My favorite part of being a web developer is when you write a particular algorithm to solve a problem and then refine it so that it returns to a state of simplicity. The minimal amount of elegant code for the perfect user interaction.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
I am a developer/partner at Legwork Studio in Denver, CO and I recently earned the right to wear a "World's Greatest Dad" t-shirt on the Third Sunday of June every year.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
Aside from The FWA? I would not be where I am today without 2Advanced and k10k (you will be missed.) I studied these sites meticulously early in my career. I used to take screen shots of k10k and try to reproduce interface elements pixel-by-pixel. They taught me the importance of motion, typography and pixel perfect design on the web. More recently, I would say Reddit is a consistent source of coolness.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
I almost died in a car accident a few years ago. Statistically, I'm told, I had the same chance of winning the lottery as I did of surviving. So, that was cool, ha-ha.
Honestly, following through with my dreams to have a family, start a company in the technical space and do as much fun stuff as possible. To have lived (so far) with no regrets.
How many hours do you work each week?
This varies. Some weeks I am here a lot, others not at all. The only time working a lot of hours sucks is when it's not voluntary and/or you don't enjoy it. At Legwork, we do our best to avoid having people work a lot of involuntary overtime. As a side effect, everyone who works here does some really cool voluntary stuff in their free time. It leads to happy people with better ideas and it's a comprehensive win-win situation. I also have a personal policy that if someone is working late on work I assigned them, I stay with them. This keeps me motivated to do a good job with resource planning.
How do you relax or unwind?
Chill with my family. I have a daughter who is almost one. Hanging out with her and my wife all weekend is number one on the list.
Snowboarding. There is nothing like taking a moment alone at the top of a mountain. The same can be said for any outdoor activity. I've had equally profound moments camping, climbing, mountain biking, skateboarding, spelunking, sailing, drinking in public, etc.
Change my pace. In the summer, I work from a coffee shop in Sheridan, WY for a week. It's a totally awesome way to do what I love and hit the reset at the same time.
Music. If someone asked me what the one most important, arbitrary thing in my life was, it would be this. I play drums in a couple of crappy bands that you've never heard of.
Sports. I play ice hockey at least once a week.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
My wife saved me from wanting to live in a ski area parking lot when I was just out of high school. Were it not for her, I'd probably be a dishwasher somewhere in Breckenridge, CO.
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
My favorite part of being a web developer is when you write a particular algorithm to solve a problem and then refine it so that it returns to a state of simplicity. The minimal amount of elegant code for the perfect user interaction. This is also the hardest part of my job and where I often get stuck. There were times when I almost gave up on certain parts of the work we did for Airwalk and Diesel. When I struggle, I hit up my friends and put Stack Overflow to good use.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
I worked for a large engineering company doing completely uninspired bullshit for the first part of my career. I was comfortable and had the best salary I've ever had to date. I quit, took a huge pay cut and started a company that eventually failed. As a result of this, I met some awesome people and joined Legwork Studio. Here, I apply what I learned in failing every day to make sure we don't repeat the same mistakes. It was the best decision of my life.
What software could you not live without?
Flash, Photoshop, iTunes, Safari, Coda and Git. That's pretty much my average day, right there.
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
We are in the 1-2 range for new, active web projects. (We also have a motion side to our company.) At most, I think we will be in the 3-4 range sometime in the future. We try to give each project a unique approach and our personal attention to detail.
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
Github. Man, those guys have it together.
What area of web design lacks the most?
We should all make an effort to maintain the level of attention to detail that our predecessors in this industry showed. Not to say we're in a "new generation" or anything, most of the dudes who were around 10 years ago continue to do radical stuff. However, they did some amazing, inspiring work back then that laid a very solid foundation that should be respected and carried on.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Helped is almost an understatement. We have specifically landed awesome clients as a direct result of projects winning SOTD.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
I really wish it was. It was a site for a friend's band and it honestly had an animated gif of a dog running back and forth across the bottom. Ha-ha.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
I regularly write for Web Designer Magazine and I've done some other stuff here and there. It think that makes the most sense in this industry. If I took the time to write a book, I think it would be better to choose a topic that wouldn't be outdated next year.
Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?
It's usually something simple like taking a weekend trip or getting together with some good friends for a tasty brew.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
I think everything is going to be online in 10 years. Websites, television, software, your alarm clock and perhaps even your operating system. If it's 2021 and you are reading this, I either look totally cool or like a complete asshole.
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
I'd have to say Airwalk. This project was done when we were still pretty small (just 5 of us) and I got to do all of the dev (front and back end.) This is more of a rare opportunity now that we a.) juggle more projects and b.) have more talented developers than me.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
My friend Andrei (who is now at GeoIQ) and I had a small company that built the initial version of the Google Maps Flash API. We spent nearly a year on it. They just discontinued the project earlier this year. Bummer.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Absolutely. That is all.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
Yes, it's all about your portfolio. We have several people at Legwork who did not finish college or go in the first place. School provides a great backdrop for getting started, though. You just have to remember, that in either case, you will only get ahead by challenging yourself. You have to put in a lot of work up front in this industry and this requires that you are passionate about being here. I worked full time as an entry level web developer, went to school four nights a week and did homework on the weekends when I started.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
It's about hard work (as I stated in my previous answer,) but it's also about finding the right client. Find a scenario where it makes sense to build a cutting-edge solution for a cool client. Then you have to kill it on the design, interaction and user experience.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
My dream car, a 2000 Toyota Corolla. Or perhaps a time machine. I would go back in time and get uncled with Abe Lincoln.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Working hard, coming up with smart ideas and winning awards. We were also lucky to have worked at some great agencies before starting Legwork and our network of friends encompassed representatives from several of the top agencies in the US. There are more people than I can thank here that really helped us get established. You know who you are, thanks.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
Study work that you love in detail. Take inspiration, learn the techniques, but don't copy it. Figure out how you can put your own mark on it. If you are a designer, learn more about being a good developer and vice versa. Your work is your signature, make it represent who you want to be.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
Partners at Legwork contribute regularly to magazines, teach web-related classes at local colleges and we are on the judging panel for some of the most prestigious awards in our industry.
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
How about a region? Stay classy Scandinavia, you are kicking ass.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
Forum or Burton Snowboards. Both always have a totally rad digital presence. It may not be out of the question, we shall see!
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
I believe that the importance of balance in life cannot be overstated.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
Thanks, Rob. I certainly appreciate the opportunity.