2011 Recap

By Bill Kenney

Here we are the end of 2011, and it has been an amazing year. It was great for us both in things that we learned as well as company growth. We wanted to take a minute to breathe and reflect on how it all went down, what we learned, and to share some insight and show some love.

2011 Recap 1

First thing’s first.

Thank You! - to all of our clients and peers.

It is because of you that we are able to live our dream and do what we love on a daily basis. We are blessed to have great clients and peers that share thoughts and push us to become better at what we do. We cannot thank you enough.

How the year started

The short story is we finally made a website for ourselves. If you’ve been following us for a while, you may remember we started the year with a re-branding and the launch of our new website. This was truly the jumping-off point for our business. Our year would not have been the same without it. We created a brand that was simple, yet powerful and a site that embodied our work and personalities. Within weeks we were quoting projects that were unattainable just last year. We had no idea the impact the new site would have.

Our site redesign from early 2011

Having said that, and not to be outdone, we are very excited to be launching a more polished and content rich version of the current site this January. With the amount of growth experienced, accomplishments achieved and clients gained this year, we are excited to deliver our next installment that will showcase Focus Lab even more clearly.

Refining our skills

2011 was a year of refining and enhancing our skills. When Focus Lab started, we tried to be a full-service, everything-to-everyone kind of firm. That’s a real challenge with a small team. It makes refining specific skills difficult and perfection of those skills out of the question.

At the beginning of the year, we were designing print work, so we chose to handle the printing orders as well. We were designing and developing robust websites so, in turn, we offered a range of hosting solutions to those we were developing for. Good design often requires powerful photography, so we were taking pictures too. While the work was steady and often rewarding, we realized all of these additional tasks, tasks that could be outsourced, were overwhelming our true passions for branding and web development, and were keeping us from truly advancing our skills in these areas.

We have now more clearly defined business goals, and have begun eliminating and/or outsourcing some of the additional things we did in the past. Moving forward we want our future clients to know that we do a small set of things and we do them extremely well. Those things will ultimately be Branding & ExpressionEngine Development.

Speaking Events

We were humbled to be selected to speak at two great conferences in 2011. Our mastermind Erik Reagan was selected to speak at the international ExpressionEngine conference called EECI held in Brooklyn, New York this year. He dropped knowledge on the nerdy topic of Version Control and Multi-Environment development and was also invited to lead the only workshop at the conference.

Photos from speaking events EECI & Geekend 2011

We were also selected to speak at a great interactive conference called Geekend. Our topic “Knowing is Half the Battle” discussed the challenges inherent in starting your own business. We shined the light on our personal experiences in starting and running Focus Lab with topics such as: when to take the leap, pricing your work, creating and using contracts, how to say “no” and keeping your sanity. Check out our blog post detailing the full presentation.

Projects from 2011

As I talked about earlier in refining our skills, we have really started to put an emphasis on our branding services. We were always passionate about branding, but this year we were able to focus on this as one of our primary and more sought-after services. We were able to create some powerful brands for some great companies this year. Check out examples of work below.

Screenshots of some of our work during 2011

To balance out the branding side, our larger and more recognized niche is creating beautifully designed and feature-rich ExpressionEngine websites. We value both the user experience on the front end and the ability for the client to manage their content on a dynamic CMS backend. We have had the pleasure of developing a wide variety of sites this year, check out some examples of work below.

Screenshots of some of our work during 2011


  • One of six selected to the ExpressionEngine Reactor Team
    • Erik Reagan was one of only six developers to join a community-based “Reactor Team” that was formed by EllisLab. This team is in the unique position to influence the core code of a commercial product. You can read more about what this means in EllisLab’s blog post, ExpressionEngine Reactor, For Developers by Developers.
  • Selected for LogoLounge 7
    • Bill Kenney’s branding work for client Fitzhugh was selected to be featured in the Rockport publication Logo Lounge 7 coming out in July 2012. It was one of only 2000 images selected from a field of 36,000 entries.
  • Mentioned in .Net Magazine
    • We are in the summer 2011 issue (218) of .Net magazine regarding our use of ExpressionEngine. Small, but fun.

Blogging & Community engagement

Although we knew we wanted to have a blog on our site we had no idea how important it would actually be. The reactions from our readers have been great, and have inspired us to make the blog a key focal point moving forward in 2012. We love sharing our work and experiences with our peers, as well as showcasing our services and our in-depth processes for prospective clients. By being completely transparent on how we work through projects and what we are learning as business owners, our blog has been a great resource for our readers and our team. There will be plenty of good reading to come in 2012.

Building our A-Team

One of the biggest changes for us this year was the growth of our team. We are proud to have grown to a team of six talented chaps that all bring their own skills to Focus Lab. The mix of personalities and skills is making us even more excited about kicking off the new year. The new members will be officially announced with the launch of the updated site in January.

All that to say…

We had an amazing year and look forward to building upon it in 2012. Thank you again to all our clients and peers who continue to inspire us and help us grow. We have some fun things planned from 2012 and look forward to sharing and experiencing it with all of you. Happy Holidays and…

See you in 2012!