akamike (2007-2010)

Who Do I Want To Be?

For the past 3 years, I have wanted to be a web developer. I've come from a kid messing about with html tables and frames, to a man (OK OK, still a kid) who is skilled in XHTML, CSS with knowledge in PHP, MySQL, ASP, JavaScript/AJAX, XML, Flash and design.

I have always thought of myself to be a developer, loving to get stuck in to some code and spending hours just tweaking it. Last summer, after coding in ASP and PHP a lot for college, as well as tinkering away with AJAX, I decided to put programming a side for a while to focus on my design work. My goal was to prove to myself that I could make something presentable, even if it was just for my own personal work, and I feel I achived that goal. I'm not amazing at design, but people are happy with what I produce and I am pleased with myself. In fact, a lot of projects I have been offered in the past 6 months have been design focused.

That's my problem.

Recently, I have been wondering if I should put my energy into improving my design and mark-up work, which I now enjoy the most, and push my programming aside for a while. While it's possible to look into both, realistically I need to get my footing on where I want to go in my career, start developing and marketing the skills that mean the most to me, and get work using those skills. Design and mark-up seem to be where my heart is right now, programming just lingers in the background.

One of the things I disliked about programming is that, when talking about my work to family or friends, no one was particularly impressed by any code I put together. The first time you say "Hi, I'm a programmer" their reaction will be "Oh, cool!", unless they are a programmer themselves. Show them something you made and they just won't have any interest. Now, a designer can show their work and get reaction. Even a non-techy person will look at a well-designed website and be impressed, and rightly so. It's the only thing they really see, code to them is just junk.

I've also noticed that I have become less interested in "I wonder how they make this site feature" and more interested in "I love this design, I am inspired to design/<insert comments on the colour, usability, layout, etc>/I wonder if I can reproduce it".

If I did go down the design path, I would most likely adopt a few CMS' in favour of providing a full service for freelancing. I don't like the idea of saying "Here's your design template, off you go!", especially if they don't know about the back-end work that needs to be done for dynamic sites. If I focused on my design work, I would offer services to develop the template for a particular CMS and set it up for them, unless they specifically ask for only design work. I feel this would be the best approach, it means my services are more attractive and I don't leave a client with a design they can't use themselves!

If I went for development, I would cut out design completely. I find it easier to code if I don't have to think about design at all. During my Java classes, when we put together simple console programs, I would finish my work efficiently and rapidly because I didn't have to think about presentation at all. During my college years, I felt design was a burden, stopping me from getting at the code to make cool things. When I made my first PHP site, very minimal design, I was so pleased with myself. In college, during ASP classes, I would expand on the work when I was finished. One of our larger projects was to make a guestbook, with logins and an admin panel. I hacked away at it even when I had finished, adding extras and loving the challenges. I wasn't thinking of design then, in fact I think everything was just put on a coloured background and centered. Those were the days...

I guess I enjoy each aspect equally, provided I don't have to think about the other. Which ever path I choose, I will set myself a goal to come back and improve my skills on the other once I am further into my career.

Designer or Developer

Here's where I need help, I need opinions on what I should be. Is my design work good enough now for me to cast off programming for a while in favour of proceeding down that path, or should I give up that idea and return to the scripting days I once loved? I have probably already made up my mind in typing this post, but I want reader input. Even if this is your frist time stopping by or don't have any knowledge/interest in web design/development, a little word of encouragement would be great.

Author's Note: Despite which path I choose, I will stay on track with my current projects. This is merely a personal preference that will affect future work only.



While I do like your design work a lot, Mike, I think that it would be best for you, in the end, to focus on being a developer first, designer second. Designing is fun and has a lot of things that will draw you to it, but there are also a whole lot of people who have fun doing it than there are people who have fun programming. If you can manage to do that, I'd say you should focus on the programming.

Good luck either way, though, I hope that whichever path you choose makes you happy.


That's something I wondered about, the ratio of designers to developers. Through college and uni people kept saying to me they wanted to be web designers, few wanted to be developers. Then again, why would they be taking courses that focus on development and technologies rather than graphic design and media courses?


The reason that people say they want to be 'designers' yet go on a developers course is because a lot of people simply do not know the difference between the two. For most web companies the two are not hand in hand, but entirely seperate processes that are dealt with by different teams (I know this because I've interviewed with several and been offered a position as a junior designer).

From what I've observed, developers are in far higher demand than designers; especially those familiar with .NET. This is only a personal observation in this particular area though.


I'm with you on this, I prefer design by quite a bit to the developing side of things, which is probably why I didn't like the uni course, i just wasn't as interested in the programming as I thought I would be. I think i'm more of a multimedia guy since I quite liked doing the Director stuff and my college course which was pretty much Flash, Director and movie making. This helps you in no way whatsoever, sorry.


Design is to me superior to code, sadly. I respect code far much more than design, seeing as code is a hidden language understood only be a selected few, but design conveys its message by far much more efficiently. Good looking things can, if ell thoight out, process the imagery of the mind much easier than any cs coe and tables ever could. then again, i am requested to post this whle drunk as fuck. so who knows. it's an honest opinion and i stand for it; an imagebsays a thousnd words, maybe even more if esigned 2da maxx?


I prefer designing myself, though have respect for any kind of programming. I can only consider myself a basic developer and primarily a designer, and I can incorporate the both into my freelancing because of that.

You on the other hand have the upper hand on the developer end of it, so I'd probably stick to that for the moment. Get yourself marketed and out there as a developer, then once you have your foot firmly in the door, take on some design bit by bit. I personally don't think you should toss design away all together if you choose to go with developing. Keep doing it for yourself, it's the best way to improve. Set yourself small tasks away from any developing work.

But that's just my two cents :)


Haha, it would seem developer is the recommended option.
@Darren: I'm not too sure about my area, but I don't really want a job here. I'd rather move off somewhere, so location isn't too important. I might get into .NET, but that's a bit further down the line I think (I want to improve my PHP and Java skills, maybe some Ruby on Rails and Python).
@Rua: Haha, nah, it helps. You and Dougie are the only ones who visit my blog (to my knowledge) that have been through uni with me. Ah well, hopefully some of the posts here will help you too.
@Thimmy: I know you were drunk when you posted that, so I am not entirely sure what you meant, but thanks! I'll talk to you when you are sober ;)
@Nyssa: I was hoping you would post, since you'll have a better idea of design than anyone likely to post. I think I explained things badly. I wouldn't toss out design completely from my life, just in a professional sense so I don't end up with design work. It would become a hobby of mine, I could code all week at whatever job I have, then maybe at the weekend I'll pop open photoshop and play about with what ever idea I have in my head. It's only until I can get myself to a level where I am confident in my programming skills again, get a job and then I can allow myself to bring my design skills up.
I guess I'll focus on my development then. I have 1 or 2 design projects coming up, which is fine (as I said, I will stick to the projects I have already agreed on). After that, I guess I need to partner up with a designer for freelance work. ;)
Thanks to everyone commenting. If anyone has anything to add then feel free to continue.


A little note: Despite this post, I have been considering applying for the Web Design Intern position at last.fm, I think I would be able to handle it, just gotta find a place to stay in London. I'll update my CV then see how it goes, it would be a pretty cool place to work.
Scotland needs more web start ups btw


If you think you can handle it, definitely go for it. And good luck. Don't forget to let us all know how it goes. :)


I think you could handle it as well, wouldn't hurt to try and go for it. :)