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silverfly's avatar

Web designers, how did you get so damn good?

Asked by silverfly (4055points) October 11th, 2011

I am a web designer and I love what I do. I’m always looking to build and refine my skills and I’m hoping to get some guidance from those already in the business.

How many years have you been designing?
What software do you like most?
Where did you learn your skills?
Did you have a mentor?
Who were your influences?

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9 Answers

cookieman's avatar

Congratulations on choosing your career. Best of luck with it.

As for me, I’m a front-end designer and websites are just one of the things I create. I know a fair amount if code, but I’m no coder. I’m a visual designer.

Whether or not I’m “good” I let other people decide, but I can say it’s kept me employed for 17 years.

Your questions:

How many years have you been designing? 17

What software do you like most? The Adobe CS Suite

Where did you learn your skills? Design: Mass. College of Art. Software: Self taught.

Did you have a mentor? Nope, but some great professors at college.

Who were your influences? Frank Lloyd Wright, Maurice Sendeck, Rembrandt, Manet, and oodles more.

digitalimpression's avatar

I’ve done web design on and off for about 12 years.. I started with straight up HTML coding. I learned later about CSS and a little Perl and other server side scripting codes. When macromedia flash came out I thought the internet would surely change forever. I’m still a bit amazed that html is still in use when flash clearly has the artistic/aesthetic edge over its clumsy html counterpart.

My problem is that I can learn the code all day but I’m not very artistic .. so I haven’t spent a lot of time designing the last few years. I love to do it, but I’m realistic enough to say I’m not good at it.

12, Adobe is awesome but “Flash” is still my favorite, Self Taught / Books / Online, No, None.

ETpro's avatar

In my previous life, I had a consulting firm helping corporations apply surface-mount technology to miniaturize electronic circuits. The Internet had just come into view in the early 90s, and I started using USENET on it it to find specialized components and technology that could help my firm meet our client’s objectives. Around 1993, I decided to build a website for my company. Shortly after completing that, a friend who owned a small business asked me who built my website. When I told him I did it myself, he begged me to take an order to build him one too.

At about that time, we finished up a million dollar contract we’d had helping develop Smart House technology, with computerized outlets, wall switches, dimmers, etc. And with nothing else on the horizon but more and more requests coming in for web sites, I decided it was time for a career change. I hung out a shingle as a web developer.

I did a site on the Yahoo! Store platform in 1995, and rather rapidly found that Yahoo! was sending me more and more of my business. I signed on as a Yahoo! Small Business Partner and have been building eCommerce sites on that platform ever since. It requires learning an arcane, proprietary language called RTML. It’s rather like PHP or ASP, except that it is not a run-time language. It only runs in the Store Editor while the store owner or their employees update their database. It allows them to see all their changes on the fly without showing them to the whole world, which can be a major saving grace when you screw up something in your database and set up recursion or wreck the look of a page or pages. When the store editor is happy with what they have done in the back end, they push the Publish button and RTML loops through the database and spits out pure static HTML pages which Google seems to love. The downside is that anything we need to do interactively must either be done in client side scripting like JavaScript, or on a separate site server Yahoo! has added which runs PHP, MySQL and Perl.

I do Open Source sites that are not eCommerce. My agreement with Yahoo requires me to use their platform where it will work for an eCommerce site. When it can’t meet the client’s requirements (a real rarity), I usually use OScommerce or some Open Source platform.

I use CoffeeCup when I use an editor, but I do all my coding in the HTML source view. I never use drag and drop editors. I hate them and vehemently hate the bloated code they spit out. I do a lot of coding in Textpad, which is a terrific, industrial-strength text editor. I use TopStyle4 to do my CSS. Nice tools included and it really helps keep your CSS compliant with specs.

I utterly rely on “Firebug”; in Mozilla’s Firefox to figure out why IE is doing idiotic things with my CSS and HTML. IE8 made a great step forward, and 9 is even better, but 7 was pathetic and 6 was an absolute disaster. I don’t even design for IE6 anymore. You have to stuff so many hacks into your code to make Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 work like a real browser that there is no telling how future real browsers will treat the hacks.

silverfly's avatar

@ETpro Do you have any examples of your design work that you can show?

ETpro's avatar

@silverfly Most of my clients want clean, simple designs that are easy to navigate. Examples are and

I just booked a job for a company that manufactures and sells hangers. shelving and hardware to organize your garage. I think that’s one where I can use some artistic flair and make the home page look like a garage with shelving hoding boxes that are clickable to the top-level category pages. Maybe a slide show running in a wide screen plasma TV hanging mid wall. This garage will be a real man cave.

My rule in developing the GUI is that you need to be able to tell what the site does within 20 milliseconds of the site loading. The message must come through loud and clear in the graphics. You cannot rely on the user reading anything to figure out the purpose of the site.

silverfly's avatar

Well, I think you nailed it with the 20 milliseconds with both of those sites.

ETpro's avatar

@silverfly Thanks. The 20 millisecond rule comes from actual research. A bunch of people were given $100 each to spend and identified what they wanted to buy. Then they were given computers and searched for a vendor. They discovered that even though they might linger on a site much longer, if their eyes didn’t take in the fact that this site had what they wanted within 20 milliseconds, they would eventually hit the back button, and continue their search with some other link.

silverfly's avatar

Yeah, I imagine that number is decreasing by the day. Soon, you’ll have to snag a visitor before they actually see the site. :)

ETpro's avatar

@silverfly Ha! No that’s going to be a challenge. But then, we thrive on challenges.

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