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I cannot design or code a responsive website

I cannot design or code a responsive website

Don't listen to the voices in your head, advises frontend developer Nick Jones. Here he explains how he got stuck creating his personal site and learned to trust his instincts instead.

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There's this fallacy of a right way and a wrong way to design and code. If you spend enough time looking for it or reading about it, you'll end up paralysed. It happened to me. But in early 2012, five years after the launch of the iPhone, I decided it was time to suck it up and create a modern website for myself. What follows are my doubts about making narrowdesign.com.

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01. Responsive?

(INTERNAL DIALOGUE) You know nothing about 'responsive web design'. You have no business making a responsive site for yourself or anyone else. It’s too new and untested. You aren't capable of pulling it off. You’re not even a real programmer. In the event that you do pull it off, you’ll immediately wish you hadn’t. Something new will replace it by this time next year. You’ll look stupid for jumping on the bandwagon with every SEO expert and web guru who now drop its name. Remember what happened with microsites?

Plus, the responsive web design community, is full of elitist thugs. They are mean-spirited, sarcastic trolls. They wear astronaut helmets to confuse you and link to projects on GitHub that are written in code they alone understand. They do it to make you feel inferior. You are inferior. You’re not a real web designer. You can’t even make your own shit. Flash doesn’t count. WordPress is a copout. HTML5 boilerplate is fine, if you’re lazy and incompetent. They WILL call you out. They will expose you as a fraud. They’re going to laugh at you and publicly ridicule you. Your work will be spotlighted on their ever-expanding WTFWEBDESIGN Tumblr network. Stick to the safety of what you know. Leave RWD to people who actually understand it.

02. Parallax?

Oh, you want to make a scrolly 'parallax' site? Do you even know what that word means? Look it up, it’s not what you think it is. Ian Coyle did it a year and a half ago and thousands have copied his code to make their own, less interesting versions. You’ll be in the 'two years behind' club. Don’t get lumped in with them.

03. Design?

Content and layout are all that matters. Anything else is a gimmick. Too bad your work isn’t good enough to stand on its own. Don’t do fullscreen images or it’ll highlight how weak your design skills are. No amount of frivolous motion will mask the fact that you're bad at design. Your Flash roots are showing. Tuck them away and take a fucking typography course.

04. Type?

Your ability to pick a font pairing is pathetic. Adobe Garamond? Really? It makes real designers sick. Don’t use it. Ever. Design students may make fun of you if you use Comic Sans but REAL designers will DEFINITELY make fun of you if you use Adobe Garamond. They will call you out. This is the web. They call everybody out.

05. Dribbble?

Uppercase, tracked out, condensed gothic headlines are so tired. Are you trying to look like every kid on Dribbble who wants to be a print designer but was born after print’s death? They’re six months into this industry and they’re already better than you. Have you seen what they do with 256x256 iOS icons? They don’t type the name of the app in an uppercase gothic font like you always do. They make something that actually looks cool. Maybe you should hire one of them to design your site.

06. Skeumorphism?

Don’t think you can get all 'skeumorphic' either. Don't try making the digital world look like a bad version of the real world. Real digital designers will tear your leather-bound paper textures to bits. It’s a crutch for designers who are uncomfortable designing interfaces for the screen. It’s already dead. Don’t do it. Even APPLE gets mocked for it by designers who know what GOOD design is. Microsoft is going to eat their lunch now that they figured design out in Metro. Try to be more like Microsoft.

07. Code?

You can’t just up and switch from ActionScript to JavaScript. ActionScript isn’t a real language and its principles are not applicable to standards-based websites. There’s no GUI so you’d have to learn CSS from a dead stop. None of the interesting parts of CSS3 are even supported yet. Wait another year for the browsers to catch up. Your markup is a disaster. What are you going to do, use tables? There’s not a chance that any code you write will validate. When it doesn’t, real programmers will call you on it. "It's experimental" won't fly with them. Anybody can make something experimental. If you’re going to make stuff bounce around the page, just go back to Flash.

08. Tastemakers?

If you don’t know the rules and who you need to impress, how can you expect to make something that people will respond positively to? You can’t. So don’t even try. Read a book about it. Take a couple of Lynda courses. There are lots of opinion pieces like this one. Keep reading those. Don't start making anything yet. You'll do it all wrong. Don't discuss it with informed people or you'll sound stupid. Your opinions are not valid. You don’t know what you’re talking about and you have bad taste.

If these thoughts had won, if I had let them consume me, I’d still have the Flash site I had for the last five years. I read a little of @beep's book until I got the general idea. I still wasn't prepared to code my own responsive site. I didn’t know how to do it right, so first I did it wrong. After I had done it wrong a few times, things started to work. It’s not perfect, but it works. I still don't know the right way to do anything but I don't worry about that anymore. Now I just hack and hack and trust that I'll arrive at a solution. Sometimes it even makes sense.

By ignoring my doubts and trusting my instinct, I made myself vulnerable to attack. The attacks never came. They only ever existed inside my head. It turns out, the guys I was afraid would laugh at my new site, were the first to give respect. Most of my fears were a waste of energy.

So are yours. What if you shut out all the noise and just got started?

Nick is trying to design and code things that'll make his wife and kids proud. He's an art director at McKinney in Durham, NC.

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