David Appleyard is a writer, designer and editor based in the UK. He has built a very successful website, Design Shack. David works for Envato as Tuts+ manager.
In this interview, David:
- Tells the story of Design Shack.
- Explains his take on what makes a website successful.
- Shares how he monetizes Design Shack.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hi Everyone! I’m David Appleyard, I work for Envato, and also run a few other web/design related projects in my spare time. I live in the UK with my fiancee Jen!
You have built a very successful website, Design Shack. Maybe you can tell us more about it?
Design Shack started out life as a simple CSS gallery (many years ago!), and in recent years has evolved into a highly respected design blog. It’s managed and edited by the very talented Josh Johnson, who is responsible for most of the content you see published. We still have our web and graphic design gallery to help you find inspiration for your next project.
How did you come up with an idea to start Design Shack in the first place?
It was a small side project to keep track of some of the beautiful websites I came across on a day-to-day basis, with a few fun features such as keyboard navigation, and the ability to quickly submit designs to us using a bookmarklet.
Design Shack was a CSS gallery but later on you’ve managed to add a successful blog to it. Why did you decide to move towards that direction?
We wanted to offer more value to our audience, help them to understand design principles to a greater degree, and share our thoughts on the direction of the industry. It felt like a logical way to expand the site in a more intelligent way.
Running a multiple-author blog can be really challenging because you have to build and manage a team of writers. How do you find great writers and how do you handle the logistics of running a blog who has many paid contributors?
We use Basecamp for managing our multiple authors, along with WordPress for the article workflow behind the scenes. These two tools make things surprisingly simple, providing you’re a fairly organised person to start with!
How did you promote Design Shack in the beginning and how do you promote it now? What turned out to be the most effective strategy for getting the word out and driving traffic to your website?
We actually spend very little time promoting the site and trying to drive traffic. There are two factors that can make a site successful — high quality content and time. I think we publish some absolutely amazing content that people are interested to read, and over time we’ve built up a large archive of articles and discussion that help to drive long-term traffic.
You not only built a popular website, but also monetized it successfully. How did your early monetization strategy look like and what is your approach now? What were the biggest lessons learned in terms of monetization?
Advertising remains the main way we generate revenue from the site. We try to keep this as simple and unobtrusive as possible, though it’s always something of a challenge to strike a good balance. We’ve learned that quality over quantity is always best with sponsorship — we prefer to give quality advertisers a prominent slot on the site, rather than cluttering the experience with poor quality ads.
What role did networking play in the success of Design Shack and other websites you’ve worked on? Would you say that connections are crucial for someone who wants to succeed online? How can someone who’s an official internet nobody start building those mutually beneficial relationships?
Rather than “networking”, I’d say that it’s important to engage with your community as they come to your site and start to read, comment, and connect. You need to be regularly interacting with those people who take the time to read your content, and build up a relationship with them.
Last, but not the least, what would be your advice to web designers and developers who want to build a successful website that is also a sustainable stream of income, but are on the very beginning of this path?
It’s important to have passion for the area you’re wanting to focus on. If the end goal of your venture is to make money, that’s likely to be fairly obvious from day one (and won’t lead to the best experience). Producing engaging, quality content is the most important thing to consider, and having a passion for your website’s topic is the best way to do that! Just start writing, and don’t worry too much about site’s details and features — those can evolve over time.
Thank you, David!
In A Nutshell:
- There are two factors that can make a website successful: high quality content and time. This means that in order to succeed in the blogosphere, you need to focus on creating excellent content and do it long enough. Then, people who like your work will do the marketing for you.
- Advertising is a good way to monetize a website that has a decent level of traffic. It’s important to strike the right balance and earn money without ruining the experience of the readers.
- You need to be constantly interacting with your audience and build relationships with these people if you want your business to be successful in the long run.
What did you learn from this interview?
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