• Andy MerskinAndy Merskin, over 2 years ago

    Hey Josh—such good questions!

    Where I started

    Like a lot of the others here, I started designing + coding in some form when I was younger, around 6-8 yrs old, so it's always been a passion of mine to not only think through the layouts and visual polish as well as the functionality. I've always seen those things as a package. It actually surprised (and disappointed) me when I got into my career to find out these things are very much separated now.

    I started by used Clickteam's Multimedia Fusion to learn layout design and event programming. Then I got into web dev at around 10 yrs and through high school.

    I started my career in high school at around 16 doing freelance design + dev doing WordPress sites for small businesses and learned the deeper ins-and-outs of HTML, PHP, and CSS with a little JS on the side, writing contracts and making money that way.

    School and Professional use of both skillsets

    I went to an art school (RMCAD in Denver) to get my BFA in Graphic Design and joined a company called IHS Markit Digital as a UI / UX Designer doing probably a good mix of 50/50 design and dev work (mostly prototyping). I mostly used Angular 1.x and Vue.js for UI frameworks with a mix of other libraries and hand-written code.

    Starting in November, after 5 years here, I'm joining a front-end dev team there to do UI development exclusively with frameworks like Vue / Svelte and supplemental design as well, so it's still a hybrid role, but I'll be writing production code now.

    I also really like toying around with Electron. Check out Spriggan, the Celtic sprite generator.

    All this time, I've called myself a UX Engineer because I've always balanced these two skillsets and have taken a passionate interest in both fields for all of my life, but I think I enjoy development a little more—I love seeing my own designs (and especially other designers') come to life. I love taking what they think might be impossible to code and make it breathe and see the reactions I get from a job well done. :)

    Advice

    Not to scare you away, but if you're a great designer and you enjoy what you do, stick with it. If you are curious about development and want to get really good at it, then you're in for some really hard work:

    • Offer to design + code landing pages for local small businesses, and charge reasonably. Sure, they could use Squarespace or Webflow, but you can offer a custom experience and offer to manage the entire process, including content / CMS stuff and add value that way.
    • Find local non-profits who need a website and contribute in that way—and don't be afraid to charge, or if you want to volunteer, even better.
    • Make your timelines flexible, and be upfront about your level of experience.

    The beginning stages of programming is 80% failure and 20% success. Once you learn how to debug properly and learn the ropes of how things work (in web development, at least), things get so insanely pleasant.

    The truth is, an experienced developer:

    • Won't know all of the syntax by heart—they still have to look things up, frequently, so make StackOverflow and other communities your best friend.
    • Has friends with other developers to review code and talk shop—geek out about new libraries, patterns, techniques, etc. Make sure you have a good local community too.
    • Still make nasty bugs and have to do the hard work to fix them. The trick is knowing how to debug and understanding the logic and inner-workings of the languages they're using. A lot of that knowledge comes from trial and error. There is no magic crash course to learn all that stuff. There are some great coding style guides out there to help you get familiar with best practices and good formatting.

    I hope this has been helpful. If you have more questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter via @andymerskin.

    3 points