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I recently underwent a job shift from “Graphic Designer” to “Web Designer” — you can say I started dating someone new. My switch to a Web Designer allows me to purely focus on websites and online projects. While I like this new dating arrangement, coming from a print design background, there were needs to increase my skills to be qualified for the position. Up to the task, and still working full time, I took online classes, attended training events, and devoted myself to learning. Here are some benefits I’ve found from making my new romantic move.

If my career track was a dating woman, you could say I’ve moved from dating around to going steady with the World Wide Web.

Benefits to learning on the job

  • I put into practice what I learned — there is no “waiting for the real world” to test my skills.
  • My employer subsidized my learning web design on the job.
  • Challenges I encounter at work force me to learn faster.
  • A commitment from fellow team members to give mini-lessons.
  • There is an extensive community of developers in the DC area, which provided me with opportunities to learn from others.

Alongside these personal benefits, my learnings benefit our clients in new ways.

New ways I am serving our clients

The web isn’t a new medium for me, but a more intentional focus on the web gives me insights into how things technically work, and understanding more why developers do things the way they do. After hand-coding websites by myself, I’ve picked up nuances of what happens in the gray area between concepts and a working website. Going through the process of the actual construction of a site helps me understand how design decisions made in Photoshop can create hours of headache, or save hours of time, in the code build out. This makes me a more conscientious designer.

Learning a new language – whether that is French or a computer language – forces you to use a different part of your brain. When I put on my coding hat (no, I don’t own one of these) I approach design differently. The importance of hierarchy quickly comes into focus. Efficiency and keeping DRY are top priorities. I can approach design with a renewed focus and vision that creates a better product. I ask myself, “what’s the main message?”, and “where can we cut the flab?”

The technical knowledge I gained increases my problem solving ability. I can more clearly articulate where problems stem from, and provide options of solutions, depending on the client’s goals and priorities. Although I may not always know how to fix it, having the ability to troubleshoot a problem allows me to respond quickly and intelligently with alternate options.

I’m a firm believe that knowledge is power and part of my job is empowering our clients.

It has always been my pleasure to educate clients, as I firmly believe that knowledge is power and part of my job is empowering our clients. Every person’s knowledge is different however: some are HTML masters and some don’t ever want to stray away from the WYSIWYG editor. Both are completely fine – we don’t look down on those who do not know code (they have other expertise that benefit the team), but strive to meet every client where they are. Having a greater depth of knowledge allows me to speak more directly with clients who possess advanced technical knowledge, and more sympathetically to those who do not know any HTML. The learning process helps me empathize with hesitancies and fears, and support and encourage our clients as they learn along the way.

Like any relationship, there’s still so much I have to learn from the web. In the meantime, I’ve notified him that I like dark chocolate and gerber daisies.

Hannah Hudson
With a passion for communicating through design and an OCD level of pixel-perfection, Hannah continually seeks to refine the poetry of her code.