This year marks a decade since I started professionally making things on the web. When I saw this tweet from Manuel Matuzović asking for advice for aspiring web developers/designers, it got me thinking. What advice would I have?
Learn How to Teach Yourself
I use this skill the most each day, even if it means searching the web for a solution. To be successful in this field, you have to learn constantly. Figure out how you learn best, and carve out time to make it happen.
For me, that means having a few websites that serve as empty canvases. I can use them to try new techniques whenever I want without much restriction. I learn best by doing.
Focus on People
Most days, 80 percent of the work you do translates into communication. You update your team on the status of a project. You manage the expectations of a stakeholder. You brainstorm ideas for your next iteration. All that communication happens with different personalities, skill levels and agendas. It makes it as challenging as it does fun.
No one strategy will work best with the biggest variable, people. But I find two things help in most cases: Be curious and ask a lot of questions. This helps you learn about what motivates people, and more importantly, how to help them.
See Technology as a Tool
The web industry has a fascination with new and changing technologies. You may be tempted keep up with all the new tools, frameworks and approaches. No one can try them all, much less learn them. You can follow them though, and search out what makes each one different. That will help you make more educated choices when you create for people.
When you analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a tool, you start to get at what makes it different. What makes it useful? How it might help your customers? That’s more important than keeping up with all the things for the sake of it. When you know that, you know when to look at a tool or technique more closely when you might need it.
It’s fun to compare this post to another one I wrote shortly after starting my first job in the web field.
I hope I write another version of this post in a decade.