Can you tell us a little bit about how you first got into the web design and development industry?
I kind of fell into it really. I was 22 working in a dead end job and decided I wanted to better myself, so I headed back to University to do Computer Science, during that first year I found myself learning more and more web stuff than C++ programming, so changed over my course to Multimedia Technology in 2nd year, where I got to be a lot more creative, which I loved.
During that time in University my football team had wanted a website and after making my first ever site, I didn’t really want to stop there.
Do you consider yourself to be mainly a designer or developer (or a bit of both?)
I have actually made a point recently of focusing on one thing, design, I love designing new websites and although I do also enjoy the front-end developement side of things, design is where I find the most enjoyment, you could probably blame Microsoft and IE6 for that haha.
You’ve currently started a full time design job, how are you finding this so far?
I have always been in full-time employment in one or another since I left University, but I did start with a large auto sales company recently and I have to say, I’m loving it. The team of people there are great and its only growing, which can obviously only be good for my career. I’m getting to lead the design in several large national projects, and I love the fact we get to do things the right way, I had found in a couple of older jobs, it was more about getting money in then making the project amazing.
Do you still do freelance work? If so, how do you find mixing the too together?
Yeah, I’m still freelancing regularly, I have a developer friend, Craig (isai.co.uk) who puts work my way which is always great, and really helped with my wedding recently. Plus we know how each other work, so it works well for both of us. In the last 6 months or so, freelancing has really taken up a huge amount of my time, but with a wedding to pay unfortunately I gave up a lot of free time to do the work. I have just returned to freelancing after a 6 week break for the wedding and honeymoon and have now made a point of getting a better work/life balance, from now on, I work 1 project at a time, that way the client and myself benefit a bit more, they get my full focus and I get some spare time to do the things I enjoy, I have missed my Xbox greatly in the last 6 months haha.
What is your normal workflow for creating a website from start to finish?
It would normally depend on the project to be honest, I deal with large projects at work and mostly smaller ones when freelancing, but for the most part I follow the steps below.
- Speak with client, get a feel for the project and what they want and shoot some ideas on the direction of the look and feel of the site.
- Wireframe up the initial concept(s) (this would depend on how many pages are needing designed)
- Head into the design of the first page (normally the home page)
- Once the client signs this off, we have the look and feel they are looking for and I tend to go into a couple page designs at a time here until the client approves of them
- Repeat until all pages are complete and signed off.
- Code up the website and add the client content, I then get them to give it a once over before the final checks and testing before launch.
- Launch Website
On the larger projects the steps are similar but I tend to find you spend a lot more time on each section getting the UI right.
Have you got any side projects on the go at the moment?
I have a couple, I’m working with Kerry Moran (@perrycoke) on a little thing called Pixelburst (pixelbur.st), we will creating Premium WordPress themes for Theme Forest together, me concentrating mainly on design and Kerry on development. We were unfortunate that both of us were getting married on the same weekend this year, so the project got put on the back burner for a while, although its full steam ahead come next week when we pick it up again.
I also have another super secret idea at the moment that might or might not go ahead, unfortunately at this moment in time I can’t give any more details.
Where do you find inspiration on the web?
Lots of different places to be honest, I have a lot of gallery websites on my RSS feed to keep me up to date with the top websites going around. I also use Dribbble (thanks for the invite) a lot, although if you spend too much time on there you can end up feeling sorry for yourself with the talent thats on there.
Are there any other designers in the industry producing work that you really admire?
Probably way too many to list to be honest, especially when you find out the age of some of them. Close to home, guys like James McDonald (@jamesmcdonald) are really knocking it out the park at the minute, as well as Harry Ford (@harryford), Daryl Ginn (@daryl), Orman Clark (@ormanclark) and Callum Chapman (@callumchapman). Being honest there are too many to list and apologies for those I missed 😉
Do you subscribe to any blogs, podcasts or magazines to help stay on top of the web design world?
I was recently featured in Web Designer Magazine, so that got me buying that more regular and I tend not to buy printed magazines. On the web side of things I follow a lot of the main blogs like CSS Tricks and SpoonGraphics etc, but I have found Twitter to be one of the best ways to keep up to date with a lot of things.
Are you planning on attending any web conferences in the near future?
This is one thing I have been meaning to do, I really wanted to go to the New Adventures in Web Design conference January past, but unfortunately bills for the wedding took precendent over me going. I’m hoping to go to it next year if it happens and my work are active in wanting to get us to these things, especially Rich Quick (@richquick), so hopefully I can tweet soon about attending one.
What hobbies do you have and do they help you ‘switch off’ from the internet?
I have a few hobbies, really just the standard men things to do, I was a fairly decent footballer in my day so I still play that at a decent level on a Saturday, infact so much so that I’m now running a football team this season, I might become the next Jose Mourinho. I also like to golf, but the weather in Scotland doesn’t really help with that one especially with it due to rain every day in July.
I spend whats left of my time either shooting people on Call of Duty on my Xbox or watching films and blogging about films on my film blog Itsfilmtastic (itsfilmtastic.co.uk).
Although spending my time with my new wife Kerry (@kerryhorne86) normally takes priority over all that other stuff, we like getting out and doing stuff, which is good for me as I would spend a lot of my time in front of a screen otherwise.
Finally, do you have any tips for people starting in the industry?
The main tip I always give to people starting out, is learn. The best way to do this is get yourself a portfolio and a job, I learned more in my first 3 months at BT doing web design, than I did in 3 years at University. Portfolios are a must now, employers are finally coming to realise that you don’t need to have a degree to be a good/great designer, so get yourself some work, be it for friends or just free, fill up the portfolio and get it out there, even ask to work for nothing at an agency when your off between years at University/College anything to get your foot in the door.
I would never recommend full-time freelance to anyone starting out, there is so much you need to know that you simply wouldn’t think of and agency work etc is the best place to learn the trade.
Thanks for taking part in the interview, Alan!
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