To all those don’t meet you yet. How do you describe yourself?
I’m a web person through and through. Day to day I help run Clearleft, a digital design consultancy and studio I co-founded. Within that, I’m a user experience designer and a web typography advocate/consultant. In the early days, way before starting Clearleft, I was a frontend developer and I still like to keep my hand in.
When you started developing, what were some common mistakes you made along the way?
I started developing in late 1994. Back then there was no CSS (that did’t arrive until 1996 and it wasn’t used extensively until at least 2000), so there weren’t many mistakes to make. [Not true: code would have massively invalid, but still worked none-the-less]
Frontend seems to be easy until you start to learning. How do you face the challenge of learning new things?
Don’t view it as a challenge - it’s a privilege. Learning new things it part of all of our jobs, and that’s a great thing. That said you have to learn to pick your battles. Don’t worry about the huge amount of stuff you’ll never know much about (we all have that problem) just pick the stuff that either piques your interest, that you think might be relevant to what you are currently working on, or that you sense will be handy in the near future. It helps if your company understands that is part of your job, and accommodates self-learners. It also helps if you’re interested enough in this stuff to do it in your spare time too - if not you might be in the wrong job!
What would you qualify as the top few problems facing developers today?
Too much focus on development environments and workflows to the detriment of code quality. Not enough focus on accessibility any more (things like ARIA roles are relatively new and tricky to master as the goalposts keep shifting).
How would you recommend somebody to start learning web development?
Patiently and enthusiastically. Buy a domain and some hosting and put a website out there. Get a website running on your local machine (Macs have that pretty much out of the box). Start building and playing around. Search for tutorials and book recommendations. Have fun.
What are the things you would have known when you first started?
That I could make a career out of what was initially a hobby (I might have taken the plunge sooner).
When starting a new project, if you feel stuck where do you look for inspiration?
Offline. Magazines mostly.
What excites you most these days?
I’m excited by new shiny stuff (physical things as well as concepts and services), but I get the biggest buzz out of extracting ideas from clients and turning them into (virtual) reality. It’s like giving clients a superpower they didn’t know they had, and it makes them feel good.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned?
Attitude (good and bad) is infectious, so don’t be a dick.