Photo Kevin M. Hoffman by Michelle Gray

Kevin M. Hoffman

To all those don’t meet you yet. How do you describe yourself?

I run a distributed agency called Seven Heads Design that builds project teams from highly experienced independent designers. I have over 20 years of experience working in digital media, including websites, applications, and product strategies. I’ve worked and taught in universities, and also worked in an agency as a UX Director. I watch probably too much television and live with my wife and son outside of Philadelphia, PA.

When you started developing, what were some common mistakes you made along the way?

Assuming that something was simple when I could conceptualize it before I built it, and as a result underestimating the time it takes to do something well. Relying too heavily on prefabricated frameworks that made things I (we) built too heavy and cumbersome to load.

Front-end seems to be easy until you start to learning. How do you face the challenge of learning new things?

Surround myself with really smart, energized people!

What would you qualify as the top few problems facing developers today?

Staying current. Clients believing that things are a lot easier than they are, because they can just set up a Squarespace or Wordpress theme or something similar and get great results, right? I don’t believe that’s true, but it’s becoming more and more of a conversation because web design is become more and more accessible and abstracted from hand crafting things carefully. Complex responsive patterns can also be a challenge.

How would you recommend somebody to start learning web development?

Build a website or ten. :) Especially thinking mobile first. Work with someone who builds websites professionally.

What are the things you would have known when you first started?

That’s a good question. I wish I would have developed a stronger understanding of what object oriented programming is, and practiced more javascript.

When starting a new project, if you feel stuck where do you look for inspiration?

Anywhere outside of the industry I’m designing for. If I’m designing for higher ed, I might look to editorial. If I’m designing for large companies, I might look to small companies. Etc.

What was your first development job and how you faced it?

Building a website service for community groups in Pittsburgh. I got through it with a good mentor who wasn’t afraid to let me figure stuff out on my own!

What was the most challenging project you ever faced and why?

Every project is a unique challenge. I would say that a recent challenge was developing a plan for a system that integrated complex point of sale backend systems with SAS database structures and a custom LMS front end. So anything with too many acronyms is hard, I guess! ;)

Can you describe your workflow when you create HTML, CSS and JavaScript from scratch?

The developers I hire often use patterlab.io with various grunt tasks automating a Git repo to collect and publish new and updated styles, semantic markup, and behaviors.

What excites you most these days?

Comic book movies! Dramatic television. The iPad pro, or at least the promise of it. I wish I could tether it as a devise in OSX, and not just have it be independent in IOS.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned?

Standards and best practices are necessary, but fleeting in the long term. It’s better to know why something is a best practice than to know something IS a best practice.

Do you have any favorite books, videos, or resources that you could share with the readers?

AListApart.com continues to be excellent. StackExchange.com seems to be filled with a lot of value.

Do you have any advice for new developers just starting their career journey?

Every year, think about what you want to accomplish for that year. Then make sure at the end of the year, ask yourself if you accomplished your goals. If you did, great! Then make harder goals! If you didn’t, that’s ok! Think about what that goal represented to you, and figure out a new version of that goal that feels more accurate to what you are capable of and your needs. It’s okay if you don’t meet goals, not all the goals we set are always the right ones. Sometimes I learn that I set the wrong goals because I didn’t have the right information (yet).

What can we expect from Kevin in the future? Anything you want to share?

My book will be coming out this year! I’d love to hear what you think of it. We just launched Seton Hill, and we think it is a fantastic responsive site designed to a number of important jobs for the school. We’ve got sites launching every few months or so, so keep an eye out!