The Benefits of Experimentation
“The true method of knowledge is experiment.” - William Blake I spend a fair amount of time working on web design. After a full day at the office, it’s not uncommon for me to come home and work on my own site, blog or other personal projects. It’s also not uncommon for people to ask me how I “find the time” to do this type of personal work. My response, especially to other Web designers, is this. How can you not find the time to do this type of work?
"The true method of knowledge is experiment." - William Blake
I spend a fair amount of time working on web design. After a full day at the office, it’s not uncommon for me to come home and work on my own site, blog or other personal projects. It’s also not uncommon for people to ask me how I “find the time” to do this type of personal work. My response, especially to other Web designers, is this. How can you not find the time to do this type of work?
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The Challenges of the Industry
Web design is an industry that is unkind to complacency. From more effective ways to design web forms, to techniques that take your blog designs to the next level, to the latest in HTML5 and CSS3, there is always something new to learn. If you hope to produce relevant work, you need to be learning and experimenting.
Unfortunately, web design is also an industry keenly focused on budgets and deadlines, especially if you work in an agency setting. The struggle between experimenting with new techniques and staying on-time and on-budget is a balancing act that all web designers must wrestle with.
The Need for Personal Projects
You can only experiment so much on ‘live’ projects. The constraints set by project goals and client needs, plus the aforementioned budgets and timelines, mean that while we can often do some exploration in our client work, we must also find an outlet to augment that experimentation. This is where personal projects can be helpful.
Projects that we do for ourselves are the perfect chance to try new things. Unencumbered by the restraints of client work, we can push ourselves without concern for how much time we spend exploring or even what the final results may be. We can experiment for the singular joy of discovery, but also to realize the tangible benefits that it brings to our work.
Cooler, Faster and Lots of Fun
The exploratory work that we do, either through our client projects or our own endeavors, will help us to:
- Do Cooler Work Experiments often allow us to do stuff that is, in a word, cool. Things like jQuery or CSS3 animation effects allow us to create some visually exciting behaviors for our sites – and who doesn’t like adding a layer of awesome to a project, especially if it is done in a way that enriches the overall user experience of the resulting site.
- Work More Efficiently New techniques and technologies often allow us to do our work faster and more efficiently. Take something like the border-radius property of CSS3, for example. We are now able to easily produce a visual effect that previously had been somewhat painful to markup and style. Experimenting can help save us time on future projects as we learn new and better ways to do our work today.
- Have Fun Web design is an industry that attracts those of us who enjoy learning new stuff. There’s nothing like trying something and then launching a browser to see the results of your efforts. That’s fun, and anytime work and fun can occupy the same space you know you’re onto something worth doing.
Finding the Time
The benefits of experimentation are undeniable, but it isn’t easy. It takes time.
The question that I am often asked, which starts this article and which made me want to write it in the first place, is “how I find the time” to experiment and produce personal work. The truth is that it is a challenge. The demands of family, friends, work and life in general all need to be balanced, and that exact balance is something everyone needs to address individually.
We all have priorities in our lives. My highest priorities include my family, my friends and my health, but they also include personal projects and experimentation because of the benefits that they bring me personally and professionally. I find the time to do personal work because I make the time to do personal work.
How much time do I spend on personal projects versus family time versus whatever else pops up? Quite appropriately, the exact balance is something with which I consistently and continually experiment.
Do you experiment?
What do you do in your spare time? Do you try to experiment with new ideas, new designs, or new concepts? How much time do you spend on experimenting? How does experimenting benefit you?
Please share with us your thoughts on experimentation. We’d love to have an interesting discussion about this subject so feel free to contribute to the discussion. Thank you for reading the article. You can follow the Design Informer on Twitter here.
Note: Stock photos courtesy of Pixmac.