2018: A year in review

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It’s safe to say that 2018 has been a jam-packed year for me, both personally and professionally. I’m going to reflect on this year in this post and also look forward to 2019. Let’s dive in!

New baby

On September the 16th at 9:55 am, Cassie Leigh Bell was born. She’s our second child and absolutely perfect in every single way.

Having two two kids is absolutely life changing. People warned us that life was going to get a lot harder and we thought they were being over dramatic, but oh boy, how we were wrong. This house is full of love and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ll also take this opportunity to mention how incredible my partner, Vicky has been. She’s a natural mother and has taken to a 100% increase in children in the house like a duck to water. She also continues to be endlessly supportive to me and has been especially amazing in what has been a tough last quarter of the year.

Having Cassie is by far our greatest and most positive achievement of the year. Really, I could just end this article now, but I suppose I should talk about what I’ve done on the web, too, while you’re here.

Career

It’s been a heck of a year for my career. It started with me being very new at No Divide as I started there late 2017. As a company, we did some great work and gelled really well as a trio.

Unfortunately, though, it was decided that No Divide would go on hiatus, so we all went on our separate ways at the back-end of the year.

This decision meant that I had to go through what can only be described as a recruitment ordeal. I’m not going to waste this article on dissecting why it was an ordeal, because I see it as a period of my career that was mostly a frustrating waste of time. I do very much feel like I don’t belong in most companies in our industry. I find that my focus very much doesn’t align with there’s a lot of the time, which made wanting to work at them very difficult. It’s all good, though, because this situation opened up an opportunity that I’ve had my eye on for a while: going back to freelancing.

Going back to freelancing feels like it’s been the best career move I’ve made in a long time. Today, I’m in stark contrast to where I was in 2016/2017 where a severe case of burnout was followed by a properly shit job in a local agency (I thought it would be a good idea to “slow down” and work at a lower standard. Spoiler: it wasn’t). I’m super glad I managed to turn that around, because this time 2 years ago, I was thinking about leaving the industry for good. It’s important to embrace bad years though, too.

“It’s okay to not have a good year. Progress isn’t a linear path.”
Beth Dean

I’m really looking forward to what 2019 brings in the freelance world that I now find myself in. Here’s to hoping that it’s going to be a good year at Andy Bell Design Ltd.

2018 Goals

I set some pretty ambitious goals for this year and tracked them in GitHub. Well, I started some of them, anyway.

Out of the 5 goals I set, I completed 4, which I’m really happy with.

I tracked them all in GitHub because I wanted to be held to account with the success/failure of my goals, because when I set them, I was still struggling to motivate myself. This strategy worked really well and I’ll do it ongoing.

Goal 1: Publish at-least 20 articles ✅

I set out to post 20 articles, which this time last year, I thought that was a bit too ambitious. Including this article, I’ve written 40 articles this year, which is mind blowing.

Out of all of the articles, there’s a couple of standout ones that have really propelled me into better things. They are:

That last post was an especially big deal because not only was it my first ever post for the legendary CSS-Tricks blog, but it was also a catalyst that created an immense wave of momentum that resulted in me achieving a tonne of stuff this year.

I’ve also gone on to write for Smashing Magazine and 24 Ways, which I would never have imagined possible, this time last year.

I think in 2019 I’ll take it a lot slower with writing. I’ve fluttered around writing about a lot of different things this year, but in 2019 I think I’ll focus the writing that I do produce on progressive enhancement and accessibility, mostly.

I’ll finish this goal summary by saying that writing 40 posts has transformed my writing ability for the better. I’ve gained so much confidence from writing so many words. I can also honestly say that writing has brought me the most success this year, by a long shot.

You can see the whole archive of this year’s articles, here.

Goal 2: Speak at at-least one conference or meetup ✅

I set out to speak more this year because it’s something I’ve not really done much of. I ended up speaking at a few events which is much more than I initially set out to do.

Two standout events for me were #ID24 and Bristol WordPress People.

The #ID24 event was the first time I’d spoken at a fully remote conference and it was weird. That aside, the people that organised it were incredible. Seriously, the friendliest and supportive bunch of folks.

The Bristol WordPress People event was a surprise. Again, the folks that organised it are incredible people who made me feel super welcome. The thing that surprised me at that event was how well my talk on progressive enhancement went down with a WordPress focused crowd. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening experience.

I don’t think I’ll focus much more on speaking next year. I’ve put a couple of proposals in for events that I admire, but because I’ve got a young family, disappearing to travel to events is tough on them. If the right event came forward though, I’d be really up for speaking at it.

Goal 3: Feature in at-least 1 podcast as a guest ✅

I ended up doubling this target, which was unexpected. I started by speaking on one of my favourite podcasts, Relative Paths about gatekeeping, which is a really important subject to me. It’s not the most frequent podcast, but Mark and Ben are seriously nice dudes and have a pragmatic, positive view of the web.

The second appearance was on JavaScript Jabber which was great fun. They’re a great bunch of folks. We dived deep into progressive enhancement, Web Components and modern JavaScript.

I’d love to appear on more podcasts next year, so if you run one, hit me up!

Goal 4: Get my weight to 13.5 stone (86kg) and maintain it ❌

I failed miserably with this one, which is really frustrating. I’ve gotten a bit chubby over the last few years and I wanted to sort it out. Because of that, I’m carrying this goal over to 2019!

Goal 5: Make at-least 5 meaningful contributions to the web community ✅

I really wanted to make things that help people this year. Building pointless websites at a local agency after working for a long while on a product team made me yearn to make things that actually mattered again. Here’s some key things that I made with all of that pent-up creativity:

  1. Dev Pal: A little service where beginner front-end developers can come along and ask me a question
  2. My Browser: A little app that’ll tell you info about your browser to help you with debugging
  3. The power of progressive enhancement: A detailed piece on how important progressive enhancement is and how to achieve it with modern CSS and JavaScript
  4. Web Components Club: A journal that I created to help both myself and others to learn about Web Components
  5. Learning Gutenberg: A multi-part tutorial series where Lara Schenck and I helped people to learn modern JavaScript, React and how to build a Gutenberg block from scratch

The main side project I’m proud of is probably the one that took the least time: Dev Pal. I’ve really enjoyed helping people out with their front-end issues. For what’s taken less than a day’s worth of time has provided a tonne of value to both myself and a load of beginner developers which makes me really happy.

While I’m talking about side projects, you may have noticed that I’ve done a lot this year. I’ve been lucky with creativity and momentum. The projects are almost always small and simple too, which is just how I like them. Here’s them all:

It’s been a heck of a busy year and I know 2019 won’t be anything like it. I did all of these projects before Cassie was born and have done very little since September for obvious reasons. Next year, I’ll focus on maintaining and improving My Browser and Beedle. I’ll also finish the second half of the Developurrs interviews.

My 2019 goals

For 2019 I’m setting one massive goal and two small goals. They are:

  • Write a book
  • Get my weight to 13.5 stone (86kg) and maintain it
  • Use Firefox as my main browser and write about it. Both positively and negatively

I have heaps of admiration of how Brad Frost produced the Atomic Web Design book. He wrote it in the open and then self-published it. That approach resonates with me because writing in the open would hold me to account (the same logic as putting my goals in GitHub) and make me continue to progress it. I’ve already got a title, a concept and a domain name, so I’ll look to get started with a similar approach as soon as I’ve done some more planning. Writing a book is something I’ve never done before, so it’s really exciting for me.

The second goal is carried over from this year. I think I might track my weight every day this time to encourage me, and again, hold myself to account. I might make myself a little web app that publishes my weight, for the same reason, too.

Finally, we have a responsibility to prevent Google / Chromium monopolising browser engines, so I’ll do my part by using Firefox as my main browser and writing as much as I can about it.

2019 will be a much quieter year, but a more focussed year for me in terms of goals.

With thanks

This year’s successes have largely been down to what other people have done to help me so I want to spend some time thanking them.

Of course, my first thanks go to my amazing, long-suffering partner, Vicky. She is my rock and an amazing mother to our children. It is her support that helps me get through the good and bad times.

I want to also give a huge thanks to Chris Coyier. He created so much momentum for me by first, coming up with the idea behind Boilerform and then, agreeing to publish my first article on CSS-Tricks. He’s published 8 articles on there for me this year which has enabled me to share my writing with thousands of people. Chris has also introduced me to some incredible people in our industry who I’ve admired and looked up to for a long time and continue to do so. Again, thank you for everything, Chris.

Last up, I want to thank you: the web community. You’re an amazing, talented bunch that create fantastic work. Please keep it up and help introduce new people into the community by being warm, welcoming and supporting. We’ve had a lot of gatekeeping in 2019, so let us all remember what has made the web as good as it is now: sharing knowledge and helping each other.

Wrapping up

I’ve personally had a super year this year, but that can’t be said for a lot of people. We’re going through a time where politics are incredibly polarised, fascism is continuing to rise—as is inequality and the people that need the most help and support in the world are getting none. We must as an industry of web professionals, who generally earn comfortable money and live comparatively comfortable lives, do more to help those who need it, rather than be bystanders to the horrors that they face on daily basis. We can and should do better.

On the web, I’d love to see the following in the new year:

  • We make accessibility and progressive enhancement first class citizens
  • We stop Google and others from creating a browser-engine monopoly
  • We hold companies to account for their part in the rise of facism

To everyone, I wish you the best of luck for 2019. I look forward to reading your exciting end of year reviews, next year.

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