Here is the follow-up you’ve been waiting for! Fifty things every web designer and developer should do. I must admit; this was harder than the “don’ts,” which I think is indicative of our culture – we love commenting in the negative. But we need positive direction and attitudes as much, if not more.
The fifty “don’ts” were worded broadly, but I wrote this list for you, web designers, and developers. If you are a client looking to hire, this list may help you, so please keep reading, but it is easier to look for red flags than green ones. No matter who you are, I hope you find the list useful and thought-provoking!
Web designers and developers should:
- Find a mentor. If you can, find someone with more experience who can say, “I’ve been there too.”
- Be a mentor. Pass on what you learn.
- Optimize images. If images aren’t compressed, you miss the easiest way to improve load times and user experience.
- Be flexible.
- Ask stupid questions – even when you think you know the answer, even when you DO know the answer. It has been said, “there are no stupid questions.” Even if there are, you should still ask them. When you ask stupid questions, you discover details your assumptions could never have revealed.
- Know when to ask for help. You don’t have to know everything. You also don’t have to hire people. Sometimes asking for help is low-key. Sometimes it means asking the client, even if it is humbling.
- Keep the team as lean as possible. No one likes a game of telephone. You know, the one where in a big circle, person one comes up with a sentence and passes it along via a whisper, and by the end, the utterance “There is a party in Paris, France” becomes, “Where are Freddie’s Pants?” You can skip the game of telephone by keeping your team as small as possible to get the work done well. That may mean you never hire employees, which is ok; there are other ways to grow.
- Stop freelancing and start a business. What’s the difference? Structure, branding, and mindset.
- Tell people you meet what you do. Not that you “make websites,” but how you help solve expensive problems like underperforming sales or a sub-par web presence. It is a conversation, not a chance to sell.
- Build bridges, don’t burn them – even when bridge burning feels righteous. You never know when someone will come back around looking for your assistance.
- Turn what you learn into a philosophy; that way, you can repeat it, share it, and sell it.
- Learn healthy sales. Even if you don’t “sell.” Everyone is on the marketing team in some way. Improve your skills and forget about “sales” being a dirty word.
- Be honest. You don’t need to tell a client you don’t like their outfit, but admit when you make mistakes.
- Never talk about fight club.
- Learn how to use spreadsheets. It’ll come up way more than it should, so get familiar sooner than later.
- Use ChatGPT. Look, it isn’t perfect; we still need humans and always will, but if you are stuck on almost anything, AI is becoming an invaluable tool.
- Learn CSS and HTML basics. You should know what the box model is. We live in an era where you can make pretty good websites without knowing any coding, learn it anyway. It is possible to skip to more complicated problems requiring intermediate to advanced coding when tools like page builders do the basics for you. But it always pays to know the why.
- Create side projects for fun. Working with clients is fantastic! But it comes with compromises (not a dirty word, btw), so work on some side projects and make it whatever you want.
- Read or listen to books that can improve your business, but put limits on this. Too many ideas can increase the signal-to-noise ratio until you aren’t practicing anything you learn.
- Be constructive, not critical. You don’t have to agree with everything the client says, wants, or likes, but do make your pushback productive.
- Let your clients have full access to their websites unless it is part of their request from you that they are all hands-off.
- Learn how to run a business, even if employed at an agency. Understanding the ins and outs of business will give you a better appreciation for the owners and a more extensive understanding of your role in the ecosystem. If you run your own business, learn how to do it well; having one doesn’t mean you are learning.
- Incorporate trends, but don’t make all your work on-trend. It’s like building a house; in 3 years, you don’t want all your work to have shag carpet, so it is placed easily in an era.
- Understand there are exceptions to almost every rule. For example, ignore 23 if you are building an event site for a teen conference this year. By all means, make that bad boy the trendiest website on the block.
- Find tools that make your work easier.
- Learn the difference between cutting corners and becoming more efficient.
- Learn the difference between cheating and lying and becoming more efficient. Integrity and honesty are reputation-building qualities; commit to them.
- Fight for your right to party – this just seems like solid life advice.
- On a related but more serious note, consider giving your business/personality a mullet—business in the front, party in the back. Your boss or clients want you to be professional, but a little levity goes a long way.
- Turn your gut instincts into a repeatable philosophy. That is the foundation for maturing in your craft.
- Start a family. Or a social club. Or small group at church. Or trivia night team. And engage with them. The draw toward working and living only for yourself is real, but building communities outside your work will fuel growth in all areas of your life.
- Create a community of people in your field too. Having other people to talk shop with and learn with is good – make sure to have a community broader than work. We all need balance.
- Don’t worry about sharing the secrets to your success, code, or process. There is plenty of work to go around – life is not a zero-sum game.
- Try new tools and platforms, even if you know you won’t like them. It pays to understand why so you can answer a client’s why questions.
- Build an audience. You don’t have to become an influencer, but building an audience will open new doors and easily launch new ideas. Start as soon as you can.
- Learn to write value-focused proposals. Chances are the potential client doesn’t want to know how many hours you will take to build the website – they will want to see what you are offering and how that will help them achieve their business goals.
- Are you stuck on a problem? Look for a change of physical scene to help unlock your thinking. Move rooms, sit on the floor, or head to the local coffee shop.
- Start a blog, but if anyone suggests writing a list of 100 dos and don’ts, just say no; it’s much harder than it sounds, although I like a good challenge
- Learn the “rules” and then break them. Using comic sans is a hard-and-fast rule, right? Using it can make a big statement, but it is all about context.
- Learn typography. Your work has to be legible.
- Become competent in Photoshop – even if you aren’t working as much on the design side, you will save the client and designer time by knowing how to clean up and reformat images.
- Content management systems. Get to know 1-2 major ones well. We constantly run across developers who can use modern tools to create a website but are lost in how the actual CMS functions. It is invaluable to understand the database structure, how that relates to the pages/posts, and how to retrieve and display that stored information.
- Know that there will always be someone who knows more than you, which is ok. It doesn’t make you an imposter.
- Be a sponge for information. Learning is the key to success. Whether learning new skills or learning about the idiosyncracies of a client’s business, your ability to absorb new information will lead to wins.
- Become a professional puzzle solver. Often hundreds of pieces need to go together to bring a project to life, develop the skill of seeing the big picture and work toward it.
- Develop the ability to articulate a strategy – your choice may look better or be more usable, but getting buy-in will be an uphill battle if you can’t explain why.
- Realize that what is evident to you is opaque to someone else. Never assume who you are talking with should get it simply because it seems so apparent to you.
- Check your attitude at the door. Even if your position is righteous, there is never a time to express it with abuse.
- Keep it simple (stupid). When in doubt, simplify.
- Give back! Your skills can make or break a new business, non-profit, or struggling web designer/dev – sometimes giving your work away for free pays back in ways money never can.
You made it! Now grab a coffee or beer (or both) and get to work, and no matter what, be constantly growing.
What did I miss? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!
If you missed our list of 50 things every web designer and developer shouldn’t do, click here.
Fact: The author suggests finding a mentor and being a mentor.
Fact: Optimizing images can improve load times and user experience.
Fact: Asking questions, even if they seem stupid, can reveal important details.
Fact: It’s okay to ask for help and keep the team as lean as possible.
Fact: Building bridges instead of burning them can lead to future opportunities.
Fact: Learning healthy sales and being honest with clients are important.
Fact: Knowing CSS and HTML basics can be helpful even with the use of page builders.
Fact: Creating side projects for fun can be a good way to explore creativity.
Fact: Learning how to run a business can be beneficial for both employees and business owners.