Who Do I Want To Be?
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 DeveloperHere'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.