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The Top 6 Changes That Made Our Studio Successful In 2016

Here we are again! It’s a new year and to the team at 422 Studios, it symbolizes a lot. As many of you know, I left 422 Studios in Janauary of 2014 to co-found LIFT creations in Fort Worth. That endeavor taught me alot about leadership, big agency mentality and overall about patience and perseverance. 422 Studios has always, and will always be a small shop. We pride ourselves on having 5 or 6 team members that are experts in their respective fields. Our clients love us for our size, attention to detail and hyper-focus on our three core strengths: custom web development, beautiful design and SEO strategies that work. Overall, LIFT didn’t work out exactly how I envisioned it, so I left that company and relaunched 422 Studios with my partner, and one of the best damn front end coders I’ve ever known, Darren Houston. Together, we build the studio back up and we have amazing plans in the hopper for 2017. The following is a list of some of the things that we have learned along the way that have made us successful not only in the past, but will make us successful in the future.

Number One. Don’t be obsessed with constantly changing technology.
We live in a culture of constant change. The way that the Javascript community has grown up in the last 2 to 3 years has meant that a new framework gets released every 3 months, which makes a previous framework obsolete (in the eyes of the community). We started with the Jquery framework many many (many) years ago, and we still use it to this day for smaller projects, mostly WordPress sites and marketing site work. We do break out a javascript framework or two when the job calls for it, but it’s incredibly important to know how efficient you are with a particular tool, and how that tool could accomplish a task at hand. Don’t use a nuke for squirrel hunting if you catch my drift.

Number Two. Know when to adopt new technology.
You might think this goes 100% against my last point, but it does not. You need to know when your technology is crippling your work flow. Sometimes you may not even know it, but a simple tool like Code Kit (https://codekitapp.com) could improve your WordPress work flow by enabling you to use SASS and JS compilation so that you had a smaller, lighter codebase that performed better in search. Maybe your PHP framework is out of date, like ours was (see point number three). Pick good solid technology that allows you to perform your job at optimum efficiency. Don’t swap tech just because the community says you should. Be aware of new tech and how it is impacting the community, but exercise caution when switching a huge piece of your workflow software to something new.

Number Three. Laravel 5.3
As discussed in point 2, we swapped our PHP development framework from Codeigniter 2, to Laravel 5.3. Wow, what a difference. As the person who picks our PHP stacks, I was obsessed with Codeigniter for many years. Primary because it had a huge array of helper functions and its ORM was amazing. Writing simplified database code was easy in Codeigniter, but when we switched to Laravel, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Create a simple model with definitions for the database tables and you’re on your way. Now you’re writing Model::where(‘name’, ‘Daniel’)->get(). How simple! Everything in Laravel is intuitive. It may not be simple at first, but it’s so great once you get the hang of it. It has taken our development timeline down by at least 40%.  We highly recommend the jump to Laravel if you are on literally ANYTHING else.

Number Four. Vue.js
We have always used (and will continue to use) Jquery. It’s a great, lightweight library that makes our lives easier. We use Jquery on all of our WordPress sites and anything that we do in standard, plain HTML because it isn’t overkill for the job. However, for the last few years we’ve gotten heavily into the SAAS product and tech startup product builds that require a streamlined javascript library to manage state, url routing and more. We started with Angular, which was complicated and poorly documented (in our opinion). Then we moved to React, but react was incredibly complicated to us when it came to redux and state management. We settled on React for a while, but then we discovered Vue.js. WOW! What an awesome library. It’s simple and effective and Vuex, it’s state management system is beautifully crafted and simple to use. To this date Vue.js has been our go to for large SPA’s (single page apps). Also as a bonus, as of version 5.3, Laravel has adopted Vue.js as their frontend framework of choice. Because of their adoption of the framework, we expect to see its popularity soar in 2017. Check it out if you haven’t (https://vuejs.org/).

Number Five. Always Persevere.
I’m not going to lie, the relaunch of 422 Studios was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever personally gone through. It reminds me of when I first got into web development 10 years ago and I decided to go into business for myself. Back then I was churning out $500 websites at 5 or 6 (and sometimes 10) a week. It was exhausting, demoralizing and overall, downright discouraging. I wouldn’t say that the relaunch has been that hard on us, but it’s been a challenge. We have always prided ourselves on our search engine performance. At the studio, organic search engine strategy has always led to 95% or more of our yearly revenues. We lost alot of ground when I left to focus on the other agency. Getting back to business in June was difficult, but we persevered through an incredibly tough road to where we are now. The sky is looking blue and the leads are coming in. We have a course set to launch our SAAS product at some point this year (http://vivettoapp.com) and we are focused more than ever on making 422 Studios a success. Perseverance is the single most valuable asset when you are running an agency.

Number Six. Focus on SEO.
A strong organic search engine presence can take you from 0 – 100 real quick (sorry Drake). Maybe not “real quick”, but within 6 or 8 months, you could be rocking and rolling with the right strategy. I talked about it a bit in point 5, but you need to pick your keywords wisely and implement a strategy that will get you to the top of Google with laser focus. We use Wordtracker (http://wordtracker.com) to identify low competition, high volume keywords that will lead to more traffic and leads for the company. From there, we optimized our homepage and some of our sub-pages for words on the list. It’s important to include every bit of SEO that you can to get you an advantage in google from Geo tags to structured data and beyond. Avoid costly mistakes like employing SEO methods from years past like forward facing site maps, link farms and spammy content. Keep up to date on the latest in SEO news (moz.com is a good source) and keep a constant eye on your progress. We like to check Google search console and our Moz account weekly to make sure we’re progressing and not moving backward.

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