This is not really a question but rather just something I’m really curious about. What different things have you been through to get to where you are today? e.g. courses, schools etc.
And also, now, when you create a blog theme, what different applications do you use?
Hi Laura! 🙂 What a fun question!
How I got started in design & development
Neopets is what got me started in web design. I’ve always been a little on the artsy side—loving drawing, photography, poetry, things like that. Neopets really fueled my love for art. They had “beauty contests”, where you would draw pictures of your Neopets, submit them, then people would vote on the best pictures. I really put my drawing skills to the test!
Sorry for the huge onslaught of Neopets artwork. I still have every single piece of art I’ve ever made and I had SO MUCH FUN going through my archives and finding them all. I just had to share them! This is just a small portion. You can see varying skill levels—some are a lot worse than others!
They also had “pet pages”, where each of your Neopets had a single web page. You could decorate that page however you wanted with HTML and CSS. Same with your user profiles. Now at this point, I had no idea how to code. I was okay at HTML, but CSS in particular just boggled me. What are classes and IDs? What’s with all the hash (#) symbols? AND OMG THE CURLY BRACES!!! It was scary. Most of my designs involved using a pre-made template and editing the graphics/values to make it how I wanted. I was pretty good at editing CSS to change colours, images, and positions, but if you were to ask me to do any of that from scratch, I’d give you a major “deer in headlights” look.
Years of playing Neopets and creating new profiles/pet pages really improved my skills. I went from “crap” to “less crap” to “okay” to “not bad”, and finally to “pretty good” (by Neopets community standards).
As I started doing more artwork (digital painting, photography), I decided to buy a custom domain name and build my own website to act as my portfolio. At this point I finally knew enough CSS to actually build something from scratch. I swear it’s like I woke up one day and suddenly it didn’t look like Chinese and I just knew what to do. That sounds stupid, but it’s kind of true.
So I built a really crappy portfolio website.
Then I redid it a few months later and it was slightly less crappy.
Rinse and repeat about 5 times.
Websites for other people (gasp!)
After a few years, I started doing websites for people other than myself. This came up because people who lived near me and owned small businesses needed a website. I was an amateur web designer who wouldn’t charge them a million dollars, so they hired me. I started doing websites for like $200 – $300 each. I did one for my mom’s best friend, then for my dad’s best friend, then for the guy who my parents often hire to drive them to the airport…
I never took any classes
Okay this isn’t quite true. I have taken web design classes before. BUT, they were always part of my high school/university curriculum, and I never actually learned anything in those classes. That sounds a bit bratty, but it’s true. I was always at a higher level than the class because of my previous “experience”, so the classes never really taught me anything new.
Practice really does make perfect
Whether you take professional classes or not, you’re not going to start out and immediately be amazing. This is true for both design and development. You need to be a bit shit before you can be great. Even when you get to a point where you’re “great” and a professional designer, you’ll still continue to improve. Almost every site you make will probably be better than the last one, even if just in a small way.
I was a “professional” web designer a year ago (using that term just because I was paid to design), but I shudder at some of the stuff I made back then.
Programs I use for design and development
I have already done a pretty big post about my blogging & web developing tools of the trade, but I’ll recap some of them here.
Graphics & design mockups
All of my creations are made in Adobe Photoshop. Every single image I create or design mockup I put together is from Photoshop. I also do have Illustrator but we don’t get along. Even when I’m doing vector work I prefer to use the pen tool/shapes in Photoshop (which also makes it a vector).
Coding & development
I used to use Notepad++ for all my coding, but I’ve recently migrated to PhpStorm. This is where I type up all the code for my plugins/themes.
When it comes time to test the themes/plugins, I use WampServer. WampServer gives me a server environment (like web hosting) on my computer. So I have an installation of WordPress on there and I can activate the theme/plugin and test it. It allows me to make sure everything is functional and working properly before I put it on someone’s blog (or up for sale).