2016: My year in review

With 2016 coming to a close I wanted to take a moment of reflection — a temporary reprieve from thinking about the future — to review some of my accomplishments on the year. This year had quite a few firsts. I joined the Apple Developer Program and published my first-ever app to the Mac App Store. Working with the Mad Genius team, I had the pleasure of being part of some cool website launches this year. And in the area of professional growth, I picked up some new skills I have been wanting to tackle for a while now.

But first, some non-tech stuff

This not-so-humble article concerns itself largely with the web-related stuff I’m into, but other notable events in my larger circle deserve a mention. Among them:

  • A new treatment for spinal muscular atrophy became the first one to get FDA approval.
  • My brother, a former Spanish lecturer and PhD student, switched careers abruptly to join Mad Genius as a web developer.
  • The weirdest U.S. presidential election I’ve ever seen happened.

Critical hit

This year, I started a Dungeons & Dragons group with some friends online. Being an app junkie, I searched many an hour for apps to make my life as the dungeon master easier. Running a D&D game takes a lot of dice rolling as it turns out, and none of the dice rolling apps I tried worked like I wanted. Being the designer/developer I am, I decided to make my own. I’ve always wanted to make an app and sell it. Thanks to an awesome tool called Electron, I was able to take the web coding skills I already had and repurpose them into making a Mac application. The result is d20, a design-y RPG dice roller.

d20 - an elegant, powerful dice roller

It’s not a grand technical achievement, but it is the culmination of a lot of nights and weekends. Let’s be honest, I made this for me and didn’t expect to win any awards or make a ton of money. But I am thrilled with the sixty-something dollars of sales I’ve made since releasing the app in 2016. It was also a fun challenge to execute all the branding surrounding a publicly released app — from the app icon and App Store description to the marketing and support website.

I won’t go into a lot of detail here, but if you are interested, check out d20 on the App Store (or kick the tires with the free web-based version).

Everything old is new again

The newly designed homepage of blakewatson.com

Over a year ago, I wrote about how my website’s design was not original. The situation has improved, though, because in October, I redesigned my site. According to my estimates, this constitutes the thirteenth iteration of blakewatson.com since I first bought the domain in 2005.

After fellow Genius Shawn Palmer designed a new (awesome) mark for me last year, I knew I needed a website that would do the new mark justice. With limited available time, this was the best I could do. :-)

A banner year in the labs

2016 was my first full calendar year as an Interactive Designer at Mad Genius. We launched a lot a of great websites for our clients this year and I am incredibly proud an honored to have been a part of that. Among the sites I had a hand in were:

  • Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency’s “It’s Super Easy” campaign
  • Mid-South Medical Imaging
  • Reformed Theological Seminary’s 50th anniversary microsite
  • Laguna Blue, a new microfiber towel manufacturer
  • Mississippi Center for Plastic Surgery - a website Matt and I got to build together

Last but not least, I had the honor of leading the development side of the new Mad Genius website.

All in all, it’s been a fun year in the labs and I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for us.

Lessons learned

In addition to making a lot of stuff this year, I learned a few things. A bunch of projects I’ve been working on lately have given me the opportunity to experiment with web animation. That’s been fun to play around with and it’s a useful tool in the interactive designer’s tool belt.

I’ve also been pushing forward with my command-line and server administration skills. Without getting too into the weeds, let’s just say I now know how to set up a basic web server on a Linux computer and put it on the internet!

Happy New Year

I hope you will take a moment to think about your own accomplishments in 2016. If you have ever thought about getting into programming or web development, there’s no time like the present. Why don’t you go ahead and make it a New Year’s resolution? If you need help, email me and I will try to point you in the right direction.

But no matter what you are into, whatever your passion may be, keep it up.

Here’s to a new year.