Getting into design as a developer

So I’ve been doing front-end work professionally for a couple years now, and I love doing it. But recently I’ve noticed that I’m only really familiar with one part of the whole making-a-website gig, so I thought that maybe working on a design project would really help me understand everything more holistically. Also, design looks fun!

I have very little design experience, so the thought of doing professionally sounded terrifying — what if I make something that looks like it’s from the 90s!? I knew that I would be working with other designers though so that took the edge off a lot.

It’s not about you

One of the things that I did know before jumping into all of this is that the stuff that you make isn’t for you. You always have to be thinking about the person who’s going to use this thing that you made. This is, like a lot of things, easier said than done. I initially started out by putting things that looked good to me instead of thinking about how something would affect the users.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen a lot of websites in my life, and I felt like I knew which designs worked well and which ones didn’t didn’t. But what works for one website might not work for another. So, yeah, this isn’t an art project where I could just copy a bunch of elements from other websites. The audience matters!

Consistency with branding

I had so many ideas for the project that I just didn’t know where to start! I was like a puppy who was just thrown into a ball pit (P.S. don’t throw a puppy in a ball pit that sounds dangerous). What helped me with this was being consistent with the rest of the brand.

Yes, this sounds obvious: why would I want to make something that’s inconsistent with the rest of the website? I think it’s mostly because I just wanted to make something cool, and sometimes it’s tough to see the whole picture when you’re just focused on one thing.

Variation city

I think figuring out the different variations, mocking them up, and communicating that with people was by far the hardest thing about the job. I was used to simply taking the design as gospel and implementing that. Thinking about the different ways a certain thing can be done took a while to get used to.

I made so many art boards!


Communicating these and carefully listening to feedback was definitely tough. I’m used to people challenging my assumptions when it comes to programming, but not when it comes to design.

Since I’m in a remote team, it’s important to Always Be Communicating™. And as a developer, I had no idea how long mockups took.

A single page shouldn’t take that long, right?

I suspected that other people had the same thing in mind, so I made it a point to always send updates to people on what I just did and what I worked on.


Finally, I think this whole experience wouldn’t have gone so well if Abe wasn’t there to guide me! I probably would’ve spun around in circles and made a shitty page.

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Originally published at on February 27, 2017.