I’m Nine Years Old – The Teenage Years

Happy Birthday to me … and by “me”, I mean this website, Life of an Architect. On January 14th, 2010 my life was irrevocably changed, mostly for the better, when I decided to start a blog site and start talking about what it meant to be, and work with, an architect.

In my effort to recognize this milestone, I thought I would take this entire week and write a blog post where I will isolate a year (or two or three) and talk about what happened, what was important, and why it matters. Consider it the ultimate peek behind the scenes … you might just be surprised by what you find out.  Today is a look at years two and three.  

Life of an Architect – Year’s Two (2011) and Three (2012)

I will admit that in year two I fell off the writing pace I had set in year one, but not by much. In 2011 I wrote 159 articles and in 2012 that trend continued … I only wrote 96 articles. I have no doubt that this was in part a result of my growing responsibilities in the office and I simply did not have the time to dedicate to writing content. The most likely main reason was that the engagement rate skyrocketed. During the first year, most of my time was spent learning new skills, preparing graphics and writing blog posts. As the popularity of the site grew, I received my invitations for lecturing and presentations, and the comment and email numbers started to become a challenge.

From the very beginning, I made it an objective of mine to respond to every comment and email I received … no matter what. When I made the decision, it wasn’t really that big a deal as I might have received just a few emails a day, and they were the sort that an additional 30 minutes of my day could be spent responding to the people who had reached out to me. Eventually, that number grew to be around 100 or so each week and since they generally weren’t of the “yes” or “no” variety, each response (even when I was cranking out my responses) might take between 2 and 5 minutes … I was spending around 8 hours a week simply responding to emails and despite my best efforts, this pace was incredibly difficult to maintain.

One of the many conversations I’ve had where the blog is concerned is how much time it actually takes to write a blog post. By the end of year three, writing the posts represented the least amount of time I spent on the site. I don’t have an editorial calendar, and I tend to write about whatever is on my mind. This style of content creation, while stressful at times, simply reflects what I am already thinking about and I don’t have to do much (if any) additional research to write an article. I was spending on average around 3 hours to prepare the content, graphics, and photographic images.

My favorite blog post of 2011 is:

Bob Borson - University of Texas Architecture studio

Do You Want to be an Architect? The College Years
This is not only one of my favorites from Year Two, but it’s one of my all-time favorites. Maybe it’s a bit self-serving but this post was actually written to avoid having to answer the same few email questions over and over again. One of the most frequent questions I get through the contact form on the site is from students in college who are currently struggling in school. The short version is they want to know what they should do now that they are in architecture school and it’s hard, they think they are terrible, and they are having an identity crisis since they now believe that they will never fulfill their dream of becoming an architect. As you can imagine, this is a hard email to answer quickly, but certainly, one that would be impossible to ignore. Eventually, I turned my email response into this blog post – sharing my own early struggles in school, what I did to turn it around, and how that transformation ultimately went on to shape who I am today.

It’s not a heavy post, but it is important and I think it has probably helped a great many people. This was the first post in a series I created titled “Do You Want to be an Architect“. Every time I had the opportunity to take an email question that came into my inbox with regularity, I turned it into a blog post and added it to this category.

My favorite blog post for 2012 is:

Master Bath Shower Section sketch by Bob Borson

Me + My House = Sucketh
This is one of those posts that I really enjoy because it was written to simply entertain me. There have been many times when writing a blog post felt like a chore and I’m sure if you are a frequent visitor to the site you might even be able to tell which posts I enjoyed writing and which ones I didn’t. Me+My House = Sucketh was written for no reason other than I found it amusing and on occasion, I will re-read it to remind myself that writing blog posts can be fun. This is also one of those blog posts that I am quite sure some social media/branding specialist would advise their architectural clients against writing … which is all the more reason I like it (because I do what I want).

Since the metric’s for this site are still massive influencer on me and why I burn every free minute I have writing blog posts and responding to emails, let’s take an updated look at how the traffic was growing during years two and three.

First, here’s a look at 2011, otherwise known as year two:

Life of an Architect Metrics 2011

A 437% growth from year one to year two – I’d say that was pretty substantial. As good as things went in year two, they continued to get even better in 2012.

Life of an Architect Metrics 2012

Compared against 2010, 4,961,161 pages views is a 956% growth … but still, who cares. What I hadn’t realized at this point was this just represented more work in the grand scheme. Sure, a ton of opportunities were coming at me fast and furious but the blog was still not valued in the office where I worked and any opportunities had to be taken on my own time … and my wife was not justifiably down with me burning my precious little vacation time on boondoggles away from the family.

Year Two Page views – 2,267,596     Year Three Page Views – 4,961,161
Year Two and Three Countries/ Territories – 219
Year Two Top Five Cities – New York, Dallas, London, Sydney, Chicago
Year Three Top Five Cities – New York, London, Dallas, Sydney, Melbourne

The other takeaway here is that the growth of the site was steadily improving rather than occurring in massive spikes. To me, this sort of growth suggests consistency rather than catching lightning in a bottle.

The Popular Post

As I was diving into the analytics of the site in my effort to deduce which post was the most popular from year to year, I wasn’t really surprised by what I learned. For starters, I was there and I know which posts are frequented the most at any given time. Occasionally I will write a post that will generate an unimaginable amount of traffic based on the content. Normally I have a pretty good idea of which posts will be popular and which ones are only loved by me. The most popular (received the most traffic) post in 2011 was on modern kitchen trends.

Large kitchen Island - Prestonshire Residence

#1- Top Ten Modern Kitchen Design Trends (63,529 year two page views)
Kitchen design trends change fairly rapidly but most of the items on this list have been developing and refining for years. Despite the hype, kitchens don’t come into favor or go out of style in a year … if they do, I think you have a bad design on your hands. 

While I thought this was a good post, I didn’t figure it for being as popular as it became. Even to this day, this particular posts still drives traffic to my site – a total 646,722 page views for an average of 213 visits per day … and the kicker is that I originally wrote this on September 22, 2010, but it didn’t take off until 2011.

Weird, right?

The most popular post of 2012 was [drumroll please ……….]

Top Ten Modern Kitchen Design Trends, otherwise known as the same top post for 2011. So instead, I’ll share with you the #2 most popular post of 2012 [another drumroll please ……….]

Show me the money - An Architect's Salary

Architect’s Salary Wanna Know?
How much money do I make? I never get asked this question even though people are probably curious. There is a perception from the general public (at least those that I run across) that architects make a lot of money. There is also the perception from within the younger members of the architectural community that think architects don’t make enough.

It took me a while to write a post on salary despite the onslaught of emails I receive from people curious to know exactly how much money I make. This was another post that I wrote in 2010 that somehow caught the attention of the search engines in 2012.

Up until this point Life of an Architect was still a nights and weekends pursuit. While writing blog posts was no longer the mental challenge it was when I started, I was continuing to add and develop other peripheral distractions to my daily to-do list. Engagement on social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, my Life of an Architect Facebook Page, etc. were all a major source of engagement and distribution of the content I was creating and I was spending more and more time in my attempt to continue expanding the reach of the website. Why? I don’t have an answer to that question other than I am a competitive person and I saw it as a challenge. I could see that the site was helping create a conversation about what architects actually do and I believed then, just as I believe now, that until the general public understands what architects do it’s hard to value it … and without value, there can be no appreciation.

I think it is important to point out that I was making everything up as I went. My attention to detail combined with the excitement of being out in the fast, dark moving waters by yourself was a huge motivator to continue experimenting with what I was doing and being in a position to evaluate if it was working. It wasn’t until year three that I had enough information to discern patterns and predict certain types of behavior. For example, I don’t moderate comments on my site, but at this point, I was still able to keep up and I responded to every single comment that was on my site so I always had a handle on what people were saying in the comment section. Unlike other sites where engagement is desired, (and unlike the “How to Spot a Hippie” post) I don’t get very many negative comments and people have always been very respectful when they chose to disagree with someone else. Year three was when the culture of Life of an Architect really became a tangible thing and people knew without having to be told what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. In the subsequent years, this turned out to be a very valuable thing.

Tomorrow will be a look at years four and five. I hope you will join me for the rest of the story. If I’ve left out a tale you were interested in, or possibly have a question you would like me to answer, please feel free to add it to the comment section.


Bob signature FAIA

if you are just now joining this particular party, you should go back and read the introductory year one article – The Birth Year

Source: Life of an Architect