Answering Your Questions with "Ask Jane"

I created a new post on questions I get asked about career and work.

I created a new page called “Ask Jane”. I noticed that I’ve been getting similar questions about my work. I want to be helpful so I provide a lot of details. But, it isn’t efficient. I know a lot of people are curious about data visualization, so I started a page where I answer questions I’ve been asked. This page achieves three core outcomes:

  1. I can scale myself. I don’t need to answer questions individually. If someone reaches out to me wanting to learn more about data visualization, then I can direct them to this page. If they have more specific questions, we can connect again.

  2. I usually get similar questions from people. Other times, I get really interesting ones that not many people think of, but it would be helpful if I shared my answers. One such question was when someone asked me about how I told my parents about being independent. He is from an immigrant family based in the US, so this is something that is challenging to deal with.

  3. Each question I get asked has the potential to become more content. I could turn it into an article or a video. It’s an endless stream of content generation. For ones that I think will provide a lot of value, I would convert them to long-form content.

This page also includes questions I’ve gotten from you, the subscribers. The page will be regularly updated.

Building a new website

In general, a lot of people have questions about how to build their portfolio online. There seems to be an inverse relationship between time and money when it comes to building your own website. If you have more money than time, Wix and Squarespace are your best bets. If you have more time than money, then you can consider WordPress or GitHub Pages.

My website is built on Wordpress and I host with GoDaddy. In general, I pay about $24 CAD per month (I am only a 2-year plan with GoDaddy). When I use GoDaddy, I am paying for domain, hosting space, and SSL certificate. Here’s a breakdown of my costs:

  • Domain: $59.97 (for 3 years)

  • Basic Managed WordPress Websites: $179.64 (for 3 years)

  • SSL certificate: 339.98 (for 2 years)

If we look at this per month with taxes:

  • Domain + Hosting: $10.31

  • SSL certificate: $14.17

I got my SSL certificate a bit later, which is why the plan is off with domain and hosting. I bought the certificate because I learned that it helped improve SEO for your website. Little did I know that it would be so expensive! I have been recommended to check out Let’s Encrypt for free SSL certificates.

A few weeks ago, the theme I was using for my website crashed. I always have to fight with the interface when I use WordPress. When my theme crashed, it was time to look for a new home for my website.

I was recommended Netlify and Hugo as an alternative to try. I never used these before so I spent several nights looking into it. They provide a free SSL certificate (via Let’s Encrypt) and they claim their sites are fast. My WordPress site took forever to load, it was problematic. From what I gather about how Netlify works, you build your site through a static site generator (such as Hugo, Jekyll, Gatsby etc.), push it to GitHub, and deploy to Netlify. I am not tech savvy at all, so I am still figuring it out.

Netlify has a free plan which has more than enough features for a personal website. This means all you need to pay for in terms of money is a domain. As a tradeoff, you will need to invest time to install and learn how to use it.

If you want to try your hand at it, I recommend starting out with this post to install Hugo. It’s helpful to go through the whole thing to understand how Hugo works. I had trouble deploying the site to Netlify, and found this video helpful, it uses Forestry to import a Hugo theme and deploy it to Netlify. It’s a high learning curve so take your time with it. I just managed to deploy a Hugo site to Netlify (it took me about 2 weeks to figure out).

Workshop speed run

In late September, I delivered my very first workshop! Hooray! I recorded a speed run of it as a 30 minute video (the actual workshop was 3 hours). You can find it here.

It was fantastic to speak to students and everyone was so engaged. Here’s one of the feedback sessions we had after students completed their exercise. Students visualized a dataset I found from MakeOverMonday. They had 30 minutes to complete it and did it in pairs. Here’s a short clip of the first group presenting what they came up with. Key takeaway is to avoid 3D pie charts and be intentional with colour.

I plan to write an article on how I put this workshop together. Surprisingly, there isn’t a resource like this yet. There’s lots of people selling workshops, but no one has written in-depth about it yet! Another white space to be filled! I’m aiming for it to be out by the next issue, keep an eye for it if you want to build your own data visualization workshop.

I want to hear from you!

I am looking for some feedback on this newsletter. I want to make sure I am writing relevant stuff so it’s important I hear from you.

  • What has been helpful so far?

  • What hasn’t been helpful so far?

  • What do you want to see more of?

You can reply to this e-mail with your feedback.

About Jane

I am an independent data visualization designer based in Toronto, Canada. To see my latest work, check out my website.

Ever since I became an independent designer in 2019, I’ve had many insights about life, work, data visualization, design, and creativity. I have been documenting these insights as much as I can through various mediums. In 2020, I decided to start a newsletter where I can put all these insights in one place. This newsletter is meant for people who want to learn more about what it’s like to be an independent data visualization designer.