A good interview inspires me. To me, there’s nothing as exciting as knowing a successful person closely. Hence, we have “AhaPeople” giving me opportunity to do this as I have an appetite to connect with creative people from different industries.
Meet Steven Snell, a designer and blogger from Central Pennsylvania but currently living in New Jersey for past few years. You may also find him involved in designing themes for photographers as well as for churches and non-profit organizations. One of his 3 online properties, Vandelay Design is today a known site offering design resources (aimed at saving designers/developers time) and WordPress themes. Vandelay Design Premier is membership based for those who want unlimited downloads. Adding to its popularity is Vandelay Design Blog that has become an inspiration source for designers.
Read further to know more about the success story of Steven who has evolved into a brand today with his constant efforts.
1. Steven, kindly introduce yourself to Aha readers and familiarize us with your regular day at work.
I’m a web designer and blogger from Pennsylvania. I’ve been running Vandelay Design for about 6 years now. About 2 or 3 years ago I launched VandelayPremier , which is a membership website offering digital resources for designers. My typical day includes work for maintaining the blog (writing blog posts, reviewing guest posts, responding to comments and emails) and preparing new products for Vandelay Premier. I work with several freelance designers to create most of these resources, so I talk to them about the types or resources that are needed and I review their creations and get them ready to be published at the site.
Vandelay Design Blog
2. Tell us about your 3 online properties Vandelay Design, Vandelay Premier and Vandelay Design Blog. Which key property forms a larger portion of your revenues?
I can’t share the revenue details, but both the blog and Vandelay Premier are key parts of the overall business. When Vandelay Design started the goal was to provide web design services for clients. After a few years that client work got reduced and more focus was on our own products and the blog. We haven’t taken any new clients in a couple of years now, which allows us to focus on the products and the blog.
3. Tell us more about your premier resources at Vandelay Premier.
At Vandelay Premier, we offer products like textures, Photoshop brushes, vectors, icons, PSD files, UI sets, print templates and career resources. Our goal is to help designers save time and make their businesses more effective, so that led us to include what we call “career resources” to the other resources that are typically offered to designers. Some of the career resources like contract templates and Freelance Starter Kit are actually among our most popular products because many designers are really in dire need of these types of resources that can help with the business aspect of being a designer.
4. What is your take on changing SEO strategy?
I don’t pay that much attention to SEO, so we really haven’t had a big change in strategy. The first year or two of managing the blog I worked hard at building links through methods like writing guest posts at other blogs, social media, and just posting content that people liked to share. Once the blog traffic increased and I didn’t have to work so hard at getting people to the blog, I haven’t really done that much promotion and it has kind of taken care of itself. My main goal with the blog is just to keep publishing content that designers like.
5. What are your views on guest blogging? Is this something you would advise fellow bloggers/designers to practice?
Yes, I would definitely recommend guest blogging. As I mentioned, it was one of the most important things that I did when I was working on building traffic to my blog. I would recommend that others take advantage of guest blogging opportunities. Once the traffic to your own blog has reached a level that you are happy with you can cut back or stop guest posting and spend that extra time on your own blog/site.
6. What was the purpose behind launching exclusive niche gallery sites for web designers and not launching them under one umbrella? i.e. CartFrenzy, Folio Focus, Minimal Exhibit, TypeInspire and Blog Design Heroes.
At the time I launched those sites (I think it was 3 or 4 years ago) there were a number of galleries like CSS Mania and The Best Web Gallery that were already very popular. I found myself visiting niche galleries more often when I was looking for some specific type of inspiration and I really liked the good niche galleries that existed at the time. So I decided to start a network of niche galleries because I thought they could be helpful to visitors, and I didn’t think the design community needed another general web gallery. I wound up selling the network a few years ago because after launching Vandelay Premier I needed to free up some more time in my schedule.
7. What remains your biggest fear and biggest success as an entrepreneur?
My biggest fear is probably just being unsure about what I will be doing in the future. I don’t worry about the short term future, but having a family to support I sometimes worry about what I will be doing 5 or 10 years down the road, partly because our industry changes so quickly.
I guess my biggest success would be the Vandelay Design Blog because it has reached so many people over years and I have had the pleasure of getting to know a lot of great people and connecting with awesome readers.
8. We gathered, you consider “Delicious” a great resource amidst pool of networking sites and other social bookmarking services. Why is that?
Well, it was a great resource about 5 years ago, but I don’t know about now. I haven’t visited Delicious in a couple of years. A few years ago it seemed to lose a lot of users and a lot of its influence.
9. What do you like been called: an entrepreneur, a designer, a developer or ….
I’m not really sure, to be honest. I kind of think of myself as a little bit of a lot of different things. I’m not great at anything in particular, but I’ve been fortunate to get experience with a lot of different things. I guess if I had to name one thing I would probably think of myself as an entrepreneur more than anything else.
10. Where do you see the design industry five-years from now? Also, comment on its current state.
Five years is a long time in this industry. It’s hard to know what will be happening one or two years from now, but five years even more so. Going forward the trend of more users being on mobile phones, tablets, and other devices aside from desktops will obviously continue, so that will continued to heavily impact our industry.
11. Name 5 designers from your list that you follow and respect for their work.
Unfortunately, I don’t have as much time as I would like to follow specific designers. When I do have the time I tend to browse sites like Behance, Dribbble , and deviantART rather than following specific designers. A few designers that I really like and respect are Henry Jones of ThemeTrust and Chris Spooner of Blog.Spoongraphics .
12. Which 5 design blogs and design resources sites each you visit at least once during a day?
I check my feed reader (used to be Google Reader, now moved to Feedly with Reader shutting down) and I visit whatever catches my interest. I subscribe to a lot of feeds, probably 50 or more in the design and development niches.
Some of the blogs that I wind up visiting pretty frequently are:
the Tuts Plus network site
14. What is total number of daily visitors you score across your online properties? How do you generate traffic to your blogs? Which social media channels drive visible traffic to Vandelay Design properties?
Traffic varies from one day to the next. I don’t really do much of anything these days to build traffic aside from creating and publishing new posts. The traffic kind of takes care of itself at this point with well over 1,000 posts in the archives. I think sites like StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest send the most traffic from social networks, but I’m not a stats junkie so it’s not very often that I really pay much attention to the numbers. I do post links to all of our new articles through our Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Here we have couple of resources screenshots from vandelay premier:
Our friends from design niche had the opportunity to interview Steven in the past, hit on the following websites to know more about him:
You can follow him on twitter.
P.S: If you have any worthy names that fit “AHAPeople” Portfolio, kindly drop us a comment or reach us via our contact page. Also enlighten yourself by spending couple of minutes at Neil Patel and Jacob Gube interview.