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Defining success as a designer

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I’ve never been tagged before, blog-meme tagged that is. Nathan Rice tagged me after he was tagged by Brian Gardner. Although I’m not a successful designer, I’m taking advantage of this opportunity to answer to some questions because these questions brought back great memories.

1. How did you get started in the business?
I actually remember exactly how I got started, not in the web design business, but in website development. Back in 1999, seventh grade, a friend in science class, Alex, wrote a site address (URL) on a scratch paper, handed it to me, and told me to go there because it was his website. When I came home from school, I went to it, and despite that it was the most unorganized and ugliest thing I’ve ever seen in my life, I loved it! I thought it was so cool! Friggin’ amazing! My inner-geek kicked in! The guy had his own website. I couldn’t believe it. Remember, this was eight years ago. It’s hard to get me pumped like that these days.

Afterwards, I came across this website program called, Trelix Web. Remember Trelix Web? It came with Windows ME. After completing my first site, which was about Dragonball Z and anti-Pokemon images, using Trellix Web, I had to search for a host. Back then, I didn’t even know what FTP was, just a total newbie. Fortunately, Trellix Web hooked me up to Fortune City. Yes, my first site was hosted on Fortune City. Their service required a banner displayed on top of every page in return for free hosting, bothered me to the last frame, and iframe.

Next, I joined the rat race for “good, banner-less, free web hosting” and hopped onto the cool-Javascript-effects bandwagon. For several months, I was addicted to Javascript, animated GIFs, DHTML, and trying out free web hosts. I went through Geocities and Angel Fire like butter. For the oldschools, don’t forget Tripod, my first PHP host.

Man, that was good times. When you came to my site, you had to answer a Javascript prompt like, “What is your name?” And that was it, I didn’t use your name for anything else. I didn’t even know what your name was. You just had to answer it for no friggin’ reason.

While hosted on Tripod, I introduced myself to PHP, went on HotScripts for scripts to install, like a guestbook script. Guestbooks were popular back then, before the blog commenting system came along, your site was nothing if you didn’t have a cool looking guestbook.

From guestbooks, I went up a level to installing forums, phpBB at first, and then I came across news scripts and content management systems (CMS), which were basically your average blog platforms back then. Stuff like Gray Matter, b2, SimpleNews, Mambo, Drupal, and a lot of other stuff I can’t remember. I went through so many CMS and news scripts that I got bored of HotScripts.com.

After all the experimenting with scripts, coding, and web hosts, I took a break, a very long break, then another break because my computer crashed, twice. I didn’t get serious about web development and making money online from it until late 2005. From there, I experimented with more blog platforms and finally settled down with WordPress around the middle of 2006.

That’s it. That’s how I got to where I am today.

2. What kept you going in those early years?
Like many other young web designers and coders, I was just curious. There was always more stuff to learn. I went from using Trellix Web, to learning HTML, CSS, then XHTML, and a little PHP. If I need to expand my skill-set right now, I would delve deeper into PHP and Javascript.

3a. Did you ever feel like you weren’t good enough or you would never make it in this industry?
Similar to Nathan Rice, I was never good at creating cross-browser sites. While applying for freelance jobs, I was always intimidated by clients that wanted cross-browser compatibility. I didn’t really know what it was all about, specifically how to squash IE bugs.

3b. How did you work through that?
To this day, I still don’t know how to squash IE bugs. I haven’t learn any CSS hack. Fortunately, I didn’t have to hop from freelance project to freelance project. I spent some time experimenting with XHTML and CSS. Didn’t really read any tip or tutorial on cross-browser compatibility, I just knew that I had to make my site look the same across multiple browsers and started testing with Firefox and IE.

In my opinion, Firefox and IE are what cross-browser really comes down to. There’s no point in squashing every bug in every available browser. You’d be wasting your time. If you’re really patient then go ahead and test for Opera and Safari too.

4. Do you look at others today and think “Wow, I wish I were that good”?
You bet. I’m a coder, not a designer. In my opinion, I’ve never designed a professional looking layout before. I envy all designers that can produce professional quality designs.

5. How do you measure success?
I wouldn’t know.

6. By your standard, do you think you are successful?
I’ve never been successful. Well, at least, I don’t feel successful. My problem is I’m too ambitious.

I don’t have anyone to tag yet.

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