One of the main reasons I’ve been a little quiet in the last few months because we’ve been in the middle of ramping up to release a massive project that we’ve been working on for more than a year. Working direct with a client, their project management team, designers and developers it’s been a big project to say the least and I can’t wait for all to finally move from it’s beta home to take pride of place as the client’s new site.

Remoteness
It feels like I’ve been working here

I’ve been responsible for the front end build of a great deal of HTML and CSS in that time and because as is often the case when you’re mid way through a project, you tend not to make dramatic decisions (for example, switching from vanilla css to Sass) that could impact not just your own workflow but that of the people you’re working with and those who will ultimately support and work on the project when you’re gone.

Catching up

The time has come in the last couple of weeks where I’ve felt I need to really put some effort into catching up with the design world.

By god, it feels like I’ve been on a desert island. 

Because my design and build process hasn’t changed that much over the last couple of years, I was (and to be fair, still am) mostly happy with it. I’ve always tried to approach a project by identifying the problems and then trying to design a solution and I’ve made a great effort to think content first and despite feeling comfortable not quite being at the cutting edge, I seem to be doing a lot more manual labour in my working day than I need to.

Tool led design?

I’ve had a post sat in my drafts with the title “Tool led design” for the last 6 months. I can’t quite formulate what I want to get from it though so it’s a work in progress but I think that feeling is that in the last year or so, I’ve seen so many websites where the visual aspect of them look, well, like they’ve “designed” by an algorithm or a clever build script.

You know the ones, the blog that’s just a single column of giant text or the site that’s a big list of rows with a masthead image, a couple of icons and not much more. I’m not guilt free either but I’m considering embracing it on a project (that’s what the fuller subject of that post is).

Are they the result of the path of least resistance design wise? Something getting towards being conveniently device agnostic?

I’m not sure that’s entirely the case but it’s prompted me to take a look at my own house and if I’m honest, I’m starting to feel a bit left behind in some ways. I can’t keep up with everything, but I do know in the course of the last year working in my dinosaur like way with Vanilla CSS and writing out probably more HTML than I needed to by not checking out things like Zen Coding but like I said it’s hard to do that when you’re full on.

Back to civilisation

Back to the mainland
Lets get back up to speed

I’ve usually advocated the humble side project as a way to learn and indeed I’ve tried it to a degree with my first Sass project, overhauling the theme for this site but it’s not enough.

There’s more to learn and with a family I want to spend my time with in the evenings and running training in the mornings there aren’t enough hours in the day so it’s going to have to be on the job.

I’m onto Sass finally, there’s a lot to learn though but getting that started has meant the first hurdle to learning has been lept and I’m going to overhaul the Offroadcode site next.

Working with clever developers means a lot of the other things I’m reading about for front enders might be accessible to me as well. Build scripts and tasks, lots of oddly named JS things and much more.

Front end development for the “average” designer like me over the last couple of years has either become a breeding ground of mind blowing technology for automating many tasks or massively over-engineering is the new way to do everything. I can’t quite decide yet.

It’s clear there’s some significant scope for finding the right set of tools to help me work smarter and not harder though.

James Young

Written by James Young

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