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Finding My Niche

December, 15, 2017 | Articles,The Curve

My very first project as a freelancer began over a decade ago and I had no idea what I was doing. A client wanted a static website with about five pages, some animation and detailed descriptions about the services she was offering. I used an XHTML template, some Javascript animations and put it all together rather quickly. She was happy; I felt quite satisfied and was paid for my effort. Perhaps I was on to something I thought. I would not have gone far enough to call myself a web designer yet, but everything about this felt right and I was on my way to finding my niche.

I knew nothing about SEO, HTML validation, CSS standards, or any other thing that I would not dare overlook today. I knew how to read and make minor edits to HTML. I also knew enough CSS to change colors, but that’s how far my knowledge went. More clients came and I began to feel overwhelmed. I actually turned most of them away, taking peoples money in exchange for a bad product was not an option.  I had to deal with that hands on way too many times due to the position I held at that  particular juncture of my life. Besides, I was working and going to school full-time, so it was not like I needed the money. Even if that was not the case, I just refused to be that “guy”.

Law is what I chose to major in at the local university. Shocking right?, I chose it for the financial possibilities. It was not my first option, but several people whose opinions I valued believed it was perfect for me. I would have preferred something more creative, but the dollar signs were blinding, and life back home is way more expensive than living in middle America with a family. I actually planned on returning back east once I was through with school.

Mistake number one: when it comes to making decisions about your livelihood, money is always a factor, but the love for your craft is even more important. I did not love law and I had even less love for some of my college instructors that were teaching it. Some of these fossils needed to be put to rest. To balance things out, I took a graphic design class for my sanity. I quickly realized the grave error I made by taking law as my major. The following semester, I took an HTML class along with a course in Photoshop. I continued taking law classes, I had to. For whatever reason I was not permitted to switch my major at that particular time.

Let’s fast forward to more than a decade later; I have a degree in web design, which holds absolutely no value. Most of the things I’ve learned over the years were self-thought. I will refrain from going into details about how I’ve reach this juncture. What I can tell you is that it was not easy. I would not allow it to be, even though it should have been a cakewalk.

Indecisiveness can be like a terminal disease. It will prevent you from attaining your goals and leave you wandering the dessert for years like that guy in “The Book of Eli”. Even after I gave up on studying law and dedicated my time and education to web design; I was still plagued by wishy-washy choices. I spent at least four of those years working with Adobe Flash. Most if not all frontend and backend developers hated the application. The emergence of the iPhone was the first nail in its coffin. The final blow was the release of HTML5, CSS3, responsive layouts and the public tongue lashing by the late Steve Jobs. The security flaws in Flash is what finally put it six feet under for good.

My foolishness did not end there, I also spent several more years experimenting with Joomla, Drupal (I actually like Drupal), Code Igniter, Expression Engine, Bolt, Concrete-5 and trying to roll my own content management system written in PHP of course. Let’s not forget my adventures as retail merchandiser and project manager. Two experiences I really could have done without. No matter what I tried, I always return to WordPress.

As of now, it seems that I (think) have finally reached that level of decision-making, which is truly effective. I chose Sass over Less and it did not take me more than a year to make that decision. I chose Foundation over Bootstrap, but let’s keep it 100% truthful; I still prefer to use my own framework for various reasons. Both frameworks offer an unthinkable amount of features, but the configuration can be rigid at times. With Bootstrap you can launch a project much faster than Foundation, but the markup tends to be a bit bulky. In the examples below, the Foundation markup used a great deal of Sass mixins to trim the fat. The Bootstrap markup uses Sass sparingly, but was ready for production in a fraction of the time it took to have the Foundation example up and running.

Foundation Responsive Menu

<div class="menu">
<div class="title-bar" data-responsive-toggle="main-nav" data-hide-for="medium">
<button class="menu-icon" type="button" data-toggle="main-nav"></button>
<div class="title-bar-title">Menu</div>

<ul id="main-nav" class="main-navigation" data-animate="menu-in menu-out">
<li><a href="#">Home</a></li>
<li><a href="#">About Us</a></li>
<li><a href="#">Process</a></li>
<li><a href="#">Gallery</a></li>
<li><a href="#">Contact Us</a></li>

Bootstrap Responsive Menu With Title

<nav class="navbar navbar-toggleable-md navbar-inverse">
 <a href="#" class="navbar-brand text-primary" id="logo">LOGO</a>
<button class="navbar-toggler navbar-toggler-right" type="button"
data-toggle="collapse" data-target="#navbarSupportedContent"
aria-controls="navbarSupportedContent" aria-expanded="false"
aria-label="Toggle navigation">
<span class="navbar-toggler-icon"></span>

<div class="collapse navbar-collapse justify-content-end" id="navbarSupportedContent">
<ul class="navbar-nav">
<li class="nav-item"><a href="#" class="nav-link text-primary">Overview</a></li>
<li class="nav-item"><a href="#" class="nav-link text-primary">Spec</a></li>
<li class="nav-item"><a href="#" class="nav-link text-primary">FAQ</a></li>
<li class="nav-item"><a href="#" class="nav-link text-primary">Purchase</a></li>

Codekit is still my go to for quick work, but that is also changing. Now I use Gulp via, NPM for more in depth work.  The process is not all that its cracked up to be. It literally takes me more than five minutes to launch a new project due to all the dependency files it requires to run. Let’s not forget the random updates. Once I am up and running, the process is seamless and almost seem worth the wait.  If I need to do some light editing, I will drop the folder in Codekit and get the same results with less time. Browser refreshing in Codekit can be a little buggy at times, but is still dependable.

Someone once stated that pragmatic thinking is a problem for me. Her opinion held no weight, but I knew why she said it. I have a tendency to go over every folly I have committed with a fine tooth comb. When it comes to my own affairs, I still struggle with decision making and I know it has cost me a great deal in time and finance. Trying to weigh the outcome of all possible scenarios before taking action can drive you to the loonie bin or the poor house in a hurry. Sometimes you just have to go with your instincts.