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Wall of Love

CF #19: How I got here

Key points


  • To find your path you need to create and work on something real that forces you to wear many hats
  • Always give users control over things like audio and video. Make these controls immediately visible
  • Templates are great until you swap in your content and unknowingly make them less usable and appealing
  • Steal my daily to-do list template

How to find your path and niche down, bad UX on a UX awards site, why learn visual design when there's a template for everything, fan favorite tools/resources and much more!

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3 effective tips & techniques

1) I'm new to design. How do I niche down? – My story

Recently a subscriber asked me the following question:

“Hi Izzy,

I am new to design and I find myself struggling with niching down. I am like a sponge in an ocean! Unrealistically, I like web, graphic, branding and product design equally but I know that’s not a realistic move as a junior."

My answer to this is: Put yourself in a situation that will force you to learn these things.

Don't just look at it. Try your hand at it.

Here's my story of trying things ⤵️

In 2015, while in university, a friend and I started working on a mobile application (now known as Wandure – travel app turned dating app).

We both had zero know-how when it came to both design and entrepreneurship. NONE. Just two ambitious dudes excited about a new project.

I was a full-time chemical engineering student and he was working full-time but we still found a way to go all in on this project.

There was so much to learn and work on – we didn't even think about the enormous task at hand nor worry about the massive 90%+ SaaS startup failure rate.

Nope, it was just fun to explore and build something that was ours. It felt like we were doing something exceptional.

We literally learned mobile app design & development as we developed the app.

With every update and iteration our design process got better.

We also had to learn how to design Facebook ads and Instagram posts to get new users.

Oh and I had to learn web design to create a website for the app.

I designed the website in Sketch. Fantastic. Now, how am I going to turn this into a real website?

Did a quick Google search. Came across Webflow.

Well, guess I'm learning Webflow. Did that too. Built the site. Hit publish.

To raise money, we pitched at competitions and applied to startup incubator programs.

We had no choice but to learn public speaking, storytelling and persuasion.

That got us $250k+ in grants. JUST TWO RANDOM DUDES who knew next to nothing not long beforehand (we, of course, started getting tons of AMAZING help from new team members as time went on).

They gave us money because we were really good at getting things done and having something to SHOW. We weren't the best. Just pumped and invested.

Soon thereafter I came across a video on Youtube talking about the importance of having a search-engine-optimized (SEO) blog on your website to get free traffic.

Cool, so I learned SEO in a week, added a blog to the website and hired a couple writers with the little money we had.

12 months later the blog is getting 10k monthly pageviews which was getting us dozens of new users every day.

We lived inside of Sketch. It was our bread and butter.

We designed apps, websites, marketing assets in Sketch. Even illustrations 😂.

We got pretty darn good.

The product idea wasn't good though. Well, the idea wasn't horrible, it just wasn't feasible with our resources.

We gained tens of thousands of users locally and a good amount of press but that doesn't mean the idea was the best.

It actually failed in March of 2020.

We just had very well-designed Facebook ads, a beautiful app, and a convincing website.

Seriously, looking back, that's all we had going for us.

But that didn't matter because we came out of it with some invaluable skills and figured out what we wanted to continue doing.

In 4 years, I went from knowing nothing to being in the top 5% skill-wise in all of the following:

  • Mobile app design
  • Web design
  • Marketing design
  • SEO
  • Project management
  • Slide deck creation
  • Visual storytelling

When the startup inevitably ended, I stuck to the part I enjoyed the most – visual design.

And here I am.

Just learn and try things. Remember, learning a skill and putting it into practice takes very very little time.

So again, to answer the question of "I like everything, how do I niche down?":

Work on a project that forces you to put the things you think you like into practice (bit of a tongue-twister there).

Even the wrong project will lead to the right place.

2) Bad user experience on a user experience awards website

I was browsing the other day and decided to check out the Autumn 2022 UX design winners.

ux design awards website

I hit the "Project details" button to learn more about one of the winners and as soon as the page finished loading, music started playing.

Ux Design Awards website
Music started playing here

Thing is, I had no idea where the music was coming from.

There were no videos on the screen nor was I able to find a mute icon anywhere.

I scrolled down and came across an autoplaying video below the fold!

ux design awards website
The auto-playing video

The irony of experiencing something like this on a UX design awards website.

Two solutions needed here:

a) Give users control: Make sure the video is muted initially and let the user unmute if they want to.

b) Make it immediately visible: Make sure the video is above the fold so the user doesn’t miss half the content and wonder where the sound is coming from.

3) Why not just use design templates and be done with it?

Why do I even need to learn visual design to create a website, poster, or app when there's a template for EVERYTHING?

I'll give you a few reasons why:

Reason #1:

I've got a quick scenario for you.

Check out this website template from PageCloud:

PageCloud website template

Great, let me replace their template image with mine!

Altered PageCloud website template

If i'm not familiar or mindful of visual design concepts I might not realize that the button and headline are now almost unreadable.

I'll hit publish and go about my day.

You can only make the template work if you know what makes a composition effective in the first place (in which case you wouldn't even need a template).

Templates are great and all, but they can very easily be ruined by someone who is unaware of visual design principles.

Reason #2: Who says these templates are usability tested? And if they were usability tested, wouldn’t it be nice to see which templates performed best?

I want to know which one converts best.

Reason #3: Differentiation. It's more important than ever to make your brand more visually progressive. This builds a tremendous amount of subconscious trust. It makes you memorable. People remember things that are unique. It's the Von Restorff Effect cognitive bias at work.

If you want to learn how to create stunningly effective bespoke layouts, then get on the waitlist for my Layout Mastery course.

You'll make things,

You'll get a full process you can be confident in following.

You'll save time – the course won't be 10+ hours long. Who the heck has time to take a 10-hour course??

3 useful tools

1) Fan favourites

We got a lot of new subscribers this week so I want to share a list of fan favourites from the last 10 newsletters:

  • Dropover: Gather, move, and share any draggable content on the screen without having to open side-by-side windows.
  • A visual designer's ingredients: I made a PDF breaking down the 5 content formats every visual designer needs to know.
  • Sip: Mac app to copy any color, save your color palettes, and check contrast on anything.
  • WordTune: My favourite writing tool. Rewrite, shorten, expand, or formalize your sentences.
  • StoryBrand Website Blueprint: Shows you exactly what to write and where to write it on your website.
  • FakeClients: An easy & effective way of practicing design.
  • MyMind: The extension for your mind. Easily bookmark anything that inspires you. Images, links, notes, videos, quotes, PDFs, articles.
  • Fathom: A simple, one-pager, privacy-focused (no cookie banner needed) alternative to Google Analytics (The analytics tool I use for my website)
  • Kapwing: The easiest, most user-friendly, and effective video editing tool I've ever used. Been using it since 2018.

2) My daily to-do list template

My daily tasks feel more meaningful when they’re connected to weekly tasks, monthly goals and even yearly goals.

This super simple template allows you to set yearly goals, monthly goals and weekly goals which you can then use to set your daily tasks.

This is really bare-bones because I'm sharing it very spontaneously.

I’ve not included a guide on how to use this or anything of the sort. Do with it as you please.

Just hit "Duplicate" (top-right).

Notion Daily Task Template

3) WordStream

Want to find out what people are searching and HOW OFTEN it's being searched? Try WordStream. This is called keyword research by the way.

Useful to anyone starting a blog or needing content ideas. I used to recommend Ubersuggest but I’ve switched to WordStream. And it’s free.

Screenshot of the WordStream website

3 ideas to think about

1) Try not to get overly excited about plans that you haven't acted on yet. I've noticed in myself and in others that this usually leads to procrastination or disappointment. Stop thinking about how marvellous your plans are, just act on them.

2) Focus on people who already believe what you believe.

3) Always ask yourself before making a decision: “Am I going to be happy with this decision hours, days, months from now?” Via Dana Forlan, Medium

Shower thoughts

1) As we move ever closer to a cashless society, being homeless becomes even harder.

2) Trees actually live underground, they just use the upper portion as a snorkel

3) 100% Natural Ingredients is not a good selling point. Cyanide is natural. An octopus's arsehole is natural.

Via Reddit

weekly creatorfuel
I share tips & tools every creator should know.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
“I'm floored by how much content you deliver in these emails. Again, thank you!” -Lindsey O.
weekly redesigns
Learn design through redesigns
Every Tuesday, I redesign something you send me and explain my exact thought process
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
“I'm floored by how much content you deliver in these emails. Again, thank you!” -Lindsey O.

Fresh Youtube videos



Have you forgotten about the fundamentals?

I’ve learned that no amount of coaching, fancy apps, “creativity hacks & tips” etc, will make up for:

  • Subpar sleep
  • Low vitamin D3 (lack of direct sunlight exposure)
  • Lack of movement (sports, resistance training, cardio)
  • Poor diet (macro and micronutrients)
  • Nonexistent stress management

Get these right first.

They are the highest impact things you can do.

Ignoring these is like a student ignoring the fundamental concepts needed to ace an exam and instead focusing on color-coding their notes, using fancy study apps, and organizing their study space with intricate decorations.

Master the basics. Everything else falls into place. full post
Aug 15, 2023

Nonfiction books are too long

Most nonfiction books should've been 1000-word articles.

I find myself abandoning a lot of books right around the 25-30% mark.

Not because they're bad, but because I fully get the gist by that point and it's right around when the repetition of examples and ideas begins.

I'm okay with abandoning a book midway now. Just a couple years ago, I would power through the whole thing in fear of missing out on some crucial ideas in the later chapters.

Now, I just have fun with it. If it piques my interest, great – I'll buy it, read the chapters that seem interesting, get what I came for and move onto the next one.

I think a lot of these authors are just trying to meet some sort of quota. I dunno.

There's elegance in brevity. full post
Aug 14, 2023

A note on this weird cold plunge trend

So many of these "gurus" telling us to take cold showers and cold plunges 😂 😂

If you’re tired all the time:

  • Go get your bloodwork done and see what you’re deficient in
  • Get outside. Get some damn sun
  • Sleep well
  • Use your mind to build something – It'll energize you

Stick to high-impact basics. These little micro-optimizations aren't going to change anything.

Enjoy your hot showers 🔥🚿 full post
Jul 21, 2023