Web Design Is Like A Relationship

Graphic design and I have a great relationship, but it's a different story with web design. I did well in my last web design course, but I didn't LOVE it like I love graphic design. I set out to change that this semester while I had one last chance before graduating, and I've learned some tips to share with others who have a struggling relationship with web design. 
Thou Shall Make Wireframes Your Friends
It's nice to repeat a class.  Even if you get an A like I did and you have a chance to repeat a course, go ahead, because you'll learn things you missed last time, or there will be new opportunities thanks to a new professor or new teaching style.  

I missed out on wireframes last time, but this semester we learned Illustrator wireframes and I benefited in two great ways: one, I got a break from markup and coding and could dive into familiar graphic programs doing what I love best, layout! And two, I had a layout in pixel dimensions that I could print, add mathematical notes to and help guide me when marking-up and coding my final website. Wireframes are a godsend.

Thou Shall Account for Pre-Established Padding and Margin
Like the wireframes, my first course didn't cover html5 layout tags, and I was blind-sided by the pre-established padding and margin properties on some of the tags, like the <figure> tag. After all the mathematical notes were added to my printed wireframes and all the calculations created for a balanced website, I was frustrated that certain elements were a few pixels too wide, throwing the whole layout out of whack (and I do mean whack!). Stupid little things will ruin your whole website if you don't research the topic thoroughly or ask an expert.

Thou Shall Learn the Difference Between Markup and Coding
This is a pet peeve of mine.  CSS and html is not coding--it's markup. JavaScript is coding.  The difference?  Html is like writing (in fact, it was developed by academics so they could access each other's research papers). In html, you make a document and you determine the headlines (hence the tags <h1>, <h2> etc), paragraphs, list elements etc. That's markup.  But coding is writing lines of code that tell the computer when to run a program and what to do when it reaches the end of the program.  If you're good with English, you can do markup, but for code you need math and logic rules. Code is a whole other ball game.

Thou Shall Be Patient at All Times
Graphic design is hard. Collaborating with a staff of writers, editors and photographers to produce a printed magazine is no small feat.  Being strong but also gentle and considerate with a client who continually wants to make weird changes to your logo design is frustrating.  But nothing is more frustrating that typing a line of html markup or JavaScript code, expecting it to work, and nothing happens, or worse, everything becomes whack!

Learning to cope is so crucial to surviving web design and crucial if you want to love it. Taking a break is great. Walk away, play some music, mediate, do some yoga--whatever it is that makes you calm and happy. Sometimes venting is good, but be warned--keep it under control. I quit helping the guy sitting next to me and moved to the other end of the room because his venting went from f-bombs to blaming all his problems on the professor. When you're tackling difficult tasks, the last thing you need to do is alienate your peers and draw enemy lines between you and the experts.  Just like a real relationship, don't be a jerk and then expect any good to come from it.

Thou Shall Learn to Talk
Just like a real relationship, you can solve things so much faster if you open your mouth. Remember that guy blaming the professor? He also never asked her questions like "How do you do _____?" or "Why did ____ happen when I typed ____?" But the guy sitting in the back did, and his projects were freaking awesome.  If he hit a wall, he'd call the professor over. If he had an idea for something but didn't know where to start, he'd call her over. Get the picture? Don't be the guy sitting next to me; be the guy who makes freaking awesome projects.


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