Last week, I received an email informing me that the renewal of my blog had an issue. The card was declined, and I had to update the card information to keep my blog live.
I try to keep an eye on the date of the renewal of my different services (at least the expensive one) but I totally forgot that it was already time to renew my Ghost subscription.
It’s already one year since I published my first article on my blog. Time flies, and it’s time to take a step back, and make a retrospective.
Why a Retrospective
Between you and me, I don’t really do retrospective. Not that this is something bothering but rather that I kind of forget to do them. I go from one project to the other with little time in between for self-reflection. It works most of the time, but taking sometimes help appreciate the journey and determine what could be done differently.
Retrospective are great and are one of the most powerful a team can apply to their toolbox. It doesn’t require much effort and can output great results if done correctly. What’s true for the team could also be true for a one-person operation. Instead of a meeting, it’s a note with ideas written down.
So time for a retrospective!
Why a Blog?
I have the desire to write for quite some times. It stared during my master’s degree where I was looking at many tech YouTubers that produce videos about productivity.
They inspired me to start my one blog and to show my work to the world. Not knowing anything about blogging, I initially decided to publish my work on Medium. Rather than building my own audience, I thought it would be wiser to use a platform.
Sadly, my motivation quickly ran out. The writing wasn’t the issue, everything around it (on Medium) was. Each article had to be picked by publications, and I was competing with people way bigger than me. Besides, at the time (I don’t know if that’s still the case), I got three suggested articles written by successful writers that weren’t my cup of tea.
There is nothing wrong with the values they pushed (grinding its way to success) but this is not something I’m interested in. Besides, that’s not how I see life in general.
Anyhow, I wasn’t satisfied with Medium, but still wanted to publish articles somewhere online. I realize that I wanted to create my own platform and discovered about Ghost. It’s simple, customizable and can be either self hosted for free (minus the hosting) or managed by Ghost itself.
I quickly knew that Ghost was the solution I was looking for and, once I gathered enough courage, decided to take a subscription. This was one year ago and I cannot say that I regret this decision what’s so ever.
One Year in Numbers
Before giving my personal review of this year, I wanted to share with you some numbers and discuss my most successful articles. Since I didn’t want to have an annoying popup asking for cookies, I decided to use a cookie-less solution called Plausible.
Plausible provides some basic analytics, which is plenty enough for my use case without costing too much money.
So, since last June, I published 26 articles (some of them came from Medium and are simple re-uploads). 8,200 unique visitors came on my website visiting 10,400 pages which is just incredible!
When starting my blog, I had no idea how many visits to expect. The only objective I fixed was to publish one article per week, but that was kind of ambitious.
I’ll go through my 5 most visited articles since they are the one that will steer the direction of my blog in the upcoming years.
Beginners Shouldn't Learn React: 3,800 views
This article explained why I wouldn’t recommend a beginner to directly try to learn to react and instead take a slower route with vanilla JS, HTML, and CSS. The article worked so great thanks to the traction it had on Reddit. The post I made on Reddit got a ton of upvotes and comments that brought a lot of attention.
Reduce NextJS Bundle Size: 1,900 Views
I recently tried to reduce the bundle size of one of our products at my current job and decided to share some of the discoveries I did in an article. The application we had made saw any optimization, and I was able to shave 30% of the bundle size with 6 rather simple optimizations. This article performs best on Google and is currently ranked number 1 when searching for NexJS bundle reduction (at least in my testing in private windows).
React State Management: 500 Views
For quite some time, we didn’t have a proper state management library. Since projects weren’t that big it did the trick but it became harder and harder to maintain larger applications. After some investigation, we discovered Zustand which is an awesome library and greatly helped us build a global state. Since I was excited about it, I decided to write an article and publish it. The results are quite lower than the previous two but are still quite impressive
Manual With Coffee Setup: 478 Views
My friends know that I easily fell into the rabbit hole that passions can be. This is even accentuated by Reddit and the share amount of niche subreddit revolving about one subject. I love coffee and wanted to treat me to a nice setup since I moved into my new apartment. After countless hours of research, I went for a fully manual coffee setup (grinder and machine) instead of buying electric appliances (except the kettle that I already had). The journey was quite exciting and I had to share it with the Anonyme Redditors that helped me in my quest.
Clicker Games: 388 Views
The last article is about a game genre that love. Clickers games are really dumb at first sight but don’t be fooled by them. The core gameplay is easy to grasp but mastering those games often required many hours. Even tho I don’t play any yet, I played clickers for several years now and I’ll go back to them in the future. Since I’m so passionate about those games, I wanted to explain what makes those games great, in my opinion, and why anyone should try it for more than 2 hours.
The challenges of this year
Even the experience was mostly positive (more on that later) I have to admit that not everything went smoothly.
Building a habit is hard
Let’s start with the publication rate. It didn’t go as expected, I wanted to publish one article per week, but I didn’t manage to sustain this rhythm for long. I won’t beat myself too hard for, that since I overestimated and will lower my expectations, it in the future.
However, not keeping up the pace is not the problem. Where the problem lies is in the habit of writing (or rather the lack thereof). There have been several weeks in a row where I haven’t written anything at all. That’s what I want to avoid in the future because I want to build that habit and keep publishing.
Work Impacts Inspiration
I love my current job, the projects are exciting, and I love learning and resolving customer issues. However, there are times when I have too much, and I have to do overtime. Those times aren’t frequent, but they have an impact on both my blog and my private life.
It’s hard to be motivated to sit down and write after a 10h work day. On top of that I like to write about my job or web development. Writing an article about development is not something I really want to do during those times, and I prefer to binge-watch a show instead.
Newsletters Subscriptions Increase Slowly
As for the views, I didn’t know how much newsletter subscribers I would have at the end of the year. I currently have 40 subscribers which is impressive, but it’s kind of low comparing the numbers of visitors I had.
This means that less than 0.5% of the people visiting my blog subscribed (and I counted some family members and friends, so it’s even less than that). I don’t want to sound harsh on visitors, it’s not the case at all. It’s just that reality isn’t as nice as we picture it sometimes.
To be fair, I visit countless websites every day. Even tho many of them have a newsletter, feature I only subscribed to a handful (and I don’t read all of them). I guess getting subscribers is a lengthy process, and it proves that content is critical to get subscribers.
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What has been great
Enough about the issue I had, let's focus on what has been great and what my blog brought me.
Great Reach When Considering I Winged It
As for most of the points discussed in this article, I had no goals or idea of the reach I could have. Reaching the 10k pave view is one year is, for me, an achievement and motivates me to build a stronger reputation and helps more people.
I always hear the sentence “Content is king” and I agree with it. I tried to write quality articles that could help my visitors. To be fair, I’m far from a veteran writer (this is also due to English being my second language) but the information is right and that’s what matters most.
Whether it’s for a blog article, house furniture or clothing, I think that quality is always better than quantity. It might not appear such at first, but in the long term it always pays off. I try to apply this adage to my blog articles.
Encouraging Messages From People
Throughout the year, I received some encouraging messages, both from people I know and from total strangers. I cannot express how grateful it is to receive those messages.
Some creator shares how important their community is to keep them motivated, and until recently I didn’t understand how this works. Even tho I don’t have the same reach as they have, I now get why it’s the key to be motivated. Each message is a quick motivation boost and motivates me to keep working.
This had such an impact that I decided to leave more comments on the contents I consume. Being part of the silent majority isn’t wrong, but taking time to thank the creator I follow has become a habit of mine.
Starting to Get Significant Weekly Views
One of my coworkers recommended me to configure the Google Search Console since it provides helpful insights on what people types when finding your blog.
This is one of the best tools I have at my disposal, since it allows me to make some data-driven decisions. In the last year, I had 102k impressions on Google Results and 3k clicks that lead to my blog. Quite impressive! On top of that, I have some specialized articles that get 100+ views each week from Google only. Some of my articles even appear as first results on Google, which is crazy to me.
I draw two conclusions from these numbers. First, having highly specialized articles are critical for the search engine and growth. Finding a niche and making a name for ourselves in this niche will be beneficial in the long term. Second, having proper HTML semantic (articles, sections, navigation, …) is important as it helps search engine determine what to show. In my experience it’s something that is often overlooked in web development (except for the standard nav and footer) and it’s an area I want to improve.
Motivates Me to Push My Skills Further
Writing and exposing articles on the internet is great but also frightening. When I discussed NextJS bundle size reduction method, I expose myself to people that are potentially experts in the field and that knows infinitely more than I do.
Knowing that motivates me to verify the information, I share and make sure that what I say is true. I made mistakes in the past and edited articles to avoid spreading misinformation.
Having to justify myself has the advantage of motivating me to better master the technologies I present. Moreover, it benefits both my personal and professional projects. Since one year the quality of the projects realized in NextJS at work has increased and it’s partly thanks to my blog. It’s a virtual circle that benefits both my employers, my coworkers and I.
Where is this blog headed?
I remember to despite the web development during my bachelor’s degree. To give more context we built websites with a NodeJS API that returned HTML, I don’t know how frequent this is in the real world, but I didn’t like the experience.
In parallel to my Master, I started to work as a web developer and I discovered React and directly fall in love with how easy it was to build interfaces and connect to databases. It was before hooks and react beautifully evolved since this period.
All that to say that I really love web development using NextJS and some component library (we currently use Chakra UI at work, and it’s awesome).
That’s why I want to focus my future articles on web development. I have many subjects I want to discuss when it comes to web development, but the focus will be put on NextJS and the other libraries/tools I use at work.
I’m not saying that I will only write on web development, but that will become my main topic. We’ll see how this goes 🤞
Finally, I want to thank everybody that made this adventure possible. Some friends helped me with creating my logo (which reflect the development-oriented nature of this blog), provided tips that have tremendously boosted both my confidence and helped me be more efficient.
Last but not least, I want to thank everybody that visits my blog and find insightful information. Being an anonymous visitor may mean nothing to you, but it means a lot to me. If you have interest in web development or wants to see my progress, you can either subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on Twitter.