covered include: *How to price your design services * How to find out what your client wants * Blog design best practices * Blog design no-nos * What customization is possible within the most poplar blog software tools (without learning HTML, CSS and Photoshop) Special bonus: Get instant feedback on your blog designs from the panel experts, and from the audience. The panel will look at blogs designed by audience members, give feedback and suggestions, and ask the audience to vote for the most successful design.

So, if you were in the audience of this panel – – what information would YOU be seeking? I have many ideas.. but I’m trying to be objective and step outside my little world.

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12 thoughts on “SXSW Interactive – One week to go.”

  1. “So, if you were in the audience of this panel – – what information would YOU be seeking?

    I would ask why I’m not on that panel!!!

    Haha! I kid.

    Honestly, I don’t know. I guess I’d have to look at it from a newbie point of view:

    1) Traffic – how to get traffic, and KEEP it.

    2) Usability – how do I tell if my site is easy to navigate, what I think makes perfect sense might not apply to 95% of the rest of the population.

    3) Accessibility – not really a big concern for personal sites, but, can everyone access my site? How tables affect accessibility. How extraneous scripts and flash affect. Etc. Again, what makes sense to me, doesn’t apply to 90% of the world.

    4) READABILITY – if no one can read my site, no one will stay…but this *may* be subjective…but my site may be cluttered, bad choice of fonts, clashing colors…but I wouldn’t know it because it makes perfect sense to me.

    5) COMMENT SPAM – I might think it’s perfectly natural to leave comments with a signature line ON TOP OF the author url line in the comments, but other people (such as that nasty old Wench) consider that spam and will delete offensive signature links.

    Am I not helping any and only making things worse? lol.

  2. Oh…and how to deal with TROLLS!!!

    Of course, feel free to send any troll questions my way. I heart the trolls! In fact, I should publish Wench’s 12-Step Guide to dealing with Trolls! 😉

  3. Your first question is totally legitimate – – why aren’t YOU?? Now THAT would rock! Come have a drink with me anyways – – Chris has abandoned me and I’m going to Austin for three days all by my lonesome (he refused to come with me).. what to do? what to do?

    Traffic, Useability are GREAT…and accessibility! This panel seems to be more geared toward business blogs, so all three of those things are really important.

    I think the biggest thing I find with business blogging is that most small business owners want a blog, because they are learning that it’s a great way to drive traffic and get attention to their business… but not all small business owners are very tech savvy. So whatever we (blog designers) can do to make their blog as easy as possible for them to maintain and use, the happier it will make the client.

    “I just want to log in and blog” is what I hear ALL the time.

    I do my best to make it as easy as possible… providing TONS of comments in the code and CSS so they can navigate their way around the code and make changes without having to call on me and pay my hourly fee just to add a link to their sidebar.

    And did you say I can send all the trolls to you?

    Happy to!


  4. I’m more curious about starting up as a company, etc, when it comes to accounting practices and all that. Got any tips where I can read up on that kind of info?

  5. How to set up the company… any company, not just web design, from an accounting and financial standpoint varies from person to person. I had no particular formula, really – and quite honestly when I started out this design stuff a decade ago, didn’t really expect it to grow into a full blown business. Guess you could basically say that I was blindsided by it’s growth, because once the growth started – it really blew out of control, causing me to really have to step back and take a long hard look at subjects like:

    – Taxes (ugh!)
    – Payroll (double ugh!)
    – Keeping track of business expenses
    – Advertisig
    – Budgeting
    – Profit versus loss reports
    – Knowing when to CUT your losses
    – Health Insurance
    – Liability Insurance
    – Small Business law

    Most importantly – developing a good business plan… even harder still, sticking to it!

    When I started doing web designing, it was about a decade (or more, I don’t know.. I’ve been saying a decade for awhile now, and I keep getting older)… I started by just giving my stuff away for free. All of it. Then as things grew a bit, I gradually and steadily increased my prices.

    AT the time, offering different services and doing different things were no big deal. These days – everything I do and offer I have to weigh pros/cons and profit versus loss because I have payroll to meet, taxes to pay, expenses to keep up with.

    It’s quite a juggle.

    If I learned one thing… both with the design company and the hosting company… is that the old saying rings very, very true – – that is, you have to spend money in order to make money.

    I found that to be very true in many cases along the way. Some lessons learned were great and inspiring.. other lessons learned were painful and awful.

    One big lesson to learn when doing business on the net is to really learn who you can trust. There is a TON of competition out there – – most I’ve found are wonderful resources of information, others I’ve found not so much.

    Competition is what it is.. it will always be there and I think it’s better to develop a comfortable network of peers within the industry, than it is to create animosity just because you happen to offer the same service that Joe Blow does.

    A nice network of peers that you can network with and learn from is good. Isolating yourself away from who you perceive to be your competition is bad. Knowing who you can trust within that group of peers is vital.

    I’d say do a search for some really good forums or groups who deal in small business development and self employment… not just targeted towards web design or web based businesses either. Some of the ones I’ve found and peeked into: (not pretty, but helpful.. some of it) (some good small business resources)

  6. Hmm.. my marriage plans are already in the works, and he’s not the son of a CPA.

    But! He is the owner of his own company who employs a CPA who thinks I’m cute….. LOL

    Not sure that type of accounting resource would work for everyone, tho. :p

  7. Lisa, thank you so much for the advice. This is why, despite having lost touch by chat and email, I still consider you a great and forthcoming friend.

    I approached you for the web designer job and discovered that I would run afoul of your non competes, considering the direction I am heading, marketing myself locally, and what do you do? You encourage me and hold no hard feelings.

    I ask you a question about being a (de facto, but never by intent) competitor, and you give me the best advice I have ever heard from anyone in months.

    Thank you so, so much!

  8. Keeping late hours over here tonight, I am.

    I absolutely hold no hard feelings, Jay – – hopefully that was not your perception at the time. I was sorry you did not take the position.. but fully understood your reasons.

    I’m not out to run the world over here .. but rather looking to pay the bills, put food on the table and have enough pocket change to get me into trouble on the weekends 😉

    For a loooooooooonggggg time in the very beginning I used to keep a sharp eye on what all the other design companies were doing, and would try to keep up. I’ve since realized that the web is vast, huge and enormous and as long as there are sites to be developed, there is room for all of us. My god I’d hate to be the only one on the block! eek!

    Does that mean I’d share my entire business plan with you? Well, hell no. I’m nice – but not stupid. 😉

    However, encouraging you, as a friend as well as a collegue in the industry gives me more warm fuzzies than holding animosity towards you because some day you may nab a few clients or ten from my greedy little hands. 😀

    Competition is healthy. It gives us all standards to hold ourselves to . . and gives us even more of a reason to keep pushing ourselves above the bar, as much as possible.

    I’m glad you found my comment helpful, Jay – and I’m sincere when I say I wish you the best in your endeavours!

  9. How do you handle when a customer wants something outside of the original plan? Do you handle each case individually or draw a hard line?

    What have you found to streamline your design process? What was one of the biggest lessons you learned? What have you seen in the blog design realm that you did not expect?

    What do predict will happen long term with blog design?

    What do you thing of just selling templates vs. custom designs?

    What is your favorite blogging software and why?

  10. Hi Amy! That’s a LOT of question – – you should be attending our panel I think! Great questions too, btw 🙂

    To be brief – I can provide a few answers to them, or at least try:

    1.) Going outside the original plan?? Oh man – it happens all the time, because each project varies from one to the other. Hard lines don’t exist, period. In the almost 3 years that I’ve focused on blog design – – it has evolved. It used to be really easy to please all my clients with the blog basics.. but these days, blog clients demand more functionality that may cause you to have to look outside the box for a solution on.

    2. To streamline? I do absolutely anything and everything I can! Streamlining is important – and I guess the number one thing I can say to streamline the whole process is TONS of communication up front with your clients. Those were the hard lessons I learned in the beginning… get all those wants and needs up front, encourage your clients to communicate those needs to you and never EVER take this for an answer “Well, you’re the designer – you know what is best”. Because what I think is best is not always what the client has in mind. Do what you can to elicit the most information out of your client, up front, as possible. It will make the final project sign off less painful.

    3. As long as there are blogs, there will be a need for blog design. What do I see for businesses like mine? It will become oversaturated. It already is. However, from a consumer’s standpoint – that only means they have a vast choice of designers. As a consumer, that is a really good thing. As a designer – it just makes us push ourselves more (over the cliff, maybe? ha!)

    4. I tried selling premade templates once. 99% of the folks who bought my premades ended up wanting more customization to them anyways. People want their sites to look the way THEY want them to look.. they like having that say on what goes where, what colors are showing and how things do what. I got a LOT of “It’s a great template, but I wish it were…….” – I gave up on premades because they took my time away from my other clients wanting custom work. If I could clone me, I might take a serious look at premades again sometime.

    5. I heart WordPress over any of it’s counterparts. It’s easy. Flexible. Sleek and did I mention easy? As easy as it is, it is also a very powerful content management system and I recommend it any chance I get!

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