What happened in my first year of web development?

February 5, 2016

Keshia Brown

Keshia Brown

The 1st February 2016 was my front-end web development anniversary; hooray I’m one!
Truth be told, one year flew by so quick that I didn’t even realise this milestone had recently passed until a friend reminded me, so I thought I should give a little insight in to my personal experiences, what I’ve learned and what I expect for the upcoming year.

What I’ve Been Doing This Year

This first year has been one big roller-coaster. I initially developed this website as a personal project, something for me to build from the ground up and learn from. I never had a concrete plan or set any goals because back then, it was a hobby that I did in my spare time and my main focus was to simply learn as much as I could.

Being an Information Technology graduate; I had a basic knowledge of HTML & CSS and zero knowledge of JavaScript/jQuery,  so I decided to develop the former two languages first and then tackle the latter. This led to me taking the obvious routes; books, online tutorials and hours of practice. After absorbing the information found on the pages of Jon Duckett’s ‘Web Design with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery‘ books, (great books for people in my position at the time, IMO) and building numerous personal projects (you can find some of those here and here), I then tackled the mighty beast, the content-management-system known as WordPress. Once I had got to grips with those, I felt that I had gained enough insight and enough practice to take on my first client. But how?

The first client

First, I set up a Facebook page and then an Instagram account followed. These two social networks proved crucial as they allowed me to reach a wider range of people and share my personal projects. What surprised me the most is that it didn’t take long for enquiries to come rolling in.

The Stonefree team reached out to me through Facebook. They were a group of young people who had vision but like myself, were just starting out. They wanted to set up an online presence that would allow their voice to be heard regularly and reach people worldwide. Now, I’m a firm believer in ‘honesty is the best policy‘, so I let them know that I had not previously developed for anyone other than myself but felt that I was capable of providing them with the website they needed. They took a gamble on me and the rest is history. We launched the project back in June 2015, you can see the it here.

I guess you could say that I have a lot to thank Stonefree for. They could have easily chose to work with someone who had the relevant experience but they chose me, even though we had never met in person at that point and the work I did for them ended up being 100% remote. The experience allowed me to develop my project management skills and also better my knowledge of the web development process from start to finish. We also maintained an ongoing working relationship (very important) and I wrapped up a few updates to their website last November.

After The first client

Along with Stonefree, I’ve been blessed to work with some great clients from all over the UK, ranging from individuals to emerging start-ups. This has allowed me to work on some great projects, one of them being my first e-Commerce website where I was given complete control over the direction it took, that was pretty cool. The vast differences between the clients and the projects they required has meant that I’ve had to adapt to their individual needs, so this also developed my people skills and helped me gain a better understanding of gauging what the client actually wants.

There were some rocky moments and by this, I mean the occasional client who undervalued what I did. At the beginning, I would jump at the chance of working on a new project but I quickly learned that this was not always best. Going at this alone has allowed me to choose the kind of projects I commit to and on occasion, turn down. Saying no seemed scary at first but I eventually understood that it simply meant I was no more comfortable with what I was doing and the direction I was going in and simply wouldn’t take anything less.

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What will 2016 bring?

This year, my main goal is to do better than I did in 2015. This thing that started out as a hobby is now more than that, which means that my attitude towards it has changed significantly. Unlike the beginning of my journey, I’ve most definitely made a plan for the year ahead and set myself some goals, I’ll let you know how that works out next year!

For now, I’ll be contributing to this blog more frequently, not just providing tutorials but also, more posts like this one, that will hopefully help people who are in the position that I found myself in at the beginning of 2015. I’ll also be taking advantage of social networks by showcasing my work more often and reaching out to people in the industry.

Another must for 2016 is to continue down the rabbit hole – meaning, the learning process is never over. For example:

  • There’s so much more to know about jQuery
  • I’m interested in getting to grips with PHP
  • I’ll definitely get to know Sass
  • I’d like to learn more about the UX side of things

Technology is always advancing, one minute the Blackberry is all the rage, the next, the Apple iPhone is the go to device. New developments are being made every day which means we need to adjust and adapt or get left behind.

Solely being a front-end web developer has limitations but I think that it keeps things less complicated, which is why you need to have connections to back-end developers and be able to put clients in touch with reputable graphic designers etc – I have a few people who I work with from time to time, I’d like to make that list even bigger!

You can also expect to see more personal projects from me. The projects I completed at the start of my journey were more to showcase the fact that I could develop websites rather than showcase and put to use the languages I had learned – because of this, I’ve posted tutorials over the past few months – like that off canvas navigation  you may have seen. I’ve also been working on a project that uses isotope filtering and CSS3 animations to display a slide show or a portfolio style pop out. I expect to include this on future client projects and you can expect to see a detailed tutorial very soon.


Conclusion

It really has been a great year, I’ve learned so much and my skills have developed quicker than I thought they would.

I most definitely didn’t expect to be in the position I’m in now and I have exceeded my own expectations, this has all left me excited for the year ahead and I can’t wait to show you what I do.

Comments

Thank you Keshia for sharing! I really enjoyed reading your post. I’m about 4 months in and can relate to many of the points you mentioned. I love your work and can’t wait to see more!

Keep up the great work – the dev community loves it!

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