I’ve been in webdesign for either nine years, or twelve, depending on if you generously count the crimes against the web I once created on Geocities.
In all that time, I’ve never had a blog. For most of those nine years, I didn’t think I knew enough to begin contributing meaningfully. Then I wasn’t sure what I would blog about. I didn’t want to just add to the noise.
I’ve learned a lot over the past few years, and now have the desire to be an active participant in the web community—not just a consumer. I have been too inactive. Somewhere along the line, I quit making Photoshop graphics just for fun. I quit experimenting with new CSS because I didn’t “have a reason.” I let my domain name expire—on accident (I promise!). I lost the joy, and I want it back.
At the post-AEA party, I spent some time chatting with Jason Santa Maria. I told him that I wanted to contribute, but where to begin? Who wants to listen to insignificant little me? And he shrugged, as if this was not even something to consider, and said “Just start. Write about things you care about. You’ll find people who care about those things, too.”
I realized two things have stopped me: the feeling of inadequacy that leads to the fear of not starting, and the need to get it perfect first.
I look at the designers I admire and wonder how they do it all. I examine their meticulously crafted sites, their side projects that are more impressive in scope than my day job, and their expertly delivered conference speeches, and am simultaneously impressed and depressed. I get inspired, and then overwhelmed by all the details. Where to begin?
I am forever formulating a complex idea, a new site or blog, with ten different sections. I dream of all the myriad types of content I’ll provide, and how I’ll get to use all the neat little tricks I have yet to play with.
I work for three weeks only to realize I’m nitpicking myself to death and I’ve barely cobbled together a blog, and then I realize that I have to actually write things? I scribble some notes, but writing’s hard work, too. Then comes the doubt: This has all been said before! This code technique has been blogged fifty times. Someone else better than me has already done this. Why bother?
I get overwhelmed by the vision, and it distracts me from the doing. Doing is difficult. There’s a reason we say that real developers ship.
Five years ago, some of our favorite conference speakers weren’t even blogging. Every time I meet one of these people, their reaction is always, “I just talk about stuff I care about, and I build things I care about. I’m so humbled that other people like it.” They didn’t go from their first design job to keynoting conferences via magic. Obviously, they are muggles.
I’m done with being a perfectionist. I’m going to get started, because I’m tired of being still. This time, I’m starting small. I’m going to do the hard part—shipping it!—before I start worrying about anything else.
In the hope that my blog will be more than one post long, I’ve made a list of some things that have been on my mind:
I want to get insight into the details of development process. What is it really like to build a site, whether it’s your own blog or a full-fledged web app? What does it take to write blog posts? I learned how to code by reading the sources of other people’s websites, so I’m keeping my site and blog development public on Github. I want to make the little steps along the way as visible as the end result.
I love HTML and CSS architecture, but have issues with the way it’s taught. I TA’d for a Girl Develop It class on HTML/CSS basics, and it was all syntax-first. Most of the women grasped the syntax, but left without a concept of how to build a website. Is there a better way? How would you teach someone to build their own website in 2012?
I’m fascinated by the way designers and developers work together. My best experiences—and my most successful projects—have been working side by side with a skilled developer. This isn’t new to anyone who’s done it, yet at work we still separate our design and development teams.
Can I live comfortably in the gap between design and front-end development? What do I call myself? Where do I fit in on a traditional non-coding designer and backend developer team?
I briefly held the title of UX Designer. I think user experience is crucial, but I hate making wireframes, and I’m not the best visual designer. Technology matters to me, and I do my best “UX” work in code, figuring out how an interaction actually works.
Titles aside, I believe everyone on a team is responsible for user experience. Especially now that responsive/mobile design is critical, more responsibility for the user’s experience will land on the shoulders of people who can code. I want to help developers understand how to make the right user experience choices, and get excited about it.
You’ll probably also see lots of things I’m reading. Some of them will be design/dev related; many won’t. I recently transferred all my favorite articles to Readability and I want to share them all. I’ve got a tumblr full of inspiration that I’m going to work in, too. I want this blog to represent me—both personally and professionally. As Aarron Walter said in his excellent presentation 'The Real Me', the barrier between those has become blurred. I’m not going to hide the real life Elyse behind a professional, web-design Elyse. You’ll get both.
I don’t yet know how successful I’ll be, or how regularly I’ll post. I can only learn as I go, and I hope you’ll be right there with me.
See you next post.