I was riding the bus home after another busy work day full of meetings, designing, and other time consuming activities. My headphones where turned all the way up, and I was listening to my favorite podcast at the time, called Optimal Living Daily(or O.L.D).
On O.L.D., the host narrates 1 to 2 short articles per episode on personal development & minimalism from top blogs on the subjects. Each episode is around 8 to 12 minutes long – perfect for short bus rides or dog walks. They are so easy to consume that I normally found myself listening to 2 or 3 episodes per session.
Anyways, my phone buzzed, and I looked down to see a familiar email reminder from Medium that there were new UX articles for me to read. I quickly dismissed it.
“I really need to turn off these annoying notifications.” I thought to myself.
Then it occurred to me.. when was the last time I actually opened Medium to read those new articles?
The answer: probably MONTHS.
Work and life had snowballed to a point where the only extra info I had time(or energy) to consume was in the form of my beloved podcasts.
Podcasts ran my life at this point. News, sports, business, finance – you name it, I had a podcast for it. They were so easy to tune into at any point in my day with the ability to multi-task.
None quite did it for me like good ole’ O.L.D. I loved the brevity of each episode. It was easy to jump in and out without the commitment of listening to full hour-long episodes(because I rarely had an hour straight to listen).
As I was riding the bus home listening to O.L.D. that November afternoon, slightly annoyed at myself for not opening Medium to catch up on all the great articles I’d missed over the months, it hit me: there should be an O.L.D.-style podcast focused only on digital design articles.
UX, UI, user research, accessibility – there are so many great blogs and articles on these subjects. Why not turn those exceptional articles into bite-size podcast episodes, so other busy designers or design-enthusiasts can listen and learn on the go?
I had no idea how to build or manage a podcast. It sounded HARD. I put it on the back burner for a few days.
The idea kept nagging at me though, so I finally decided to do some research.
Little did I know that 5 weeks later I would be launching a 35-episode season 1 of my very own design podcast!
I scoped the design podcast scene to learn all I could about the existing design shows. There were quite a few, to my surprise.
Some were hosted by companies like Dribbble and InVision, while others were hosted by designers with a passion for design. They mostly consisted of 1-hour long interviews of popular designers in the industry, published once every 2-3 weeks.
Now, these are all great shows. They weren’t easy to consume in short bursts though, and didn’t seem to cover the full range of topics in the design industry.
I saw my opening.
I would create a weekly podcast consisting of 2-3 short episodes per week, where I would narrate vetted articles from top blogs and authors in the design industry. Articles would need to meet certain criteria, such as being useful, well-written, and unique. Each episode would be under 12 minutes.
Before I could actually begin the process of building the show, I needed to get permission from blogs and authors to read their content on the show. My aim was 4-5 blogs, and I ended up getting permission from 8: UX Collective, Smashing Magazine, UX Planet, DESK, speckyboy, UX Rocks, The Design Team, and UX Movement.
I also needed to decide on a name. I wanted the name to convey the topic of all digital design(not just UX), the brevity of each episode, and the fact that there would be several episodes per week.
My shortlist included:
Digital Design Standup
The Digital Design Show
I landed on Design Standup.
Website + hosting platform
Google Play Music
Social media profiles
Metrics for success
Unique website visitors
Social media followers
UX designer: Me
Content strategist: Me
Incorporate an element of digital design
Have potential to standalone in marketing material
Be scalable to other umbrella podcast ideas
i.e. Photography Standup
Keep it simple
Avoid intricate/small elements that may be hard to decipher
Use white space
Easily recognizable from other shows on both small and large devices
Deciding on a web hosting platform for Design Standup was more complex than I had anticipated. It was not as simple as whipping up a quick WordPress site and posting audio files.
The audio files would need to be hosted on a platform specialized for podcasts with dynamic RSS feed capabilities. It would require high storage volume for large audio files as well.
I also had my own requirements:
Pre-schedule episode releases(day/time)
Sync with iTunes settings
Automatic social sharing
Custom pages(i.e. About, Contact, etc)
Advanced download analytics
Web ad placements
Episode category tagging
The top host contenders came down to Simplecast, Blubrry, Buzzsprout, Castos, and PodBean.
My top priorities in deciding were cost and storage. I knew I’d be posting frequently, raking up a lot of storage, and I didn’t want to commit to a high monthly fee to start.
I decided on PodBean due to its low cost and unlimited monthly storage. It met most of my requirements with a few exceptions:
No CSS access(did have text formatting and basic HTML access)
Limited to 15 web templates with basic color/font options(no custom layouts or feature changes)
No Google ads due to basic HTML customization
Now, I could have taken the extra step to link my podcast-RSS-feed site to a second host like WordPress, which would allow full website customization. I decided against that for MVP release due to the time and cost. Besides, most listeners would subscribe to the show via podcasting apps and bypass the website all together.
The website for Design Standup would obviously include episodes, but I was unsure what other content should be included and in what sort of hierarchy.
I also had no clue what content I should put on each episode page. This content was most critical because it would be distributed to all podcasting apps with each new episode.
My answers to these questions, as well as other feature ideas, came via website teardowns of my favorite podcasts.
Teardown #1: Optimal Living Daily
Title includes episode number, article name, author, and blog
Simple, 1 sentence overview of show, background of author, and links to relevant websites
Subscribe widget that links to podcast page on iOS/Android apps
Bios for all authors featured on show
Links to their websites
Open search for any term(blogs, authors, categories, etc)
Teardown #2: Design Details
Links directly to show on various podcast apps
“Hosted by” links
Link to review the show on iTunes
Teardown #3: Overtime
Unique image for each episode
Teardown #4: Dave Ramsey
Date in episode image allows for quick scanning by date(useful when posting multiple episodes per week)
Flow based off teardowns and personal requirements
External links 1(homepage):
Podcast show pages
Twitter/web link for host(me)
External links 2(episode):
Rate & review
External links 3(about):
Podcast show pages
External links 4(authors):
All articles by author
External links 5(contact):
Podcast show pages
I wanted the visual branding of Design Standup to stand out in whichever theme I chose. It was especially important to highlight the episode images so the dates could be easily scannable(as shown in Dave Ramsey’s podcast).
A majority of my traffic would be coming from mobile devices(people listening to podcasts on the go), so it was crucial for the layout to scale down to mobile successfully – no wonky spacing, feature limitations, etc.
The theme I chose accommodated most of my requirements and felt the most mobile-friendly. It was at least a good starting point until I decided whether or not to build a completely custom website in the future.
A visually appealing, modern theme that highlights your recent episodes. Suitable for audio podcasts.
Stickers (late addition)
With the website up and running, and the show submitted to the major podcasting platforms, it was time to turn my attention to content and production process.
I had 8 blogs on board along along with a few independent authors. My first goal was to create a continuous backlog of articles from these approved sources that met certain criteria:
Informative & fresh perspective
Could be translated easily to podcast(not reliant on images for story)
Airtable was my go-to tool for process-related goals, and it seemed to be the perfect fit for this purpose. I checked the Airtable Universe first to see if any pre-made templates existed that fit my needs. No luck. I set to work creating my own.
Save blog articles that met prescribed criteria
Tag articles with title, author, blog, categories, date published, link, overall quality, character count, and status(assigned to episode or backlog)
Determine how many shows article required based off character count(.5, 1, 2, 3).
Store meta-data for each episode(title, publish date, short description, and image)
Assign related links(web post, script, bitly short-links)
Set objective deadlines for each episode(i.e. when to record, draft, publish, etc)
Track episodes by status(unassigned, assigned, ready to record, ready to edit, ready to draft, set to publish, published)
Plan weekly tasks using a“deadlines” calendar
Get alerted when an episode is past a deadline(via color-coded records)
Record downloads per episode
Store episode copy for social media posts
Instagram import/export table
Dynamically import/export Instagram posts
Overall episode analysis by category, blog, author, and length
Monthly episode breakdown by downloads, category, blog, and author
Yearly episode breakdown by downloads, category, blog, and author
No podcast is successful without a solid social media marketing plan.
The platforms I would focus on were:
PodBean, my website host, offered automatic episode posting to YouTube and Facebook. The other 4 platforms would require manual sharing.
The content I wanted to share was simple. I wanted to let my followers know:
Weekly schedule of episode details(who, what, when)
Featured quotes from articles
Weekly lineup: Final
Weekly Lineup - Dark
Weekly Lineup - Light
From January through April 2019, I released 35 episodes of Design Standup.
Here are the statistics(as of November 2019) related to my aforementioned success metrics:
1,150 unique website visitors
1056 social media followers
What isn’t reflected in these metrics are the countless hours spent preparing, recording, editing, publishing and marketing each episode. I’ve estimated the total time spent on each episode to be 6 hours(or 210 HOURS TOTAL!). All those hours were done on personal time outside of my day job.
By the end of April I was starting to feel extremely burnt out. I considered reducing the show to 1 per week or bi-weekly, but that went against my mission of providing listeners several articles per week.
My other option was to split the show into seasons. That would allow me to take time off and make the show better in between seasons. Genius. I decided to end season 1 at 35 episodes.
Design Standup has allowed me to flex muscles I rarely get to in my day job: content strategist, production coordinator, social media marketer, graphic artist, and podcast host. These skills have paid dividends in my day job(Airtable most of all!), and gave me a channel to connect with so many amazing designers and design enthusiasts in the industry.
There are a few areas I would love to clean up before season 2. The website template from PodBean is effective, but far from ideal. I would love to design a new website with complete control over features and layout. I also think the show itself could be enhanced by incorporating interviews with real people vs only reading articles.
Thank you for checking out this project. Make sure to subscribe to and follow the show via the below links!
Fill up those coffees, turn up those tunes, and let’s… design a better world ☕️🎨🌎