There's no doubt in my mind there's been a shift in terms of what I've seen clients asking for, mainly HTML5 or WebGL. I've been involved in far fewer Flash projects in the past year or two. But Flash is an amazing platform, whether it's an AIR application, a mobile game, or a video-heavy desktop site, there are just some things that Flash does better than anything else.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
I've been making sites and applications for nearly ten years now. I studied Computing Science at Newcastle University in the UK and about that time I was doing that I discovered Flash 5, and it changed everything for me. I spent so much time looking at sites that were out there and then honing my skills over the next few years. I set about learning HTML, CSS (although at that time everyone used tables for layouts!), PHP and whatever else I needed to do to realise what I wanted to build. Of course I rarely managed to get anywhere near the ideas in my head but I kept trying!
Fast forward to today and for the past 18 months I've been a Senior Developer at Fantasy Interactive in Stockholm, where I've had the chance to work on some cutting-edge projects for an amazing client roster. Most of my days are spent dealing with technologies like HTML5, CSS3 and WebGL.
What do you do for inspiration?
Mainly I get away from the computer, which I think is pretty normal for creatives. I just know if I'm at a computer the chances are I'm doing something, whether that's coding or emailing. Taking time out generally means I can give my brain a rest and recharge my batteries a little bit. Inspiration can come from anywhere and anyone of course, but for me at least it needs space and time to start happening.
I definitely try and start conversations with other creative coders as much as I can to bounce ideas around because I'm not an ideas guy by nature; I need people around to talk to.
How do you relax or unwind?
Watching movies. Not just any movies, though. Oh no. I love the huge blockbusters, the really mindless ones. I just love to see things blow up and I'm a massive fan of visual effects. Pop me down in front of that for kind of thing for at least 90 minutes and I'll be a happy man. I think it's mainly because it gives my brain a chance to disengage.
Should I confess publicly that I play Cribbage against my wife? I feel like an old, old man admitting that I play a card game to relax. To make matters worse I'm regularly schooled by her, so I've just outed myself for no tangible benefit.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
You know I think I'd do something like being a chef or a carpenter. I love to create things that other people can enjoy, as well as something that takes time to master, so if it fits that bill it'd probably be a good start.
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 favourite part is winning, solving that problem, putting something in the code that only I know about, the final 10%. The hardest part of my job is often dealing with bugs or not being able to realise the potential of the project for any reason. If I get stuck I either walk away or I plough on through, depending on my mood.
A few years ago a new starter at the agency I was at asked me: "what happens if you can't solve it?" I just sat there for a few seconds dumbfounded and then just muttered "The computer never wins." I just don't like giving up.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
I resolved in my early twenties that I wanted to realise my full potential, and I've been sort of relentless about that ever since. I love learning and trying new things even if they don't see the light of day. That endless noodling has always opened up new opportunities so I'd say it's the single best choice I've made.
Moving from the UK to live in Sweden was a massive decision, and not one that my wife and I took lightly. Moving here has given me a lot of new opportunities, I've met some fantastic people and it's really broadened my perspective.
What software could you not live without?
Google Chrome, it's my window on the world and I love it. Tweetdeck since I like to keep up with a number of things on Twitter all at once. Sublime Text 2 because it's my IDE of choice and I couldn't do what I do without it.
Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Definitely. Winning an FWA for Photo Particles was spectacular and caused a huge spike in my site's traffic! Even now people tweet about it or let me know in other ways that they like it, and it's undoubtedly been the reason some opportunities have opened up for me.
When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?
It can be very difficult. I'm like a kid in the way that I want to just jump in and deal with the problems I see using code, but really there are a ton of things that the team need to deal with first, not least of which is the UX and design. You have to understand the client's business goals, their audience and the real-world constraints that you have and then go about crafting the right solution. When all is said and done one of the most important things is to have a great relationship with the client. You're acting on their behalf and they need to know you have their best interests at heart.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
I haven't but I'd love to. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to do so at some point soon!
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
Very, but I'm not sure they'll look like websites as we know them now. In the past few years, particularly with the advent of the iPhone we've really seen phones and then tablets as valid form factors. So even now I think we're seeing more devices, screen sizes and capabilities than we've ever seen and I don't expect that to stop. I have no idea what websites will look like in ten years, but I think they'll be more integrated into everything that we do, and they'll do a much better job of working across multiple devices.
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
Not strictly a site, well not at all in fact. But I'm honestly most proud that I managed to write my own 3D engine. I'd never written one before (or anything like it) so I'd no idea what I was getting myself into. But I did it, and made it open source, and that was a great feeling. It answered a lot of questions for me about 3D that I'd been wondering about for many years.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
I had no idea how I was going to do the Maths of it, and getting the feel of it just right took so long. Fortunately Tom Knowles, who was my boss at the time and also a very experienced Flash developer, had built a prototype. I started from that conceptually, but redid it from the ground up and added some of my own features. Was it a usable site? No, not at all by today's standards, but it was a really immersive experience. I have no idea how long it took to build, I did it 5 years ago! I can barely recall what I had for dinner last night!
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Yes it is, certainly for the time being, and personally I like that. There's no doubt in my mind there's been a shift in terms of what I've seen clients asking for, mainly HTML5 or WebGL. I've been involved in far fewer Flash projects in the past year or two. But Flash is an amazing platform, whether it's an AIR application, a mobile game, or a video-heavy desktop site, there are just some things that Flash does better than anything else.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
Some of the best people I've worked with have no formal training so I'd say so. I think there's a huge amount of invaluable knowledge that can come from going to school to study, but you can still learn all of that in your own time if you want to. That goes for any web discipline as far as I'm concerned.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
Surround yourself with honest and constructive people. If you're just starting out you will almost certainly make mistakes, and you'll need to be told that something is or isn't working.
If you follow what you're passionate about you'll learn from your mistakes quickly and it won't even feel like you're learning. Always keep on trying to get better; do this project better than you did the last.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
Twitter mainly, because if something is awesome then it gets tweeted and retweeted. I know the people that I follow share really interesting and creative stuff, so that's a great filter. There's so much out there and it's easy to be bombarded.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
I've never had the opportunity to do any kind of installation and that's something I'd like to take a shot at. There are so many possibilities with things like Microsoft's Kinect, openFrameworks, Stage3D or WebGL. And it could include robots, pyrotechnics and light shows!
In short I'd like to go absolutely crazy (as you may have noticed) making something that requires a ton of processing power, looks amazing and is interactive. As in real-world interactive.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
It's very easy to follow someone else's plan for your life or career. Instead take time to find out what you love doing and pursue that. Surround yourself with good people and keep trying to be the best you can be.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much