Piccalilli: the future

— 6 minute read

Today is a Friday, so I’m supposed to be pushing out issue #33 of Piccalilli. Things are changing though and the newsletter is on a temporary hiatus.

Piccalilli is having a huge overhaul. It’s transforming into a website and blog that provides both free and premium tutorials, along with some in-depth courses, including CSS From Scratch and Let’s Build A Landing Page, to help you become a better front-end developer and designer.

Why the change? permalink

I made myself have a long break over the winter holiday period because I was pretty done-in. Because it was the end of the year and the decade—a year which I also celebrated 10 years doing this web thing for money—I was in a rather reflective mood. I banned myself from opening my laptop over the holidays because in-between relaxing with my family, I wanted to think—really think about what I want to be doing in the next 10+ years.

I often cite that going back freelance was the best thing I ever did and I still stick by that. Working for clients though, doesn’t bring me much satisfaction anymore. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy working with clients, because I do: I just want to change things where working with clients is the secondary part of my business. I want the primary part to be my education work.

I love teaching and last year, I did guest lecturing at The University of Gloucestershire, published a book on CSS layout with Heydon, wrote a record number of tutorials on my blog and finally, created Front-End Challenges Club. All of this teaching brought a lot of satisfaction with it—especially when folks reached out and said that my style of writing and explaining things made certain concepts that they’ve previously struggled with, click for them for the first time. That felt good.

What also felt good was that a large chunk of last year’s income came from doing this, too. Looking back over money stuff at the end of the year (cheers business end-of-year), I realised that if I transitioned my focus this year, I could completely flip things financially for my business.

I’ve also accumulated a healthy buffer with the business, which for any other freelancers out there, is key. It’s gives you room to manoeuvre and breathe. It also gives you even more flexibility!

The Piccalilli approach to teaching permalink

The content on Piccalilli—tutorials and courses—is going to be mostly written content. I feel most at ease when I write and I think that’s when I produce my best work.

I started planning the content of two courses last year: CSS From Scratch and CSS From Scratch and Let’s Build A Landing Page. The planning went fine, but I was focusing on creating video screencast courses and I just couldn’t get going with the production. While I was thinking on my holiday break, I realised what the problem was: I wasn’t comfortable or happy producing a screencast course. It just doesn’t feel like it suits me (probably the dulcet Yorkshire tones) and it was providing an invisible roadblock that I didn’t realise was there.

I’ve also got this endless fear of not being able to edit content—even when it’s live. It’s part of the reason why we haven’t gone to print with Every Layout (the other reason is that we keep adding more stuff). Neither of us can cope with the idea of a typo being printed for ever or the approach we chose for a layout being completely out of date (hello, gap support) and non-updatable. I see well-known content producers having to completely re-record their courses because of technology changes and I can’t help but feel really sorry for them. It must be killer having to do all of that work again and again, thanks to the pace of this industry.

I think written tutorials and courses will be slightly refreshing too. There’s a lot of video-based courses and platforms, which is great, but it’ll be nice to be a bit different from most people, too. I think it’ll also be handy from an accessibility and inclusivity perspective, because:

  • Folks can consume the content as fast or slow as they like
  • They don’t need sound (yes captions, but a lot is lost without sound and following captions and code is a nightmare)
  • They can copy and paste whatever they want
  • The site will be incredibly light, accessible and offline-first

They all seem like big positives to me.

Where do I go from here? permalink

For now, I’ve popped up a nice landing page with the new branding on it and a signup form. Eventually, I’ll point CSS From Scratch and Let’s Build A Landing Page there too so I’ve got all of my email signups in one place.

In terms of content: I’ll go live with a minimum viable experience. I’ll probably grab a couple of popular tutorials from this blog and polish them up to put them on Piccalilli. I’ve also got two or three solid tutorials on the burner which I can add there too.

The first course that will go live on there will be “Let’s Build A Landing Page”. I’ve started fleshing out the design for that and planning the tech (it’ll be a Gatsby course). “CSS From Scratch” will be late, 2020 as things stand.

What can I, the reader do? permalink

If you’re interested in how this might pan out: sign up for updates on Piccalilli. I’ve also got a Twitter account for it.

It’ll be great if you keep sharing it with your pals, too ♥️

Wrapping up permalink

It’s going to be a while before the site goes live because I want it to be really snazzy. It’s going to be my primary focus ongoing, so I need it to be extremely high quality.

I’ll be using Eleventy to build it, of course, even though there will be paid memberships and paid courses. I’ve got a little trick up my sleeve for that though, which will likely become one of the tutorials or courses on Piccalilli itself.

I’ll leave it there for now. Thanks for reading and keep your eyes pealed for updates!

Hi 👋, I’m Andy — an educator and web designer

I produce front-end development tutorials over at Front-End Challenges Club and Piccalilli. You can sign up for updates on Piccalilli to stay up to date with its progress.

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