2021 was a particularly interesting and busy year for Wolf X Machina. In late 2020, I had hired my first employee but around the same time, my biggest client had to close their doors because of the effects of COVID-19 on their business. Even though losing that contract was substantial, I looked at it as a good time to regroup and redesign my business into something even better. After looking hard at the numbers and the work ahead, I unfortunately had make the tough decision to let go of my employee so I could focus on getting back into a position where having an employee made sense.
It was a hard lesson but an important one and in some ways made me excited about the possibilities in the future. I learned a lot along the way and it really informed how I would approach the next phase of my business.
Highlights from the past year
- I learned a ton more about what I value in business and it's given me a new perspective in how I want to operate. Finding ways to get better and faster at what I do, but also finding new ways to provide value to customers was the big thing.
- I learned a lot more about hiring and how I would approach it when the time comes again. But not only that, I learned a lot about what I value in the people I work with - in particular, how I want to structure my business with other businesses. This year was an interesting shift in how I collaborate and it will definitely change the way I collaborate in the future
- I completely redeveloped my process for developing User Interfaces. I now use Tailwind CSS nearly exclusively, even on older Bootstrap-based or plain CSS websites. So now my interfaces are more performant, look even cleaner, and are easier to maintain with an even faster turnaround. Not only are customers hiring Wolf X Machina for their DNN websites, we're also doing more UI development work for design agencies and IT teams alike thanks to Tailwind CSS
- Not only did I put more focus on improved designs and usability and performance, I also learned a lot more about accessibility in User Interface design by switching to click menus (instead of hover menus) and putting in better focus states for users who use their keyboard to navigate websites
- I even learned a ton about email design development (using Maizzle) so now I can make super custom designed emails that are beautiful
- I got a pretty cool sit / stand desk that's a lot bigger than my old desk
- I made and presented more proposals this year than I typically have in past years which is a big step forward in my business
- I started using Loom to make videos for training, status updates, blog posts and "show and tell" and in 2021 I made 190 Loom videos
- I presented a session on "Content-driven design" at DNN Summit 2021 and I did a talk with DNN Dave on a solution I created for OpenGraph in DNN
- On the more typical CMS side of things, I developed a few new projects like Kuhner Shaker Digital Booth, Norwest Precision, AITC MB, AITC SK's Annual Report, and one I'm very excited about, Plant an App. We have a few more things that were started in late 2021 which we'll be launching in 2022
- On the programming side with Benny, we launched some custom modules like a job board, a case search module, a restaurant dashboard for Foodex, and some redevelopment of existing projects like a curriculum-linked resource matrix - to name a few. And we did a TON of DNN upgrades
- Benny and I launched a simple product with a few restaurant clients that we hope will grow in the coming year
- I expanded my connection with designers that I work with on special projects
- I landed a handful of new clients, both in the DNN space but even outside of DNN. This was really important for me because it's been a part of my goal to not only be the best DNN developer that I can, but to expand outwards and offer my services in a bigger market
- I will be presenting two sessions at DNN Summit 2022 in February - "Tailwind CSS" and "Mega Menus with 2sxc"
- Wolf X Machina will be focusing on developing even larger websites and more sophisticated custom websites and custom software now that Benny Su is part of the team. For instance, we'll be developing more custom modules and even hybrid apps that are integrated with the websites. This has been something that Wolf X Machina has been doing for a few years now but it hasn't always been what we've been known for so we're going to focus more on that
- I also plan on providing more services for very custom designed landing pages and email templates
- Going to get a new workstation and set up to help me do even better work
- More blogging and social media activity and overall I'm going to more effort into marketing
- I will try to be more involved publicly through video and livestreams
- We're looking into a complete redesign and redevelopment of the Wolf X Machina website to better represent Wolf X Machina and what we're capable of creating for our customers
As I reflect on not only the past year but also back to the beginning of my business I think about what my company has been and how it's served me. There are aspects that I think are absolutely vital but there were also ideas, avenues, and directions that I thought about that at this time I can let go of. The direction we're going is both deeper and broader - deeper in the sense that the core business of UI design and development is getting better, and broader in that we'll be offering more in the way of custom programming. This is the beginning of a new chapter in the story of Wolf X Machina and I can't wait to share the updates with you.
As always, thank you to my customers, partners, family, friends and peers and colleagues in the DNN community. I'm really excited about the next phase of the company.