It's often only when we look back on a period of time that we realise how far we've come. And that's exactly what happened when we asked seven web professionals what lessons they'd learned in the last year.
Covering everything from how to do less to why you should stick with just one stack, these lessons could be just what you need to shake up your workflow this year. Read on for the gems of wisdom these web designers and developers have discovered.
01. Use clear language
For Guy Utley, creative director of Tall, using the right language is key. "I’m finding more and more that a straight-talking approach goes down better with clients than fancy words," he says. "As an industry though, there seems to be a constant urge to create overcomplicated words to present what we do. This has meant some agencies have pretty much constructed their own language. Examples include: ‘Reach out, with our ideation’ or ‘Modern consumers' movement’. Say what? I personally love the quote by Sir Winston Churchill: 'If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.'"
02. Find the right environment
"We spend most of our time at work" points out Jeremy Clemans, back end developer at FINE, "so it needs to be somewhere we can be ourselves. My message to companies is to create an environment that inspires people to do great work and grow. For job seekers, it’s to be authentic and focus on providing value to others. Many people think of job hunting as CVs and interviews, but you want to find a connection both ways, and that’s more about the people and company culture, less about checklists of skills."
03. Don't be a one-trick pony
Solmark Creative, a branding and digital studio specialising in the wellness and fitness space, focused last year on retaining clients, according to the studio's owner and creative director, Jenni Schwartz.
"While we were predominantly hired for one-time projects, we believed we were capable of so much more than just the initial build. The problem was that our clients were not aware of our full expertise," Schwartz explains. "So we began to clearly define the specific services clients can benefit from, allowing them to budget for an ongoing relationship. In doing so, we’ve matured and shifted from being task-driven to results-oriented and our client relationships have become stronger and therefore more rewarding."
04. Stick with a stack
Adam Innes, senior PHP developer at 50000feet has learned to ‘stick with a stack’. "The proliferation of new libraries, technologies and ways to do things is a dangerous path to time-wastery," he explains. "The implications of learning a new thing can be far-reaching into the development process and have a major impact on the project budget and your programmers’ sanity. So keep your core stack stable and experiment in increments. Throwing your team onto the latest technological trend is a decision that needs to be well planned."
05. Use new tech in your projects
"In the past 12 months, I’ve learned to implement new technology in every new project I start," says front end software engineer, Marco Poletto. "Everything serves the purpose: new syntax, new tools, new framework. This approach helped me a lot in this fast-paced world and, thanks to these small, continuous inclusions, I’ve been able to reduce the time I spend keeping myself up-to-date outside my working hours. It's been a very productive year and my passion for web development has been (and is) continually increasing."
06. Learn to do less
"What’s the most important lesson I’ve learned over the last 12 months as CEO of a digital agency? That has to be the power of saying ‘no’," says Amanda Seaford, US CEO of Mirum. "In other words, in order to accomplish more, you actually have to do less.
"In practical terms, that means fewer meetings, fewer emails, fewer initiatives and even fewer new business efforts – which might sound like you’re achieving less. But in reality trying to do everything leads to many unfinished or poorly done tasks, whereas saying ‘no’ drives focus and focus drives results. With focus, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to."
07. Educate your clients
Over the last 12 months, one thing's become clear for Chris Day, agency owner. "Marketing of WYSIWYG software packages has become so exaggerated that many of our clients believe they can deliver any functionality they can dream of in seconds, for free," he says. "So now we have to provide more education early on in our project processes and clearly define the level of flexibility they will get. In addition to this, we talk to them about the importance of brand consistency, accessibility and compliance, which can also suffer in a WYSIWYG environment."