Welcome to the 40th(!) edition of the monthly transparency report (for May 2018). This is a series where I go through everything that’s been going on in the business. And I don’t hold back! Whether it’s good or bad, it’s all here. Click here to see the previous reports.
May was a fun month for me. More or less, I took the whole month off to take better care of myself and … prepare for the wedding (read: my wedding … two of them actually, long story).
This doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to share with you here.
Chiefly, I want to talk about a few things: the CodeinWP redesign and strategy, what the deal is with AMP and mobile, plus a case of entrepreneurial struggles and learnings (as mysterious as it might sound right now).
First off, you might have noticed that this report looks a bit different from the previous ones. The blog got a complete makeover, and this goes way further than just the looks. We reworked the code underneath, and we also looked into our strategy and the main focus for this publication.
So let’s dig a bit more into what we changed and why.
As I mentioned a couple of times before, the single most important thing pushing me to work on this redesign was the fact that the blog’s traffic has been decreasing for the past year or so (nothing brutal, just slightly).
Here’s what we’re doing about that:
The tech under the hood
CodeinWP started as a … drumroll please … static HTML website. Later on, we added a blog and put it on a WordPress install along with a custom theme.
A couple of years after that, we wanted to convert the main site to WordPress as well, so we created another, separate instance of WordPress for that.
All was fine and dandy until the whole setup caused some ugly issues with our hosting company a year ago. To say it simply, the site was a mess. It needed to be changed.
(I’d like to take this opportunity to make a case for using your competitors’ products. It’s how you can learn what’s out there in the market and how it *actually* works.)
Long story short, the site is now much faster and more flexible, allowing us to go even further when improving user experience and launching some new components/tools alongside.
The new focus
I’d guess that most of you haven’t looked at the actual homepage at codeinwp.com for a long time. It just hasn’t been our focus for the past three years or so. We’ve been investing mainly in what’s under codeinwp.com/blog.
However, at the same time, we left the main homepage intact. Meaning, what was promoted there was a “PSD to WordPress” service. The problem with that was that we were not even interested in new work in that area. So whatever leads we got, we couldn’t even work with. Smart, right?
This was confusing, to say the least, and it did nothing to strengthen the brand of the site as a “go-to place for WordPress insights.”
Finally, we’ve decided to change that and make the homepage a proper representation of what the whole site is about. The old homepage was only diminishing the trust in our content and the work we do here.
Now – with the new design – I hope things are clearer and the homepage does provide that previously missing context on what this site is about – “a hub for WordPress freelancers, bloggers & creators.”
We strive to be that by providing our readers with great content (through the blog as well as the newsletter), community, tools, and even jobs (in the works).
While I can guarantee for our research, content, and tools, the *running-a-community* thing is something entirely new to us. That being said, we do have a nice idea of how to kick-start the initiative:
If you want to join the new community and experiment along with us (hang out via Slack and learn together), you can apply here. The registration is free for the first 50 members. After that, we plan to charge a small fee in order to make sure people stay committed.
While I am happy with how the entire launch of the new design went by, we did face some issues here and there.
First, not all posts looked the way they should. Alignment issues, etc. Those were relatively painless to fix.
But there were more serious problems as well. Chief of them, immediately after the launch, I realized that Google picked up our “published on” dates in search instead of “updated on.”
This, of course, resulted in a huge drop in rankings and added to my stress levels. Luckily, once we managed to fix that and Google crawled the site again, the traffic went back up to normal.
Mobile and AMP
If you grew up like me, with a computer on your desk and not a phone in your pocket, chances are that you’ve grossly underestimated the importance and adoption of mobile.
“Mobile is the future!” – is probably something you’ve heard a dozen times or more, but it hasn’t really resonated with you. After all, you look at your site traffic – “less than 5% from mobile,” then you look at what you do on your phone personally – “not much, purchases and more serious stuff you still do on desktop,” and so you move on pretty much ignoring mobile entirely.
That mobile ignorance is why we came up with “responsive design” in the first place. It was only an attempt to make the normal desktop-first website somehow fit onto a mobile screen. It didn’t take things like the user’s intent, UX, or anything into account. It was just “take the normal site, make it fit on mobile.”
Essentially, we disbelieved that mobile will ever be a serious thing, and so we opted for automated solutions like “responsive.”
However, we were wrong.
For once, Google has already started rolling out their mobile-first index, and they’re moving actively in a direction where desktop is only second in importance. So let’s try to remind ourselves of this, break our old habits, and let’s reconsider how we go about building our websites (or WordPress themes).
Nothing of this is new. People have been talking about mobile-first design for years now. It did start with responsive, then we got mobile themes, and now progressive web apps (PWAs). Still, nobody has been taking this seriously until now.
Also, in what I see a sort of a desperate approach, Google released AMP to make things quicker for mobile *. And, not only that but I assume they’re trying to get this into WordPress core, along with the PWA thing. If this is not enough, the next step would probably be to allow users to easily launch an AMP or PWA -ready site for free (not sure if Google Sites is going in this direction or not).* I am focusing on Google here despite the fact that hosting companies, builders like Wix, etc. are doing this as well because Google has a strong incentive to give this out for free to compete with Facebook Pages (which is still probably the best place to go if all you want is a free business page that gets you clients).
In the end, we still have to learn a lot concerning mobile and how to approach it for a win-win scenario (both for us and the users).
It’s difficult. Responsive surely isn’t the solution. Not in 2018 at least.
All things considered, the starting point for CodeinWP is to default our mobile experience to AMP, and then work from there trying to learn and experiment with what the limitations are regarding creating an enjoyable user experience.
A case of entrepreneurial struggles and learnings
Having to deal with some personal struggles lately, and even panic attacks, not only scared me but also made me question myself and not trust my judgment.
At face value, this is bad, but there is also a positive aspect to the situation. In situations like that, you become more willing to listen and ask for help.
I started talking more openly both with the team and other entrepreneurs around me, asking for advice – especially from people who I trust and respect.
Personally, no matter how much I read online about creating processes, mastermind groups or having a mentor, I’ve realized that something I value much more than even 100 great articles is some good ol’ personal interaction and advice from someone I trust.
The whole “mastermind” and “mentor” things haven’t ever struck a chord with me. But now I’m realizing that maybe I’ve been wrong…
Here’s the thing, at first, taking part in masterminds or having a mentor doesn’t sound like something that many people trouble themselves with. And especially if you surround yourself with peers and not entrepreneurs who are further down the road than you.
However, then I realized that a mastermind-like scenario is taking place basically in every company. As an employee, you have your colleagues as a “mastermind group” and your team leader as the “mentor.” Everything you need in order to avoid stress and grow is generally already there. If you’re the boss, then it’s a different story. This is when you need to look for masterminds and mentors yourself.
While it is painful to accept that you can’t do everything on your own, or that you just aren’t that good with a specific task, or that you’ve simply failed, it is also a powerful moment.
Accepting that you failed frees up your mind and lets you look for help or other solutions. This combined with your learnings from the failure might just be enough to let you overcome the problem.
Thinking about that, I’ve decided to join the EO network. I’m planning to reach out more and hang out with other entrepreneurs. Not only from the same space, and not to “do business,” but to share everyday struggles, thoughts and learnings.
As my final piece of advice here; if you feel that you know what you have to do, but you also feel that you don’t have the energy to execute (or feel depressed), the first step is to accept it. Then, reach out to people that you think might help – due to the fact that they’ve likely been in a similar situation themselves.
Having a mentor and a group of entrepreneurs that understand what you are doing, the struggles you’re going through and can let you know when you’re doing something wrong can help a lot. And I don’t just mean praising each other, but being honest and calling each other out on stuff that’s not right and how to change it.
Being a lone entrepreneur who’s taking on the world is a nice dream, but it probably won’t work out in the long run. Working together with others is a much better situation to be in.
Okay, that’s all I have for you this month. As always, thanks for reading and for supporting us! Stay updated and get new reports delivered to you by subscribing here:
All edits and witty rewrites by Karol K.