Web Designer Lifespan

A lighthearted observance on the career of a Web Designer…

Year 1: “Huh, why does Photoshop have an Export HTML option?” *click* “Holy crap, I’m a WEB DESIGNER!!!”

Year 2: “Yeah, I can build you a website for $500. Your cousin also needs one with a CMS and e-commerce? Sure, $500.”

Year 3: “So glad I took this ad agency job. I love working with clients! I’m learning a ton and safely storing my bookmarks in Ma.gnolia.”

Year 4: “Dude, check out this logo animation I created. All I had to do was include MooTools, jQuery, and Script.aculo.us to make it work.”

Year 5: “I hate clients; I’m going to freelance so I can focus only on jobs that interest me.”

Year 5 and 1 month: “I just remembered I love working with clients, especially when I’m broke and can’t afford bread.”

Year 6: “Ok, I think I’m getting a handle on this self-employment thing. Now all I need to do is keep working 90 hours a week.”

Year 7: “Posted my first Dribbble shot of an ampersand; waiting for the job offers to roll in. Unfortunately, I’m invisibbble because I don’t have 50k+ Twitter followers.”

Year 8: *light bulb moment* “What if I build a theme that I can resell over and over? I’m going to be filthy rich!” *next morning* “Where did all these theme developers come from and how are they selling themes for a nickel?!”

Year 9: “I finally have this job figured out. The ink is nearly dry on my first book and I’m honored to be speaking at such-and-such web conference.”

Year 10: *reading Twitter* “What is a Sass-Less-Stylus and can I buy that on Amazon? I don’t know why so many people are having Angular Backbone problems (maybe from all the Grunting?) but I hope they see a doctor soon. Who are all these full-stack developers and how many stacks am I? How does… ah forget it, I’m a Creative Director at heart. Who wants to build a website for me?”

The Rock Collection

On my office desk sits a jar filled with rocks, none of which are rare or have any monetary value. Whenever my wife and I travel, we find a pocket-sized rock, tote it back home, and add it to our stockpile. For us, these random bits of earth represent life outside of work and remind us of our journeys together. I wholeheartedly encourage you to start your own worthless collection of priceless memories.

rock collection

Choose Your Role Models Wisely

I’m a proud husband and father, two roles I gladly devote a lot of my time to. I’m a homeowner and self-proclaimed mechanic as well—another way of saying I’m always fixing something. My family and I live in a beautiful New Hampshire vacation town surrounded by mountains and lakes but not much else. Simple errands, like doing groceries, require fairly long road trips. I also have many interests outside of work, including carpentry, photography, and enjoying the outdoors. All of these responsibilities take considerable time and commitment.

The work/life balance requires constant fine-tuning and part of that involves choosing realistic role models. It’s easy to be impressed by others in your industry who crank out work at an unreal pace (front-page Dribbblers, I’m looking at you). It can also be tempting to imagine how much more you could get done by working around the clock, but at what expense? Would you be neglecting other interests and people in your life? I respect anyone not afraid of hard work; the trouble is when determination turns into obsession.

If you do find yourself following someone else’s footsteps, take a moment to learn more about that person (and I’m not talking about just their work). Compare their lifestyle to yours and ask, “Are they a well-rounded individual? Do they share a similar amount of responsibilities as you do?” If the answer is no, then perhaps they’re not a good role model for you. Be inspired, always do your best possible work, but keep your priorities in mind.

More Navigation, Less Hamburgers

hamburglar likes your navigation

Hello. I’m one of your coveted website users and I have a secret to share with you: I still use a desktop! (*gasp*) Please, I beg you, stop punishing me for not always browsing the web on a mobile device.

If I’m viewing your website on a large screen, show me the navigation. Don’t hide essential links behind a hamburger icon on my 27-inch iMac; there’s no need and you’re requiring an extra click for me to use your website. Furthermore, navigation is a small but useful clue that helps users quickly recognize the purpose of a given website. For example, if your main navigation contains a “Store” link, I can generally assume you have products for sale. This is valuable information that should not be hidden and required to dig for when there is ample room to display it.

As the mobile web audience grows at an incredible rate, web designers have diligently and impressively crafted new techniques (e.g. Responsive Web Design). “Mobile first” is the new way of thinking, and rightfully so. However, let’s remember that the goal should be to accommodate as many devices as possible and that includes your old friend, the desktop.

A Beginner’s Guide to Coding Websites

When I first taught myself to code a website, it involved a lot of back and forth to my local bookstore. The computer section was literally a few small shelves with just a handful of books, only enough to get my feet wet. Today, learning to code has become increasingly easier, thanks to a plethora of in-depth online resources.

The following is, by no means, a complete list but should be more than enough to get any beginner started.

Interactive Lessons

Codeacademy

Codeacademy offers a really easy way to interactively learn coding basics. The lessons are hands-on and allow you to code directly in the browser. While the examples are fairly limited, they’re also free and cover many important building blocks.

Cost: Free.
Lessons: Websites and web apps.
Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate.

Treehouse

Treehouse is unique in that it has an authentic classroom feel. You’ll learn by watching videos that guide you through each lesson and taking quizzes at certain stages. Similar to Codeacademy, there are also challenges for you to solve by coding in the browser. Treehouse does require you to sign up for a paid plan to access all lessons but, if you’re serious about learning to code, they have an extensive amount of information available. This service is great for beginners and even experts who want to expand their skill set.

Cost: Some lessons are free, then a monthly subscription is required.
Lessons: Websites and web apps, iOS and Android development, general business lessons.
Difficulty: Everything from Beginner to Expert.

Code School

Code School is nearly identical to Treehouse, also using video walkthroughs and interactive lessons. However, there are a couple key differences. First off, Code School appears to be a little more aimed at programmers with existing experience. Secondly, Code School has uniquely designed courses that some users may find more engaging (i.e. “Rails for Zombies”).

Cost: Some lessons are free, then a monthly subscription is required.
Lessons: Websites and web apps, iOS and Android development.
Difficulty: Some Beginner lessons but mostly Intermediate to Expert.

View Source

Another very effective way to learn how to code is to reverse engineer an existing website. Simply find a website you like, view source, and study the code. Just about every modern browser now includes a web inspector, which makes it even easier to poke around a website’s source.

There are also many websites that showcase interesting code examples, such as CodePen. A lot of the examples are fairly complex but it is still a valuable tool for learning what’s possible, regardless of your coding level.

Reference Sites

Remembering proper syntax for any web language can take time, especially when first starting out. Thankfully, there is a wide array of reference sites that are great for quickly looking up tags, browser support, and more. Find a reference site that appeals to you and bookmark it; you’re going to need it at some point. A few of my favorites are:

Keeping Up to Date

The internet changes incredibly fast, as do web development standards. The philosophies and techniques for building a website are vastly different from one year to the next. More often than not, I rely on Twitter to keep informed on the latest web news but there are many useful blogs and online magazines as well.

Books

Last but not least, you can still buy books. I would, however, recommend purchasing them as electronic copies if you can. The main benefit is access across multiple devices and you may receive book updates if the author makes revisions.