Fresh off the press comes our latest interview, this time with Shaun Andrews, designer and XHTML & CSS Genius, and time tracking master. A little late, but who can blame him when you have a look at all the sites he’s involved with!
Devlounge: Hello Shaun, how are you? Thanks for taking the time to answer a few for us, I’ve had some things I’ve been burning to ask
Shaun Andrews: I’m doing great. Thanks for the opportunity!
DL: Alright, let’s get started. Mind introducing yourself for those who may not yet have seen Tick or your personal blog?
SA: Well, my name is Shaun Andrews. I’m a 24 year old web designer from a smallish city named Binghamton in upstate New York. I’ve been working on the web for a few years now and for the last 9 months I’ve been making a living as a contractor doing design and XHTML/CSS coding. Some of recent projects that I’ve been involved with are: Tick, the Molehill, Scrapblog, Pluggd, the DrumArchives, and XHTMLGenius. Of course I’m also tweaking and posting at shaunandrews.com, my little corner of the web.
DL: On the subject of Tick, we first previewed the application in mid July, and recently Tick opened to the public. Where did the original idea for Tick come from, and what made you want to put together an application like this?
SA: First off, thanks for the great write up. The Molehill team has poured many hours of sweat, blood and tears into building Tick. We’re very happy to see others finding it useful. The original idea for Tick came out of our own need to accurately track project and task budgets and keep our teams up to date on the project status. We searched the web for a solution, and although we found some great time trackers, none of them gave the feedback our teams needed to really work towards a budget. Many people make the assumption that Tick is simply another time tracker. While it is true that Tick tracks time, Tick was built with the goal of helping people hit their budgets and, as a result, have profitable projects. So we only track time to the extent that it helps achieve that goal.
While it is true that Tick tracks time, Tick was built with the goal of helping people hit their budgets and, as a result, have profitable projects.
For us, the big idea behind Tick came out of the realization that for a services company, time is your inventory. We began thinking about how companies that produce physical product track, price and sell their products. This realization changed the way we ran our business, thought about time, and back to your original question, drove the development of Tick. We have written a little more about this on the Tick website (http://www.tickspot.com/why/). If you work in the service industry, I think it’s worth checking out.
DL: By the way, how did that public launch go?
SA: The public launch was a huge success. It’s still early, but so far all of our expectations have been exceeded. Our preview period was immensely successful, with thousands of subscriptions created, and hundreds of encouraging emails. It’s great to see that Tick is providing a real solution to a real problem that a lot of people are struggling with. At the same time, we had more than a few people that would prefer a heavy time tracking application, which as we stated before isn’t our goal. This really helped us hone in on the folks that stand to best profit from Tick.
DL: Our preview article generated a pretty good amount of buzz surrounding Tick and I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of positive comments. It’s inevitable however that a few people will have negative things to say about the product. How do these negative comments effect the team as you work to complete and launch an application?
SA: Tick isn’t build for everyone. Tick was specifically designed for people who work in the service industry and struggle with hitting budgets. We knew going into this project that some people wouldn’t get it, but more importantly we know a lot of people were in need of it. Even though Tick is still young, we’re delighted at the level of passion our users have. Most of the criticism that product has received has been in comparison to time tracking or project management solutions. For the most part this doesn’t affect us much, as we understand that the reviewer/commenter may not understand the pain that Tick relieves. We’re not interested in going feature-to-feature with other products or compromising the foundation that Tick was built upon.
DL: Let’s talk personal: How’d you get into design & development?
SA: It’s strange really. I’ve always been into computers, but never specifically web design. I actually went to school for Computer Aided Drafting/Design, and then continued and received a masters in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Mathematics. I spent a lot of time with math and physics throughout college, and I loved every minute of it. Somewhere along the way I began to realized that being a mechanical engineer just wasn’t for me.
I think I made my first website while I was in high school. It was a personal website with links to sites I thought were “cool”. I made it with Netscape’s built in WYSIWYG editor, and I only toyed with basic HTML. All throughout high school I played with HTML as a hobby. In college I began using the Macromedia studio (Fireworks and Dreamweaver 3 mainly) to create websites for bands and school organizations. Sometime during my junior year of college I discovered CSS. Since then I’ve been addicted. I got my first professional web job before I graduated from college. I moved to Miami, FL to begin working at Alienware Corp. as a web editor. After getting my feet wet I then moved onto to a much bigger role as part of a small web team for a branding agency name Propeller in downtown Miami. After leaving Miami for Jacksonville, I made the choice to start my own business and have been self-employed ever since.
DL: What are you hobbies and interests away from the desk?
Music. I’ve been playing drums for well over 10 years now and guitar for about 5 years now. It’s a safe bet that if I’m not online, I’m sitting at my kit or playing guitar.
DL: Let’s talk about your newest venture, XHTMLGenius. First off, killer domain name, I can see that going for thousands in the future ;). What made you decide to give it a shot, and how do you hope it will pan out (max clients per week, future plans, etc)?
It’s a safe bet that if I’m not online, I’m sitting at my kit or playing guitar.
SA: Yea, XHTMLGenius is a pretty cool domain name, but I don’t see myself selling it anytime in the near future. I also own CSSGenius.com and WordPressGenius.com. There are plans to launch those other two sites as companions when time permits.
The site came about during some down time between projects. I was looking for a way to bring in small projects to fill those gaps of down time. I saw a few sites popping up offering similar services and I knew that I could compete. I kept the site very simple and gave myself a budget of 5 hours – I really thought it would be wasted time, an experiment at best. I spread the word through Google AdSense and some forums and before I knew if I had a few jobs lined up.
The site has been a huge success and has paid for itself many times over. The great thing about XHTMLGenius is that there’s no negotiating or squabbling. The scope, price and timeline are all set up front. The client pays and I deliver. It’s simple and it’s been working great!
DL: Any things you want to get out while you have the chance?
SA: You can expect a redesign of shaunandrews.com in the coming weeks and some code updates to Tick in the near future.
XHTMLGenius has been getting a lot of love lately, and you can expect to see some other Genius sites in the future as well.
DL: As always, thanks for chatting with me. Looking forward to more of your projects in the future, and of course, we’ll be talking about them before anyone else.
SA: Thanks for the opportunity and keep up the great work with Devlounge!