David Kadavy has been writing online for 10 years. His site’s anniversary is Friday, to be exact. In an internet full of exciting pivots, increasingly specific niche sites, and shiny new domain names, what’s kept the author of Design for Hackers coming back to… a blog? Here are three ways Kadavy views his blog that might inspire you to put some new life into your own.
Your blog is a free R&D lab
A designer by trade and a writer because he won’t stop, Kadavy calls his blog things like “sandbox” and “playground.” “Kadavy.net/blog continues to be categorized under Kadavy, Inc. Research & Development,” he said. “It’s where I play, and then things spin off.” Arguably, the biggest spinoff from his blog was a book deal with Wiley Publishing for Design for Hackers. According to Kadavy, the book was a direct result of his post “Why You Don’t Use Garamond on the Web.” Your blog may not land you a book deal, but then again, that’s not where Kadavy started either. “I started off wanting to learn HTML and CSS and stuff,” he said. “That was when it was almost controversial to use CSS. Because everybody was using tables, and there were all these cross-browser incompatibility issues. So to figure out how to get everything to look the same in different browsers was just an unbelievable pain.” His own blog became a testing ground for web design technique. It was also a place to nerd out about thoughts on design. Oh, and he’s into productivity life hacks too, so he records his experiments with things like mini-lives and online personal assistants. Side note: kadavy.net houses experiments even older than itself. Check out kadavy.net/experiments.html to mess around with a few of Kadavy’s earliest Flash toys.
It was just great to have this place where I called the shots. There was no client to meddle with anything; if I messed up there wouldn’t be some boss to fire me. I could learn about things. I could use it as a testing bed to learn about things.
Your blog is a low-pressure, world-wide classroom
Speaking of early days, Kadavy was 17 when he created his first webpage in 1996. “AOL gave you some webspace — so I wrote a couple album reviews and then an essay about how it was bad to key somebody’s car.” At the same time Kadavy was peeking under the hood of the internet and poking at code, he was also taking every art class he could in high school. “As a kid, I was always obsessed with drawing. I mean, like in my room, all day, forget to eat, hours buzzing by drawing.” As his interests in “the internet thing” and design slowly began to converge as a graphic design major and later as a college graduate, blogging became a way to reach out to the world and talk to people with similar focus. “It was just as the internet was getting social, and information was flowing more freely,” Kadavy said. “Then it became, how can I incorporate these elements of design into today’s technology?” As “today’s technology” evolved, so did kadavy.net. The blog that started out on blogger.com migrated to Moveable Type around 2005 and finally WordPress in 2008. With different platforms came different designs: Read Kadavy’s post The 10-Year Design Evolution for a nostalgic tour of web design trends via his own site.
Your blog is a platform for shouting about your own work
Experimentation. Testing. Learning. These words don’t mean you’re not still producing actual work. It’s just that the work is only yours. “I kind of always felt it was serious business,” Kadavy said. He credits the blog’s demonstration of his expertise with getting him from the Midwest to Silicon Valley. And then on to a career as a consultant. An author. A speaker. A few extra bucks along the way didn’t hurt, thanks to a good SEO post or two. “Every $1 that my blog earned, I viewed as $10,” he said, though he no longer uses Google AdSense. “Because it belongs entirely to me. I thought of it, I produced it, I like it. It was just great to have this place where I called the shots. There was no client to meddle with anything; if I messed up there wouldn’t be some boss to fire me. I could learn about things. I could use it as a testing bed to learn about things.” Even though Kadavy views his blog as a living, breathing thing (“It’s like having a plant in the corner. I don’t know how people abandon their blogs, I just don’t”), there’s no set posting schedule. In fact, kadavy.net has gone as long as eight months without a post. “I never understood that pressure,” he admitted. “An idea is ready when it’s ready.”
So will your own ideas come in an R&D lab? A global classroom? A platform for your own expertise? Update your blogging point of view and give that drooping blog in the corner of your website some TLC.