Remarks on “web craftsmanship”

The concept of craftsmanship is absolutely stunning and fascinating to me. The past two weeks have been really interesting for me as a designer. A few years back, I remember myself sitting in class at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts trying to rap my mind around the difference between a div and span tag, and what it meant for me as a designer. The class I was taking was excellent, — it was my motivator to keep me to going — great students and ton of work. It was my first exposure to anything related to the ever-growing world wide web. At the time, Firefox had just been released; IE was the browser market dominator; CSS was in its infancy and hacks were a big part of any designer’s stylesheet. My professor, Mike Cronin, recommended a few books on design and HTML/CSS for us to read. One of the books listed by Mike was Designing with Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman and after reading delightful reviews on amazing I purchased it. The book DWWS is a great book, in fact I still have it in my bookshelf. One thing that stuck with me was that if I wanted to be a craftsman on the web, I would have to drop using dreamweaver (copying and pasting code) and begin to use a text editor to code webpages. In other words, I needed to ultimately define what my long term ( and sustainable) goal was. Right then, i knew i wanted to learn how the web worked as opposed to creating sites coded by a WYSIWYG program.

Long term goal pays off

Fast forward 7 years I can assure you my long term decision paid off. Not because of monetary compensation but the confidence I have built when building websites. Building websites for me became a process of unconscious competence but I recall going through the pain of being unconsciously incompetent. It’s a stage that we all go through it when learning new skills.

Why Am I sharing this?

This past week I received two emails from prospect clients who would like to have their website redesigned. Both clients expressed a deep frustration with their former designer/developer who just completely ripped them both off. Interestingly enough, they got ripped off by the same designer which it seems pretty odd to me. The “designer” claimed to have designed the websites from scratch but it was a modified version of the linguini wordpress theme. The client was even more dismayed by how much the theme cost ($45). He was furious. Unfortunately, I had to turn down both assignments due to no bandwidth but there’s a lesson to be learned here, specially those who are starting to build websites.

A craftsman has an intimate understanding of the tools he works with.

This is probably the best time to be a web designer. If you love the web and want to create web experiences (apps, mobile sites, games etc) that impact peoples lives positively, make sure you take the time to have an intimate understanding of the tools you work with. Don’t just copy and paste code or plagiarize design. Simply be willing to dissect tons of books and articles, drink lots of coffee, design a lot of photoshop comps and code a lot of webpages thru the night. At the beginning everything may seem so difficult but it turns out it’s not as hard as we think it is. I’m not claiming by any means to be an expert. I’m simply giving you a word of encouragement because long term mixed with hard work pays off.

Feel free to share your thoughts below.

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