Ever in the pursuit of the perfect website design…
One of my biggest weaknesses (yet also a strength) is the fact that I like to fiddle with the design of my site. I feel like I have a very specific vision of what I want my site to look like.
The trick is that I have to balance that with how to best design it in such a way that I can work on serving information on community memberships, showing tasteful ads, display affiliate partnerships, etc. I’m trying to make a little money here and I want to show you how I do that along the way.
While my Hermes wordpress theme was very fast, it didn’t seem to allow me the ability to add a simple righthand column to display a little extra info. I experimented just a bit but decided for now to switch to the Twenty Sixteen wordpress theme. I love the classic and clean blog look of this theme, and it shows the full posts on the main page…which is nice because people who land here can spend more time on the page vice having to click around. (Although…do I want people to click around?) The only downside is that when I tested it over at Pingdom.com it failed the “speed test” miserably. Ugh. So I’ll be working on that.
All that to say, if you visit my site over the next few days you may seem some changes. Don’t worry, content will always be king and my content isn’t going anywhere. Hopefully I will just make it easier to peruse it all.
Drop a comment if you prefer the old design, like this one better, or just don’t give a damn.
There is something that I’ve always struggled with when writing or vlogging.
More specifically it has been attaching my name to whatever I am writing or vlogging about. Now your raised eyebrow or narrowing your eyes are warranted…because on a vlog my face is there…no hiding it…there I am, talking to you the whole time.
However, when my vlog was also Patagonia Dad, there was still anonymity. That comes with the incredible volume of videos on YouTube. Here on this site it is the same thing…what does Patagonia Dad really mean? It may mean something to me, but to be honest…that is difficult to convey to a passerby. There really is no “elevator pitch” that would generate interest when telling someone what Patagonia Dad means. I have a good explanation (I think) but when I ask myself, “how would I explain this to my uncle…or my cousin…or an old friend” then it kind of falls flat.
Sure I could try to explain the article that inspired this website name, or the fact that many of my friends know that I am an absolute sucker for almost anything Patagonia (the company) makes…but those aren’t the people that might be clicking on a link to this website.
Scott from California
I changed the name of my vlog to Scott from California because I felt it personalized and explained it a bit more. Or rather…explained me a bit more. Since I am the vlog it made a bit more sense…and that “elevator pitch” is almost unnecessary. The name says it up front…this is about a guy “Scott” and he’s “from California”.
Whether you find that interesting or not, at least you kinda know what it’s about. And to be honest, the fact that California is a well known place throughout the world…and known for many things…doesn’t hurt.
Probably Overthinking It
Does this name change help this website? I honestly have no idea…and right now it’s only the URL that has changed (both still work)…but I have always tried to treat my websites as a place for me to do what I like. Just like a house you own and you feel like painting it…a name change can be much the same.
In the end it comes down to good content that people find interesting. So don’t go anywhere…this is gonna get interesting.
The past few days I’ve been looking into getting my site to be quicker. This quest was sparked by something that Ben Brooks wrote a few years ago and I’ve always remembered. In his post he goes through his brief take on web design and what makes a site readable, comparing and contrasting some popular sites. Go read it…he breaks down some website design standards that you didn’t realize were there…good stuff if you’re looking to make your own site better.
During my own quest, I came across this free website speed test over at Pingdom.com – and this site’s results were less than optimal…or at least much slower than I was hoping. Pingdom has a great tool to see how long your site will take to load, what all is loading in what order, and how big your site is when loaded. Initially, mine was over 6MB and took 5 or 6 seconds to load. I thought this was odd since I didn’t have any crazy graphics, but upon further digging I saw that all the pictures I had with my blog posts were drastically increasing the size of my home page. (the blog page at the time) In the past I had other things that were slowing down my site load times – some custom CSS as well as Bigfoot.js that I spent some considerable time figuring out so I could have those handy pop-up footnotes. (my past sites had them…not going to bother with them here right now)
I am not a programmer by any stretch of the imagination, and I used to host my sites on Squarespace for the WSYIWYG simplicity (what you see is what you get). With that, there wasn’t a lot that I could do other than poke around and see if any specific templates were faster, change my site to text only, or move to another web host. This time around (this is my third website) I decided to switch where my website is hosted and I landed on WordPress.
I may be an edge case as I like to tinker, and have messed with this site’s template here and there. I enjoy that. But it got me wondering, what is more important to someone browsing the web looking for a place to settle in and read for a bit? Aesthetics or Speed?
Most folks who read my past websites did so by subscribing to the free RSS feed, so those folks were looking for content and page load times aren’t as important. Completely fine, that’s what I do too. While I would love to have numerous readers visiting my website every day, week, or month…I’m not a full time writer and doubt that will happen any time soon. However, internet speeds have really picked up over the past few years and website design sites like Squarespace and WordPress are REALLY good at giving you plug and play templates that get you both a fast and good looking site. So RSS is not as “necessary” as in years past when you didn’t want to jump online to slog through links to get to your favorite blog.
Additionally, with 5G coming to the U.S., I think we’re entering an era of being able to have both aesthetics AND speed in the palm of our hand.
I do find it apropos that it was Bill Gates who is credited with the saying:
Content is king
In the end, we must keep reminding ourselves that it doesn’t matter if a blog page is fast or beautiful to look at…if there is no content, none of it matters.
Bill would probably tell us to stop sweating the design and google speed-tests – and to just get to writing, vlogging, creating.
Unless you have at least a modest understanding of and appreciation for technical rock and mountain climbing, you will likely be some combination of bored and confused by half of the stories in Some Stories, a new anthology of the writing of Yvon Chouinard, best known as the founder of outdoor gear and apparel company Patagonia.
I was surprised at how close to home some of these hit. I bet you will be too.
But as I began thinking about all the things I’d like to say, a realization hit me: I’d have to get my message tight because the odds are high that no matter how strong my conviction my younger self wouldn’t listen to a word I’d say.
Below are four pieces of advice I would roll the dice on anyway —
“I needed to give myself permission to suck in order to get better. When I did, it felt like a weight had be lifted off my shoulders. Shortly after that experience, I hit “publish.”
I needed to give myself permission to suck in order to get better. When I did, it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Shortly after that experience, I hit “publish.”
It may seem like this is in direct conflict with what I posted yesterday but I’m not sure you should see it that way.
I see this more along the lines of allowing yourself to learn to walk before trying to run. With any endeavor, you can strive for quality, but you can’t let a never ending pursuit of perfection prevent you from taking the next step. In the case of what I hope to share on the Patagonia Dad blog, I want the content I deliver to be interesting, quality, and contribute to your life in some way.
However, I can’t do that if I don’t give myself permission to suck every now and then.
How does the saying go?
“Perfection is the enemy of progress.” –unknown
“The best is the enemy of the good.” — Voltaire
“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” — Confucius
“You do not need to be prolific to find success with your words. You just need to commit yourself to creating your specific value in the world and allow others to join in on it too…”
You do not need to be prolific to find success with your words. You just need to commit yourself to creating your specific value in the world and allow others to join in on it too.
You are not a product of the quantity of your output, but the quality of the value you put out into the world around you.
Do you see your contribution to the world as work en masse? Going for volume like a kid piling up a bunch of rocks to prove how many he can stack until they fall over?
Or do you have a paced intentionality? Work that may never be impressively voluminous but will make someone stop and really look at what you have created – bringing them moments of peace and reflection.
It is easy to get excited when starting something new…even if it is something you have done before, like me with this website. I fell in to that trap with my past sites, and not only did I burn myself out doing it, but I didn’t always have a site that I was completely proud of.
I’ll have to take heed of this as I move forward here. Call me out if you see me falling off the quality train and appearing to go for quantity!
I learned some valuable lessons about vlogging in 2018. Some I liked and some I didn’t. These lessons range from the art versus science aspects, to the external versus personal – sometimes very personal.
I don’t know what gave me the vlogging bug at the beginning of 2018. It was probably the fact I had started watching more YouTube in general…discovering creators out there that inspired me, or that I wanted better keepsake videos of my kids and family events than 1 random iPhone video with no context, and still perhaps some subliminal YouTube message seeped in to my brain; but I got bit and bit hard.
Below I’m going to share with you 7 lessons I learned from creating and posting 40 vlogs in 40 weeks.
Jason Koertge is one of my favorite, what I call, accidental YouTubers and probably my biggest personal inspiration because of how he vlogs with his kids in tow. Now it’s no accident that he currently has over 41,000 followers because he checks all the recommended YouTube creator boxes:
He has “niched” down
He consistently posts videos
His thumbnails are almost always killer
oh…and his content is really good (I thought he was a professional editor at first)
I call him an accidental YouTuber because I don’t believe he intended to try and build a following on YouTube. He found something he was passionate about (his 4Runner & Overlanding), that people are interested in (like me), then he made a ton of really good videos about that…and he posted them to YouTube.
The YouTube algorithm ate his stuff up and wanted more.
#1 Consistency is Key
There’s a reason that I am putting this as #1. In my opinion this is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do if you want to create a following on YouTube. I even created a video about just that…but if you’re reading this, I would only watch it if you have 4 minutes and 31 seconds to watch me tell you what I just told you here. (and you can learn what my voice sounds like I guess)
All the big time YouTubers do this 1 thing extremely well. At least they used to…Casey Neistat is a more recent exception to this rule…but he has hundreds of videos out there circulating the interwebs and was incredibly consistent for years.
#2 Content Over Gear
This was a tough lesson for me to learn and it wasn’t fully realized until my very last vlog of 2018. Like a lot of people, I went a little crazy, spent a bunch of money, and got nice but not professional gear. More than I ended up needing.
I reveled in all the Amazon price hunting, the box opening, gear organizing, learning, and more. I got a pretty nice lens for my Canon 80D along with some other nice to have/less expensive lenses…and guess what, a year later I have just sold the majority of it.
You’re probably shaking your head right now and telling me that I’m an idiot…even a non-YouTuber could tell you that Scott! Well, this lesson is about how incredibly easy it is to fall right in to the rabbit hole of camera gear and enjoy the wonderland of better images, video with more bokeh, wide angles, better audio…the list goes on.
Why did it take so long to learn this lesson? Why wasn’t this realized on vlogs 1-39? First, I saw a Casey Neistat video where he said that for a long time, almost 50% of the content for his vlogs were filmed with his iPhone. Second, on vlog 40 my expensive lens was acting weird and I used my “cheap” lens. Vlog 40 turned out to be my favorite video I created, got some gorgeous shots, and the resulting video almost made me cry when I finished it. (don’t worry…sentimentality is in the eye of the beholder…me)
Somehow, due to this “restriction” to using the less expensive lens made me focus on everything else and the result I will cherish forever.
#3 Story Matters Most
No one will watch your high quality vlog if it’s not interesting.
This is why major Hollywood productions flop. The story line sucks, people can’t identify with the character, no flow, etc. Think about your storyline before you start filming for the day and you’ll be much more likely to have a good end product.
This was the steepest learning curve for me, but once I got the hang of it, it made all the difference.
Felix Schlater is a vastly under rated YouTuber who actually started as a video editor who came to vlogging. You can see it immediately and has a great series he’s making that covers the process of video making, vlogging etc.
You can overcome (sometimes) the lack of a planned out storyline with good video editing…if you have enough footage to work with. Sometimes this means that your video ends up going in a completely different direction, but you salvaged it.
#5 The Flow is Fun
I really enjoyed making these vlogs. It was challenging but very rewarding. It forced me out of my own comfort zone, prompted me to shoot video when I wouldn’t have previously, and I now have 40 videos of 2018 that I can cherish forever.
#6 I am Not a Full Time YouTuber
2018 was the year of vlogging and YouTube for me.
There is an amazing community of vloggers you can discover out there. I saw some creators start the year with only a couple hundred followers that are now over 50 thousand, some create literal movements, and some that I purely enjoy for enjoyments sake. However, just like all the “How to Write Everyday” posts you find on Medium, the one thing you will figure out by making vlogs every week…is if you enjoy the grind.
I am very satisfied with my vlogging experience and I will still make more. I learned a new skill, made some memories, and get to keep those memories. 40 vlogs with hundreds of hours of video footage, many afternoons and evenings editing video, and getting comfortable talking at a camera in public is not easy. Nor did I expect it to be…and that’s ok.
I tried it and it’s fun, but not my current profession.
#7 If You Decide to Try Something, Give It Your Best
It doesn’t matter if it’s vlogging, blogging, exercising, or eating healthier for a new year, new you. Give it your best shot…don’t hold back…and you will learn more than you ever imagined.
Take another look at this list…but this time, in your mind, replace the terms video, gear, or YouTube with whatever project or new practice you have taken up.
Consistency is key
Content over gear
Story matters most
Editing is where the magic is made
The flow is fun
I am not a YouTuber
If you decide to try something, give it your best shot