Heading to 2021 and What Was Interesting About 2020


We started this year in Thailand on top of one of the biggest skyscrapers in Bangkok. Perfect vibes, cool DJs, happy moods. Everything was just great that night.

We’ve had big expectations for this year and not only that but exciting plans as well. And I must say it went ok in terms of our plans and things that we did. I can’t say that things went the way we wanted, but that’s what we’ve learned before.

Don’t have high expectations and always try to be flexible with your plans.

I always try to learn something even tho things don’t work as planned. I’ve learned a lot this year. And in this article, I’d like to summarize what was done and some of the thoughts that came to my mind this year.

Travel & Business

It wasn't easy to travel this year for many reasons even tho we’ve based ourselves in Europe, and it was relatively easy to book a flight and go somewhere for a weekend or 3-4 days. However, travel was not our main goal for this year. So partially, we were ok with that.


As crazy as it sounds, I’ve managed to open and close a business that I didn’t even start to run. Long to story short, our main plan this year was to settle down in a small EU country and move to the next stage.

Our country of choice was Slovenia due to many reasons. It was also relatively easy for us to register a company there and hire me as an employee to get a residency and work permit. We’ve used a company that helps with all the processes. They were advertised as qualified consultants.

Everything seemed easy on paper, and I’ve paid them a noticeable sum of money to simplify the whole process. Still, because of their incompetence and partially because of constantly changing government requirements, we decided to shut down the whole process right in the middle. We found another solution right after it was decided to change our initial plan. So at the end of February, we’ve moved to Estonia right before the world went crazy with this virus situation.


We’ve used the startup visa option, and I already have my first company registered there. The good thing about Estonia is that things simply work there, and almost everything can be done digitally. In that sense, Slovenia is like a rural village, and it isn’t easy to make things work without meeting in person and signing a bunch of paperwork. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to close my Slovenian company remotely, except for the fact that I needed to mail some paperwork translated and verified by my local notary.

The whole process required me to visit Slovenia just once to sign off on it finally. That was the only time we’ve traveled in the summer of 2020. Also, we didn’t have a direct flight from Estonia to Slovenia. So we’ve traveled a little bit in Austria as well, and it took just 2-4 days.

Projects

This year I’ve worked on several projects. Some of them are still in progress, and I plan to release a couple in the first quarter of 2021.

In general, I understood that I want to work more on self-sufficient tech products — not just design or educational products. I like to automate things and find creative solutions to problems. I have a good background in design, but I don’t want to settle on this. I want to achieve something more than that. I’ve helped numerous companies to improve their businesses and build well-designed products for the past 10 years, and I think it’s time to create one myself.

I believe in the idea of creating something remarkable and doing it on my own. Even tho it might take a lot of time doing it in indie mode. And the design is still a big part of what I’m doing even tho it’s related to tech products.

CVD

I’ve experimented with building an MVP using external APIs and the first product I’ve built and launched this year was an interactive map with COVID cases around the world. It was relevant at that time.

One thing that I did differently from similar products I found online is that I’ve tried to visualize it as the data that is related to a specific time. So I’ve added a date slider, which allows you to see how the data on the map changes when you move the slider.


It quickly refreshes the pins on the map, and you can see the progression of cases stats. It’s not 100% accurate for many reasons, but this project's main goal was to learn to use maps and add on top a data layer. The data is identified virus cases worldwide — the hot topic at that period of time. Of course, this is not only a hot topic, but I think a politicized event and the data can be even less accurate, so I think I’ll change the status of this project as discontinued at the beginning of the next year, but leave it in my archive just in case I need it for future developments.

This project doesn’t have any monetization and even ads. I’ve built it in 3-4 days using APIs and basic coding languages. No frameworks, except JQuery library.

UIForms

I had some success with the Nightfall Design System in 2019, so I decided to try something similar and light during the summertime. I’ve created a design system that increases the speed of design of specific areas that exist in pretty much every UI Design project. UIForms Design Library automates Forms design process. It consists of all necessary Form elements that designers can customize and use in different combinations. Also, I’ve created a set of Templates for an even more lazy design mode. Basically, designers can grab a design form and place it on a mockup screen, whether it’s a Desktop or Mobile screen. It can be done with minimal effort and within 1-2 minutes. Which I think is quite good economically in commercial design projects.

There are plenty of UI kits, and Design systems around that designers can get even for Free. And since it’s a project that I wanted to monetize, I went in a bit different direction to stand out.

All the components and templates I’ve created in this design library have a neutral style and customization options. That was the main selling point because most of the UI kits or similar libraries have a defined style and a lot of limitations, and that means that you can use it once or maybe 2-3 times max.


The main idea of UIForms was to use it in pretty much every project, adapt it for designers' needs, and even planned to create a subscription model and push the updates in the Sketch Cloud for those who subscribe to it.

I’ve created the first version of this design library as a Sketch Library.

UIForms Figma


I’ve done some research and figured out that Figma is booming as a design tool, and they even had a well-known in design communities conference this year. So I’ve created the second edition of UIForms that supports Figma. Mostly, I’ve started from scratch and built the components and templates in a slightly different way. Even tho Sketch and Figma are not that different. There are some features that beneficial in one or another way. I took advantage of those features in both software to make the library as useful as possible. I’ve used such features in Sketch as Atomic Symbols, Colors library, Fonts library, and in addition to those, the Variants feature in Figma.

SPRY

This project is the biggest and longest so far. It’s already live as the private beta and currently powering a selection of websites.

The initial idea is to serve as a decentralized blogging platform, but now I’m thinking of it from a broader perspective.


Websites powered on SPRY have the best SEO without any plug-ins or additional settings required during a site set up. It just works as it supposed to be, taking into account the essentials of site-building processes. It has nothing in common with heavily advertised or dinosaur blogging platforms that have been around for quite some time. Moreover, it will even support new changes in Google and SEO, starting from 2021. That’s not an ad. I’m just happy with the progress on this and very excited to get some fresh hands on it.

Having your own corner on the web is becoming important again. So I believe creating an engine like SPRY is worthwhile. Social media has lost a lot of trust for the past year, and it’s getting even noisier there. So creating your blog and community in 2021 will be crucial, I think.

I haven’t planned the public release yet. This project is different from others. Moreover, it’s special to me. So I’m going to share access individually as of now. At least that’s what I think I’m gonna do in the first quarter of 2021. We’ll see how it goes afterward.

I was working on it almost every month. I’ve re-wrote the core functionality like two times already. Learned some of the modern tech tricks and optimized the User eXperience, and now it runs more smoothly. Not without bugs, but it’s temporary.

I plan to slowly develop it until the essential part works well enough to do the public release.

Remote Creators

Initially, I’ve started working on this project as a job board site back in February 2018 while traveling in Vietnam.

It was paused for some reason I can’t remember, and now it’s back on my work desk. 

I have some fresh ideas, and I want to try them here. I’ve already re-wrote the Front-End part and a little bit of the Back-End. So it’s more flexible with delivering the relevant content, and it does it smoother now. 

Anyway, it’s too early to reveal the MVP of this project. I’ve resumed working on it spontaneously at the end of 2020 and wanted to release the job board part in December, but I’ve been distracted a little bit with other projects and travel plans.

Re-location... again

We’ve spent most of this year in Tallinn, and we wanted to move and settle down completely. 

Well, partially that what has happened until one moment in summer became a turning point for us. 

All the things, in general, were great. We even bought some furniture, bicycles and minor stuff. We started planning our future there. However, different thoughts starting popping out.


Everything seemed normal but strange at the same time. And that was summer — the golden time of the year in Estonia. 

Things drastically started changing in Autumn. Every new day seemed exactly like every other day. We didn’t have any friends since we moved in, and obviously, making friends is hard to do during a global pandemic due to many reasons.

After the warm days in Estonia ended, it was the time when we just worked, worked, worked, watched movies, went out for some food supplies, repeat. We’ve started developing some depression and deficiencies signs even tho we’ve tried to hold on and keep ourselves busy, eat healthily and do some exercises like every day. However, that was, all the same, every day. We couldn’t go anywhere either because of the weather or because of the virus situation.

It requires lots of creative juices to do the work and projects that we do. I believe this is different if you do some somehow predictable work. It’s almost impossible to refill those creativity batteries if you work day and night, Monday till Sunday, just because there is nothing else to do and even not much to see other than through displays.

Rainy days slowly transitioned to cold and dark days. Every day, we wanted to go somewhere warm and light. So we started to look at what’s happening in Asia even tho it was clear that traveling is difficult these days.

Thailand is our favorite place to go, but they’ve changed their visa policies so much that it became almost impossible to get in unless you have a serious reason for that, like family or business.

Long story short, I’ve figured out how we can get into Bali, and we decided to take this opportunity until it was possible. It's quite difficult to travel internationally these days. I highly do not recommend doing so unless you have some specific reasons for it. Anyway, we’re in Bali now.

We don’t have any plans for further travels, and it seems like countries started closing up again. Certainly, I don’t think it’s a good idea to go back to Europe in the next month or two. We’ll see what happens next.

Disclaimer: This is not a travel advice.

What’s next

It’s been two weeks since we’ve moved to Bali. Things were kind of chaotic and not perfect at all till this point, but we’re happy to be here and trying to take in every good moment, whether it’s a sunny morning, a beautiful sunset, delicious food, or just a relaxed state of mind.


First thing first, we’re going to re-charge our creative batteries. We decide not to rush things out, at least until we adapt to the new life. I’ve started noticing some creative ideas again, so I guess it’s ok to slowly start working and releasing new projects right after New Year’s Holiday.

2020 Summary

This year was crazy, that’s for sure, but I’ve learned so much during this year. I’m not trying to be philosophical, and I think I’m too young for that. However, it came to my mind that mostly I’ve learned a lot about life. It includes life decisions, perception of life, business, technology, marketing, creativity, health. 

Hopefully, I’ve learned to make better decisions, don’t think so critically about work-related things and life in general. Achieve less but better results.

I don’t have a schedule or a wish list for 2021, and I don’t have any expectations. But I have a vision, and I’ll be doing the best I can to get ourselves closer to it the next year.

And I wish you the best what you can think of in 2021.

Happy New Year!

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Author

Max Snitser

Max is a digital product designer and indie maker. He helps some of the best companies in the world to build products used by Millions. He is a creator of the SPRY Blogging Platform, Nightfall Design System, and the Design Patterns Library. Besides his technical background, he is a writer of the book about Independent design business. Also, created this blog as a domain for the most thorough and data-driven content on topics: Design, Remote Work, Blogging, and Technologies.