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Rob Bowen is a staff writer for Web Hosting Geeks and Top Web Hosting, a longtime freelance designer, and burgeoning videographer and filmmaker whose creative voice and works can be heard and found around the web.
We recently turned to our beloved followers on Twitter—as we like to do from time to time—to help us demonstrate one of the greatest things about the online design community: its willingness and eagerness to pay knowledge forward. We asked our friends in the community to share their favorite design tip with us, and they responded en masse. There were so many fantastic responses that we felt it would have been a wasted opportunity if we didn’t compile them for our readers and discuss them with the community at large.
There was such a variety of fine responses that distilling them into a single comprehensive post was difficult, but we managed to do just that (for the most part). So, take a look at some of the best advice the design community has to offer to all those who file within its ranks.
As many people who work in a creative field like design and development may already know, sometimes our clients just do not understand what it is that we are trying to achieve. The boundaries that we are seeking to push are not ones they approve of for their project, so our creative ideas get backburnered until we can find an appropriate project as well as an agreeable client where you can flex these creative muscles freely. In fact, the standard business processes, especially the ones we allow ourselves to be strapped into, tend to work against us in this aspect.
Allow me to elaborate. For most creatives, the most genuine and innovative ideas can often come without provocation. Which is unfortunate, because that tends to relegate these ideas to one of two categories. The personal project category that we get to whenever we find the time to break away from our work plates to snack on something different. Or to the professional project pool where we wait on that client who will allow us the freedom to incorporate this idea into their project.
In a creative field like design, we face an undeniable truth: our wells of inspiration are bound to run dry from time to time. In those periods of imaginative downtime, we seek out sources that can help us return the creative flow to our working process, and get us "back in the game." But when we need a quick recharge, where do we turn? Many of us have our favorite "go-to" places when we are victim to creative drought, though perhaps with a little help, our routinely chosen paths could change. [Content Care Dec/25/2016]
Although they are so different in their purpose, art and design have such a close relationship; extensive discussions, over the years, have tried to figure out what separates these two imaginative fields. Today we set that discussion aside and focus on the creative outcomes that have dazzled and inspired, by leading you toward some spectacular sources to get your dose (or two) of inspiration. Hopefully we can point you in the direction of some of inspiring artwork sure to produce enough spark to light anyone’s creative fire. Sit back, and let us act as your tour guide through this artistic recharge.
Years ago, the online design community was a thriving conversationalist — of sorts — through the comment sections across the community. It was through leaving meaningful comments that the thought-provoking ideas presented and discussed in a post were examined by others whose perspective and experiences may have provided them with a slightly different take. The continued dissection and discussion of the topic expanded the dialog far beyond the initial post, challenging and redirecting ideas and allowing dialog to evolve; it showed a certain level of critical thinking from within the community.
Since those good old days, things have taken an unexpected turn. Comments are becoming less and less expansions on the ideas presented, and more and more just simple offerings of praise or agreement. Even in articles where solutions are being sought for problem areas within the field, numerous comments show acceptance of this need for action but offer no solution or approach; often, the comments also show that the ideas were not given much consideration by the reader.
The web has continued evolving since its inception, as have those who have devoted their professional lives to working in and around this massive communication tool. We have had to roll with the changes, and like with any major environmental shifts, we have had to adapt. During this shifting of our online existences, something quite interesting happened… interesting in a somewhat frustrating manner. The expectations of the client base, our colleagues and even our friends have risen to new, unreasonable heights. [Links checked March/03/2017]
Though this is not an isolated instance of schedule disrespect, we do understand that not every potential client or colleague is going to hold on to these extremely elevated expectations, so this post is directed only at those who do. Do not misunderstand, there is nothing wrong with having expectations about a profession, but when you allow those unchecked presumptions to take you to a disrespectful place, then a line is being crossed. One that we hope to clearly draw in the sand, for any and all of those who share in this frustration, with this article today.
As designers who deal with clients, we all have to face one situation, no matter how difficult and uncomfortable, and that is guiding the client to accept that your design is perfect. Now, you already have the project, so this is not a matter of convincing them to pick you for the job. This is about getting them to see that your design satisfies their requirements and contains everything they want. We all have to take on this role of virtual tour guide and lead them through the project's twists and turns, ensuring that the best interests of the client and website are served. [Links checked March/03/2017]
In the end, the final decision falls to the client, but there are times — and most of us have experienced them — when the client’s lack of expertise in the field affect the quality of the design. In such times, we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to convince the client that the design is perfect as it is, and that any further alteration would impair the website's ability to communicate everything it needs to. This confrontation is not welcome by either party, but it is certainly necessary.
Mistakes are made every day in the design and development world. It’s nothing to be ashamed of; it happens. In fact, mistakes are one of the most powerful learning tools at our disposal. Our mistakes impart important lessons that we carry with us as we continue to hone our skill set. Own your mistakes. Never shy away from them; they are the milestones in our development.
So often we view mistakes negatively and let them get us down. We believe they indicate failure and that our otherwise perfect record will be forever marred. No one is perfect; we all make mistakes. They indicate failure only if we fail to learn from them. The online design and development community is a wonderful resource in this respect. Not only are members open about their mistakes, they share their experiences as learning opportunities for others — this is helpful for those of us who have not yet suffered through the same bumps in the road.
With this in mind, we turned again to our Twitter followers and Facebook fans to find out about the worst design or programming mistakes they have ever made. Now we share them with you, our readers, so that we can all learn from them and avoid making the same mistakes.
At one time or another, we are all newbies. That’s right: you can deny it all you want, but not one of us got into this game with a full deck stacked in our favor. We entered as newbies, born fresh after the start screen loaded. However, unlike in a game, we are not immediately launched into a tutorial level to learn the ropes in this new world — what to avoid, how to progress, etc. And if we feel overwhelmed by our newbie status, we may not be able to find our way to the tutorials and guides that the community has put together to help us sort all of this out. So, feeling very alone in all this is easy.
But this is the great thing about being part of the online development community — that you are never truly alone. Your experience may be unique in its details, but it’s not generally, which is great because the community is very open to sharing its experiences and offering guidance to help newbies navigate the twists and turns we are sure to face as we continue down the developer’s path. In most cases, all you have to do to get some helpful advice is to venture into the social media neighborhoods and ask the community at large. At times, the answers just pour in.
One thing that can be said about human beings is that we are, by and large, creatures of habit. We establish routines, consciously and subconsciously, that help us accomplish tasks or move us more quickly or comfortably through our day. Habits are formed in the design and development community just as they are in nearly every other professional and personal environment, and they serve any number of purposes. In design and development circles, one established habit is seen with the launch of a website or project.
Naturally, each of us has developed a process that we engage in as we wrap up a project, but a few procedures tend to be used over and over again by the masses. We know this because we ran a poll on this very topic on Twitter. We got many great responses, but the community tends towards a few common practices. We could see as we looked through the list of entries that certain wrap procedures seem to have mass appeal (judging by the number of times they were given as answers), so we began to examine the benefits they offered and what they say about those who fall back on them.
As a designer, you will eventually have to face a couple of unfortunate truths in your career. Number one: just because you wear a bathrobe for most of your "business" hours does not actually make it business attire. Number two: at some point in your freelance career, you will encounter a client who does not respect the work you do. The most unfortunate part of this unfortunate truth is that it will all too often present itself in the form of a client who refuses to pay for your services once all of the work has been completed. [Links checked February/15/2017]
However, you can put some safeguards in place to guarantee that if this kind of client disrespects you and a dispute arises, that you are not left without any leverage to help you resolve the situation. Because whether they admit it, some loathsome characters deal with freelancers merely because they believe these smaller independent businesses would have little recourse should they not hold up their end of the bargain. They think that once we have taken the time to complete the work and deliver it, that they have all the power to control the outcome of the business transaction. But now more than ever, this is not the case.
There are very few who would argue against the notion that most freelance professionals, especially those operating in the design/development and writing arenas, tend to operate from a creative base. They are, by and large, a group that has chosen to let the right side of their brain steer them as far as the road stretches out before them. Having embraced their creative and artistic nature, merging it into their career path and never looking back. And for the most part, a creative mind fits well in this freelance environment where they ultimately call all the shots and are bound by very few restraints. For the most part.
However this road is not without its bumps, and for a lot of freelancers, these bumps come when the left brain must be engaged to navigate the terrain. Most of us are familiar with the concept of ‘'Right Brain vs. Left Brain’, wherein it has been shown that the two hemispheres of the brain control different modes of thinking. The right is the creative and artistic side, the left being the more logical and analytical.
Given that most of us are less apt to be full-minded, where we excel in both modes of thinking, there always tends to be some issues when it comes time for you to mentally cross-over to the otherside for a spell. This can be a problem in freelancing, because though we prefer to tend right, we have to handle every aspect of our business and that means every so often, going left.