This is a series of several posts broken out from a single presentation.  I originally presented a consolidated version of this to a group of Web Design students as a guest lecturer at Philadelphia University.  These are some of the points I made during those 2 hours, based upon my experience over the last 15 years.  This is Part I.

Back in March, I was asked by a friend to be a guest lecturer for his Web Design class at Philadelphia University.  I love opportunities to mold the minds of future generations so of course I said yes (thanks, Wright!).  The theme was centered around website redesigns but my goal wasn’t to teach how to use a specific toolset, but rather how to best leverage their own critical analyses in any situation (while wearing the hat of a web designer), because that’s a skill that’ll never become outdated and will add lasting value to their portfolio.

I decided to structure my talk around redesigns because I think it’s a relatable concept applicable to various situations.  If you work in the world of web, you’ll most likely go through at least 1, if not several redesigns during the course of your career.  No site remains untouched because of the ever-changing landscape of web technologies, so no matter how great and cutting-edge a site is at its inception, it’ll probably need to be redesigned at some point.

My audience members, the students, were learning advanced HTML/CSS/Javascript, jQuery, front-end architecture, mobile-first design, and responsive design techniques.  I don’t know why this excited me, or what I expected schools to teach in class these days (afterall, it’s been almost 15 years since I’ve been in college) but I think I was just electrified by the fact that this was relevant, current course material that would really benefit them as they brought those skills to the table at their future job.  So naturally, I tempered my own excitement by letting them know it’s ok if they “quit” this major.

Whether or not you end up deciding to focus on Web Design in your career, classes like this will help you in almost any aspect of a web-based company because it’ll help you understand all that goes into web design and development.

…and they’ll have a better understanding of where the opportunities are and what the level-of-effort is around such opportunities.  In other words, have you ever wished someone who wasn’t in your department knew what you did or the work that it takes to get something done? There have been times when I’ve said to myself, “I wish this person knew a little bit about HTML or CSS,” — in reference to people from Marketing to Business Analytics to Print teams to Merchandising.  And when I came across someone whose occupation wasn’t web design or development but did have some technical skill to be able to understand some of it or was open to learning just a bit about it, they were more effective with their requests to my team, and it was easier to work together to take their vision and translate that for them to the web medium.

And of course, it’s a 2-way street. So it was also helpful for me, as a developer (at the time), to understand a little bit about why merchandisers wanted what they did, what the business drivers were for a particular feature that was being requested, and why print designers were so passionately particular about layout and fonts since web design inherits so much from them.  So it’s good to be well-rounded, and knowing a little bit about the element we’re in will go a long way in helping to find some common ground among various departments and I think it helps us be the most effective in our field.

Have you ever run into a situation where, you thought you were presenting the best solution, but were met with people who didn’t want to cooperate?  I’ve found that when I asked those people to teach me what their process is like (and not be condescending about it), it gives me insight as to why they might oppose my ideas and I can work with them to come up with an even better solution that makes sense.  I don’t think people hate change as much as the cliché goes; as long as you’re not trying to push your own personal agenda onto them but are really working towards a great, effective product from the whole team, people are more than willing to listen and understand why something needs to change, as long as it’s explained in a respectful way, and as long as you listen to them in return.  After all, at the end of the day, everyone just wants to do great work and do something we’re proud of.  Maybe that’s a bit naïve of me, but that’s what I’d like to think.

In the next post of this series, I’ll go over the first experience I had with my company’s website redesign and my proud moments of applying a designer’s comps to pixel-perfection… back in the day before we thought about front-end performance, dynamic data “breaking” fix-width containers, SEO, accessibility, and before smartphones and tablets!