From Weather To Web Design: 6 Month Front End Design/Development and Working With Brad Frost Anniversary

Februrary 4th marked my 6 month anniversary of working in the web design/development field. I would have waited for the 1 year anniversary, but in the web field you realize that things develop very quickly (no pun intended). February 4th also marked the anniversary of working with Brad Frost, my older brother and one of the faces of today’s web. I am forever grateful to him for giving me a chance to work in this field that I had little experience with before. Here’s the scoop with how I got here, what I have been doing, what I have coming up, and my advice for those of you new to web design/development.

How Did I Get Into Web?

I got my B.S. from Penn State University in meteorology. I graduated and got a job with MDA Information Systems in Gaithersburg, MD as an operational meteorologist, forecasting for stock traders, utility companies, and agriculture companies. I worked there for 4 years and decided my girlfriend at the time was worth marrying. I left my job, moved to Pittsburgh, and got married to my wife all within a 4 day period. I looked for meteorology or any related jobs in the field for 2 years in the Pittsburgh area prior to moving and realized 1) weather jobs in Pittsburgh are few and far between and 2) anything related to meteorology you needed a more specific degree (i.e. environmental engineering). I also went as far as taking civil service tests in case all else failed. Time was running out before the wedding and I needed something.

Enter my brother, in Germany at the time, at 2am on Facebook one night while I worked a night shift at my weather job.

Brad: “Hey. Have you found a job yet?”

Me: “I’m waiting to hear back from a few places. Hoping something comes up”

Brad: “Well you get married in like a month. I might need some help so you could possibly work with me for a bit.”

Me: “Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind in case I don’t find anything.”

The interviews I waited on or had failed in various ways. Being the type of person who would rather get bailed out by family or friends, it was tough accepting my brother’s offer, but it was an opportunity I was willing to try. I had some programming experience in Visual Basic, C++, and Fortran from high school and college and thought about going to college for computer science. But coding in the real world was frightening to think about. I had 3-months to test the waters. Something must have gone right since it is 6 months later and Brad hasn’t kicked me to the curb. The good news: I enjoy web design/development. Do I miss forecasting weather with good people? Yes. Do I miss waking up at 2:30 every weekday morning to get paid so-so in a place I didn’t want to live that was 3 and a half hours from my wife? No. Do I think there is more opportunity in web design/development? Absolutely.

What Have I Done So Far?

What do I do exactly? I basically help create websites by coding the structure, style, and functionality of what the user experiences. My brother wrote a good article about what I help do. How did I start and what have I been working on?

  1. Codecademy. I worked my way through HTML, CSS, and Javascript classes.
  2. Brad’s advice in addition to Codecademy also helped.
  3. Death to Bullshit. Brad’s brainchild of a site that has simple black text, clunky blue links, and a simple design. Turn bullshit on. I helped make that annoying content you see now. We used vanilla Javascript which is good and probably allowed this site to load quicker than most sites despite having more ads. Yes, my first website I had a hand in coding was how not to make a website look.
  4. Frost Finery. My sister-in-law needed her jewelry company’s site redesigned. This was the first project that I developed mostly on my own with some assistance, clean up work, and tips from Brad. This was also the first full-site redesign I ever did. This was my first experience using WordPress in-depth, PHP, Mustache, JSON, JQuery, and Pattern Lab. I learned a lot from this site.
  5. Pattern Lab. I’ve been in an on and off relationship with this website redesign for a little while now. I’d imagine this site will get done before the end of the year. It has allowed me to get more practice in with straight up HTML, CSS, and JQuery. Also, I got experience with writing YAML and markdown. I have also assisted with adding some features that Pattern Lab 2.0 will come out with when the new Pattern Lab tool is released.
  6. First client project that isn’t a family member. Currently working on a site for a company out of Times Square in NYC. Can’t disclose details, but I got to visit their office where it always feels like the afternoon thanks to the bright (and annoying) lights of Times Square. First project with a bigger client. First time working with their designers/developers/project managers in a team. First time working in XML and Freemarker. First time with a legitimate deadline.
  7. Brad’s personal projects. For those of you who know him, he always has something brewing. I have been helping with the design of one of his personal projects. Need to learn more about Node.js to help with more. Brad’s other personal projects include helping him reseed his lawn, redo his brick patio, build hammocks, and shovel dirt. It’s a good break away from the computer screen.

What Do I Have Planned?

I have felt like I have done a lot in 6 months and it looks like there are some potential bigger client projects ahead to help work on. Finishing the new Pattern Lab site redesign is also something that needs finished. I also really need to redesign this site.

My Advice If You Are Newer To Web Design (Like Me)

  1. Use Codecademy or some type of tutorial/class to get started in a language. I suggest starting with HTML, then moving to CSS, and then Javascript. If you are looking to get into Ruby, Python, etc., more power to you (Codecademy also has these tutorials).
  2. Read books. Read Articles. Follow Successful Web People. Reading books is good, but can be a little out of date with web design. Articles are usually more up-to-date and following smart web folks on Twitter can be helpful.
  3. Dive in. Fail. Learn. Fix. Remember. My best advice is to just dive into a project, make mistakes, learn from your mistakes, and fix these mistakes. I have learned that the more projects I do, the more I remember certain best practices. If you want to test something out, Codepen is a great place to design and develop quickly without needing a server set up.
  4. Ask questions. My brother probably hates me for asking so many questions (I hope I am getting better at this), but in all honesty it helps tremendously. From what I have seen, the web community is open about best practices and will gladly help you if you hit a snag.

If you are interested in front end design/development or have any questions feel free to contact me on Twitter. I’ll gladly help you out or point you in the right direction if you need help with something. Thanks for reading!