Last week we had a visit from Rachel Andrew to university where she was to give a talk about The Web and The Future, and it was a good talk. She concentrated on the basics that are required to succeed in the industry, and made the point that we were ideally placed to experiment with the emerging specs of HTML5 and CSS 3 by using them on uni projects which provide a lot more freedom than client work. She explained the current state of the web industry and some of the exciting things which are in the near future such as improvements in typography, and advancements in other areas.
After my rant from the other week, where I questioned the benefits of continuing with my university career, I thought I would highlight one of the benefits of university and the projects that are required to be undertaken. Experimenting with new techniques and technologies can be beneficial whilst trying to get your head around things such as HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery for example. By having a clearly defined project on a university project that is not subjected to the same audience and restrictions as a “real-world” project.
Recently I’ve been working on a project which has allowed me to make use of a variety of HTML5 elements and also to use far more of the CSS3 techniques than I could get away with in a client project. Transitions and other experimental things such as background gradients can be used on more critical elements due to the nature of the project, whereas in a client site they should only be used on “extras” which were not design critical until the browsers have caught up with the specification.
Having these experimentation opportunities is critical for students as the techniques which are taught to us can often leave a lot to be desired (one lecturer still uses table based layouts!) and by carrying out some independent learning and having somewhere to experiment can be vital for any future employment opportunities. If a student is interested in gaining a career in web design, I also feel it’s important to have their own website which they can show off their skills and show any future employers that they are keen and have a genuine interest in the subject.
Students often suffer from a lack of experience and a limited portfolio when it comes to gaining employment but university projects can be beneficial as they provide projects with clearly defined goals and parameters. Whilst it’s good to create designs for fictional reasons and it can be extremely beneficial to practice design skills and play around out with the curriculum, it’s also good to work within the (sometimes painful) constraints of university projects.
Like anything, the more you practice then the better you will become at something and the same applies to web design, and students shouldn’t just wait for lecturers to hand out the work – they should create it themselves.
As some of you may know, I’m now in second year at university, and that was after spending some time at college prior to this. When I left school I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career, and due to circumstances at the time I went to work full-time in an office for 3 years, although that quickly got boring. Having had an interest in computers and web design since I was at school, I decided to leave full-time employment in order to pursue a career in this field, and I can honestly say I have no regrets about this decision at all.
There’s always been a debate within the web industry about whether it’s better to gain a university education or to gain a job within the industry in order to build up a portfolio of work and experience. Having been at university for just over a year and gaining work experience at the same time, I can see both sides of the argument. Whilst I’m enjoying my time here, there are areas where the course could be significantly improved, with the latest set of modules described below:
This module was essentially all about valid code and practices for accessibility and usability, all basic and essential things to know for any web designer/developer. I had a slight advantage for this module having known a lot of the areas discussed previously and knew all about the table layouts v CSS layouts and validators etc. However, it baffles me why this module wasn’t delivered in first year instead of the HTML module we had to endure with the tutor telling us that inline styles and table layouts were still ok to be used if we wanted.
This module was all about Flash and ActionScript 2.0, which although useful and good to know it is not something that interests me at all and do not enjoy Flash work at all. The module is called Web MultiMedia but rarely ventures out of Flash and there is a lot more to multimedia on the web than that.
With the emergence of HTML 5 and the video and audio tags coming into effect within browsers, this could be a new era of multimedia embedded into sites but this has not been mentioned at all. The emergence of web apps such as Spotify etc have changed the way music is consumed on the web, and the Kindle has changed the book industry and popularised e-books.
This module was interesting and probably the highlight of the semester, with a lecturer who knew his subject and was passionate about it certainly helped. A lot of theory was introduced to the way that interfaces are designed and considerations were analysed in order to produce the most effective and attractive interface.
The highlight of the semester for me.
We had to endure a law module which was interesting, but too generic to really get me interested. The area of contract law is obviously essential to the industry as a key area is the relationship between client and designer and a good solid contract is key to this relationship. However, there was no mention of intellectual property or other law specific to computing and the internet which was a disappointment as this would have been more relevant and interesting.
The current semester has just started this week and new modules include Web Scripting, Marketing and Information Design which has the potential to be an improvement on the previous one. This post has turned into a bit of a rant about the failings of the course, and although it’s not all bad, I can see why people skip the university route and head straight for industry.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading more about HTML 5 and CSS 3 and how the respective specifications are progressing, and beginning to experiment with a lot of the new elements and selectors available. Although a lot of the new elements and ways to markup a site are not production ready, I’ve been working on a university project which allows a lot more freedom to experiment and as such I decided to mark up the entire site with HTML 5 and to also use a number of CSS 3 selectors where appropriate. Having read a lot about these new technologies, this represented the ideal opportunity to begin using the things which I had read about.
As my first year of university comes to an end, I was reading the latest issue of .net magazine and came across the article written by Jack Osborne about what to do after leaving university in order to gain employment within the industry. Although I’ve not yet reached that stage yet, there is a few tips that anyone at any stage of education can implement now in order to increase chances.
Jack states that the portfolio of any work should be in the right order and as good as it can be as that is where potential employers will look first. Students are often encouraged to leave out university work from their portfolio but often that is all students have, and goes back to the old adage that they can’t get a job due to lack of experience but no-one’s willing to offer that experience. In my portfolio, two thirds of it is university based as that is all I have at the moment but another useful tip which I will implement over the summer is to “fake it”. By creating websites for imaginary clients it will give me a chance to improve both my design and coding skills as well as boosting my portfolio.
With the recent release of Internet Explorer 8 and the even more recent announcement that the browser will be included in Windows Updates, the issue of Internet Explorer 6 rears it’s ugly head again. As people within the web industry we know all about the issues we face surrounding IE6 and have done for a while now, but will this latest release see the end of IE6 or will it be hanging around for a while yet.
After a browse of my RSS reader this afternoon, I came across this post from net tuts+ and as someone who has recently completed year one of university it was an interesting read. The article discusses the benefits and drawbacks of attending university to learn web development and includes real-life experiences of people who went to university to study computing.
Overall the article is positive about university attendance although not just from the perspective of learning the techniques to become a web designer or developer, but also from other aspects such as the social side and the broadening of horizons that university can bring.
Well yesterday was effectively the end of my first year at University, and I suppose now would be a good time to look back and reflect on it as a whole. The reason I chose to come to Abertay was that after completing my Foundation Degree at Park Lane the options available at Leeds Met were less than appealing. Out of the two options were a Computing degree or a degree in Information Systems which did not excite me one bit. I want to learn about the web and move into the web design field and the content of those courses contained very little if any web related content. The computing degree was all about the technical aspects of computers whereas the information systems degree focussed on computers in a business sense.
After some research, I decided on the degree at Abertay and overall I’ve enjoyed my first year here. My marks for my first year have been very good I think with 1 C grade, 1 B grade and the rest have all been A’s which pleased me. Of course I’m well aware that the first year is only the very beginning and the honours project will be a million miles away from this year but a good start none the less.
Overall it’s been a good year and I’m looking forward to next year.
Welcome to the newly re-designed site (or version 3.0 if you prefer!)
The reason for changing the design was that I didn’t like the look of it after a while and also the code was riddled with errors which I was not happy with. This was mainly due to site being built in Summer 2008 when I had a lot less knowledge and skills in comparison to what I have now.
Through a combination of learning at University, reading blog posts and listening to podcasts I feel that my skills have improved considerably over the past few months and that a re-design was a natural progression of these new found skills. The aim of the blog was always to be a kind of personal playground if you like where I could put into practice skills and techniques that I pick up as my learning continues.
As with any new launch, the likelihood is that there will be a few bugs somewhere along the line so if you find any please either leave a comment here or drop me an email.