I always tell my clients that they need to celebrate their victories. So it’s time to follow my own advice. Building off my recap of site launches from last year, I wanted to quickly recap some of the other exciting things I did and built in 2021.
Intentionally Attending Three Conferences
Online conferences can be great, and they certainly have allowed me to “attend” events I otherwise would have missed. But the ability to sit in on a session and then immediately get back to work—all from your desk at home—is also totally exhausting.
I attended three big online conferences in 2021. Heading in to each, I made a point of focusing on the sessions I really cared about and not worrying about skipping other sessions to recharge. I also decided to focus on connecting with people over learning new things whenever I had the choice. In 2021, I did a better job of intentionally attending—and not!—conferences.
I wrote up pretty detailed notes about all three conferences so I could share my learnings:
- March 2021: Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) notes
- May 2021: Washington State Nonprofit Conference notes
- October 2021: WordCamp US notes
Each conference was quite different, but I learned a lot at each and feel like I “cracked the code” of online conferences, at least for myself.
Last NTEN Course: So Long and Thanks for all the Homework!
In November 2021, I taught my last ever Anatomy of a Website Redesign course for NTEN. After 5 years of teaching the course twice-a-year, I wanted to make space for new voices and retire the course that otherwise needed a revamp. Over the years, I’ve probably interacted with a couple hundred people, helping each of them prepare for a new website or improve how they manage their current one.
I introduced people to content-first design, made sure they advocated for accessibility, shared my horror stories of wasted budgets and nightmare content migrations, encouraged them to celebrate their victories, and made it clear that smart design refreshes sometimes be more efficient and effective than a full-blow redesign. Through it all, I encouraged them to remain laser focused on the people they serve and reminded them that “you are not your user”. I’m super proud of the course and the dozens of sites that were made better for it in ways big and small.
Open Source Code & Knowledge Sharing
2021 saw me recommitting to sharing things I learned, opinions I had, and code I wrote. I built my first custom WordPress block, my first custom WordPress block setting, my first client Vue app (made in collaboration with Rasika consulting and still not quite launched yet), and presented at a meetup for the first time in a few years.
Among things I did:
- Published four updates of the Simplified Editor plugin to help people tame the WordPress editor
- Built a custom WordPress block for making accessible accordions. I hope to release this in the public plugin repository later this year.
- Posted a task list for improving the styles and accessibility of The Events Calendar plugin templates (the list is very long and frustrating which is why it’s valuable!)
- Made an unreleased but public “Card block” style for WordPress
- Published a tutorial and proposal for creating multiple block styles in the WordPress block editor
- Presented at the WordPress Seattle Developer meetup about block styles, variations, and patterns
- Wrote and commented on numerous bug, feature requests, and discussions in the WordPress Gutenberg project code repository
And by doing this work intentionally and finding new and better ways to address client needs, I built my own skills more this year than in the last few years.
My old resume left quite a bit to be desired. It wasn’t very well formatted, it didn’t read like a tech resume, and it was woefully out of date.
This year, I had a really fun time building a brand new one. After researching some modern tech resume best practices, I got to work, building a from-scratch design with minimal, modern code and focused on my current skills and interests.
The result has all sorts of goodies:
- Hovering over skills highlights the relevant experiences and hovering over experiences highlights the relevant skills.
- The resume supports “dark mode” when the site visitor has indicated that as their preference.
- The number of active WordPress plugin installs and WordPress Github issues I’ve authored are both automatically updated.
- I wrote an interactive yet-to-be-published blog post about a CSS issue I encountered when building it.
Much like this blog post, the resume was a useful tool for reflecting on the skills I’ve developed and things I’ve accomplished in my years as a full-time WordPress web developer for nonprofits. I’m proud both of the resume and the things on it.
CSS Tricks Article on Click-Triggered Menus
I’ve gotta give a full section to maybe my personal favorite accomplishment of the year:
This article was at least a year in the making. I thought about this post on long runs, in the shower, when I should have been working on other things, when I couldn’t sleep, and countless other times.
After publishing some thoughts about hover-triggered submenus years ago, I wanted to take everything I’d learned since about building accessible and usable navigation menus and put it together in one comprehensive article and code! Given my ambitions, I also wanted to publish for a second time on the CSS-Tricks blog (my first post was about how to build a schedule using CSS grid).
The result was one of the most compelling things I think I’ve ever written—at least for people who are into website usability and accessibility. The response was fabulous, and I know the script is in use on websites besides my own already.
(Funny story: I learned a few months later that an old college acquaintance was discussing this article with a colleague when he noticed who had written it and thought, “Oh! I know that guy!”)
And of the couple hundred articles posted on the CSS-Tricks blog, this was the 12th most popular article published in 2021!
To be honest, 2022 got off to a pretty garbage start. Our whole family caught COVID which is a whole adventure when you have a pregnant person and a two-year-old. We’re through it now, though. Everyone’s OK, and we’re excited to welcome our new baby to the world! Writing this post put me in a much better mood 😃
Finding the right balance of time off, paid work, and professional development is one of the main challenges of freelancing, and so 2021 went pretty darn well on that front.
So if you haven’t already, take my advice. Let this post be your excuse to reflect on and celebrate the good parts of your 2021.