Ask the Expert is a new series here on Design Informer. Every two weeks, we will ask an expert about a special topic in regards to web design, graphic design, technology, and development. Starting a Design Blog is the current theme. Our expert for this topic is Grant Friedman from Colorburned.
Grant Friedman is a designer, author, and blogger. In addition to being the founder of the popular blog, Colorburned, he is also an interactive and graphic designer with 10 years of experience.
Starting a Design Blog
Jad: When did you decide that you were going to start a design and resources blog and what made you want to start it?
Colorburned originated as a portfolio website. At the time, I had just left my job with the state in order to pursue a career in design and Colorburned was my way of promoting my portfolio. As time went on however I started adding design resources and articles to the mix. My main reason for changing directions was really to appeal to a wider audience. My job search wasn’t really gaining any traction so instead of trying to please employers who weren’t hiring me anyway; I decided to help out fellow designers instead.
Jad: How did you drive traffic to your blog when you first started? How did you build your readership?
Early on, I mainly used trial and error to build traffic. When I first started Colorburned, the design community was relatively new. Most of the big design blogs like Smashing Magazine, PSDTUTS, and Abduzeedo are really only 2-3 years old. I remember experimenting with Flickr, adding items to user news feeds on sites like PSDTUTS, attempting to submit things to Digg. I did just about everything short of standing out on a street corner, holding a sign with my URL on it. This went on for a while really, that is until Andrew Houle from My Ink Blog recommended that I join Twitter. That’s really when things started taking off.
After that I started to get a little more creative with generating traffic. I approached several design sites about hosting giveaways for my site, hosted giveaways on my own site, started posting links to Twitter requesting that people Digg, Float, Stumble, or Bump my work. I think things really started to change after I posted this article which made the front page of Digg. After I posted that article, my readership as well as just about everyone else in the design community’s went up. Now I pretty much rely on my RSS subscribers, Google, Twitter followers, and Facebook fans for traffic.
Jad: Did you offer advertising in your blog right away, or did you wait until you had enough subscribers, readers and traffic before doing it?
I didn’t start offering advertising until later on in Colorburned’s development. As I said, Colorburned started out as a portfolio site so I wasn’t really thinking about monetizing my traffic when I designed it. After a few months I added my first few banner ads through BuySell Ads but I really didn’t start advertising heavily until May of 2009 after I launched the new design.
Jad: How often do you post on Colorburned? Do you have a schedule, or do you just post articles and resources randomly?
I typically post between 3-5 posts per week although most of the time I lean towards 3 articles. I really don’t have a schedule but I try to draft several articles ahead of time; that way I can pick and choose which articles I want to post for the week.
Jad: How did you come up with the name “Colorburned”?
I really wanted to come up with a creative name for my blog. I think a creative name is really important in terms of marketing and promotion. I spent several months trying to come up with a good name but finally came up with Colorburned while I was searching through some menu items in Photoshop.
Jad: Do you blog full-time or do you have some other source of income?
At this time I am pretty much blogging full-time. The more I blog, the more I find that I really enjoy doing it. I get a lot of satisfaction from helping out other designers so I’m hoping that this is something that I will be able to continue for the foreseeable future.
Jad: Approximately how much time does it take you to prepare a blog post?
Most blog posts take several hours to prepare. It really just depends on the type of article that I’m working on. A set of Photoshop brushes for instance can take a couple of days to create when you consider that I have to build the set, create the graphics, and the text. Tutorials and articles take a lot of time as well. It just depends on how much thought or detail that I decide to include.
Jad: What big plans do you have for Colorburned in the future?
Right now my primary goal is to grow the site as much as possible. I’m currently recruiting authors who are willing to post frequent, regular content on the site. I am also hoping to refresh the site’s design a bit in the near future. No huge changes, just fix a couple areas of the site that have bothered me for a while.
Jad: One last question. What advice would you give someone who is just starting out and want to be successful as a blogger?
Blogging isn’t easy; it’s a lot of work. Don’t get into blogging because you think it will make for a quick buck – it’s not. Most of the successful sites out there owe their success to a lot of hard work and a little luck. If you do decide to dive in to blogging, don’t try to duplicate some one else’s success. Carve out a niche for yourself and make your own path.
I just want to thank Grant for doing this interview. If you have a new design blog or if you are thinking of starting one, that interview should have given you some basic pointers on how to start a design blog. I know that I am definitely following his advice for the Design Informer.