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You’re Failing as a Web Developer — and Here’s Why

Design, Web Design, Web Development | Apr 8, 2010

There is endless content available in the world of web design blogging telling us how to do things right, and how to succeed at our chosen profession.

That’s obviously a good thing, and it will certainly continue that way. But once in a while we need reminders on the things we do (or fail to do) that are negative.

That is, things that can have a detrimental impact on our progress as designers and developers — despite that these things may be temporarily helping us pay the bills and keep us afloat financially.

We all need to analyze our situation and assess whether or not we’re forming healthy design and coding habits, and whether those habits could be providing short-term gains that are not conducive to long-term success.

So, take this information with a grain of salt (because I know some of it is highly debatable) and consider whether or not you personally are doing anything that could prevent you from having a job in five years.

 

You Have No Intention of Ever Turning Down a Client

This is definitely one of those symptoms that not everyone understands at first. Some might even view it as a good thing. After all, every client you do work for puts money in your pocket, gives you more experience, and increases the size of your portfolio. But not every client project turns out that way.

I’ve worked on projects that I don’t want anyone to know about, because the client did what they wanted design-wise, and my advice on usability and best practices was mostly ignored.

Of course, we don’t all have the luxury of choosing our clients like some really big agencies do. But we have to at least be able to understand for ourselves what type of client we might be averse to working with. There may be circumstances where we simply can’t afford to turn a client down, so that’s understandable. That’s why this section addresses our motivations more than our actions (note the word “intention” in the sub-heading).

If we are able to identify some characteristics in clients or projects that we find undesirable, then it’s likely we’re making some progress as developers, and we’re not so much concerned about making money but are primarily focused on making the web a better place.

 

You’re the Proverbial “Jack of All Trades”

This is certainly one of the highly-debatable points I alluded to earlier. But consider this scenario: You’re a web developer who does it all: You can create a logo in Illustrator, design a website mockup in Photoshop, are able to work with a slew of back-end frameworks, can program in multiple back-end languages, can code valid XHTML and CSS, can create raw JavaScript, have learned to play around with 3 or 4 JavaScript libraries, can do copy writing, content strategy, IA, UX, and even dabble in SEO and SEM.

Jack of all Trades
Are you trying to do too many things as a web designer, and as a result failing to excel at any one of them?

How realistic is it that you’ll be able to keep up to date and be on the cutting edge of all of those different technologies, concepts, and languages? It’s not realistic at all, so it’s best to pick a few areas that you can keep up with and focus on, and if a particular client requires other services beyond your focus, well, that brings us to the next item on this list.

 

You Don’t Do Any Networking

One great way to ensure you’re staying on the cutting edge and keeping up with standards and best practices is through networking, both online and in person.

Of course, some of us might be limited when it comes to personal networking, whether because of our location or some other factors. But we can all network and build relationships with quality developers online. Just keeping up with the blogs of some of the top developers in the world and joining in constructive discussions in the comments can help in this regard.

Networking
Successful networking can have a significant impact on your success as a web professional

Another fantastic way to make contacts and keep up with recent happenings in the community is to attend any events or conferences in your area. Many of these events are put on by some of the biggest names in the web design industry, and the information shared is always up to date and often ahead of the game.

Finally, besides the usual methods of networking done through various social networking sites, you could also offer to collaborate with some developers in the community on a web app, blog, or other website. Making connections in this way will help you focus on honing your skills in a few areas, while connecting with other developers and professionals who can do work in areas in which you aren’t as strong.

As mentioned, this goes back to the previous point about avoiding wearing too many hats. If you have a solid network of available professionals, you likely won’t need to be a “Jack of all trades” and can focus on becoming an expert in a few specific areas.

The only word of warning I would give when it comes to networking is to be prepared to give of yourself, and not just expect to gain from others. The only way an equal and long-lasting exchange can take place is if greed and selfishness is left behind and you’re willing to be just as helpful to those from whom you expect help.

 

You Can’t Justify Your Design Decisions

Everyone wants to be able to create beautiful websites that make an impression while at the same time serve a purpose and provide a usable and intuitive user experience. However, as designers we often try too hard in our efforts in this regard.

We may fall into the trap of imitation (which is fine, in general) but forget that all our design decisions should be based on careful analysis of a website’s purpose, structure, audience, and content. I don’t expect a designer to explain every pixel in a design (although I’m sure some designers can), but most major components in a design should have good justification.

Portfolio
Do the design elements in your portfolio make all your projects look overly similar to one another?

I find it interesting when I browse through the portfolio of a designer and see many similarities in their projects (and I’m sure people would see the same weaknesses in my own portfolio). But unless all your designs are for clients in the same niche industry, design patterns and elements should not be repeated too often across projects. If they are, this might be a symptom of laziness and lack of consideration for what should truly drive a design.

 

You’re A jQuery Ninja, But Can’t Code Raw JavaScript

The truth is, if you can’t code raw JavaScript, then you’re not a jQuery ninja; you just think you are.

I’m a firm believer that understanding a language from the ground up is the best way to really excel at it. Although developers and designers can accomplish great things with jQuery without knowing raw JavaScript, they can accomplish even greater things when they do know JavaScript.

A good book covering a JavaScript library will include sections discussing JavaScript concepts that should be understood in order to delve deeper into the library’s capabilities.

jQuery in Action
The book “jQuery in Action” includes an appendix discussing some important JavaScript concepts that will make your jQuery skills that much better


 

You Never Think About Progressive Enhancement

If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? Even if it does, the sound is irrelevant, because it didn’t serve a purpose.

This can happen with a website that isn’t backwards compatible and lacks accessibility. This is where progressive enhancement comes in, and it needs to be considered during the planning stages, as it is more difficult (but not impossible) to implement in mid-project or after the fact.

Progressive Enhancement
Understanding the importance of progressive enhancement will make you a better web developer

Progressive enhancement (which is one of the key ingredients when implementing accessibility) ensures a website’s content is SEO-friendly and is available to all site visitors, including those with older browsers, assisted technology, or those browsing the web with JavaScript and/or Ajax capabilities disabled. If your site’s content is not accessible to search engine spiders, then it’s like that tree that falls and nobody is there to hear it.

Accessible content will happen naturally on projects with limited use of client side enhancements, but it’s especially important in Ajax-driven sites and applications, or sites that use JavaScript to access important content.

Thinking about progressive enhancement in your web projects is a sure sign that you’re trying to maximize the reach of the site’s content and, by extension, maximizing the site’s ability to turn a sale or make conversions.

 

You Think “Specs” are Glasses

In no way am I implying here that web developers should know everything about the latest CSS and HTML specifications (i.e. “specs”) or other admittedly mundane topics, but you should have at least a passing interest in some of the goings-on in the world of web standards, since these are what will shape the web of the future. It also can’t hurt to be able to speak intelligently and practically on these topics in a job interview (or occasionally and tactfully in a client meeting).

W3C
Having some interest in the progress of web standards, while not the most exciting venture, is a necessary part of being a successful web developer

The majority of well-known web designers and developers are those who are known for being vocal about standards. Those same developers are the ones who have acquired book deals, have written ground-breaking articles on sites like A List Apart, and have gone on to speak at some of the biggest events and conferences in the world of web design.

Those designers and developers are who they are today because they unselfishly took the time to learn about and educate others on concepts and techniques that have contributed towards making the web a more accessible place. You can reach similar goals if you make it your aim to become educated on the progress being made in the world of web standards.

 

You’re Preparing to Post a Comment on This Article to Explain Why I’m Wrong

I’m sure there are some debatable points made in this article, as I’m sure there are also some significant things I’ve neglected to mention. But before you decide these topics are of little importance to a “successful” web professional, take the time to consider what your goals are in building web sites, and where you see yourself in a few years.

I’ve had the unfortunate experience of working with and for people whose only interest in web design was business-related (that is, their goals were mostly financially-driven). Because of the potentially far-reaching effects of what we do as web professionals, our goals should go beyond such superficialities and we should be constantly assessing our personal values to ensure that our progress as web professionals is helping making the web a friendlier place.

Focusing on reaching such goals, and not always on “making the sale”, is what will ultimately make you a successful web professional.


This post was written exclusively for Webdesigner Depot by Louis Lazaris, a freelance writer and web developer. Louis runs Impressive Webs, where he posts articles and tutorials on web design. You can follow Louis on Twitter or get in touch with him through his website.

Do you agree with these views? Why or why not? Please share below…

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  • http://omazingcreations.com Dhruv Patel

    Well explained sir!

  • http://www.digital-results.com Russell Bishop

    Not much of a fan of these “You suck” articles I’m reading recently. And isn’t this about being a developer?

    “You Can’t Justify Your Design Decisions”

    The designer should be making those.

    • http://www.shanedasilva.com Shane

      I dont think the point here is to tell us all how we suck, but just a humorous way to point out how to be a strong developer. Atleast that how I look at it

    • http://www.impressivewebs.com Louis

      Originally, I was going to use the phrase “web designer” in the title, but because most of the points covered “development”, I chose “developer”. I hate web job titles, to be honest, because there are very few people who are “designers” but not “developers”. If you do CSS, then technically speaking you’re a “developer” (albeit in a very limited sense of the word, and I’m sure some would disagree).

      • http://www.leon-zinger.com Leon

        Couldn’t agree more. If you do code then you wear the hat of the developer. if you design then you are a designer.

        as simple as that.

    • http://www.dejavulabs.com Jeremy Buff

      Russell- good developers are designers, and good designers are developers.

  • http://www.vothdesign.de Paul

    Last point:
    “You’re Preparing to Post a Comment on This Article to Explain Why I’m Wrong”

    And this article has no comments. Point well made. :D

    Seriously though, some very valid points here. Well done!

  • http://rosastef.com Rosastef

    I agree with your points. I am guilty of falling into trap no.2 :) It can be hard to choose your specialty and then sticking with it. But I’ve tried for example to stop doing Flash banners and photography retouching. Others are much better at it than me

  • http://sixrevisions.com Jacob Gube

    Nice piece Louis. Very solid arguments – especially under the “Jack of All Trades”.

    I would consider myself to have a broad scope of skills and abilities (from Illustrator to PHP web app development), and I’ve refused to accept the concept that that’s a bad thing. But thinking about it in terms of your argument: How can I competently keep myself updated in all of these things, and should I even do that?

    However, I think there’s a difference between actually being a “Jack of All Trades”, and having just working knowledge of a wide array of different skill sets. I would consider myself to be a PHP/MySQL/JavaScript developer as my specialty, but I do have working knowledge of other languages and tools that enable me to understand and have the basic ability to work on them. It’s sort of like going to a foreign country and being able to communicate things like “Where’s the bathroom?” or “Can I have another round of beers?”

    I think the best way is to focus on your favorite technologies, but don’t limit yourself to just that. Have some knowledge of other things that interest you, but not necessarily something you want to do to make money. Otherwise, you’re putting unnecessary restraints on your potential and promoting complacency, which leads to stagnant growth and lack of innovative drive.

    Additionally, having working knowledge of other technologies allows you to enhance what you already know about your specialization. As a very simplified example: If you were a CSS/HTML ninja and you learned the in’s and out’s of basic SEO, you will see how they are both interconnected and how each of them can complement each other, giving you a much richer and fuller body of knowledge as opposed to if you just focused yourself on one or the other.

    • http://www.impressivewebs.com Louis

      I agree, Jacob. I hope I didn’t give the impression that we shouldn’t at least know a little bit about a number of different technologies. I was pointing out that we shouldn’t expect to be experts in all of them.

      But as a side point to this, I think there are some exceptions to the “Jack of all Trades” rule — and you’re one of them. I’m very impressed at how you personally have been able to excel at so many different things, and if someone else can do that, then I have no problem with that. But I think it’s more realistic for the majority of people to accept their limitations and try to focus on a few things, rather than a few dozen.

    • Max

      I couldn’t agree more with that. However, my question to both Jacob and the author of the post would be this: how can you get *paid* as a “Jack of All Trades” when you were hired to do just a couple of the skills?

      So many times I see web designers hired to work on a company’s site as a full-time employee, but as time goes on the higher-ups see new things on the internet and think “hey, I want that for my company’s site!” so they expect you to do it – even if it wasn’t originally in your job description. Too many employer’s think if you work on one aspect of the internet (site design) that you *should* be able to do it all.

      I’m thinking this is just one way to get the most for the least amount of money, but this is happening too much these days. How best to combat it?

      • http://www.impressivewebs.com Louis

        Unfortunately, that’s very true. Like you said, they see it on the web, and they think any “web guy” can do it, and should do it.

        Well, my advice for developers/designers who are pressured in that manner is to show their bosses what the big design agencies are doing. Big design agencies hire many employees, each of whom will cover one or two specific areas, and they are experts in those areas. Those agencies produce some of the best design and development projects in the world. So those examples can be pointed to in order to demonstrate that many of the best websites in the world are built by teams of specialists, not “one guy who does it all”.

    • http://sixrevisions.com Jacob Gube

      @Louis No, I didn’t get that impression from what you said in the article; you are right, you should pick a few to be an expert on. I just wanted to sort of add an extension of it here in the comments and share my thoughts on a related subject of “expert knowledge versus working knowledge”.

      Thanks for your kind words, but I’ll be the first to admit that I just have a handful of “expert-level” skills, and a lot of working knowledge skills. For example, I have just enough working-knowledge of jQuery that I can write tutorials about it on my site, but where I would be considered more of an expert in is MooTools. They’re related though, and knowing both helps me learn more about each other. And more importantly, it teaches me a lot about good JavaScript development.

      Anyways, again, I enjoyed this post. You will rarely see me commenting on blogs (and even rarer to see me coming back to read people’s responses to my comments), but there seems to be a pattern where all the articles that I read that I feel compelled to comment on have been written by you!

      @Max I’ll give you an idealistic/perfect-world answer and a realistic/real-world answer based on experience from a guy who’s been down in the trenches and not banking 7-figure web dev contracts or book-writing deals (well, the latter, not so much anymore).

      The idealistic answer is: Quit now, your bosses don’t appreciate your skill and talent or tell them “It’s not my job, hire someone else.”

      However, most of us who have worked for a few years as an in-house/corporate web developer know that that’s really now how the world works. You can quit, sure, and brave this economic situation and try to look for a better job. You can tell them “it’s not my job”, but we all know that that sort of attitude has drastic negative consequences.

      So, my suggestion: You should let them know what your job role is. Talk to your higher-up’s and let them know what the role of a web designer is. Show literature. Show evidence that having you do these other things take away from your ability to do–and excel in–what they hired you for. You can make analogies like: “Would you ask a psychiatrist to do brain surgery?”–they’re both doctors, both their work involve the human brain just like web developers and web designers are both web professionals, but they have completely different job roles and skill sets.

      I’ve been in a similar situation as you. Personally, I took it as a challenge to get to learn more about something on someone else’s time and money; things that I would’ve gone home and learned on my own anyways.

      I’ve been there before. Hired as a web designer, asked to fix broken network printers and computers not booting up. The best thing you can do in this situation, for the good of the profession as a whole, is to educate decision-makers so that they know more about what you do.

      • http://www.impressivewebs.com Louis

        Actually, Jacob, when I first saw your name in the comments, I immediately said to myself, “Oh no… what did I screw up this time!”. :)

  • http://www.neilcooperdesign.com Neilcooperdesign

    Great article and so true on all points.
    Well done.

  • http://www.vexis.pt Pedro’s

    Jacob said it all …

    I really like the points you take on the article but there are those “Jack’s” that really like to learn and be able to be self autonomous in many areas… :)

    But, yes, you can’t excel at all of the tasks … but you surely can have lots of fun when trying it :)

  • http://www.bloggs74.com/ Natasha

    very true…loved the post

  • http://www.rappsodystudios.co.cc Joshua Rapp

    I can definitely associate with being the ‘Jack of All Trades’ kind of guy. But I have found I am much more comfortable being an illustrator and specializing in UX and UI design.

    Another reason for failure could be that they may not want to better themselves as a designer or developer.

  • http://www.khwebdesign.net Kent

    Guilty as charged, especially on “Jack of All Trades”

  • http://blog.balootisme.com Baloot

    When it comes to web designer, they don’t do a web development. You just need to becomes professional with 1-2 skills only. Web developer don’t do design in Photoshop. They just code it into xHTML and CSS (or jquery for addition). :)

  • http://jeremiahnellis.com jeremiah

    Very informative. The networking is the one I have the most trouble with. Finding time to network is a problem for me. The conferences are a great idea.

  • http://www.hdesignonline.com Nate Hamilton

    Really good article, all things that I am currently trying to balance at the moment. Especially the part about not being a jack of all trades. At times that can seem like a good idea and something that I would like to attain, but in the end I think it will only hurt. You’ve inspired me to start reaching out to a larger audience and to start utilizing talent around me. Thanks for the article!

  • http://www.thegraphichive.com William Melvin

    I agree with what you say here. I have just started a little graphic design company, and we have been focusing on higher end sites and I just had to turn a client down because he got a super low quote from a media company. Thing is this client most likely would not have gotten us more clients, and if I would have let him talk me down in price I would have done a website that would not have built my portfolio (which is coming along slowly, but surely)

  • http://www.rdegree.net/ Otto Rask

    A good checklist with great points, thanks for posting! :)

    I’m falling to the “jack-of-all-trades” syndrome. I know lots of things but I don’t really know but few (Photoshop, HTML and CSS to be precise). Next up I’m headed to learning raw JavaScript along with a library to really deepen my skills as a front-end developer.

  • http://www.paramaya.net Laura Sultan

    This is an excellent post. There was a time when I would never think of turning down a potential client or even (gasp!) firing one. Believe me when I say that I learned the hard way. I have personally experienced the client who took over the design and turned it into something painful to see. One of the most rewarding aspects of working for yourself is being able to define the type of clients or projects you take on.

  • http://sideradesign.com paul

    “You’re A jQuery Ninja, But Can’t Code Raw JavaScript”, if you follow that logic, then all programmers should be fluent in the assembler language.
    I tend to agree with this point of view : http://css-tricks.com/the-abstraction-point/

    • http://www.impressivewebs.com Louis

      Yeah, I knew that many would disagree on that point, but it’s just how I personally feel. Chris Coyier made a great point in that article, but you’ll notice that his argument is that everyone has their own own abstraction point, not that there is a common abstraction point.

      But as far as jQuery is concerned, the problem is that jQuery *is* JavaScript. It’s not its own language. If you learn assembly language, that isn’t going to help your JavaScript abilities in the least (at least not in any practical, real-world way). But if you learn JavaScript concepts from scratch (concepts, not necessarily every nook and cranny of the language) then you’ll be a much better jQuery developer.

      Again, this is debatable, and it’s my personal view. But thanks for mentioning Chris’s article, because I think it’s very relevant to the discussion.

    • http://www.jc-designs.net/blog Jeremy Carlson

      That article came to mind immediately after reading that quote, and I’m with Chris on that one.

    • http://sixrevisions.com Jacob Gube

      I don’t think that’s a fair analogy at all. What you’re basically saying is that JS frameworks, which are just an abstraction layer of JavaScript, is an entirely new language. And not only that they are a different language, but that they operate on a different level (but they don’t, JavaScript frameworks and JavaScript are both client-side scripting). jQuery and MooTools are basically a collection of functions and methods to help you shortcut and avoid repetitive, unoptimized JavaScript code that you would otherwise write yourself.

      That is not even close to comparing Assembly (low-level computer language) to, say, C++ (software programming language).

      In order to do more than just snazzy sliding effects in jQuery or MooTools, you should be able to write JavaScript. In fact, using those frameworks already makes you write JavaScript. Not knowing the fundamentals limits you. Especially when you get down to performance optimization and more complex web development work. For example, you have to be able to judge whether the native for loop is more efficient with resources than using the .each() method on certain situations or whether the trade-off in efficiency is offset by the benefits of using one or the other. JavaScript is a requirement to mastering JavaScript frameworks/libraries. I’ll take it a step further and say that I don’t think you can be a “jQuery Ninja” not knowing JavaScript well.

  • http://www.pushpinderbagga.com/blog/ pushpinder

    lol – nice article.

  • http://nicolasrosental.com Nic Rosental

    Great post, I’m definitely guilty of some of these myself and I don’t know a single designer/developer that could say otherwise about themselves.
    You make an excellent point about networking. Many in our profession are quite introverted or simply too busy and avoid networking. I can’t stress enough that networking should be considered an integral part of what we do.

  • http://philocity.com/ Phil Splice

    Very well done!

  • http://danieleckermann.com Daniel

    Good article!

  • http://www.blue-agate.com Minna Kim Mazza

    Definite Jack (or Jill?) of all trades here! However, I have definitely worked to narrow my scope down over the last few years. I focus more on my UI/front-end design and development skills, for my professional gigs, and use my network to fill in other parts of a project when needed. Because I have a broad range of skills, I find that I am most useful for projects implementing front-end design into the back-end development. For my personal projects, I feel like I have more free reign to keep practicing my PHP and database skills and whatever else I can get my hands into.

  • http://AevumDesign.com Jeff G

    First off, I think your article is very thought-provoking. It is a great way to do some inward self-critiquing.

    I have a difficult time agreeing with the “Jack of All Trades” point…
    I believe a vast majority of us fall into this category, because the industry demands that we know HTML / CSS / Javascript / PHP, WordPress, etc, etc…

    So what if I’m an expert at HTML/CSS? Where would that get me? The time it takes to be an “expert” in this considerable. Although we as professionals could argue that it is a HUGE advantage, I would argue that employers don’t understand the value of an “expert” as well as design professionals do. The companies I’ve interviewed with over the past year have all asked about HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP/PERL/RUBY and image editing software. They never seem to care whether I am an expert in one or another…

    Just my two cents.

  • http://www.nightlifenation.net Kharismatic

    Very well written and good points all around. Definitely will use these as a way to continue to advance my development abilities.

  • http://flitterfeed.com Mark Biegel

    @Louis & @Jacob. I agree with both of you (ha!) I think that if you keep your array of expert skills in the one area then it’s a benefit. For me I have expert skills ranging from graphic design (print and web) to web app development. I think that it’s just the progression that you must follow to be a good web designer. After all, these are the skills that allow you to take a project from start to finish.

    Being all in the same field it’s easy to stay on top of the technologies. But if i was to through in video production, server admin and mail admin skills, these are out of scope of regular work and I wouldn’t think that in day to day work that you would be able to stay on top of them.

    So what am I saying? Jack of all trades can spell trouble. Unless they are kept in your regular work flow and you use them all the time. They are you “toolset”.

  • Adam M

    Great article. I can see the benefits of networking to keep up to date with new technologies. I am just starting off as a web developer and sometimes you can get lost amongst all the technologies. What would you advise a new web developer to focus on?

  • http://new2wp.com jared

    ahhhhh!! you know, i saw this in my email when i got the rss sent to it, and i was like WTF, who and how do they know!!

    first thought, i swear lol.

    I do suck and fail daily, multiple times, with multiple things that i have never nor ever will understand and be on a level enough to be able to confidently do it knowing it will be what i intend it to be, and without having to research and re-research repeatedly, over and over, and never get it.

    So, it was kinda little creepy, like you were in my email, watching me fail or something lmao.

    I know i suck, i dont need you to remind me damnit! :O

    PS: I just failed the math problem for comment posting, 1+2=?… not 2 as i just learned lol. i failed math 3 times, i hate math… alot

    • http://www.impressivewebs.com Louis

      You know what, Jared? I suck at some of these things, too, (even though I wrote the article!) — so no reason to think you’re the only one. I think I do well in the area of progressive enhancement and HTML/CSS specs, but on the other points, I’m still working at it. I hate staring at a design in Photoshop and wondering, “Why does this look better with a drop shadow??” and having no answer for myself!

      • http://new2wp.com jared

        Yeah It’s cool. I got that this post was to basically point out that nobody’s perfect, and I do think I am somewhat good at design work (though in no way awesome). It’s more just the past week I have been trying to develop some stuff with Php and jQuery, and have been realizing how much I am not a programmer… again.

        I am completely aware of that and I just do my best to learn what I can as I struggle to wrap my head around basic understandings of things, still now after years of working with the more advanced languages besides html and css which I am ok with. I think like a designer (right-brain) and programming something based on logic and problem solving is not what I excel at. I can’t figure out for the life of me why I am compelled to push myself to continue trying to learn it, knowing that it will never really work lol.

        It’s all good. I just already knew I am failing at web design is all I was saying, and this was posted at the perfect point in my realizing it once again lmao, after spending past 3 days writing, rewriting (repeating this for a countless amount of times) in an effort to update the WP plugin I made, which I still haven’t got to work.

        Anyways enough about how I suck, lets hear from some others!!
        *hopes there are others*

        This is a great post to btw. You have a lot of really good points here.

      • DaveK

        I totally agree Jared, I often wonder why cant I do this, I look at my designs and coding and think, god I am not happy with that, maybe it comes back to the “jack of all trades” point, maybe narrowing down on the things we concentrate on will yield better results.

        Why do I carry on……… Because I love it, and couldnt imagine doing anything else, I will just carry on being mr average until I learn more and improve, or until my clients begin to tell me I stink, which ever comes first ;-)

        P.S. someone at web designer depot needs to look at the verification as when I was growing up 3+1 equaled 4 ???????

  • Edison Leon

    Thank you all for the argument, it really enjoy the discussion and learn a lot from it

  • http://www.hotcustard.co.uk HotCustard

    Great article, pretty much agree with everything on the list.

  • http://www.eubotic.com Eddie Alberto Flores

    First of all, great post. I agree with finding a niche where one excels in skills and interests. Offering too many services compromises quality since it’s a constant shift of focus. As much as I love web development, from server-side to client-side, it’s not a wise business choice to tackle all of these in a single project. Instead, we should offer services that complement our work flow and enhance our productivity.

  • David

    Great article! A lot of great points made. Thanks.

  • http://nukegraphic.com Hans Hendrady

    Nice articles, yeah agree with you dude.

  • http://www.ensitepedia.com/qq.com/ qq

    I believe the social part is the most important to me.

  • http://mchaov.net Martin Chaov

    Yep, nice article. In my opinion a piece of the problem is there are a lot of people who do tutorials :) These people know that they can do glossy buttons or something else they learned in on of the quadrillion tutorial sites out there, and they consider themselves designers.

    On what planet a boy or a girls who can draw with pen tool is considered designer? I completely agree with – “You Can’t Justify Your Design Decisions” point. I am still far away from the skill to explain every pixel, but my work never stays unjustified.

    But even a fully justified work can be destroyed by some clients girlfriend/wife.

    Back to the point – These all reasons you describe are not why some are failing as web developers or designers. The main reason is GREED!

    Human beings are greedy. Almost every designer can launch a web site with the help of ready CMS like Joomla for example. Also developers can sell web sites with free templates via the same CMS….

    We are getting to the point where there are no designers and developers, there are just advanced clickers.

  • http://itfigures.thecomicseries.com Mike Gossmann

    I think this is a good article for putting things in perspective a bit.
    The networking and design points are the ones I really need to work on. I’m not very outgoing which makes the networking a bit of a challenge. Even just networking online, I have trouble just jumping into an established community.
    The jQuery/javascript thing has been nagging at me for a while too.

  • http://aversteegden.blogspot.com/ Aschwin

    Nice article. Too bad 4 me I recognized to many issue :-(

  • http://meteoracle.tumblr.com meteoracle

    I think there’s a fine line between being a ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ and being able to keep abreast of other areas. For instance, I’m for the most part a developer, I specialise in HTML, CSS, Javascript and libraries like jQuery.

    However, I’m competent to use things like Photoshop, have enough knowledge about SEO to build a site effectively for search engines, and I’m very much getting into UX design.

    I don’t claim to be an expert in any or all of the above, but a broad skillset with specialised areas is a good thing. And I’ve just realised how Jacob Gube has said pretty much the same above, just better!

  • http://www.bluejavax.com bluepicaso

    Really good. I’m not failing though.

  • http://www.creatuswebdesign.nl/ Gert van den Brink

    Very nice article, and I certainly agree with it, and a also see it in myself, especialy the “Jack of al trade’s”, I try to do everything (design, html, css, javascript, php, mysql) but I notice that it’s impossible to become an expert in everyone of them. It’s good to know someting about them all, but it’s not realistic to try to work with them all, and I think I have to learn that…

  • http://rm-perm.ru/sozdanie-saitov Создание Сайтов

    Very well written and good points all around.

  • sayrus

    The problem is that most of “web designers” think they are good “developers”…

    Your not a developer if you can only create HTML & CSS using JQuery Scripts & WordPress. That’s not developement but integration only. The guys who built wordpress are developers… (just an example)

  • http://www.sugarcatblog.com Rachel

    Great article – thank you. I was guilty of #1 – not turning down clients (and found some were such a time suck that the projects were not financially viable).

    Another point about being a Jack of All Trades – I wonder if anyone else views this as off-putting? Whether it’s in web development or another field, whenever I see a huge long list of things that someone does (especially job titles), it makes me think that they’re not going to be very good at them. Also there’s a slight air of desperation about them – “Please hire me, I’ll do anything, even walk your dog.” Does anyone else think that?

  • http://www.praphul.name Praphul O.

    Thanks a lot for this article.

  • Hastimal Shah

    Nice article, Very Well Explained
    Its really true, Earlier i was like this only. But now changed myself

  • http://www.thelab.net.au Storm

    I agree that these are things are things that developers do wrong, I know I don’t net work half as much as I should and I definitely try to be a “Jack of all trades”. The hard thing is knowing where to draw the line when you are a sole-trader freelancer. The more work you farm out to specialists means you are just adding a new skill to your belt “project management”. When you are a small fish in the freelancing pond, I feel you do need to have a bit of that “Jack of all trades” thing behind you to make sure that you are actually making a little bit of money on projects instead of paying expert rates to specialists to get your jobs done in a timely fashion.

    Good article though, gets you thinking

  • http://virtua-gallery.com kjpweb

    Very true. But sometimes you’re left without an alternative to be a Jack of all Trades – when you’re on your own, working without a team, that allows a level of specialization.
    Staying up to date – is one of the most important issues – but manageable, when including it in your daily routine.
    I have given up on testing new technologies the moment they pop up, but wait instead to see how they develop and implemented.
    Much of “new things” make a wave, just to disappear after a while – and only a few things really do make it into the existential mainstream.
    So that makes “sucking” a bit more bearable!

  • jesusOmar

    “Jack Of All Trades” that is currently my curse, I am expected to wear to many hats and can’t focus on one or two technologies that I could excel at. When you develop asp c# php vb.net all in a course of a week it’s not long before you start calling response.writes in your php code. Sadly for me, I see no hope in my future, at least not with the present company. They support an say yes to basically any client that walks trough those doors. :(

  • http://soundcabin.co.za Kutlwano

    Great points Louis, especially when you’re regaining your love for a particular skill. I was trained in web development but chose graphic design. I am currently so in love with web design/development that most of my emails are web related and I find myself trying to stay up to date with both industries, mind you both are quiet diverse. I wouldn’t say I good or much of a guru in graphics, but the web, I have the knowledge love and admiration. So my point is the “Jack of all trades” point is on point and I also love what Jacob mentioned also.

    Thanx for sharing, at least I can fine tune my intentions around my intended path.

  • http://www.jordanwalker.net Jordan Walker

    I think being well rounded is a trait that many aspire too, but never reach.

  • http://medifastcoupons.drinkchooselive.com Jennifer Stewart

    LOL I’m not going to disagree with you at all! I think you brought up a myriad of great points, and offer sound advice to web developers in this article.
    Thanks for providing a well thought out article!

  • that guy

    I disagree with the jQuery part. The whole point of the framework is so you don’t have to get into the raw javascript. You can do basically everything with jQuery that you can do with raw javascript. IMO, jQuery is what javascript should have been.

    • http://www.impressivewebs.com Louis

      You’re partially correct: No, you cannot do anything with jQuery that you can do with JavaScript, especially when you factor in performance. Read this comment by Nicholas C. Zakas (a JavaScript superstar) in response to one of my questions:

      http://www.nczonline.net/blog/2010/01/05/interviewing-the-front-end-engineer/#comment-4436

      But in a sense, you are correct that jQuery is what JavaScript should have been. But I don’t think that’s a realistic premise, because jQuery is too abstracted to allow full control. But that’s a whole other argument, and would probably make for an interesting discussion on its own.

  • http://www.kristietaylor.ca Kristie

    Louis, this was very helpful, as most web design blog posts are for me. I’m new to the game and feel like I’m learning at a time when a wealth of great information and standards are available. I suppose the task from here on out is to stay on top of the latest developments (an almost impossible task!). Posts like yours are good motivators.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.andrewmpeters.com Drew

    Hey Louis, interesting read. The one thing I do disagree with, though, is that “jack-of-all-trades” point, as some others have mentioned.

    I see your point – but, as someone who sort of fits this profile, I can’t say I’d rather forfeit my knowledge in many areas to become a real whiz in just one. On the contrary, I think it’s really essential (especially if you’re just starting out) to have this kind of varied skill set. Especially in this economy, not many clients are wanting to hire a designer, developer, and copywriter to work on a project – or, if they are, it doesn’t seem they’re willing to pay much!

    Plus, having an array of skills is a great way to really satisfy a client (thus, improving your network, generating referrals, etc). For example, if you’re hired to do design, but you also know some SEO and marketing, you can really impress by going above and beyond a client’s expectations. Same goes for a designer who knows the ins and outs of PHP, JavaScript and some CMSes.

  • http://www.ginaprodan.com GP

    Lots of great points in this article. I do have the problem with wanting to be a jack-of-all, which is part product of being a control freak, part matter of resources in my job, part not hearting one particular area so much that I want to focus, focus, focus there. But what my inability to focus (and, therefore, become ultimately awesome at skill X) has taught me is that I probably don’t want to do this forever. I like development — the writing, coding, designing — because it’s ever-changing, exciting, influential, valuable and fun-to-do. But I can see running the whole game getting old. Not because it’s exhausting, but because I won’t be able to keep up with everything. Because I won’t focus. At least I’m able to admit it… and that’s the first step to moving forward. At least I’ll always have a useful skill and past!

  • http://www.ozdtasarim.com fireRox

    great article! good points.

  • http://www.rkrichardson.com R.K. Richardson

    I found this article very helpful! I see no need to apologize for any of the advice you passed on. I’ve been designing websites since the mid 90′s and I certainly don’t know it all. Thank you for a simple and candid call for self analysis!

  • http://www.bloggs74.com/ Natasha

    well written article….

  • http://new2wp.com/ Jared

    One thing that sucks too though, is jobs require you to do it all and well.
    So you gotta know design, AND development, or not work. Most places anyways.

    • http://www.impressivewebs.com Louis

      Unfortunately, that’s true. To be honest, many people have made really good points about the “Jack of all Trades” part, and I’m understanding that in many circumstances it would be a good thing to have a lot of areas covered in your skillset. But I still think there’s nothing better than being a specialist in a few chosen areas. Like I said, it’s debatable, so each person has to consider what works best for their own financial and long-term goals.

  • http://1000dpi.com Shaunyk

    Hi guys,

    Great article – the best ones are the ones which raise debates, and evidently this has done.

    To add my little bit – which probably echoes some points made by Jacob, is that I’m amazed that in all the readers / contributors of this blog, there aren’t more ‘ordinary’ people like me who don’t live in the ‘Beverly Hills 90210′ world of web design we’re all made to believe exists.

    Granted that it might stem from the fact that I live in the south of Andalucia, Spain where web trends aren’t at quite the advanced stage as they are in London or California, but as a reader I sometimes get the impression that I’m reading a Saatchi & Saatchi blog.

    Forget turning down work or specialising in one or two niche technologies – I’ve got a mortgage to pay each month, and if a painter and decorator asks me for a poster to stick in the window of his van, I’ll do it. I’d love to be able to turn down everything except branding work, or to become an SEO specialist, but sometimes you’ve just got to take what you can get, and in times like now where it seems everyone wants a website for €2.75 and a can of coke, keeping busy is my biggest concern.

    Tell me I’m not the only one!

  • http://www.orphicpixel.com Mars

    great article sir, i love the last part

  • http://www.earlstudios.com jeremy mayhew

    I am soooo guilty of the “jack of all trades” problem. It started back in 1998 when I started, becuase you had to do everything and honestly, it seemed so much easier back then. I could design the side, code it in html, do the javascript for some menus and then I could still do the cool flash stuff as well, but 1) everything was easier back then and 2) I had to do it all because no one else could.

    It continued like that for a few years and I’ve been working with one main big client for almost five years, running about 13 websites for them, and I’m stuck because they expect me to do everything, but now its even more, because i’m doing the photography and video as well as the sql database management and dynamic database programing….blurg! Add to this the task of helping to shape the marketing direction of the sites as well as writing some copy and it seems like i can’t get ahead on any project.

    I want to just focus on a few things, but I can’t becuase they need me to do everything and I know i’m falling behind in areas like web design and css. So if i specialize, i’m out of a job…and thats the rub.

    but I agree, you can’t be a jack of all trades and really honestly succeed and stay up to date on all the technologies.

    • malcolm

      Copy writing, photography, video and marketing direction?! That’s not your job mate and you need to tell them that before it affects your ability to meet your deadlines. This applies especially so if they’re big client as they should be providing a bigger budget for you to hire to the relevant people. It fascinates me how this is a common place in this industry and how we try to do everything. You need to educate your client, although in all honesty it may be too late as they will say “why didn’t you mention this beforehand?” and it will just make you look bad although I’m sure you have learnt from this lesson.

  • http://www.twitter.com/codephase Codephase

    great article!

  • http://proyektotuldok.com cj

    I might have fallen into the trap of not being up to date and being complacent and sticking to only the things I can do and turning my head the other way on things I’m not really good at. Using Jquery and forgetting about Javascript is a great example of that. The progressive enhancement item also hit me pretty good. Haha. I like articles like these and how they give me a head check. Makes me remember that it’s my responsibility as a developer to constantly improve and enhance my skillset and knowledge. Thanks!!

  • http://www.g13media.com G13 Media

    I like the jack of all trades point, sometimes you would like to do it all but it’s impossible to be superior in all areas of web development. Great write up!

  • http://gauravmishra.com Gaurav Mishra

    All points are beautiful if developer wants to fail. Else he/she can succeed fairly well

  • http://www.avid-designer.com Will D. White

    I’m definitely guilty of #5 – jQuery without knowledge of its Javascript base.

    Looks like I need to get to work!

    Thanks for the great read.

  • http://www.homebusinessgeeks.com Michelle

    I agree with what you’ve said, but I think with a small perspective change, you could lose the “jack of all trades” point.

    While I agree that it’s important to be a master of one element, it’s also important to be a jack of the other related trades. But that doesn’t mean you do everything. It also doesn’t mean that you send clients who want those services that you don’t specialize in elsewhere. Instead, know enough so that you can effectively outsource.

    For example, I have 8 years experience in web hosting. That’s my specialty. While I can create a website in HTML and CSS, graphics and customize WordPress, I consider myself more of a “jack” in those area. So I hire designers, graphic artists and WordPress experts to provide those services to me and my clients.

    So, if you’re a web designer, you could outsource to a web host, or to a programmer, or someone who is really great at coding or copyrighting. And in some cases, you can partner with people in complementary industries to send one another customrs who don’t find in your specialties.

    It’s about thinking like a business instead of an employee.

    • http://www.impressivewebs.com Louis

      Actually, Michelle, in discussing the “Jack of all trades”, I was referring to people who try to master all skills. What you said in this comment is exactly what I was trying to express in the article — that mastering a few things and networking for the others will make you a better web developer.

  • http://www.clippingimages.com Shamima Sultana

    Great collection indeed…
    its very helpful

  • http://zacvineyard.com Zac

    Excellent. Thank you for this article. All too often, my jack-of-all-trades hat gets me into trouble. I’ve been asked everything from getting video off a tape into digital format to running a web server. Where do I draw the line?

  • http://3circlestudio.com/ Justin Carroll

    Ha! Yep, everyone wants to be an exception to the rule. Great post, very well thought-out and dead-on.

  • http://webdura.in Webdura

    Impressive thoughts Louis we makes me think of what am doing now. I also come into situation where we just work to make the pockets bigger by ignoring the web standards. In such we just agree what ever foolishness a client asked for. But later we will came to know the path we moving now is wrong and need to shift to make progress in our career. Also i agree that what ever we do we should keep in our mind that we are doing that to ” making the web a better place” . Good work Louis keep posting.

  • http://www.justforthealofit.com TheAL

    “You’re A jQuery Ninja, But Can’t Code Raw JavaScript” – seems very common nowadays. Which is why it bugs me when people emphasize js or jQuery on their portfolios when all they do is implement scripts in their collections. A lot of them couldn’t write that stuff themselves. I’m not going to point fingers and talk smack, though. I used to be very good with writing javascript back when I first started. And I learned a lot of programming in college. But I stepped away from js for so long that when I got back into the web game, the advent of jQuery and the explosion of open-source scripts was a huge mixed blessing for me.

  • http://www.wearingrainbows.com/mens-waistcoats-ties-c-2659.html Billy

    nice list of things not to do to make a success

  • http://burmehfx15blogu.blogcu.com/ burmeh yaza lida fx15 biber hapi ile formda girin

    Thank you all for the argument, it really enjoy the discussion and learn a lot from it.

  • J.O.A.T.

    I am failing as a Web Developer primarily because of the need for SURVIVAL. It is human instinct to automatically defend and indeed attack when survival is at stake. As much as I love my work I never intended 10 years ago to become what you have coined here as a ‘Jack Of All Trades’ or ‘JOAT’.

    Although I hold computer science qualifications, in the real world I am self taught and offer the following services:

    1. Computer Repairs – Hardware repairs, HD Data Recovery etc.
    2. Software Repair – Virus Removal, Outlook Repair, Back-up Configurations etc.
    3. New Custom PC Builds – Creation of high end custom PC’s using best quality components
    4. Network Design – Small 3-10 User networks design, configuration, installation etc.
    5. Hardware Consultancy – Provide best fit solutions to a company’s existing I.T. structure.
    5. Photography Services – For websites or Brochures.
    6. Domain Name Registration Services – All major TLD’s
    7. Internet Hosting Service – Web Hosting (Windows/Linux), POP3/IMAP E-mail service etc.
    8. Website Design Service – Mainly Photoshop driven with Fireworks for Buttons etc.
    9. Website Development – (X)HTML/CSS/PHP/Javascript/ASP/PHP
    10. Web CMS Solution Integration – Mainly through Joomla.
    11. Flash Application development – For distribution on CD Rom (No demand over last 3yrs)
    12. Print Design – Adverts for magazines / Business Stationery / Logo Design
    13. Content Creation – For websites / Adverts / Editorials etc.
    14. Digitisation Service – Conversion of Negatives to digital / Analogue Video to Digital.
    15. SEO – I strive to develop AAA/AA websites that automatically contribute to SEO.
    16. SEM – Promotional work on websites through white-hat backlinking / forums etc.

    On top of above, because I am self employed, I wear all the different business hats – I am Marketing, Accounting, Sales, Legal, R&D etc.

    To further add to my responsibilities, I have a wife and 2 beautiful young children to support and indeed struggle like so many here, to get the whole work/life balance thing correct!

    In the current economic recession, it boils down to simple SURVIVAL !

    My experience to date has proven to me that Client’s want the best all of the time, but are unwilling to pay the market rates for these services and they actually demand ‘J.O.A.T.’ or they end up moving all their business elsewhere. Maybe I have been concentrating on the wrong type of clients, but when you are trying to grow a business over a number of years you need paying work to subsidise your learning and even today I spend 1-2 days per week learning new technology advancements.

    I feel like a true failure with respect to some of my service offerings because I know I am not the ‘Master’ of these, however, equally I know that every day I always learn something new because my passion and heart are firmly set in what I do.

    Thanks for providing the platform for me to vent today and if anyone has any idea’s of a quick rich scheme that does not involve Forex / Adsense / Miracle Weight Loss then I would love if they posted it here !

  • http://www.loudamedia.com James Scott

    Haha talk about a great blog post title to draw users attention. I’m sure many users came prepared to virtually rip you apart.

    All great points, thanks.

  • Si

    The Jack of all Trades debate.

    How many times do you see job postings that want a plethora of skills?

    You can’t win.

    Employers want a web developer octopus, if you don’t like it, there are plenty of other “failure” web developers to around take your spot.

    I would love to specialise in one area, but it is not realistic.

    • http://www.pointydesign.com James Beardmore

      Damn straight. See my comment below.

    • http://www.pointydesign.com James Beardmore

      Damn straight. See my comment below.

  • http://www.gunnertech.com Cody Swann

    You won’t get much argument out of me.

    That said, I’m all for cutting unnecessary work if you know you won’t have to support non-js browsers, why worry about laying on Ajax? Just build it first-class.

  • http://www.pointydesign.com James Beardmore

    Point two is a really important one and I think many people ignore a very important option. DELEGATE. Even if you’re a single freelancer, get a network of people together that can expand your offered services while maintaining your own level of quality. You can help them and they can help you. This way you don’t spread yourself or your talents to thinly across professions but neither do you corner yourself into a specific niche you may not want to be contained by.

    It can be hard finding decent people to subcontract to with peace of mind but if you manage it I think it’s ideal in many situations.

    • http://www.dessigual.com Ramm

      Exactly, James.

      We can specialize on something, we don’t have to know everything to be a great designer or developer. I’m a designer, i code my own html, css, jquery, but no, i don’t know JavaScript and i don’t want to. What i do is work together with a great developer, who knows a lot about JS and PHP, and together we are a great team. He doesn’t know how to desing and he’s not a css expert, and i’m not a PHP/JS/AJAX gurú, but we make great things working together.

      • http://www.pointydesign.com James Beardmore

        Totally. Collaboration lets you do what you’re good at and love and still deliver a well rounded service to the client.

  • http://photos.nuff-respec.com Daniel

    All great points .. especially the one about the clients. I think the other should technically be no brainers.

  • http://www.josegaldamez.com Jose Galdamez

    Actually, I’m in the business of turning down all clients, so technically I’m doing okay.

  • CSNet

    Dammit, I scored pretty high on this list :(

  • John

    Hey blogs, can we put the author’s name at the top of the article? That way when I come across another article by Louis Lazaris I know to just skip it. Thanks.

  • Craig

    “You’re the Proverbial ‘Jack of All Trades’”- Try telling that to Da Vanci. Some people have a real hard time understanding that others don’t suffer the same shortcoming as themselves. There are people that can master many different trades and are probably better than you at everything you have ever tried. I happen to be one of these people, so stand aside you inept fuckwit.

  • http://www.websites-seo.gr/ Chris

    I agree with your points. I am falling into trap no.2 as well. At least for now is lack of people within the business. I realized that I need to catch up with sooo many new stuff and there is no time for that.

  • http://www.ravi.uxdsign.com Ravikumar V.

    valid points. thank you all

  • Christian

    Poignant title; relevant subtitles. If a developer has not thought previously about these points upon self-reflection, your article provides some catharsis — it’s OK to turn down a client!

    I take umbrage with your repetitive reference to the socialist web developer:

    “I’ve had the unfortunate experience of working with and for people whose only interest in web design was business-related (that is, their goals were mostly financially-driven).”

    Would you apply such lofty standards to all occupations around the world? Would you expect an entire industry to partake in business for reasons unrelated to business?

    The web is undoubtedly a beautiful place, with some of the most beautiful self-expression I have seen. But it sounds like you want developers to set a standard for the 7 billion people.

  • Christian

    Poignant title; relevant subtitles. If a developer has not thought previously about these points upon self-reflection, your article provides some catharsis — it’s OK to turn down a client!

    I take umbrage with your repetitive reference to the socialist web developer:

    “I’ve had the unfortunate experience of working with and for people whose only interest in web design was business-related (that is, their goals were mostly financially-driven).”

    Would you apply such lofty standards to all occupations around the world? Would you expect an entire industry to partake in business for reasons unrelated to business?

    The web is undoubtedly a beautiful place, with some of the most beautiful self-expression I have seen. But it sounds like you want developers to set a standard for the 7 billion people.

  • Eric

    Great article and I agree with most of what you said, especially the last section. I know that when writing an article like this, you won’t think of everything that should be said and if you did, the article would be long-winded and boring. But there are some things to consider about what you said –

    1) Know your audience. Designing a website that is compatible with all of the most popular browsers (Opera, Firefox, IE6+, etc, etc) is great and important in most cases. However, I just had a client who sells handmade furniture. Not a single piece of furniture costs less than $2,000(several pieces for over $20,000). So for me, it wasn’t crucial to make it compatible with older browsers like IE6 because almost all people using that browser would not be in the market for expensive, high-end furniture. For the most part, the site does work with IE6 because I’m so used to coding for all browsers, but it wasn’t one of my main concerns. Also, if you are designing a website for a company that sells TVs, you don’t need to worry about making it very accessible for blind people…not trying to be rude, but the reasons are obvious. Of course, if you do make it accessible for blind people it will be more accessible from an SEO standpoint because your images will have a better chance at getting ranked higher in Google’s image search (therefore, making your website ranked higher in the standard search).

    2) You are spot on about not networking and about not turning down a client. I think the best article I ever read was called “When to fire your client”. I had a tough, annoying client who on several occasions would hire me to design a website or update a website, sign the contract on the agreed specs and terms, and then immediately start asking me to do more (expecting me to not want more money and time to do it). If he was willing to pay more every time he asked for more, that would have been great, but he wasn’t and so I would end up having to argue with him about what he agreed to and what he is actually paying me to do. I got tired of it and finally I “fired” him. Since, I have been able to actually say no to other possible clients just because I didn’t want to work with them for one reason or another (high expectations for low pay, taking too long to pay, unreasonable timeline to get things done, etc). I also used to be open to working with any clients, no matter what, but now I will only work with clients in certain industries (I’m sorry, but I like to be alittle creative with the websites I design, and be able to explore my creativity and designing a site for a chemical company or an accounting firm just doesn’t give me that opportunity).

    Great advice there.

    3) Decent advice about “specs”. As a web designer you MUST follow current trends and stay up to date with the latest advancements in the industry, such as CSS3 and HTML5, and what’s going on with Flash (thank you Apple for putting a stake in the heart of Flash…I never thought I’d say this but I love you Apple). However, no one should be using HTML5 or CSS3 on ANY websites for any clients. As far as I know, there are only 2 browsers that support a majority of either of those (Firefox 3.6 and the latest version of Opera…but I might be wrong) and apparently the next version of IE will barely support HTML5. I’d say only about 15% of internet users would actually be able to view anything you do with HTML5 and CSS3. So take your time learning those, you won’t really be able to use either for at least 2 years.

    4) Jack of all Trades…It’s good and bad. Good because you don’t have to worry as much about what the client might give as specifications (whether it MUST be done in ASP.net, PHP, Flash, etc), but bad because there is no reason to know more than one dynamic language. And being a self-taught web designer, I’m glad I chose the most popular one to learn. Also there is no reason to learn more than one framework for PHP. If you can use one, you can learn most of the others pretty easily if you had to. As far as I know, all JavaScript libraries do pretty much the same thing. Each might have it’s little caveats, but I can’t see myself wasting my time learning prototype and mootools and jQuery (I chose jQuery to learn just because it has great support and the people behind it seem to have more of a love of what they are creating). I’m not critiquing the author of this article here, I’m completely agreeing and expanding on what he is saying.

    5) Something that was left out is that you sometimes need to step back from your work. It’s easy to get too close to what you are creating. It’s easy to get caught up in it and lose sight of the overall goal. It’s easy to fall in love with what you make. And it’s nearly impossible to step back from it, but if you can find a way (go onto the website like a normal user, and just search around the site for a particular piece of info/product. Go to similar sites(that have been around longer) and do a similar search for a similar piece of info/product. Do they compare? Is it harder to find that same thing on the site you created?). If you don’t do that, you can easily fail as a web developer just because you stop designing for your client.

    6) Try your hardest to not reuse designs/color schemes/layouts. I sometimes look at the portfolios of other freelancers in my area to see my competition and some of them use the EXACT same layout. Same navigation menu, same content area, same font, similar graphics, similar color schemes, identical contact forms, identical JavaScript effects, identical usage of white space, etc. It’s boring and all it tells your future clients is that you can use the exact same template VERY well…but that’s never a good thing. If you notice most of your websites are similar, go explore web design galleries. Pick out a random style and try to dive into it. Use more/less transparency, use horizontal and vertical menus, use more/less AJAX, use a smaller/larger main content area, etc. Mix it up.

  • http://www.intercomm.co.za InterComm South Africa

    I’m a Jack of all Trades – but when you work in South Africa you have to be. It’s a small country with small budgets. I don’t know how often I get called in to do a website, but they logo is ancient and needs redrawing, and then a great copy on the website needs to be used in a print brochure, and before you know it you’re putting together print ads.

    After 30 years in the advertising industry, there’s very little you haven’t done before whether its print, digital or web – all involve images, words and sales strategy. Of all the areas of advertising, web has been the most difficult and requires constant learning.

    I draw the line at anything with face-to-face communication. If you think a web designer’s life sucks, try event co-ordination!

  • http://tonybarnes.me Tony Barnes

    Great read, and a good point of view. Thank you.

  • http://www.sheenaoosten.com Sheena

    Great, thought provoking article!

    So here’s my two cents….

    I don’t think being a “jack of all trades” is necessarily a bad thing. Being a “jack of some trades” is probably better though. I suppose it has its advantages and disadvantages like everything else, but overall i think working in such a fast-paced industry you have to learn to step out of your comfort zone and try to adapt to what’s going on around you and learn new skills (even if only the basics for now)…mostly in order to complete and keep up!! Being specialised in one area might work well for you right now, but who knows if those services or skills will be required in future? Take a look at how the web had developed over the past 10 years and where it’s going now.

    Like one person above mentioned, a lot of clients don’t really care if you are specialised in one area or in one programming language or not. If a client wants a website designed and you offer this as a service, then that’s all that often matters to them. Whether it’s developed in php, asp or just plain old HTML/CSS they usually don’t really care or want to understand.

    Think about the web for a minute. Web apps and new platforms/devices are popping up all over the place are mostly likely going to be the way of the future….if i was an expert in ASP.net for example, would I have a job in 10 years time? With all the template sites out there offering cheaper alternatives, will design studios be out of work in the next decade? Who knows? But I know i’d personally like to be prepared for the future or at least have a few skills under my belt which i could develop if need be.

    Also, I do think it is possible for people to be equally good in a number of disciplines. I myself come from both a creative and technical background (odd combination I know). I studied programming at university, and used my natural artistic skills to develop in the graphic design world – which i feel I do equally well. Providing multiple services to clients gives me a competitive edge….and for clients…well they get everything under one roof :)

  • http://im-interactive.net imran ali

    Very well explained, i am stucked and failed most of the time because i fit a little in the second category.

  • http://www.regexhacks.com/blog Josh

    Nice article, I agree with you on most of the things. Thank you.