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Web Design as a trade

ince I’ve moved into my current position, my life has changed and I’ve gotten closer to identifying my calling: The web. In particular, producing websites which I truly love. Before I moved into my position, I thought that I knew a fair amount about the web, but now I find myself a happily re-educated man. Knowing a touch of HTML doesn’t make you anything – except an overqualified Myspace user.

I’ve learned a lot in the last year and a half about the true process of creating websites . I had been comfortable with creating web-pages, but I’m new to this world of web site creation. The art of building a website from the ground up is truly remarkable. What is most remarkable is that it is a career path that isn’t even 20 years old. Universities haven’t yet figured out how to teach it and there is yet to be an adequate way to gauge a person’s true skills with it, outside of a portfolio.

Now that I’ve ventured in the world of designing the entire site, I’ve realized that you must truly be a master of all trades to do it well. Creating the web site is not about just being an artist or a coder. It’s about knowing code, design, content – and most of all it’s about project management and people. The best web creators are those who can do it all.

You have lots of web designers, developers, and online marketers, but they’ll drift into their natural strength if they go unchecked. Though I am new to the world of freelance, I already find myself doing this. I tend to spend more time in Fireworks and Illustrator doing mockups than I do writing content. I much prefer coding in HTML and CSS – because I already know these two, and it’s easier to learn. I have to force Jquery and PHP on myself.

The act of creating something with your hands is remarkable. We’ve drifted a long way from the olden days of yore where the man in the house made the furniture, plowed the field, and milked the cow. Virtually none of us today have the pleasure of making something for the purpose of sustaining us. Those that do are mainly farmers. There is almost nothing in your house that you made with your own hands for the purpose of sustaining your household. If there is, you probably did it because it was fun, not because it was a necessity.

Most of us are at some point in the creation process. We aren’t usually the person who has the idea and delivers it to completion. However, there are a few exceptions still today where the physical creator is also the originator: Carpenters, Masons, Metal Workers (think blacksmiths), Plumbers, Landscapers. You also could consider the freelance artist, photographer, or musician. And another exception is the freelance web designer.

The web designer is in a small category of people who is both creative, and the creator. He requires a vast amount of knowledge and he lives on the ability to use it well.

So here’s how I see the world of web site creation: Website production is a trade. It is not a class you can take or a book you can read. You cannot learn it without doing it. You cannot master it without a mentor. It is a trade – just the same for a plumber, carpenter, or mason. There are too many elements that go into the website – and those elements require too many areas of expertise. I don’t think a 4-year school can prepare you for all of the intricacies of producing a website from scratch – on your own. All the great designers I read about and meet are self-taught.

I hereby predict that the industry of web design is, in fact, the new guild. This is an industry that isn’t 20 years old yet. Give it time or organize itself and I truly believe that it will evolve into a trade where one masters it just as one masters a trade in the construction industry. These ‘areas of expertise’ have a m

No one becomes a master plumber by reading a book or taking one class. You start as a journeyman, you take classes, you get field work. You get a mentor. As you progress, you get more classes, your work become more challenging, and then you take more tests. Eventually, after years, you become a Master Plumber.

Web Construction is not an academic pursuit, it is a trade. Schools need to stop making it a degree. A guild needs to be established and vocational schools need to start teaching it. The university could teach theory and principle, but stay out of the details. Just like electrical codes change, and plumbing techniques improve, web construction moves too fast for a 4-year school to keep up. Four years ago the iPhone didn’t exist. Flash was king. HTML 5 was a thought. Google Chrome a project in development. Text books would be outdated every 6 months in a degree program for web. That needs to stop.

Web Designers, Developers, SEO experts, Social Media gurus and all in-between need to come together, establish this field as a trade, and then create the process for reaching the title of Master Web Designer.


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