Red Light, Green Light

In every career field, be it surgeon or waste management technician (hehe), there are pitfalls aplenty, as well as secrets to success. Web design is no different - as a matter of fact, there may be more potential problems for web designers than most. I've had enough time to amass quite a few experiences, so now it's time to pass a on few things to those of you who are just starting out.

Never Over-Promise - You'll Under-Deliver

When dealing with your everyday client, you're in a slightly precarious position: you know quite a bit more than they do about the steps involved to deliver them their dream website. Because of this (and your desire to secure the job), it may be your first instinct to gloss over all this and assure the client that their highly complex request is "no problem".

Red light.

Being honest about the process is the first step to delivering a great site to an ecstatic client. Don't give them every tiny little detail, but make sure that they understand the basics, as well as giving them a realistic timeline for completion. A side-effect of all of this is that the client may very well develop a healthy respect for how challenging your job can be.

Green light.

Set Realistic Deadlines for Yourself - and Stick to Them

Before I started focusing on the web exclusively, I was a traditional print designer - and that job taught me one thing above all else: your deadline cannot be missed. With print design, meeting your deadline is the difference between being a design-hero and being the sole cause of a catastrophe for your client. Missing them more than once in a blue moon can get you canned toot-sweet.

In the web design world, our deadlines are usually pretty simple, and a little less severe (although not always) than in print design. The problem is, most web pros know this, and have made procrastination and stalling their clients an art form. 

Red light.

Meeting deadlines is a skill that takes years to cultivate, but don't fool yourself - it is absolutely necessary. Let's take it even one step farther; you may have your final deadline set by the client, but setting personal deadlines for yourself within a project will help you to meet that final site-launch deadline without any sweat, blood or tears. Sharing these personal deadlines with a client can get you in more hot water if you're still getting the hang of being on time, so make sure you're confident of your ability to meet them before you offer them up. Remember: meeting your deadlines is the whole point of setting them in the first place. Don't miss them.

Green light.

Don't Try to be a Renaissance Man/Woman

Working on the web appeals to a specific type of person - we mostly love to tinker, and we're all obsessed with some new and amazing thing we just learned (and can't wait to try out). This ravenous curiousity is completely healthy and desirable - to a point. I have found myself more often than not compromising my mastery of a developing skill to begin learning a brand new one. This is a bad thing. 

Red light.

We've all heard the phrase "Jack of all trades, master of none". You can't concentrate on mastery if you're constantly distracted by the "newest and greatest". If you're beginning to learn web design, concentrate on mastering the basics. An everyday front-end toolkit consists almost exclusively of CSS, HTML, Javascript and Photoshop. If you want to sprinkle in some basic programming, ok - but do it in your spare time.

I'm absolutely not saying don't learn other skills (you need to); simply that you need to master the basics before moving on to the next thing. One last thing: mastery in the web design world includes maintaining and updating you skills — it never completely ends.

Green light.

For Goodness Sake, Plan Before You Execute

Jumping right into coding simply because you're excited to get the site live is like jumping out of a plane without checking to make sure your parachute is packed right. It's ambitious, ballsy and incredibly, mind-numbingly stupid.

Red light (as if you had any doubt).

Each web designer has their own preferences as far as planning goes, but the important part is not the plan itself, but simply that you have one. My basic process is as follows:

You will find your process if you don't already have one — but once you have it, stick to it. 

Green light.

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