Collis Ta'eed is the kind of guy that every web designer with a little entrepreneurial spirit wants to be. He is a trend-setting designer who's work is seen, used, and interacted with by millions of people a day on Envato's sites like PSDTUTS and FlashDen. I would list all of the sites here, but there is just too darn many of them it would take up the whole paragraph! If Collis merely designed all these sites, that would be an incredible accomplishment. But Collis not only designed them all, but is the companies CEO and "idea guy" as well!
CHRIS: You are the CEO of a successful company that you started. You travel around the world living and working from different countries. You work with your wife and family. You get to design websites all day. Is that as awesome as it sounds?
COLLIS: It certainly is pretty awesome! I'm not sure what I did to deserve such a good life, but I sure am glad that it happened. Traveling was a really neat experience, we actually decided to do it after my wife Cyan read that Tim Ferriss book "The Four Hour Workweek". Of course in practice both of us continued working 50-60 hour weeks, so I suspect Tim wouldn't have been very proud of us.
Because Envato has been growing so quickly, we recently decided after one brilliant year of traveling that it was time to come back to Australia and really establish our Melbourne HQ. We have some really big plans for Envato and though most of our team is spread out across the globe it helps to have a core team together in one place.
CHRIS: All Envato's sites/businesses are all in some way focused on the design or creative world. Do you have any plans to break away from that and try something different in the future?
COLLIS: I think when you get into business it's always best to work on something you know and understand. For us the creative fields are where we came from so it has made a lot of sense to make that the core of our business. I think we are slowly branching further and further out and I think if all goes to plan next year will see us get into new areas.
In particular we're working on a lot of Tuts+ plans to expand to teaching all sorts of things. But before we get to anything really novel, we still have more than a few creative fields to explore. In particular Skellie is now working on a Cgtuts+ site to teach 3d skills which promises to be very cool!
CHRIS: You literally designed every one of Envato's sites yourself. They all feel Collis-y to me. You also mentioned on The Netsetter that this may become a problem, as doing things yourself will only get you so far. Is that going to be a hard day when you need to reliquish design control of the sites?
COLLIS: Oh yes it certainly is going to be difficult giving up the design work! I love design and I often think about how our sites should work while designing them. Nonetheless my time seems to be getting scarcer and scarcer and lately I've been bottlenecking the team while they wait for me which isn't too good!
With the upcoming redesign of our marketplace sites we actually got input from three great web designers - Liam Mckay of WeFunction.com, Aaron Lynch of Stoodeo.com and Kai Loon Chan of Kailoon.com. That was a really neat experience as the three of them had some great ideas that have made the design so much better. It also means I have some scape goats to blame if things go wrong :-P But seriously, I hope we can find designers that talented to join the team later this year!
CHRIS: I'm sure the last thing you have time for these days is freelance jobs, but is there one project that if you were given the opportunity to freelance on, there is no way you could pass up?
COLLIS: There sure is, I would LOVE the chance to make some awesome themes for Gmail :-) I use it every day and was thrilled when they introduced their themes feature. Now if someone from Google would just email me to let me make something that looked awesome, I'd be sorely tempted to break my ban on freelance work!
[[ ED: Are you listening Google?! You HAVE to get this man on some Gmail themes! ]]
CHRIS: I imagine you get a lot of feedback on all your sites from readers or users who try to tell you how you should be running things. How do you handle this?
COLLIS: As we all know sometimes it can be hard taking feedback, especially negative feedback! But I always think I'd rather have our sites filled with people who care enough to give an opinion and we try to take as much on board as possible. Sometimes you can't keep everyone happy, and sometimes things aren't necessarily practical, but we do our best!
The one thing that always gives me the heeby-jeebies is releasing a new design. The bigger our sites get the more people are involved which can be a bit scary. So far we've been really fortunate that most of our designs have gone down well. I guess as long as there aren't any street protests like Facebook's redesign got then I'll be happy :-)