I've worked in digital since 2005, initially as a front-end designer & developer, moving into interface design for native mobile and web apps, and now managing a development team of my own - but I've also done stints as as a copywriter, content strategist, CMS technical support guy, and the old favourite… "bloke who sits in the corner and looks after the website".
My employers range from large organisations (local government & HE), through charities and not-for-profit’s, right down to small independent companies, so I've seen the web evolve from a whole bunch of different viewpoints.
At present my job title is the rather high falutin’ "Mobile Development & User Interface Team Leader", which means I have my fingers in most stages of the app design and development life-cycle. Everything from scoping out projects and writing requirements, working with our UI and UX designers to generate prototypes, mood boards and style guides, then annoying the devs with silly questions while they beaver away doing the hard bit - and all the time trying to keep the customer happy!
Forget all the rock-star/ninja/Jedi/super-fire-pony stuff - I've met people who've described themselves as being "full stack", but that usually means they know some PHP and a little bit of CSS - so here's the stuff that I'm good at:
- Web standards
- Semantic markup
- Prototyping and wire-framing
- Page design and layout
- Information architecture
- Interface design
- Project delivery
My reading list
Although I studied IT at university, you have to keep on going under your own steam if you wan't to stay up to date - plus there's only so much they can teach you in 3 years, so I’ve done a lot of self-learning in the years since. Much of this has come from books by leaders in the field, so here’s a list of reference material that I always like to have to hand:
- The Design of Everyday Things, by Donald Norman
- Emotional Design, by Donald Norman
- Don't Make Me Think, by Steve Krug
- It's Not Rocket Surgery, by Steve Krug
- The Art of Captaincy, by Mike Brearley
- Grid Systems in Graphic Design, by Josef Muller Brockman
- The Elements of Typographic Style, by Robert Brinkhurst
- Designing with Web Standards, by Jeffrey Zeldman
- Handcrafted CSS, by Dan Cederholm
- Hardboiled Web Design, by Andy Clarke
- The Elements of Usability, by Jessie James Garrett
- Eric Meyer on CSS by, Eric Meyer
- The Icon Handbook, by Jon Hicks
- Graphic Design: The new basics, by Ellen Lupton
- Learning JQuery, by Karl Swedberg
I also follow online news services around tech and management to keep me up to date, including:
Every designer has their preferred set of tools, and although I'm not really a believer that there's one 'right' way of doing things, for what its worth here are the tools I use on a daily basis while working on the web...
Pencil and paper are the first port of call for layout and wireframes, which I usually convert into interactive prototypes using the amazing POP app.
For graphical elements I used Fireworks for the longest time - although I'm beginning to warm more to Illustrator of late for some reason. I know a lot of people prefer Photoshop over Fireworks, which is cool, but like the Mac/PC thing, I've just always found Fireworks easier to use and more fun to play with. Simple as.
I've never worked anywhere that doesn't use Dreamweaver, so default to using it for 99% of my code, although the lack of proper support for SASS is really starting to grind me down, and am thinking more and more about jumping ship over to Code Kit.
For version control it's all about Tower and Beanstalk, which I used to interface with Git, and take care of all my deploys. I really should learn to use the command line one day - but there's always something more important to do first. Like learning to swim, for example. Really must get round to that one...
Browsers and testing
I've always been a standards-based coder, and lean toward webkit as my benchmark for testing layout, so I write my code for Safari/Chrome first, then tweak it for other browsers. When it comes to testing the FireFox developer toolbar is indispensable, as well as FireBug, and YSlow.
I'm lucky to have access to a whole bunch of mobile devices in the office, so when it comes to mobile sites we test in iOS 8+, Android 4.4+, and Windows Phone on "real" handsets, and use the ever-reliable Browserstack for everything else.