David Leggett is a designer, blogger, and founder of Tutorial9; a leading website that provides Photoshop, Web Design, and Photography tutorials. David shares his experience in developing and growing Tutorial9, and provides advice for bloggers who are just getting started.
How did you get started in design?
Playing with 2D and 3D editing software was sort of a childhood passion of mine. Between a copy of Paint Shop Pro and Cinema 4D, I spent hours every day experimenting and dabbling on the computer.
I’m not sure I could justify that as design though. I believe that I’ve only just scraped the surface of designing, or creating experiences specifically built for certain groups of people in recent years. There is something about crafting an entire experience that greatly interests me.
Tell me more about Tutorial9.net….what’s your mission for the site?
Tutorial9 is a community platform for teaching and sharing resources. As a whole, we teach Photoshop, Web Design, Photography, and share useful downloads all for free. We pride ourselves in quality resources, and a super friendly community.
Our mission is to be the ultimate user-generated tutorial website by providing the best free resources online, and to inspire the community to lend helping hands to one another.
How long ago did you start Tutorial9?
We started working on Tutorial9 in December of 2007, and we launched May 1st, 2008. It just turned 1-year old, and it’s growing stronger every day!
I love the design of the site. How did you develop the concept? How much did it change from conception to final implementation?
Tutorial9 may only be a year old, but it’s already undergone 4 redesigns. A lot of our early attempts to capture the right mood and offer the right experience didn’t quite work out. Our current look is a huge step in the right direction, but it’s not flawless… Then again, a website is never actually 100% perfect!
The concept is slightly evolved from our original monochromatic look. Blue is sort of our color, but Tutorial9 never felt as friendly and fun as it actually was when we stuck to so few colors. The current design really put some emphasis on our creative side: Our background is chuck full of swirls and design elements that immediately identify T9 as a creative site.
Under the hood though, a lot of thought was put into the actual interface so that there is a balance between form and function. The site looks pretty, and also is very easy to use.
Which WordPress plugins do you use for Tutorial9?
These are the important ones – the fewer plugins, the better performance you typically have!
- All in One SEO Pack (I actually really despise “SEO” as a practice, but this plugin is very useful for on the fly editing of page attributes that would otherwise require more work in the backend)
- Dagon Design Form Mailer (Best. WordPress. Forms. Evar.)
- Similar Posts (Modified)
- Role Manager
- SyntaxHighlighter Plus (For fancy code in scripting tutorials)
- WP-CommentNavi (Paged Comments)
- WP-PageNavi (Paged Category pages and archives)
- WP Super Cache (Must have for power users)
How often do you post new tutorials?
We usually have 1-2 new posts every week. Our community is growing, and we’ll likely raise the bar to 2-3 very soon!
Typically, a tutorial or resource will take anywhere from 3-10 hours to complete. We try to make sure our resources are highly polished before sharing them with our community!
How many people do you have contributing to Tutorial9?
Currently, there are about 40 Active users who have contributed some sort of resource to our community.
We consider many of our viewers to be active contributors as well. Tutorial9 depends on its active community to help spread the word when new posts go up by sharing it with others socially. Without our awesome users, we wouldn’t be where we are today. It really is their website.
How many monthly unique visitors were you receiving 6 months after launching? 1 year after launching?
- 200,000 unique visitors at six months
- 400,000 unique visitors at one year
We’re expecting close to 500,000 for September 2009
What’s next for Tutorial9? Where do you see the site a year from now?
Right now we’re still focusing on building a strong foundation with our community. We’re really depending on our users to help us build the most useful free resource out there – and so far they haven’t failed to disappoint.
In the next year, we’d like to have Tutorial9 be the largest community tutorial platform online with an awesome reward/recognition system that showcases our top contributors and most helpful users.
How were you able to grow the site so quickly?
My recipe for a successful site is very simple:
Passion + Hard Work + Striving To Help People = Foundation for Success
Tutorial9 is all about helping people. Our contributors are all very friendly, helpful people who really care about other people in the community. We make sure that we reward our contributors amply so that they can share really top of the line resources with our audience.
How do you currently market the website?
I’m not really into all that marketing jazz. I think marketing can be a very good thing (despite all the bad stuff going on in the advertising niche – when done right, it isn’t a bad thing), I’m just not a marketer myself.
The community has really been our means for spreading the word about the site. By publishing great content, we’re constantly being featured in other design blogs, and our viewers are always sharing us with their friends and on social bookmarking sites.
What advice would you give other bloggers who are just getting started?
Value is key to building a successful blog: If you can offer something of unique value to your readers, everything else sort of falls into place over time. Think of ways you can help your specific audience. Can you educate them in something you know very well? Can you save them time or money? Can you make them laugh? Be Helpful!
I see that you have two additional websites, UX Booth and the soon-to-be-launched BetterBlogger.net. How will BetterBlogger.net help its readers become better bloggers? Tell us more about these websites.
UX Booth is a blog about user experience design. It’s a group project with a growing community (not by any means my personal project, just one I’m lucky enough to be a part of!) UXBooth is really a site that helps other designers and developers build better user experiences. We’ve recently had the privilege to share some of what we know in publications like the Smashing Book!
Better Blogger is a personal project of mine that will be launched “When It’s Ready.”
The whole idea behind Better Blogger is that there is so much absurd information about blogging (as a profession) on the internet that it is difficult for a new blogger to know where to start. There is so much hog wash about getting rich fast, making money without any effort, and terrible marketing techniques. My goal with Better Blogger is to share useful information from real life experiences that will help people get started on the right foot – and also help experienced bloggers grow their sites even more.
Here’s where David gets his work done:
David, thanks for taking the time to share your experience with us. We’ll be keeping a close eye on Tutorial9 and UX Booth as they continue to grow and on the lookout for the launch of BetterBlogger.net.