I’m very pleased to officially present the new Forte Labs website!
Here’s what’s new:
I had designed my last logo in about 15 minutes using cheap software, and it wasn’t up to the task of representing the company any longer.
The WordPress developer created it as part of the site design, and I think it’s a huge improvement:
The two diagonal lines come from the crossbars on the F. Their upward slant represents the improvement, achievement, and optimism that our followers are seeking. The red color and the font are meant to signal the boldness and courage required to overturn established ways of doing things.
But the logo is also rounded and curved, representing self-awareness, personal growth, and sensitivity. We are not part of the “24/7 hustler culture” that tells people to sacrifice their wellbeing and peace of mind.
Website and blog integration
For the first time, my blog is part of my main website. Previously I had the blog on WordPress, and my homepage on Squarespace, which led to all sorts of confusion and reduced my SEO (search engine optimization) traffic.
I was always afraid that moving completely to a custom platform like WordPress meant that I wouldn’t be able to make changes myself. I was afraid I’d have to pay a developer by the hour just to publish a blog post. This has proven to be totally unfounded – we are using a page builder called Elementor that gives us the best of both worlds: customization and flexibility.
Now the last 3 published posts are previewed just below the fold on the homepage, and the full gallery view is a click away.
Top priority is email subscriptions
Previously I showcased my Building a Second Brain course front and center at the very top of the site, since that’s where I ultimately wanted people to end up.
But working with my business coach this year, I’ve realized that that is like asking for someone’s hand in marriage on the first date. No one buys a premium-priced course at first sight. They need to slowly establish a relationship with me and learn to trust me.
That’s why the top priority across every aspect of the new site is email subscriptions. I have a form at the top of the homepage, on the bottom of every other page, and at the bottom and middle of every blog post. Each one promises a “content upgrade” (like a small bribe) as an incentive to subscribe.
It’s not enough to just collect email addresses. After several years of sending out emails “whenever I felt like it,” I’ve committed to sending out one newsletter per week full of valuable free content. These efforts combined have led to an incredible growth in my subscriber base from about 6k in August to 15k today.
Introducing Forte Academy
Back in November I announced Forte Academy, our new name for the online school we’ve been slowly building over the nearly 8 years we’ve been in business.
We now offer 5 courses (plus two premium modules) on different aspects of personal productivity, including task management, habit formation, knowledge management, modern writing, and goal-setting. (Update 2022: These courses are no longer available. You can find an overview of our offers on buildingasecondbrain.com.)
It kind of happened on accident, with each new course growing out of the needs of the previous one, but layer by layer we are building a holistic curriculum for modern knowledge work. I created the Digital Productivity Pyramid to describe how each layer builds upon the one before. And our 8 pillars of education explain the principles that underlie our teaching philosophy.
Forte Academy now has its own page. For now this is a “soft launch,” but as we add new courses taught by new instructors I hope it will eventually grow into a platform for transformational education, where teachers with powerful knowledge to share can do so without having to figure out all the tech infrastructure and logistics.
My ultimate dream is that the best teachers, coaches, and experts in the world can just log on and serve the world’s students. And that they can make just as much or (far) more money while serving vastly more students at a fraction of the price it would normally cost.
New “Start Here” page
This is the part I’m most proud of. By far the biggest complaint from website visitors has been “I can’t tell what the heck you do!” All my explanations were either way too specific and technical, or way too vague and abstract. There were huge barriers of time and effort just for people to understand what I offer.
I knew this was the case, but felt powerless to change it. Totally immersed in my work 100% of the time, I lacked the perspective to see it from the outside. I worked with my developer and a couple dozen generous Twitter followers to craft a new Start Here page that, for the first time, I think does a decent job of introducing my ideas to newcomers.
I hope this becomes a resource that you feel comfortable sending to friends or colleagues, knowing that they’ll get a nice introduction without drowning in a firehose of content.
New ways of exploring Praxis
Another big pain point for visitors has been making sense of the Praxis blog. For about 6 years I’ve published posts on many different aspects of productivity, effectiveness, learning, knowledge management, etc.
But for this redesign I took a big step back and focused on organizing what’s already there. I revised the blog page to explain what the blog is about, including a full list of topics with direct links to view them.
You can view all these topics grouped under 9 “learnings goals” like “Developing your self-awareness,” “Sharing your ideas,” “Doing your best work,” and of course, “Creating a system of knowledge management.” You can also see posts organized by series and type at the bottom.
In just over 2 years, Praxis has become a six-figure annual business with nearly 1k monthly subscribers. I hope this new design will help them find the most impactful strategies for any challenge they encounter, while setting the stage for the next phase of growth.
Forte Labs community
We’ve seen tremendous growth in our public communities on Facebook and Slack in the last year. I was hesitant about investing in them, because I didn’t want to spend more time on social media, and didn’t want messages and notifications to distract me from what matters.
But I’ve seen the tremendous value in having a semi-public forum for people to meet each other, discuss their problems and wins alike, and even collaborate on projects together.
The Building a Second Brain Facebook group has become a great way for people completely new to these ideas to dip their toes in the water. Nearly half the new members report that the group was recommended by Facebook. These are people I think I would have difficulty reaching otherwise.
The Forte Labs Slack has become like a network of workshops. People have created dozens of channels for various apps and topics and I am consistently shocked how active and helpful they are. Every time I see a thread it already has an answer.
So we’re doubling down on community and have made Join our Community an official page accessible from the main menu. We even have a Code of Conduct!
The next stage
This has become a general update on the state of the company and community, but I don’t mind. The feeling I have is that we are breaking out. Breaking out of obscurity, out of scarcity, out of adolescence, out of our narrow niche.
The events of the past few months have changed the environment in which we operate. Productivity tools and self-management skills were luxuries for the intellectual elite just months ago. Now they are essential survival skills. Maslow’s Hierarchy has been completely turned on its head.
That also means our role has changed. We are all called to be the leaders and trailblazers of this new environment. We have spent years exploring the frontier of modern work, of what it means to be a full citizen of the Internet, of how to make sense of the world and act effectively within it. That experience has prepared us to help others through the even more uncertain world we are entering.
If I had to predict what the next stage of Forte Labs was about, I would say that it’s about making the incredibly powerful knowledge we have available to everyone else. It’s about opening up, simplifying and streamlining our ideas into practical, easy to understand messages.
I have big news to share on that front very soon. But for now, thank you. Thank you for reading my blog posts, taking our courses, subscribing to these emails, and giving us the feedback that made this new online home possible.
If you wouldn’t mind sharing the website with anyone you think might benefit, I’d appreciate that too 😉
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