And…. we’re back.

After a long hiatus from blogging, I am back. In fact, so is my website, at least back to the message I want to portray. 

A few months ago, I went on an adventure with my family, and took a large break from the business (although still had a few minor things on the go, plus one other project still in the works). I had put up a single page website replacing my own, explaining the whole thing… it involved selling our house in Amherst, moving to the old family homestead in New Brunswick sans house, off-grid camping for a while and moving and setting up our new house on the site. There is of course much, much more to tell, but most importantly for this blog, the message is I’m back in business full swing, with a renewed enthusiasm and vigor for the new year. 

I also plan to get back to blogging on a regular basis, as much for a personal business journal as anything else. Call it a New Year’s resolution if you like.

How far things have come…

I am currently transferring a sort of large account from another server to the new one, and it occurred to me that the size of what I was bringing over from one server to another, and then subsequently will install, tweak and get running is larger than Windows 7 installed. It’s starting to get reminiscent of installing operating systems on computers.

Why that seemed interesting to me was that I remember some of the first websites I made in the late ’90s. They consisted of about 4 or 5 html files and a few gif images. They were, by design, very very minimalist so that those on 28.8k modems would not have to wait 5 minutes to see your web page. We hadn’t started using extra style sheets, javascript libraries, CMS’s, php programming. Eventually websites contained about the same amount of files as installing DOS did, at about the same size in kilobytes.

Business progress

Well, it’s been over a year since I posted anything. Pretty bad. The truth is, there has been some major stuff happen in my own life over the past year, as well as the business. To put it simply, business has been good. Too good, in fact. Yes, that can happen, especially when unexpected health issues put you back and things snowball.

The good news is I’m coming out of this now, and made some fairly serious decisions. I had to decide if this business was to stay a one person shop. If so, it would have meant that I would have to say “no” a whole lot more than I was, and I would also have to limit the scope of what I do.

I hate limits. That was one of the things that drove me out of working for corporations in the first place.

So, growth it was. I considered maybe looking around at a few other competent web designer types for a possible partnership, but that entails a whole other level of complexity. Finding a business partner is almost as serious as finding a marriage partner, and it’s catch 22 for me - I don’t have the time to put into building that relationship because of the business at hand. I considered hiring another web designer, but there’s a whole creative and sales process involved that I’m not sure would translate. It could happen down the road, but people generally hire me for me. 

In the end, I hired a web development assistant. So far it’s really helping out. I happen to have a bunch of work that involves content input for a few sites, a task that is time consuming to do properly, so this role is perfect for that. My new assistant, Sherry (not the Sherry I married) has been great and hopefully will end up being more and more involved.

Another big development is the web hosting side of things. I have enough clients that host with me now, plus some additional clients with bigger needs that I made a decision there too. I now run my own dedicated server, co-located in a major Montreal data centre with the possibility to add more. I will have to take a little time to consolidate all the other accounts onto this server but I think the payoff will be huge in terms of performance and control. I’m looking into the “Diefenbunker” data centre in Debert as a future growth opportunity as well.

And finally, today, I’m putting in a real ticketing support system. I never really thought I’d need one in the web design business, but here we are. I won’t use it for actual website design jobs, but there are enough small requests now that aren’t about designing a new website that I’d hate to lose track of one. Not to mention, I’m also moving into ongoing support contracts with some clients, so this will make it much easier to track. I’m also going to use this system with my new assistant.

So there you have it. Stuff changes, we either adapt and grow or we get stay rigid and get run over by the monster we created. Stay tuned for more changes on the way,.

This is an awesome article in plain language. It asks some basic questions that sometimes get forgotten. Really, these questions should be obvious, but sometimes people get caught up in the fine details of design or coding, forgetting what they wanted to achieve in the first place.

This guy is my new professional hero!

This is a straightforward common sense article, nothing ground breaking or earth shattering, but good basics nonetheless. One excerpt that I liked:

"When something is visually appealing, the mind will get involved and interest will be created."

Interesting post about embracing and engaging your audience. Good advice.

Mifi to replace cell phones?

I know Americans have had mifi for a while, but it’s a brand new concept around here. Aliant just rolled out their HSPA network, and now 3GS is available on Telus, Bell and Rogers. Previously in Canada, you could only get an iPhone on Rogers - and the plans they offered were on the pricey side, for sure. That, coupled with the fact that Rogers service has always been spotty in Atlantic Canada meant slow iPhone sales around here.

What’s more intriguing to me is the possibilities of Mifi. I haven’t seen the actual offering yet, but it looks like it’s just around the corner:

Depending on what data plans they come out with, it seems to me that this is the way to go for many, as opposed to a dedicated 3GS phone. If you can carry a credit card sized mobile wifi hotspot, and if the networks speeds come up, my opinion is why even bother with a mobile phone anymore?

Think about this. Instead of buying an iPhone, why not get an iPod Touch. It’s pretty well the exact same thing sans the phone part. If you have a Mifi card, your iPod is now an iPhone thanks to things like Skype. There’s even a possibility that the rates would be cheaper (not sure about that yet). The bonus is that you can also have your netbook, laptop, PSP, or any other networkable device around you too, and only ever worry about one connection and one bill.

This also means you’ve divorced your data and connection plan from the hardware to an extent, meaning you get much more flexibility. A year from now, when some new gee whiz wifi phone or device comes out that makes your iPod look like crap, you can simply add it to the mix of mobile devices you already use. If your iPod goes on the crapper, it’s also simple enough to pick up and use any wifi skype device instead.

While it all might not be total reality now, I don’t think it’s going to be a long time where we simple get a portable Mifi card instead of the phone itself for mobile. Granted, that means you’re carrying at least two devices instead of one, and won’t be for everybody.

My prediction: Smartphones with built-in mifi hotspots within 2 years.

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