Cartoons and animation have always been near and dear to my heart. From DC Comics to 4Kids to various fansites for my own amusement. In 2007, I decided to make my hobby official and launch ToonBarn, my animation portal. In the early days…

The 2007 versions used traditional home and show pages, leveraging a single template for each property. The universal farm themes set the stage, while widget-based feature content filled in the pieces. By 2008, it became clear the 4Kids-inspired designs were not properly utilizing my resources; updates were time-consuming, sections grew stale, etc. As a gamble, I reworked the concept, reinventing ToonBarn as a magazine-styled news outlet for animation.

The payoff was huge and swift. With the WordPress backend fully adopted, and blog-format in place, new content was easily added several times every day. More importantly, traffic numbers began climbing at a steady pace from late 2008 to early 2009. The former side project was generating revenue, and licensing companies were requesting placement to feature their products.

By 2010 and into 2011, ToonBarn was a viable business. I began watching various trends and analytics, seeing what would work, and how design impacts would directly translate to traffic. The site’s evolution is a direct result of these findings, prioritizing elements as the user’s demanded, while maintaining 3-5 content updates per day.

Today, ToonBarn has become so much more than an on-the-side project, with 25-50,000 daily unique visits. There are nearly a dozen staffed writers, and we’ve partnered with over 30 ad agencies and licensees to push new content. I continue to tweak the designs, always starting with Photoshop mockups until something “clicks” visually for me – a new look is intended to launch late 2013, early 2014.