It was an experiment I had toyed with for some time and it was quite a difficult decision to publish the site as I am a great stickler for privacy. But then when your job is on the line (actually I have no idea if it is but that's another story called restructuring) you have to start gravitating towards a Plan B - however vague that plan may be.
It all started while attending the Advance Tourism course. I did not choose to go myself but my company was hell bent to send about a hundred of us. Oh well, a day at the Westin once a month can't be that bad I reckoned, even though I do get terribly tired and restless after a full day’s effort to listen attentively.
It was one of the course talks by Stephen D'Alessandro on Continuous Personal Development and lifelong learning that set me thinking. More specifically he asked - If I lose my job tomorrow what will I do? What else can I do apart from what I do in my current job, that is. That talk triggered something in me - so belated thanks Stephen, you were priceless that day.
Part of the course work was clocking up CPD hours. This could be done by attending seminars or talks on subjects as diverse as domestic violence, pet grooming, sanitary health in the Middle Ages or first aid - and getting signed statements of attendance. Frankly I did not care about this since I view that sort of CPD as force-feeding and plainly unfocused. I'd rather be watching a couple of TED talks - but that does not count as CPD as it can’t be quantified.
So I talked the matter over with my mentor (the course organizers thoughtfully assigned a mentor to each student, and a very valid and understanding mentor I had too) and I decided on improving my graphic skills. I started learning Indesign from scratch and I clocked much more than my required 30 hours of CPD that way. At the end I could produce a poster, booklet or restaurant menu with relative ease. I even started a mock publication of my cartoon work and I had gone as far as forty or so pages with this unpublished oeuvre.
There is such a lot to learn if you put your mind to it – and I am not claiming that I mastered this vast publishing program, but I now do have a fairly good idea how it works and that was a start. I also did exercises on Photoshop in areas of the program I hardly ever use. There are so many Photoshop tutorial sites out there and again if you want to do something then a bit of will and perseverance will eventually get you there.
So sometime in July I came across Weebly, a web hosting site which practically lets you set up a website for free with very user friendly building blocks. For a small fee you can buy your own domain name too. I built the site over four days and tested it on a few close friends – without any apparent collateral damage. Then I published and hoped against hope I wouldn’t be damned…
Once you publish a website you are obviously curious to know how much visits you are getting. Enter Google Analytics – a marvelous tool which tells you so much about your visitors (don’t worry I am not tabbing you).
Here I must admit that I am hopelessly fascinated with Google Analytics even though I am not into statistics. So let’s roll a few numbers. The site reached 500 hits on 13th October. 384 of those 500 were unique visitors. The average visit was of thirteen minutes duration and the average pageview is 3.85. The bounce rate (visitors who view just one page and bounce off elsewhere) is 39%. A total of 1925 pages were viewed. Forty people visited the site five times or more – these must be the hardcore fans!
Visitors came from 33 different countries but the bulk of visits originate locally – a total of 318 visits from Malta. Weirdly enough Spain comes in second place with 38 visits then the UK with 24. The bit about Spain is a mystery with the average Spaniard spending 43 minutes on the site. I must be a cult figure of sorts there.
The site no longer gets its majority of visitors directly (read - me pestering people to visit by sending them the link). Direct traffic accounts for just 39% of visits, with 50% of visits now coming through referral sites. Facebook is the major referral site which is why I reluctantly signed up a few weeks ago after resisting for so long. If you want traffic you just have to be there. The other 11% of visits come through search engines – most of these google my name but a few come here via a mixed bag of search terms like “acid influenced drawing”, “maltese bus drivers”, and “cartoon left hand sketches”.
The blog on the site was an option I did not originally intend to use. Then I started posting a photo or two with a bit of comment. Now to my surprise I am actually enjoying writing. This is probably my longest post at 900+ words.