Lessons learned from 7 years freelancing as a WordPress Designer and Developer

Seven years ago, I was stuck in a full-time job. I was overworked, under-appreciated, and I didn’t feel challenged. I was working as a Graphic Designer and wanted to transition to web design, but none of the companies I’ve worked for gave me a chance to grow in this direction. I felt trapped and I didn’t see it go anywhere.

This article is based on a talk I gave at the WordPress Meetup in Sofia on April 19 called “Lessons learned from 7 years of freelancing as a WordPress Designer and Developer” in which I shared my experiences.

Freelancing was on the back of my mind for a while, but I was scared to fail. Continue reading “Lessons learned from 7 years freelancing as a WordPress Designer and Developer”

WordCamp Switzerland 2015

I always enjoy meeting new people and catching up with good friends in the European WordPress community. This past weekend I went to WordCamp Switzerland, a very well-organized, fun WordCamp.

One track for all

The single-track lineup, a mix of full sessions and lightning talks, was excellent, for one because the selection of topics was diverse and more so because all speakers shared their personal experiences on the topic they spoke about. The event venue was setup perfectly to connect with many of the 200 attendees in between sessions and during breaks.

WordCamp Switzerland 2015 – Q&A with WordPress Experts Pascal Birchler and Konstantin Obenland
WordCamp Switzerland 2015 – Q&A with WordPress Experts
Pascal Birchler and Konstantin Obenland

I had the pleasure to speak at the event and share my experiences working remotely as a WordPress freelancer. I shared reasons why I love working remotely and the challenges it come with. How I stay motivated and find community. You can find my slides on Speaker Deck.

WordCamp Switzerland 2015 – Petya Raykovska
WordCamp Switzerland 2015 – Petya Raykovska

Contributor Day

The Contributor Day Sunday drew quite a lot of experienced and first-time contributors. It’s always great to see more people getting involved and giving back. Petya gave a great intro and her enthusiastic nature draws you right in! I decided to join the Polyglots team this time and really enjoyed translating 400 strings of the iThemes Security plugin into German. If you speak multiple languages and you’d like to contribute to the Polyglots team as well, you can find more information at: https://translate.wordpress.org

A huge thank you to all the organizers (Karin, Silvan, Noel, Andrew, Pascal, and the rest of the amazing team), the volunteers and sponsors for putting together such an amazing event and fun after-party!!

See you again next year!

WordCamp NYC 2014

WordCamp New York City is only a few weeks away and we’re busy with the final organizing stages of the event. We were very excited to announce an amazing line up of speakers and Saturday’s and Sunday’s schedule.

We are also planning a Contributor Day Friday! Make sure to sign up and join us in making WordPress even more awesome!

If you don’t have a ticket yet, make sure to get your ticket soon! We’re selling out fast!

I’m Attending WordCamp NYC – August 2-3, 2014


Image credits: New York City Skyline by Wikimedia Commons

UX – A Checklist for Real Websites – Presentation at WordCamp Seattle 2014

I attended WordCamp Seattle for the first time this year and the local community is thriving! I met many talented new people and a lot of friends. I had a great time speaking about User Experience best practices in front of such a great audience! Thanks everyone again for attending and asking many questions!

My session was titled “UX – A Checklist for Real Websites

Description: Boost the User Experience of your website with these easy-to-follow, real-world examples and best practices! Don’t abandon the project after launch – analyze and iterate to improve the UI and usability of any website.

I’m volunteering and speaking at WordCamp Seattle 2014


I’m excited to volunteer and speak at WordCamp Seattle for the first time this year! The event takes place on June 28th filled with great sessions and a Contributor Day on Sunday. I like Seattle a lot – to me it is such a relaxing place, so I can’t wait to visit again.

My session is called “UX – A Checklist for Real Websites“, please stop by if you’re attending the event.
There will be a live stream of the event, so if you can’t be there, feel free to tune in!

Hope to see you in Seattle, make sure to say hi!

UX in the Real World – Presentation at WordCamp Philly 2014

It was a pleasure and honor to speak at WordCamp Philly this year! Attending and speaking at WordCamp’s is always a great opportunity to meet the local community and share ideas with other WordPress Designers and Developers.

It was my first time at WordCamp Philly and Brad, Liam, Doug, April and the rest of the organizers and volunteers did an amazing job! The sessions were well curated and the hallway-track was a great opportunity to make new friends.

This year I spoke about User Experience and WordPress. Everybody is always talking about User Experience, but what is it and how can you improve the usability and user experience of your website today? I shared practical, real-world examples and tips to boost your WordPress design skills. The premise is, to not just build pretty websites, but to make smart design decisions and add UX best practices to your workflow. Asking questions like: Do I really need a large slider on my homepage? Are there clear nav menus and Calls-to-Action to guide my visitors? How does my site displays on other devices? A good UX job continues after launch using Google Analytics and other tools to analyze and iterate.

Here are my slides from the presentation:
Don’t Just Build Pretty Websites — UX in the Real World



5 Key UX questions to ask before (and while) designing any website

ux-questionsDesigning a website is more than just creating a pretty UI design! It starts way before drawing the first line, with understanding your client’s needs, the purpose and goal of the website and the target audience(s).

During the course of the project, new questions may arise or old assumptions might prove to be wrong, and you might need to alter your course. This is all part of the exciting design process and makes for a fun journey you’re walking together with your client!

To not lose focus and to make it easier to design a great product, I always keep these questions in mind and ask them at the beginning or during a project:

1. What is the user goal of the website?

Probably one of the most important questions of all. One some clients, at first, have trouble verbalizing in detail, but it’s a great exercise to answer this question. The user goal might change over the course of a project as we define the other questions below, but we always need to come back to it and make sure that all design decisions align with it to not lose track of the goal and purpose of the website. What is the focus of the website? What kind of business is it promoting? Make sure these things are well communicated to the user upon first visit.

2. What is the business goal / purpose of the website?

Of course also very important, but often very different from the user goal. Make sure to understand the expectations your client has for the project. How he/she measures success. Try to put tools in place to measure success, such as Google Analytics to capture user data and behavior.

3. Who is the target audience?

With the above two questions you already have your first two user groups: the users and the client. Though both are equally important and the client pays your bills, only the users who visit and interact with your website make it a success, so focus on a user centric design! What different user groups and audiences does the website speak to? If it is an existing website use Google Analytics or other tools to learn more about your existing users. If it is a new project, make assumptions about your target audience(s) by asking the client, doing competitors analysis, and industry research.

4. Will this feature / element improve the overall User Experience?

With all the hard work we put into each project, we want to make sure we are always improving the User Experience with every decision we make. Sometimes we are tempted to add the latest bells and whistles to a new project without any need for it. I strive for my client’s websites to be a success, therefore I need to make sure to align my design decisions with the goals and expectations of the project.

5. Are my assumptions right?

After launch we should not rest! Now is the time to review our assumptions, get user feedback, and to iterate! A website is a living breathing thing that should not be launched and sit there stale for years – these times are over. An iterative process can help shape the success of a website and is also great for SEO!

Each project will have more than just 5 questions, but I start with these. But answering these questions and collaborating early will lead to a better User Experience for the user and a more successful product.

I’m speaking at WordCamp Philly about User Experience and WordPress

I’m super excited to be speaking again after quite a while and I’ll be kicking it off at WordCamp Philly Saturday morning. I’ll be speaking about User Experience Design and WordPress, best practices and why you shouldn’t just build a pretty website!

If you don’t have a ticket yet, make sure to get one, they go fast: http://2014.philly.wordcamp.org/register/

Hope to see you there!


I’m Speaking at WordCamp NYC 2012!

I’m excited that WordCamp is returning to New York next month! I will be speaking about Responsive Design with WordPress. The session is called “WordPress Responsive Design Bootcamp” and is scheduled for Saturday, June 9th at 11:30am. After a brief intro about what Responsive Design is, I will dive right in and make a standard WordPress Theme responsive.

For those of you that are interested in attending WordCamp NYC it will be held on June 9th and 10th at Baruch College. You can expect 2 full days of WordPress goodness with over 60 sessions, lots of Geekery and you can meet many WordPress rockstars in person.

To buy tickets and find out more go to WordCamp NYC at http://2012.nyc.wordcamp.org/ or follow them on Twitter at WordCampNYC – hashtag #wcnyc.

I hope to see you all there! Make sure to say hi.

WordCampNYC – June 9-10-1

Image credits: New York City Skyline by Wikimedia Commons

My Responsive Design Presentation at NY WordPress Meetup

I had the pleasure to present about Responsive Design in front of a fantastic audience at the New York WordPress Meetup. We explored the techniques and principles of Responsive Design together, including the Flexible Grid, Fluid Images and Media Queries showing examples of how these principles can be used to create a user-friendly experience across all devices and screen-sizes.

I shared this event with Jack Reichert who spoke about the pros and cons of Responsive Design and Progressive Enhancement vs. Graceful Degradation.

This video covers:

Responsive Design
What is it and why the future of the web is Responsive.

Understanding the Elements of Responsive Design
How Flexible Grid and Fluid Images will rule you world.

The Power of CSS3 Media Queries
Using Media Queries with common Resolution Breakpoints in mind.

The Pros and cons of Responsive Design
What people are saying about Responsive Design. Is it right for you?

Progressive Enhancement vs Graceful Degradation
The essence of Adaptive Design: If you want to use the cool stuff, build it up right so you don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

Implementing Adaptive Theme Design
Concrete steps you can take to make your theme Adaptive.

Additional links:
My Presentation
Tools & Resources for Responsive Design