Ryan Irelan

is building Mijingo.

A New Mijingo

Over the last several months I’ve been working with AJ Lohman to modernize the Mijingo website’s design and code.

Last weekend I deployed the new site to the production server. Here’s a video I made to cover what Mijingo is all about and highlight some features of the new site:

First and foremost, AJ and I worked on modernizing the look of Mijingo. I didn’t want it to be too trendy (although the full bleed image is something I ended up asking for) and lose the ability to effectively server my customers.

I had two specific (perhaps obvious) goals in mind:

  • make a better impression on new visitors when they came to check out the course library at Mijingo and
  • improve the experience for customers after they make a purchase.

The previous site did the best it could but it was old. The design was outdated—hastily retrofitted to be responsive—and the code well beyond its prime.

We settled on a simple look. The focus was on the new course covers that AJ created using the Whitney typeface from Hoefler & Co and some custom shapes and color palate he worked up.

Course Library on Mijingo

You can see that on the Course Library with its “cover mode” listing of the products. The courses are color coded based on track: Design is red, Development is green, and CMS/Publishing is a purple.

The images are also large and beautiful. Why? Because we used SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics to display all of the cover art. No large bitmap images to load and the covers look gorgeous on all displays: big, small, retina or standard.

The second improvement—the logged-in experience for customers—was addressed by redoing how customers access their purchased courses.

The previous version of Mijingo.com provided the customer with a simple table that listed all of their courses, the videos in those courses, and links to stream the video on the site or download it to their computer.

Most customers chose the download option because the streaming option wasn’t ideal. For the new Mijingo site I really wanted to improve how customers can watch purchased courses right on the site.

I turned the table listing of purchased courses into a simple, elegant grid of covers. There’s no copy or information about the course other than what is contained in the cover art. Why repeat what’s already there. Plus, the customer has already purchased the course so they’re probably familiar with what they have.

Mijingo's My Course Library

Clicking on a cover brings you to a one of the following pages, depending on the course:

  • A table listing the course videos, with links to stream or download
  • The course video, ready to play (if there was only one video in the course)
  • A table listing the courses and their videos (for a bundle of courses)

This design is a first pass and definitely not final. I want to keep how customers access their courses as simple as possible so I started with an table approach that gets right to the point.

One change from before is that I broke out the downloadable course materials into a sidebar so they’d sit alongside the videos, even while watching the course. The course materials should be accessible at all times while watching the course not just when you are choosing which video to stream or download.

Watching the SVG Course

These aren’t final implementations but small steps (or giant compared to the old site) in improving the experience of watching a course.

I still have some more work to do—we have dozens of fixes and tweaks we’re tracking for the next deployment—including creating guide pages (pulling blog posts, tutorials, and videos into one page) for each major technology, and improving the performance of the site.

I’m proud of the update and it’s a solid foundation on which I can build. I hope you’ll check it out and learn something new with Mijingo.

Learn Git with Mijingo

Last week I released a brand new course over at Mijingo that covers intermediate Git usage. The course is 3 modules and several videos and is aimed at helping you go from a normal Git user (git-add, git-commit, etc) to someone with some power moves like git-bisect, git-revert, and customizing the output of the git log.

The course is 114 minutes long and includes a free, written course workbook, slides, and a long list of additional resources for you to use.

Check out the new Git videos.

The Professional by Steven Pressfield

What I love about Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art is that he preemptively calls out the people who over-glorify his own book:

The professional is acutely aware of the intangibles that go into inspiration. Out of respect for them, she lets them work. She grants them their sphere while she concentrates on hers.

The sign of the amateur is overglorification of and preccopuation with the mystery.

The professional shuts up. She doesn’t talk about it. She does her work.

The War of Art, p. 78

He calls out everyone who is on some quest to solve the mystery of getting things done, producing work or shipping. He calls out the entire cottage industry of you-can-do-its. And, yet, the book is one the canonical texts used to support it.

Everyone will be the same

North Carolina basketball assistant coach Hubert Davis:

One of the things that we tell the guys is that you have to do more than what is required. At some point in your career whether it is high school, college, or the NBA, you’re going to be at a level where every guy can do the same things that you can do. So what is going to differentiate yourself between you and the other guy that is just as talented is your willingness everyday to work on your fundamentals and your craft, before and after practice.

Coca-Cola Life

Oddly enough, I first saw this at the vending machine at our neighborhood bowling alley. I don’t drink many soft drinks but this is what I’d choose from the Coke lineup. Pretty good.

The Best Travel Tool

The best, most practical, and helpful travel gadget or tool I’ve purchased is the Eagle Creek Pack-it Garment Folder.

You can have the cheapest suitcase, a duffle bag, or no suitcase at all (I’ve tossed it in my shoulder bag overnight trips), and this garment folder will keep your shirts crisp and unwrinkled. Nicely ironed shirts matter.

Iron (or dry clean) your shirts beforehand, fold them using the included folding card, and then pack. Once you arrive at your destination, unpack your shirts and hang them up. Putting your shirt of the day in the bathroom while you shower is just enough to steam out the creases.

I’ve purchased a lot of silly travel gear and bags over the years. But nothing, absolutely nothing, is as important to me when traveling as this garment folder.

Open Offices

I love and loathe open offices. They’re visually appealing but emotionally taxing.

They’re wonderful to look at, look great in photos, fairly simple to decorate nooks and seating areas (an interior designer’s dream), and less expensive to build.

But they are a burden.

There is no privacy at all. You and your actions are on display from 9 to 5.

Illness travels fast in the open air, and there are constant interruptions—even unintentional like someone just walking by that cause a momentary loss of focus as you catch a glimpse of movement in your peripheral vision.

If, like me, you’re of the easily distracted variety, you work very hard to get focused. You’ve probably created all sort of tricks and hacks to get and stay focused. For us, an open office and its distractions can create a frustrating work day.

I am an introvert who can be extroverted in certain situations. Like many others, I’m well-adapted to living this contradiction. However, my energy depletes quickly when I always have to be “on” and around people. This includes being in an open office every hour of every work day.

I can sometimes manage with headphones (noise canceling seem to work the best). But when I can’t, I have to find a small, quiet place to recharge. And there’s no better place than a car. It’s a small space, wonderfully sound proofed (cars make great recording environments), and feels safe.

In the past, I’ve often eaten lunch and then gone to my car, got in, closed the door, and then just sat in the small cocoon of privacy. There was a sense of relief as I closed the door. I’d then put on some music or a podcast and recharge my mental energy to get through the rest of the day.

Open offices also assume we sit at a desk while doing our best work. I certainly don’t. My best work is done while standing, pacing, walking, mumbling to myself while I talk through a problem, and other office culture taboos.

None of this is a problem if I’m in a private space where I can work in a way that works for me. That’s why I’ve been so much more productive and happier in the years that I’ve either worked at home or in an office with a door.

But I get it: we can’t build offices and work environments that are perfect for everyone. And they certainly can’t cater to me.

Some people love and thrive in open offices (a rare species?), others, like me, have to implement coping mechanisms to stay productive and happy.

If we do continue the open office trend, we should try to create closed, private spaces that someone can duck into for an hour of working alone, or just to sit and recharge.

I bet even the extroverts will like it.

You Will Find a Way to Fail

Like others, I had lofty goals for 2014—especially the second half of the year—and I didn’t meet them all. I got down on myself about that because I had only measured one thing and then deemed everything a failure.

Until I looked a little deeper (basically, I opened up Google Analytics and segmented the data).

And while I missed my big lofty goal that I had written on an index card taped my desk the last six months, I actually moved the needle considerably in some very non-flashy areas—but stuff that really matters.

The effort that I put in on marketing, writing, writing more, writing even more, and publishing made a big difference.

But if you’re determined enough, you can find the data and slice it up just right to show that you failed.

Peter Thiel’s best advice

Always prioritize the substance of what you’re doing. Don’t get caught up in the status, the prestige games. They’re endlessly dazzling, and they’re always endlessly disappointing.

Peter Thiel, in an interview with the Washington Post.

Why I’m raving about Plex

I’m late to the game but after a Thanksgiving dinner conversation and demo I was sold on setting up a Plex media server. I raved a bit on Twitter about it but if you really want to know why it’s so great, listen to this 70 minute podcast about it (and one of my favorite every day beers).

PACE book by YNAB founder

Jesse Mecham founded You Need a Budget (YNAB), a software application that helps you track what you spend and keep you and your finances honest with each other. But YNAB isn’t just a piece of software, it’s an approach and way of thinking about your money. And, it applies more to people who make above average incomes where overspending is a well-greased wheel.

Jesse took what he learned from YNAB and wrote a book that covers the same approach but for businesses. PACE stands for Prioritize (cash on hand), Anticipate (big expenses), Change (as needed), Establish (a buffer of cash).

Even if you think you know everything about business finances, you should read this book. It’s not a scheme, it’s a plain and simple way of thinking about your revenue and expenses.

OmniFocus Field Guide by David Sparks

David Sparks has been doing Field Guides (with iBooks) for awhile but now he’s out with a 2 ½ hour screencast on getting started with OmniFocus. If you are confused by OmniFocus or want to get better at it, David’s video will help.

A true mensch

Greg Storey has left the building.

Last month he stepped down from his position at Happy Cog, thereby ending nearly a decade as an agency owner. I was fortunate—truly fortunate—to be tapped as his first hire back in 2006. He’s the best example of generosity and kindness with time and resources (and with me, probably patience, too). There are people who would line up to work with him again. I know I would.

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