Can you tell us a little bit about how you first got into the web design and development industry?
To be honest, I kind of fell into the web design industry. I was first introduced to graphic design when I was in high school (light years ago). I was taught the very basics of HTML at the time, but the class was more focused on print design. I really got involved some years later when I landed a job with a startup company.
My position was more of a marketing related position but since I had some experience in design and HTML, I was able to quickly jump in and work on websites if needed. Once that happened I was hooked and began to learn all I could about web design, web standards and front-end technologies.
The rest is pretty much history and I now work full time within those areas and spend my days creating websites and interfaces for clients of all kinds.
Do you consider yourself to be mainly a designer or developer (or a bit of both?)
I would have to say designer by far, as I mainly focus on visual design and front-end code. Although, I do enjoy working with developers and almost always pick up something new in the process. I always keep an open mind but also try to educate while making sure the code comes out as clean and well-structured as possible. It’s always a bit exciting when I explain to a developer why a certain bit of markup should be written in a certain way and they actually learn something new.
I do dabble in a bit of code every now and again but when it comes to creating solutions for clients I tend to leave the programming to real developers.
Are you currently working full time or freelance? Which do you prefer?
I currently work freelance and have for the largest majority of my career. While I started off in a full time position, I do prefer being able to set my own hours and the additional freedoms that come with freelancing. Although, one thing I do sometimes miss is the human interaction that is more present when working in house or in a full time position. It can be a bit tough at times to get constructive feedback when the only person in my office is 2 years old!
What is your normal workflow for creating a website from start to finish?
Where do you find inspiration on the web?
I find the web itself to be very inspirational. The way people can share information; design related or not is amazing. As far as web design related inspiration, CSS galleries and the works of the industry’s top designers are always inspiring. One that stands out lately would be dribbble (http://www.dribbble.com).
The service is invitation only but allows designers to give a peek into what they are working on. They also recently introduced a rebound feature that has added a gaming element into the mix. It’s not only a lot of fun but great for getting inspired and viewing samples of other designers work.
Are there any other designers in the industry producing work that you really admire?
The recent work of Dan Cederholm and the amazing CSS3 articles and work by Andy Clarke deserve the utmost admiration and respect. The quality and high standards along with the rate in which those two produce is outstanding.
Another group of designers that I have had the pleasure of getting to know and admire recently would be the duo from www.KS12.net – A recent creative collaboration (www.postcardsfromberlin.com) has turned into one of those projects that you never want to see end due to the amount of fun it’s been. Oh and the Photoshop files they delivered to have converted to HTML & CSS are something I keep opening again and again just to admire!
How important do you consider web standards to be in modern web design?
Oh man, I am glad you asked! Web standards and standards based design practices are highly important and help to improve the web for everyone involved. In the beginning the movement was established to solve a major problem with the way browsers were competing with each other and causing nothing but major headaches for developers. Having a standardized way to produce code helped to eliminate the problem of having to code multiple versions of websites for different browsers. Just imagine having to do that today with a site that contains thousands of pages! Incorporating web standards guidelines into designs can also help to reduce load time, ease maintainability, improve accessibility and work on a wider range of devices. Those few points would make web standards highly important in modern web design and the benefit to users is the icing on the cake!
Do you have a preferred piece of software to code your websites in?
I use Dreamweaver most of the time. While I wouldn’t call it preferred, maybe familiar is a better term. I am sure I may catch some grief for it, but for the record I have never used the WYSIWYG editor or design view. I use it solely as a text editor but the auto-complete and built in FTP are great additions that help to speed up my workflow. And with the addition of the latest zen coding plug-in, it’s become even a bit faster.
What hobbies do you have and do they help you ‘switch off’ from the internet?
These days – between work, a 2 year old son and my second son being expected any minute now, I have a hard time finding a hobby in the traditional sense of the word.
To switch off for me means it’s time to play with my son, spend time with my very patient wife or fix/prepare something around our place in preparation for the new arrival.
In general though, I am a huge fan of traveling and have had the opportunity to visit many amazing places while living in Europe for the past 5 years.
Finally, do you have any tips for people starting in the industry?
Find the section of web design you are most passionate about and totally immerse yourself in it. In the web design industry things change at such a fast pace – If you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing you will burn out or be left at the back of the pack.
Above all, enjoy it and get to know others in the field. Working solo can sometimes be a lonely situation but from my experience our industry is full of amazing people that are always open and willing to give great advice and interaction.