The Evolution of a Design Blog
As many of you know, the design community isn’t all that old. In fact, some of the most successful and popular design blogs have only been around for about 2-3 years. During that time the design community has come a long way. Some design blogs have hired full-time staff, developed products to sell, built membership programs, and even sponsored events.
In the coming years, I believe that the design community will continue to change and grow. Some websites will fade away but will be replaced with new ones; new technologies will emerge and innovation will continue to drive us in ways we can’t even imagine.
In the last couple years I’ve learned a lot about the design community. I’ve met some awesome people and have learned a lot about what it takes to manage a successful design site. I spend a lot of time observing other design blogs; seeing what works and what doesn’t. As a result I have managed to develop a strong understanding of how a typical design blog evolves over time. Today, I want to talk a little about the life cycle of a design blog; how a design blog can grow from a casual hobby to a full-time job and source of income.
Stage 1: Orientation Period
Everyone has different reasons for starting a design blog. Some hope to be able to share what they have learned, others are looking to promote themselves or even to make a few bucks. Either way, it usually takes a while for a blog to establish its own identity and direction. This is what I call the orientation period. During this time design blogs tend to experiment with different types of posts to see what works and what does not. This experimentation really helps pave the way for what’s to come.
Stage 2: Introduction Period
Once a site gets its bearings, the next step is usually to get acquainted with the community. This is done in several ways but many sites do this by writing guest articles on other sites, by linking to more established websites, or by interviewing popular bloggers or designers. This is how new blogs typically introduce themselves to the community and is typically a good way to get a foot in the door.
Stage 3: Build a Fan Base
Once a design blog has made their introduction to the community the next step is usually to start carving out some sort of niche. Some sites stick with their original plan, others branch out with more diverse content. Either way, this is the stage in which design blogs really start to establish themselves and build a fan base. This step is important because it really sets the stage for what is next to come.
Stage 4: Expansion
This is a pretty crucial stage in a design blog’s development and usually occurs when a site has reached the peak of its development. There are a lot of design blogs out there so distinguishing yourself from the rest of the pack is not easy to do. In fact, most design blogs don’t make it much further than this stage. Sites of this type receive huge amounts of traffic with a large following of loyal readers. Content on these types of sites is of the highest quality and authors are often compensated. In fact, these types of blogs typically have staff that handle things like IT, development, and day-to-day maintenance.
Stage 5: Build a Network
Once a staff is in place, design blogs start to think bigger. This is usually done by building new sites, or by buying others. A network of design sites will start to emerge and before long the design blog actually has enough income to support several full-time employees.
State 6: Retire
This is the stage that most of us dream of. Only a handful of us will ever reach this stage from blogging alone. At this point the network of sites that you have built has reached a point where it typically runs itself with limited direction. If your blog has reached this point it is likely that you pay some one to run all your sites and that person has designated editors who run individual sites. It is at this point that your time will be open enough for you to start working on other projects.
Every site makes its own path and each of us has a different measure of success in mind when we originally start our blog. The best design sites are passionate about what they do. In fact, most of them would probably still be doing it even if their success had not materialized. Ultimately, your site’s success should be measured by the pride that you feel about your accomplishments and goals. If you feel good about what you’ve accomplished, the rest will all fall into place.