Year in review 2016

Adam Silver
Feb 16, 2017 · 7 min read

I’ve never written one of these before because I started this newsletter less than 12 months ago. It’s fresh just like me :D.

It’s good to reflect on the past, rather than rocketing into the future all the time. Which funnily enough is one of the biggest problems in our industry.

We spend so much time looking for the latest and greatest whatever, that we don’t realise how much amazing stuff has already been solved in the past.

So before looking ahead I’ll take a look at the last 12 months to see what went well and what didn’t — a retrospective because everyone loves Agile.

I’m also going to need your help if you can spare a minute, so hold tight on that.

What went well

1. I gave a talk to 180 people

When Simon McManus invited me to speak at a Enhanceconf 2016, my initial reaction was “no way”. Why would I subject myself to the fear of public speaking? I’m not that crazy.

But they say you should step outside your comfort zone and so after friends and family convinced me to do so, I went ahead with it. The conference matched up to my own principles and I got to talk about a subject close to my heart.

My talk was entitled Embracing Simplicity so if you haven’t seen it you know what to do.

I also learnt a lot about public speaking so if you’re thinking about giving a talk that may save you some preparation time.

2. I wrote for Smashing Magazine

Someone at Smashing Magazine read 7 reasons why infinite scrolling is a bad idea. And they liked it enough to ask me to write for them. Who’d of thunk it.

I was flattered and excited at the prospect because not only would I get to reach a larger audience, but I would also have talented people editing my shoddy work.

After several rounds of feedback it was released on June 2016 and was entitled Improving The UX For Color-Blind Users. If you haven’t read it, I think you’ll enjoy it.

3. I wrote a book

I suddenly had the urge to write a book about maintainable CSS and I because I’m creative I called it MaintainableCSS (but without a space).

I had seen the hype around atomic class names, something I disagree with. And seeing as I wanted to document my own approach it seemed like a good idea to type shit into a computer and have it live on the internet.

It’s been read more than 300,000 times since I released it in April last year. And it’s currently getting about 10,000 readers a month. I’ve had some wonderfully positive comments, and some heavy critique to match.

Either way, I’m glad other people find value in it.

4. I started a newsletter

And that’s what you’re reading now so thank you for subscribing. It means a lot to me. Without you there would be no me (or this) — you know what I mean.

I wanted to start a newsletter for a number of reasons. For one, it’s a good way to get to know my readers better. And for two, it’s a good way to motivate me to write.

My readership has steadily grown to 500+ subscribers and it’s growing slowly. What I’m most happy about is that I’ve managed to write consistently, about once-a-month ish.

5. I helped launch Kidly

In my day job I signed up for a 12 month contract with Kidly. We designed and built — from nothing — a beautiful responsive e-commerce website to sell the best stuff for your baby.

I’m particularly proud of how we embraced simple UX patterns and avoided the the complex patterns which users rarely appreciate.

For example, the navigation avoids the hamburger and works on click (not hover). This is more discoverable and inclusive to users.

Customers have raved about the site. And when I left, conversion from basket was at the 26% mark, which is excellent.

If you want to read more about my Kidly experience, I wrote about it in How we cut our MVP in half to launch KIDLY.

6. My article was featured in “Inclusive Design Patterns”

I turned up to work one day, and Tim, a designer on my team told me that I’ve been cited in Smashing Magazine’s latest book, Inclusive Design Patterns.

The chapter about buttons and links, references my own article about how button’s shouldn’t have a hand cursor.

I wanted to read the book anyway, but as I was featured in it, I started reading it immediately. Because I’m egotistical like that :).

7. I worked less

I worked part time for pretty much 12 months. Sometimes 3 days, sometimes 4 days and the odd 5 day week. If you’ve never done it, I can’t recommend it enough. There is this amazing double-whammy affect. You lose a day’s work but you gain an extra “weekend” day.

8. I read some amazing books

In no particular order here they are:

9. A publisher offered me a book deal

Even though I turned it down, I was chuffed just to be asked. I decided against it as a) I didn’t want to be on someone else’s schedule and b) I like the idea of self-publishing, and in my own time no less.

10. I started working for GOV.UK

One of the things I’ve been frustrated with in our industry is the lack of empathy for users. Too often we design exclusive experiences where only young people, with good vision, on their cutting edge iPhone can comfortably use a service.

This is why I’ve wanted to work in the public sector. I’ve always wanted to work in a place where we embrace the web as a platform, and strive to design inclusive experiences, that solve real problems.

So when the opportunity came up it was a no brainer to accept a contract with them. I hope it continues to be as enjoyable as the last 6 months.

What didn’t go well

1. I left Kidly

When I joined Kidly, I was aware my time there would be short. I even helped to find my permanent replacement. But as I enjoyed working with the team and the product so much, I didn’t want to leave. But this is the life of a contractor.

2. I made little progress on my forms book

Early last year I began writing a book on how to design forms. I’ve been obsessed with forms since 2008, so I’d quite like to dump all my learnings into a book so it’s out of my head. But I’ve not really made much progress beyond a contents page.

3. Carbon Ads made no money

I’ve never been a fan of ads but Carbon Ads are unobtrusive and relevant. I gave it a go on my website and made pretty much nothing. So I took them out. Worth a go I guess.

4. Working 5-day weeks again

Since leaving Kidly, I’ve been working 5-day weeks again. The money is good, but my spare time is once again at a premium.

5. I didn’t publish MaintainableCSS on Kindle

Some of my readers expressed an interest in this, so I put it on my list but it didn’t get done.

6. I retired

The website is dead. But The boring front-end developer will forever live on through my website.

7. I couldn’t decide where I should publish my articles

With the rise of Medium, I didn’t know where to put my articles. Some went on there, some went on my blog, and some went on both. I’ve since rectified this which I’ll explain in the next section.

What’s coming up in 2017

1. Newsletter

I’ll be continuing sending you my newsletter. I’ve already got another 12 or so topics I want to write to you about. And I think I’ll be continuing with the same pace (at about once a month).

2. Improvements to

My website is now the source of truth for all my articles. If it’s on Medium, it should also be on my blog. I may choose to repost to Medium so that more people can read it and comment if they wish.

3. Forms book

Along with the newsletter this is something I’d like to complete. I’m making no promises but this is high up the list of priorities.

4. MaintainableCSS

I’ve already rebranded MaintainableCSS which I hope you like it. I’ve also given the content a good old spring clean which should make it much easier to read. And I really would like to get it published on Kindle, which should please some of you, and hopefully I can make a little money in the process.

5. Working for GOV.UK

I want to continue solving real problems in a simple, human and inclusive way for the UK public. My fingers are crossed.

Which brings me to you!

I need your help. If you think I could do something different. Or you’d like me to write about a particular topic, I’d love to hear from you.

Any guidance, good or bad, is helpful. At the end of the day I want to know what you want. So if you have some ideas, just hit reply (I read every email).

This was originally sent to my private email list. I send an email thing about once a month. If you’re up for it, you can sign up here.

Simple = Human

Design, Development and Leadership articles written and curated by Adam Silver & Mark Jenkins

Adam Silver

Written by

Author of Form Design Patterns and interaction designer focused on design systems and inclusive design.

Simple = Human

Design, Development and Leadership articles written and curated by Adam Silver & Mark Jenkins

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