Jeremy Girard was born with six toes on each foot. The extra toes were
removed before he was a year old, robbing him of any super-powers and
ending his crime-fighting career before it even began. Unable to battle
the forces of evil, he instead works as the Director of Marketing and Head
of Web Design/Development for the Providence, Rhode Island based Envision Technology Advisors. He also teaches website design and front-end development at the University of Rhode Island. His portfolio and blog, at Pumpkin-King.com, is where he writes about all things Web design.
I love being a web designer and I'm incredibly thankful that I decided to join this industry many years ago. Still, despite my love of this profession, there have been a number of times during my career when my passion has waned and I’ve found myself simply going through the motions instead of fully applying myself to my work. This scenario is likely familiar to many of my fellow web designers. It is called burnout.
Burnout is a very real challenge that we face as web professionals. The same processes that help us complete projects successfully can also contribute to us falling into a routine and hitting autopilot on our work. Sometimes, an overload of work can force you to fall into a routine and become a production line in order to meet deadlines. Other times, a lack of variety and excitement can lead to apathy with burnout not far behind.
“By playing in a band,” was my answer. Now, I am not suggesting that all web designers should run out and join a rock and roll band (although there is a glaring shortage of songs about the CSS box model). I do know, however, that many of the skills I honed while playing in a band have contributed to my success as a web designer — as much as, if not more than, my ability to write clean code or design an attractive web page. In this article, I'll describe how being in a band taught me to be a better web designer.
The start of a web project is an exciting time. You’ve met with the client, agreed upon the goals for the project and mapped out a plan for the development of what will be an awesome new website or application — except that is not always how it turns out. Sometimes, despite your careful planning and best efforts, a project will fail.
Failure isn’t something many of us like to think about, but preparing to deal with failure is as important as planning for success. Articles and tips on how to kick off a project right and build a long-term client relationship are helpful in this industry, but if you only focus on what to do when things go right, then you will be ill-prepared for when things get so off track that you are unable to complete a project.
It’s that time of year again: graduation, when students transition away from the classroom to what will hopefully be a long and successful career in their chosen industry. I recently said goodbye to some of my own website design and development students. Instead of teaching lessons in design principles or responsive websites, I spent our final evening together answering their questions. One of those questions was, “What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?”
At the time, I didn’t have an answer. I could think of many instances when someone helped me solve a particularly complex design challenge or a complex CSS issue or helped me navigate a delicate client situation, but I wouldn’t consider those “best career advice” moments. After thinking about it for a week or so, I came up with four pieces of advice that I received early in my career and that were invaluable to me as I was getting started in this industry but that are just as relevant and useful to me today.
As Web designers and developers, we invest a lot of time and effort in nurturing professional relationships, including those with clients, prospective clients, coworkers, peers and others in the industry.
Unfortunately, while many Web professionals work hard to make these work-related relationships as strong as possible, they often neglect their non-professional relationships, including those with family and friends and even with themselves and their own health and well-being.
To be a Web professional is to be a lifelong learner. The ever-changing landscape of our industry requires us to continually update and expand our knowledge so that our skills do not become outdated. One of the ways we can continue learning is by attending professional Web conferences. But with so many seemingly excellent events to choose from, how do you decide which is right for you?
During the course of my career, I have had the good fortune to attend a number of conferences, workshops and professional events. I am often asked by Web professionals who are preparing to attend their first conference how they can select the right one for their needs.
Just over four years ago, I decided to take a part-time position teaching website design and front-end development at a local university, the University of Rhode Island. My time in the classroom has been one of the most challenging as well as one of the most rewarding experiences in my career, and I believe that other Web professionals would greatly benefit from spending some time in an educational setting teaching others their craft.
In this article, we will look at some of the challenges to prepare for if you are considering taking on a teaching position. I will also present some of my personal experiences and insights, including the benefits and rewards I’ve enjoyed as a teacher, to help you consider such a move for your own career.
Starting a position in an organization, especially if it is your first in the industry, can be as nerve-wracking as it is exciting. Practices that seem like common sense to those of us who have been in the Web industry for some time might not be as obvious to designers and developers without the benefit of our experience.
Part of our responsibility as veterans in this industry is to mentor new team members and share with them the knowledge that we know they will need to succeed. I recently published an article here on Smashing Magazine titled “Lessons Learned in Leading New Web Professionals.” As a follow-up to that piece, this one looks at the other side of the team leader-new employee dynamic. We’ll cover the practices that I have found are consistently followed by employees who excel in their new role and grow in this industry.
Designing and developing websites that work well on mobile devices is an important aspect of the work we do on today’s Web. This importance is reflected in the conversations I have with clients, almost all of whom list “support for mobile devices” as one of their top goals for a redesign — all except one, that is.
The title of this article, “Selling Responsive Web Design To Clients,” might sound like a shady salesperson attempting to convince a customer to purchase something they don’t need. That is not what I am advocating for at all. So, let me start by stating that the first step in this process should be to determine whether the client actually needs a given solution at all.
Over the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to lead various Web design and development teams, including a number of professionals fresh out of school. Along the way, I’ve made my share of mistakes and learned some valuable lessons.
Some new team members have jumped right in and begun contributing in a meaningful way almost immediately, and others have struggled to adjust to their new role because I failed as a leader and didn’t give them the tools they needed to succeed. One thing I’ve definitely learned is that the success of a new team member is determined not only by their own abilities and drive, but by the leadership on the team they are joining.