JavaScript and other Web Anxiety

I recently came across this awesome video called “Full Stack Anxiety” by Joel Califa with this related article by @FirstMark and it got me thinking about my current situation as this hybrid UI/UX designer and front-web developer.

First, a little background on my web career for context

I have been building digital deliverables for the web since 2005 and in the beginning, I struggled with HTML and CSS and was more of the Adobe Creative Suite guy using Photoshop and InDesign to design print materials. Later on, continued to traverse the Adobe Creative Suite with Flash and Dreamweaver (actually when I started using Flash and Dreamweaver they were still own by Macromedia). Built a few great portfolios in Flash and some okay websites in Dreamweaver utilizing templates.

Hit a few bumps in the road at the beginning of my career working for some not so great freelance gigs and contract jobs, but all of them a learning experience making me a better at what I choose to focus on and find my niche in the web world.

Between 2006 and 2007 I really began to understand HTML and CSS and was able to build websites utilizing Photoshop, NotePad++ and your traditional shared hosting provider, uploading files via FTP. I also was able to implement things like JavaScript and jQuery but never without reference, I could never write JavaScript from scratch like I did with HTML and CSS. There was a lot of copying and pasting happening with JavaScript.

Then I discovered WordPress and it opened a whole other realm of opportunities for me. I felt limitless with WordPress and still do today. But what I was finding utilizing the framework like WordPress was that I was missing out on the opportunity for what I would consider “hardcore web programming”, for example building a PHP or JavaScript web app from scratch. And doing that hardcore web programming with all the fancy compilers and build tools you find today. For example Gulp, Grunt, WebPack LESS, and or SASS.

Also felt like I missed out on truly understanding JavaScript and now not having a strong understanding of JavaScript background leaves you not worthy of many UI developer jobs. Or even worst you try to take a UI developer job to learn JavaScript and all the cool new tools but the current web-devs are a bunch of pompous egotistical assholes. And if you don’t operate at their speed your then you are an idiot! “Look at how fast I can use command line.”

Sorry had to vent there, let’s get back on track.

What to focus on next for my web career?

I have held a multitude of positions everything from graphic designer to web developer to the more recently UX designer and UI engineer. To me, they are just titles. Why? Essentially I approach all my jobs with a similar mindset, get presented with a problem/task and do everything in your power and knowledge to solve that problem even if not knowing the proper syntax or methodology to solve it. How to solve it? Utilizing your past experiences, online resources, and communities.

Over the years you gather the necessary and experience and knowledge to take with you for your next adventure (job/gig). But sometimes that only gets you so far. Questions I ask myself today

  • Should I niche down? — For example be purely a WordPress Developer.
  • Should I get better at JavaScript and pick up a framework like React.js? — Probably should
  • Should I focus more on product design and management? — Maybe one day I could be a product manager and not worry about coding every again.
  • Should I focus on project management? — Maybe one day I could be a project manager and never worry about coding again.
  • Do I continue to be a jack of all trades and master none? — Not likely a good idea.
Hence, you can see where the anxiety comes in to be being a web-dev hybrid purple squirrel thingy.
Jay Caetano

But thanks to the awesome video and article by Joel he does give us some awesome outlooks on what to focus on (note this our my takeaways):

Be happy with your career and what you decide to do

Currently, I am satisfied working as front-end web developer/graphic designer typically in marketing departments utilizing tools like WordPress, Photoshop, Moz, Hubspot, Google Analytics and Hootsuite to deliver compelling digital solutions and custom WordPress sites that drive leads to convert.

Where do I want to be eventually, maybe? I may see myself as a creative director, product manger or even a director of development/IT. But who knows where the road will take me. For now, I keep gathering experience and knowledge with me with each job and moving forward.

Prioritize on what you want to focus next for learning

Since I feel confident in the UX design process and am proficient in Photoshop, rapid prototyping , etc. I really feel like I want to focus learning hardcore JavaScript development. Why? I think it’s imperative for me to stay relevant in the front-end web development world. Plus I feel most developers get paid more then designers in some cases*.

*Of course this is based on industry, company, location and whole other bunch of factors. But currently I see developers getting paid more in my region and more opportunities for developers then I do designers.

Stop being a jack of all trades and master none

So to paraphrase Joel, “Stop chasing the trends” — You don’t have to learn the latest and greatest JavaScript framework. But be aware of those frameworks and maybe try one out but do what you are good at for now and keep learning.

So thanks Joel for putting things in perspective it really helps. Until next time, godspeed.


Originally published at Jay Caetano.