Personal News & Updates

My Year In Review – 2018

2018 was a year of foundation building for me and my family after a year of transition in 2017. In late summer of 2017, I joined the University of Florida Health as a designer and front-end developer. Transitioning into that role took up the remainder of 2017 in terms of time, onboarding, and getting settled into both my new role and our new location in Gainesville, Florida.


In the Spring, I worked on a project for the nationally syndicated podcasts Animal Airwaves and Health in a Heartbeat. That new site involved taking a design already established by another designer and translating it into a fully functioning website with podcast support. I’m extremely proud of the work done on this site, as it introduced me to VueJS and is syndicated by NPR each week.

In late 2017, I began the process of having a gastric sleeve surgery. My weight has long been a struggle for both me and my family. It has kept me from some great opportunities and was a constant drain on my health. Thankfully, our health insurance provided coverage which allowed me to begin the process. I spent the spring of this year going through all the steps necessary to get approval. This included multiple visits with a surgeon, a nutritionist, my general practitioner, a psychologist, and more! In the process, I lost 55lbs before surgery. I’ve gotten many reactions, mostly positive, many curious, and a few negative from those I’ve shared the news with. I’m incredibly grateful for all the support I’ve received. I will say that this has been the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life, but also one of the most rewarding.


Summer brought me to my surgery. I was in the hospital for about 24 hours and returned to work within 10 days. But the process was really just beginning. I’ve spent the 5 months or so since surgery working to not only lose weight but change the way I feel about and respond to food and stress. For the most part, it has worked wonderfully. As of December 30, 2018, I’m down 110lbs. My goal is to ultimately lose about 270lbs. I’ll definitely be updating both my blog and Twitter with successes and failures.

On the work front, I spent the entire summer in the world of design. Alongside the other designer in my department, I worked to come up with concepts for a redesign of the theme that powers more than 700 of our sites at UF Health. To say this was a challenge for me would be an understatement. Having spent less than a year learning the organization, I was thrown into the deep end of understanding the politics, users, and goals of our organization in order to present two concepts that could be used as a major part of our online presence. The process stretched me in ways that my creativity wasn’t ready for, but in the end, I am better for it. I’m definitely looking forward to stretching my design muscles in 2019 on some personal projects and perhaps some for UF Health as well.

The summer is also where I began planning for picking up some of the side projects I had let wither. BuddyDrive has been in need of a major redevelopment for a few years now and work began in the summer planning for version 3.0 of the plugin and its ecosystem. I’m hoping to have a new version built on ReactJS ready in Spring of 2019. This will provide a solid foundation for creating an add-on ecosystem providing robust functionality for customer social networks and intranets. Please drop me a line if you are interested in partnering up to offer an add-on for BuddyDrive.

I also began making plans for a new plugin and a new project outside of WordPress during the summer. More on that later.


The Fall was an intense time. My team at UF Health transitioned from design to active development after receiving approval on a concept for our project. If I didn’t respond on Twitter or through email during this time, I apologize. Our small team worked many nights and weekends during this time to meet our deadlines. I dropped the ball on a few people and had to reach out to apologize. But as we move into the new year, I’m SUPER excited at sharing what these many, many hours created. We’re in a private beta period at the moment, but when it releases to the public, I’ll be shouting it from the mountaintops. To give you a little taste, I’ve spent the better part of four months learning ReactJS, creating about a dozen custom blocks for the new WordPress Gutenberg editor. Those blocks are as simple as a WP Nav Menu block to as complex as a block that reads from a central database via a REST call and lets our editors create custom directories and profiles for people with data pulled from the database, storing the items in the WordPress database in a way that is both easy to manage and not a drain on resources, while still providing a beautiful interface. I’m super proud of the work our team has done.

I also spent a lot of time in the Fall reflecting on the last five years. I’ve done a ton of learning and growing in that time both personally and professionally. As I move into my thirties this year, I want to know that the foundation I’ve created for myself and my family is solid and that it is something I can build upon and grow for the next five to ten years.

With that in mind, I’ve refined and honed not only my skills (I’m looking at you JavaScript) but also explored opportunities for side projects that would add income but also create an outlet for creativity that isn’t available to me anywhere else.


While winter is just starting, I wanted to include it in this post for a few reasons. First, I started off December at WordCamp US! While I have tried to attend this event in the past few years (even when it was WCSD), this year was my first year to attend! It was awesome! The sessions were pretty good, but it was the conversation and networking that really made it an incredible experience. I met no less than 25 people that I have known for years through the internet but was finally able to shake their hand, hug their neck or otherwise meet in real life. One of the ones I had been looking forward to for the longest was Joe Casabona. We have worked together, been in a mastermind together, and been friends for ages. But I finally met him at this event. It was fantastic and I sincerely hope I can attend the next one in St. Louis.

The winter has also been a time to launch new things. I’ve launched Builder Blocks, a directory of Gutenberg blocks for web builders and site creators. I’ve begun work on an unnamed video game projects that I’m excited to share more on in the new year and so many other things I’ll be writing about shortly.

Wrapping Up

2018 was a massive year. I can’t say that enough. I learned new skills. I met new friends. I met old friends. I’ve stopped doing things that weren’t building up my business. I’ve begun new projects. I’ve worked hard to be present for my family. I’ve lost an entire person’s worth of weight. I’ve gotten healthier. I’ve read LOTS of books. I plan to read more in 2019. It’s been a hard year, but a great year. I can’t wait to share what’s next for the Pritchett family!

By Matt Pritchett

Matt is a Christian, a husband, a father to four, and a software engineer at Saturday Drive, the makers of products like Ninja Forms, Caldera Forms, and SendWP. He also helps clients solve complex problems with code, consulting, and more. He occasionally blogs.

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