My Journey to WordPress – New Design Up!

As I already explained previously, on April 5th (2010), I migrated from another blogging platform to WordPress. Last night I changed from the free theme I’d been using to my own new design which I integrated into WordPress using the Thesis theme (more about Thesis below).

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Looking Back at 2009

As is becoming a tradition for me, I’m writing a post to reflect on the last year as we’re jumping into the new. I will write another post later to talk about new tools and new technologies I discovered or started using in 2009. In this one, I reflect on the past year, the things that went well, the things I learned and what I intend to do different in 2010. If you run a small business or are a freelancer yourself, you may learn a thing or two from my experience.

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New Site Launch!

Today I just launched my wife’s site after working on it on and off for months. Isabelle is a very talented artist-painter and this project has been a labour of love for us :)

The design is minimalist and the layout is very sparse. I wanted to put the emphasis on her artwork where it belongs. There’s a small Flash slideshow on the right that acts as a teaser but the gallery itself is all HTML/CSS/JavaScript (jQuery) and fully accessible with JavaScript off.

We are still working on minor text content adjustments and I’m having issues with the jQuery validation script on the contact page in IE6. I may remove the client-side validation on that page altogether as I do a server-side check as well (no nicely formatted messages but it works).

In any case, please visit the site at the following URL. As you will see, Isabelle does a lot of special order work (portraits and other things) so do not hesitate to contact her to discuss your project.


2008, The Year of Freelancing and Twitter

I am a bit late with the 2008 yearly reviews but this one will be shorter than last year’s. As 2008 has been a very big year for me I wanted to blog about it for posterity and this post will focus on basically 2 things. I’ll probably post more about specific discoveries (software, sites, etc) later but for now…


As everyone who reads this blog or follows me on Twitter knows, I quit a 20 years job last August to pursue my career as a Web design professional. It’s something I’d been doing for over 12 years anyway, slowly building up my skill set and client base. Once I felt ready, the decision to dive into the great freelancing unknown was surprisingly easy and I’ve never been happier in my life!

My work and my relationships with my clients make my job the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Music used to be the center of my life and had been for more years than I care to know… but since I decided to move on from it in 2000; I’d been missing that intangible but very strong sense of purpose in my life. That strong sense of purpose is back now and is driving me to try and become better at what I do every day. It had been a long time since I felt that way, like I’m really making a difference for the better in my clients’ lives. It’s a fantastic feeling but with it also comes a great sense of responsibility.

However, not everything in my new career is easy every day. I have to learn to deal with new kinds of stress like the lack of a steady weekly pay check. I have not lacked any money in the last 5 months and new projects keep coming to me but I’ve certainly worried about it more than I used to. Budgeting is the key that keeps my financial life sane.

The other major issue that I’m facing in my freelancing career is related to the other side of the working alone coin. On one hand, I love working from home in peace and making my own schedule but some days I really miss the social interaction of working in a “real” office…


I’ve actually stated using Twitter last June before I started freelancing full time. Like I explained in my previous 2 posts on the issue (here and here), I’d resisted it for a long time and didn’t see the value at first. I’ll talk later about more technical aspects of Twitter like desktop clients and the like but for now, I’ll concentrate on the social aspects.

I have tried other social sites but Twitter is the only one I’m really sticking with for a couple reasons. The first is that it became a “presence” in my life. Unlike many people I am not afraid of solitude but, working alone day in and day out can become boring and lonely. I usually keep TweetDeck running on my laptop at my side while I work on my desktop. So when I need to take a short mental break, I stop my timer and check out what’s being talked about in my stream. I may shoot off a few replies, tease some of my friends or quickly follow-up on an interesting topic.

Other times, I may stumble upon a technical issue or have an idea I’d like to bounce off someone else. I just tweet about it and within minutes and sometimes seconds; I get useful answers and move on with my work. In short, in the last 5 months, Twitter has become an invaluable resource for me on many levels. Despite some of the technical difficulties the service runs into at times (fail whale!), to me it is the most successful social media service I’ve come across so far and I couldn’t go without.

In short, 2008 has been a very big year for me and 2009 is starting great as well. I’m learning all about faith. Faith in myself but mostly faith in life and its ability to bring me what I want and need. I wouldn’t have it any other way. For the first time in my life, I feel truly free… Version 4 is Online

Earlier this week I finally published the new version of my Web design business site, which I’ve worked at on and off for several months now. The site finally reflects my current company branding and sports the same visual identity as my business card, invoices and other client facing print materials. It also finally showcases some of my recent and ongoing projects unlike the previous version of the site whcih had projects that were at least 2 or 3 years old in the portfolio and didn’t reflect where I or Webfocus Design are at  now. After going freelance full time in mid August, I finally feel like I am in it completely and it feels very good.

Like many designers out there, I find it very hard to design for myself. A personal site like pixelyzed can be and was a fun endeavor to create but a business site has to have much more clearly defined goals and follow a more rigorous process. Furthermore, writing marketing copy for ourselves is very difficult for a lot of us. But I had a lot of help for that and I would especially want to thank Erica Holden who has helped me write much better copy with more impact than what I already had. Her professionalism and enthusiasm have made this tedious writing process a lot easier for me as she took a large part of it upon herself. Erica, you rock!

Many of my other Twitter friends have been great help towards the end of the process when came time to tweak functionality and test in various browsers. I have yet to implement some of the suggestions I’ve had.

The site is not quite complete yet as I left a few areas unfinished in order to go back to client work. I still need to flesh out the portfolio and add the online version of my Project Planner. I also want to add a blog for my clients and that one will be in both French and English. Those will be done as I have time over the coming weeks. But even in an unfinished state, this is the best version of I’ve designed so far and I’m very proud of it. I finally feel like I’m really in business…

So thanks again to all who have encouraged me to finish what I started months ago. I hope to be able to repay your kindness by somehow helping you with your own projects someday. Social media can be so much more than buzzwords and forced “viral” marketing…