Adam Wilson on combining study with freelancing

Freelance front-end developer Adam Wilson on building up a freelance portfolio while studying at university.

Adam Wilson is one of 10 nominees for Emerging Talent of the Year in the 2014 net Awards. He's currently studying Web Technologies at Huddersfield University and freelancing at the same time. We quizzed him to find out more.

Tell us about your main areas of competency.

I'm primarily a front end developer, but I don't mind getting involved with some back end stuff as well. I have a big interest in how somebody might use a website, and the outcome of their experience. It's fascinating to see how a person interacts with a well-designed site, and even more so with a bad one. Visual design is a very important aspect to me and I love creating designs with perfect alignment and ratios. PHP is also becoming a big interest of mine, but I'm just in the first steps of trying to master that.

Are you currently working or studying?

I'm in my second year studying Web Technologies at Huddersfield University; my course is a mixture of back end and front end with a bit of UX and visual design. I also work at a web design agency in Huddersfield called ID30 which is great, and I do as much freelance work as I can get.

Give us a summary of your web work so far.

My most recent project was for credit line firm Equifax, but it was only a responsive adaptation of the existing site so no design work was included, which was interesting. Before that I did a complete e-commerce store for a new Leeds-based gym clothing company, which included lots of PHP and MySQL. I also did three projects for Canadian social media archiving company Aleph Archives, which included two websites and a UI design. I had a few websites in the early days that were for martial arts societies but lets just say I'm not entirely proud of them. I've redesigned my personal site a ton of times, and I soon think it's time for another iteration.

Recluse gym clothing website

At what age did you start learning to code, and how did your interest in the web get started?

I used to deliberately stick viruses on my parents computers and think I was a pro hacker when I could remove them, or sometimes not... It got me interested in how these things worked and the architecture behind them. I went on to learn some Visual Basic and other things like that at around 13. I always loved the creative side of things and after using Adobe Flash and Dreamweaver and realising what I could create with them, I was hooked. I quickly became more interested in technology at school and started teaching myself as much as I could, although I focused more on the web.

What was the first thing you built?

One of the first things I built and coded (which I still have lying about somewhere) was a word editor called AdPad. The plan was to release it open source for people to have as an alternative to Microsoft Word. It was done entirely in Visual Basic, and was very basic and a little buggy. Even so I was very impressed with myself, although it is a little bit cringey now.

What are you working on now?

I'm currently working on a CMS integrated doggy day care site for a company based in California. I get to work with all these high resolution shots of funny looking dogs, which is great. I'm using the flat file CMS Kirby and really enjoying getting to grips with it.

Are there any people whose work has been especially inspirational to you?

James Molovo's designs taught me a lot about whitespace and typography. Visual Idiot helps me keep my humour and shows that you don't have to be serious, and Dan Eden has a great way with words. Sean McCabe and Jon Contino are probably my favourite lettering artists.

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