How to do it
Love this whole exchange. http://www.marco.org/2011/05/14/instapaper-redesign-by-tim-van-damme
Love this whole exchange. http://www.marco.org/2011/05/14/instapaper-redesign-by-tim-van-damme
I think it’s time web development had a critical culture. Sure occasionally people pop off on Twitter, but it’s seldom reasoned, or well thought out. It’s a half-dashed sluffed-off thought that nobody, especially the critiqued, can profit from.
I think it would benefit clients and developers alike to see factual discourse on more than just “it looks cool on my monitor.” We should be assessing work on several attributes: design, architecture, copy, interactivity, compatibility, as well as the technical aspects living under the hood.
My hope would be that we can raise the bar for our chosen industry- treating it like the liberal art that it is. Giving credit where credit is due. Pointing out where the critiqued, and we as a whole, can get better. I think the “community” feel of web design is fantastic. But mutual back-pats are not going to elevate our craft to the status that oil painting or even editorial magazine design holds in the history of art.
So who’s ready? Do you have a critical eye, a cutting whit, and impeccable taste? Are you unafraid of being adored by some and loathed by others? Are you the type of person who can love someone dearly yet still tell them that their breath stinks? Then you have a lot of work to do. Public critical analysis of web development is in its infancy, and we all need you to help it grow up.
A lot goes in to learning something new. There’s not always someone who can show you the ropes- you have to muddle through it yourself. If you’re doing it for the first time, it might be rough, and you might second-guess yourself. It’s truly awesome to know you can constantly get better and smarter, but it ain’t easy.
You’ll probably go wrong a time or two. You’ll probably mutter a few choice words you hope your cube buddy didn’t hear. You’ll might even want to throw your computer right out the window. But you’ll be glad you didn’t. ‘Cause what comes next makes all the frustration worth it.
It’s that moment when you know you’ve done it. When you sit back, look at the completed project, and smile stupidly because you’re so dang proud of yourself. You went through hell to get there- and it took twice as long as you hoped, but the end result is right. Now you know, and you can do this new thing you learned over and over.
This thing might be relatively insignificant, and it might be something your co-workers already know how to do… or it could be something cutting edge you can teach those around you.
Small victories are a big deal, so don’t brush them off, or downplay them.
The web is truly in a great place right now. Every day you can see dozens of new applications launched that required countless man hours to make. The nuances and specificity of them is beginning to boggle the mind. The sheer quantity of people on Earth capable of writing a web application is amazing.
In fact, as a web developer it’s somewhat daunting. You can have a thought like “what if I made a tool to keep track of when my next oil change comes due?” and a few seconds later realize that dozens of apps have beat you to the punch.
Sure, you could maybe improve the interface, make it prettier, promote it better, integrate it with Twitter, etc. But it seems like there’s nothing left in big chunks that isn’t a minute improvement on a small facet of something else.
Let’s skip to another subject for a second.
In 1997 NASA, in conjunction with the European and Italian Space Agencies, launched the Cassini-Huygens space probe. It had a far-reaching set of goals, most of which seemed more optimistic than legitimate. It’s track was outward from Earth- taking a layman’s tour of our solar system as it became accessible by coincidentally calculated orbit.
After near-space tours of Earth’s moon, Venus, and Jupiter, Cassini was en-route to one of Saturn’s moons named Enceladus. By this time it was 2005, and Cassini had already discovered three new moons of Saturn, tested General Relativity and made countless other minor discoveries leading to better understandings of our close corner of the universe. Keep Reading
Being the nerd that I am, a good percentage of my Christmas gifts were books. Since I’m always on the hunt for good books myself, I thought it would be cool to share a few of my gifts on the chance they’ll provide a spark for somebody else.
501 Bento box lunches.
My family knows I’m interested in both cooking and Japanese culture, so this one wasn’t a big surprise. I totally dig the idea that even something as mundane as packing a lunch deserves the care and attention to detail that bento requires. If you ever feel bored, remember you could be doing a better and more interesting job of even the small things.
100 Classic Graphic Design Books
I wanted this book to be amazing. It turned out to be only good. I share it just so you don’t get suckered in by the cover like I did. It’s a good book, but mostly it’s just a bunch of pictures of spreads that are too small to really do any justice. You’ve been warned.
The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams
I’m near obsessed with Apple hardware, and it’s common knowledge that Jony Ive, Apple’s lead designer is obsessed with Dieter Rams. This book is an incredible tour through Rams’ amazing design portfolio. Early sketches, great interviews, and tons of photography. Keep Reading
During the Holidays, we take a little time off to enjoy friends, family, and frankly, a break from work. For this reason, we’ll be in and out over the next week- so support might be a little slower than usual till we’re back full-swing on Jan. 3. If you have an emergency during that time, though, e-mail us- we’ll do our best to get you taken care of as soon as possible.
Two nice quotes from Shigeru Miyamoto, the genius behind many of Nintendo’s best games.
“There’s a big difference between the money you receive personally from the company and the money you can use in your job.”
“So sometimes I ask the younger game creators to try playing the games they are making by switching their left and right hands. In that way, they can understand how inexperienced the first-timer is.”
I’ve been reading Richard Feynman lately. Although my brain feels battered by his brilliance, and his grasp of far reaching ideas, I keep bumping against something else about him that I find fascinating.
Feynman accepts facts. Light moves as particles and waves? Maybe this is true, or maybe there is a more elegant answer. Why does it seem this way? What machine drives it? Feynman seemingly doesn’t care.
The fact that it can be described this way is what matters. If the description he has of something is sufficiently accurate enough to get him to the next step, he has no reason to challenge it till it brings about a fallacy.
I think I have a lot to learn from this attitude. Getting on with it, moving to the next thing and course correcting only where necessary.
A good example is our programming language of choice, PHP. It’s a mess of a language. It’s strength lies in it’s breadth, but it’s width is a spiraling spaghetti mess.
I’m a “why” learner. When I understand the reason why something exists, and how it is supposed to work, I feel that I can begin to “think” within the system. I can anticipate the way that something should work. I can reason without knowing.
PHP offers very few opportunities for this. Very often it asks you to have faith in libraries without knowing why they work. Very often it asks you to grant it exceptions to syntax, just because. Almost always it tells you that there are several ways to achieve the same goals. It is in effect the result of many brains thinking many different ways.
I struggle with this continually. I’m someone who can explain to you how historical events relate to each other, but I often cannot give you specific dates or facts. I’m a reasoner, not a memorizer.
It’s time for a confession. My first professional programing languages were ActionScript and Coldfusion. Outrageously bad picks for having your past efforts translate into future success. Both are becoming increasingly obsolete in cool web dev circles. (not sure Coldfusion was ever cool)
I can say this for these languages though. They were constructed on purpose,, and with a methodical effort. You could think in them. Even if you had no experience with a thing, you could often trial it out without cracking a book.
While that feels good, I think there is something greater to be yielded from a larger, more open system. Trusting that things work, because they do. The idea that I don’t have to dig down to bedrock to do something great is liberating.
So besides the fact that orbiting objects are essentially falling perpetually at a fixed rate and speed towards a round object, I’ll take away something else from Feynman. Maybe it makes no sense why a function, or pattern works the way it does. Maybe I disagree with why something is built the way it is. But if my wishes are not what is true for the rest of the world, I need to get on with it and try to do something great with what does work.
“If you have your own business, you are in the business of marketing.”
Neil Patel (Quicksprout) tells the sad story of Roger. Roger had great aspirations for his design career straight out of college, but failed when he started his own business because he forgot about the whole marketing thing.
I don’t think a lot of people realize how time consuming marketing is when they decide to go it alone. You think to yourself- hey, I can handle this. After all, it’s my skills that are going to make me money. And that might be true… eventually. But your audience has to know you exist, and what’s more- they have to like you.
That’s why I think marketing works best on a personal level. Don’t have a lot of money to spend on print ads, web ads and other promotions? There’s an easier way. Start conversations with people. Networking is the best thing you can do that doesn’t cost any money- and I think it’s the most profitable over time. You never know who can point you in the right direction. We do it ourselves- when we come across a project that isn’t a good fit for us, we’ll recommend someone we think is. Those kinds of personal relationships have, in turn, brought us some really cool projects- and recurring business.
We’re not experts on social networking, but in the age of Twitter, you have no excuse not to reach out. Start talking. Even if your forte is programming or design (read: not marketing!), you can still let your voice be heard. What’s even better is that people will see you for who you are. Personal touches don’t get more genuine than that.