Advice for Every Web Designer and Developer Out There

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Disclaimer: this is an homage to the fantastic “Wear sunscreen” essay written by Mary Schmich, published by Chicago Tribune in 1997. We rephrased some words so it’s applicable to the people working in IT.

Keep it simple.

If we could offer you only one tip for the future, keeping it simple would be it.

The long-term benefits of keeping it simple have been proved by business analysts, whereas the rest of our advice has no basis more reliable than our own meandering experience. We will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your computer. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your computer until it breaks down. But trust me, in 3 years, you’ll look back at your calendar and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much work lay before you and how fabulous your job was. You are not as lazy as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the schedule. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as paying for Facebook likes. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do send an invoice every day to a client that scares you.

Refactor.

Don’t be reckless with clients’ time. Don’t put up with clients who are reckless with yours.

Read ebooks.

Don’t waste your time on getting the spreadsheet colors and borders to be perfect. Sometimes they look nice, sometimes you never get the border thickness right. The office hours are short and, in the end, it only counts how much your work benefits someone.

Remember likes you receive on your portfolio. Forget the nitpickers. If you succeed in doing this, tell us how.

Keep the old designs you did for your first clients. Let go of the clients who are never satisfied and negotiate over pennies.

Follow blogs.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know how to help someone on StackOverflow. The most helpful people we know didn’t know how to help themselves when a left float ruined their whole layout. Some of the most helpful people we know still don’t use task runners.

Get plenty of air and sunlight. Be kind to your eyes and hands. You’ll miss them when they can’t see and type as well as they do now.

Maybe you’ll sign a good contract, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll get paid every time, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll file a lawsuit after working non-stop for a week, maybe you’ll get a bonus. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices in clients are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your text editor. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid to read the user manual or explore what all the options do. It’s the greatest tool you’ll ever use.

Tweet, even if you have no followers.

Read the new ECMAScript standard, even if you don’t follow it.

Do not read productivity blogs. They will only waste your time.

Get to know your clients. You never know when they’ll have another job for you. Be nice to subcontractors. They’re your best link to find more work and the people most likely to understand your problems.

Understand that social likes and followers come and go, but there are a precious few who value what you say and share. Work hard to bridge the gap between designers and developers, because the more complex a project grows, the more you need to collaborate and understand what both groups need to do their job.

Live in Silicon Valley once, but leave before it makes you a hipster. Live in Thailand once, but leave before the prices go up. Say thanks for the WiFi password.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Hourly rates will go down. Online courses will overflood the job market. You, too, will benefit. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were just getting started, hourly rates were good, online courses were rare, and freelancers respected their peers.

Respect your peers.

Don’t expect anyone else to manage your emails. Maybe you have a virtual assistant. Maybe you have a custom script. But you never know when the first one decides to find a better offer, and the second one stops working due to API changes. Don’t mess too much with your layouts or by the time you’re on your 50th project, they’ll be over-designed and cause bad user experience.

Be careful whose Quora answers you listen, but be patient when reading them. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust us on keeping it simple.

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