I think that despite the dot com crash, we are still suffering from the bedroom programmer/designer syndrome. People who really don't know anything about what they are doing but are charging money for it anyway.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
After blagging my first web design job a few years back I started to specialise in Flash. I went freelance a couple of years ago, wrote a bit, did some Flash and in April this year I joined Pixelfury in Brighton as Technical Director.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
Pixelsurgeon - a design portal with a broader remit than most. The Register - tech news, often pretty tongue in cheek. Guardian Film - I love cinema, and tend to trust the Guardians film reviews (mostly).
What do you do for inspiration?
Go for a walk, go to the cinema, do almost anything except sit in front of my computer.
As a lot of my work is about interfaces and how people use them I tend to find my inspiration comes from watching how people interact with everyday things. The web has only been around a few years so it's still pretty immature in terms of being human facing.
We can still learn a lot from the way in which the early Apple GUIs were built, relating pixels on a screen to people’s everyday lives with metaphors about desks, folders, files etc.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
Still being alive. Although professionally I still surprise myself that I have come so far with Flash and particularly the scripting side of things. I taught myself from scratch starting with really no understanding of programming at all. I didn't even know what functions and arrays were.
What software couldn't you live without?
I think I could learn to live without any of it. When the question is taken literally I think it'd be sad for anyone to actually say they couldn't live without a piece of software (unless it's in a pacemaker). That said though, Flash provides me with a living. If there were no Flash I'd probably be flipping burgers or something.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
I don't have any personal projects in the pipeline at the moment but at Pixelfury we've got some really exciting stuff coming up. A load of projects using a lot of new technology like Macromedia's Flash Communication Server, some stuff that's never been done in Flash before and also an in house game project which is going to be great fun to produce.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
Wouldn't like to say really, too close to call. Obviously Pixelfury would be up there though ;)
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
Getting mentioned on sites like this one and the big design portals helps. With the launch of eviltwin 6 my server kept going down because my log files got so big each day they were filling up the hard drive. Luckily it's pretty fleeting and things settle back down to a reasonable level within a few weeks.
Who is your target audience?
In the past, the eviltwin audience has always been people trying to learn Flash and Flash professionals just trying to make their day to day life a little easier.
The new version is a little bit of an experimental shift of audience. With the forum and the ways that the visitors to the site can contribute to the content, I wanted to see if the site could evolve its own personality without too much intervention from me. By letting the personality of the site develop on its own, the audience of the site should start to define itself.
People that like the content stick around and come back for more, those that don't simply move on. Being a personal site it's an experiment that I can afford to try out, I wouldn't recommend this kind of approach to a commercial venture.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
I've contributed chapters on Flash to two Glasshaus books called 'Usable Web Menus' and 'Usable Forms for the Web'. That's enough for me right now. While I'm happy to sit and work in Flash all day, writing about it is a different matter.
What area of web design lacks the most?
A difficult question to pin down. In most areas you can find great examples of work, but you can also find some really terrible stuff out there. I think that despite the dot com crash, we are still suffering from the bedroom programmer/designer syndrome. People who really don't know anything about what they are doing but are charging money for it anyway.
So generally I think knowledge seems to be lacking the most. Whether it is the aforementioned bedroom programmers/ designers or professional print designers just converting something designed for print into a web site without considering how the end user actually uses a site.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
Crap. And sorry, it's not even on the wayback machine. Having just slated people for producing web sites without the required knowledge, we all start somewhere and for most of us that somewhere is at the bottom. I'm no exception and my early attempts really were shit.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
I know plenty of people who have managed to do just that, but you need to have a drive to teach yourself. Learn from people around you, books, online material, anything you can get your hands on. Even the most naturally gifted designer still needs to know about the way people interact with a GUI and user expectations. Otherwise they'll likely be producing beautiful but annoyingly obtuse interfaces.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
I've never worked at a start-up, at least not one that was any good at getting clients.
What is the most expensive thing you've bought in the last week?
A large latte.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
I guess it would have to be a project I once worked on as a freelancer, which used Flash as an interface for controlling cctv cameras. It's on an extranet so I can't give you a URL I'm afraid. While it didn't really take that long, there was some serious problem solving to be done on it.
I found myself taking walks round the block and smoking a lot of cigarettes to get away from the screen to force my thinking to go into greater depth.
If I'm problem solving in front of my Mac there's always a tendency to start trying out the ideas I have before I've fully thought them through.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
I think the best way to really get to grips with a technology is to work with it day after day. My own love of learning got me through the early stages and still provides me with the motivation to consistently improve.
For my advice, to complete newbies, I would suggest downloading as many source files as they can and taking them apart, learning how they work, and learning how to re-apply those techniques to their own work.
For the slightly more advanced, I'd recommend saving absolutely everything they make. Revisit your files weeks later and see if you can improve them. There are a number of techniques that I use on a regular basis which improve slightly every time I do them.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Certainly. I think Macromedia have made a great step in the right direction with Flash MX. There's also plenty of new technologies out and coming out which interface with Flash to provide some serious possibilities. The next year or so is likely to see some Flash projects which surprise a lot of people.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
Hmm. This question has so many possible meanings. I'll go with... I don't tend to wear a coat when Flashing as I am usually indoors.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Never piss on a pylon.
It's been a privilege, Andy, thanks very much.