Quick reflections on the AIGA South Carolina's Web Design Panel

I had the privilege of moderating the AIGA South Carolina Web Panel discussion a few weeks ago. The panel featured a number of local web designers and developers - Gene Crawford and Jay Berry from Period Three; Matthew Smith from Squared Eye; Jason Beaird, Greg Lunn and Ken Seals from Cyberwoven; and AIGA SC Vice President and hired gun James Miller.

We had a really fascinating discussion about trends in web design and how web designers work. A few quick reflections:

Continuing education. The web is constantly changing. And for web designers, that means that they need to keep up with the most current techniques and methods. Most use internet resources to keep up with new concepts and the web design industry has essentially created a virtual cooperative to share information online.

Personally, I think this commitment to continued learning and sharing is one of the most fascinating parts of the web development community. I feel like the online print design resources are focused mainly on inspiration. The web community has managed to merge the inspiration element with technical knowledge and information on best practices. There really seems to be a dedication to improving the quality of the industry as a whole.

Side projects. Pretty much everyone on the panel has a side project. Matthew has Pattern Tap. Gene and Jay have Unmatched Style. Jason has Publix for Pennies. As I look around at other established web professionals, they all seem to have developed side projects as well. The goals for these side projects are very rarely profit. These projects are essentially client-less projects that allow for exploration and experimentation. A chance to use the skills that you have learned to contribute back to the community in some way.

(Honestly, we really don’t have an equivalent to these side projects in the print design world. The printing process is so expensive, you really need to have some sort of client to foot the production bill… Our closest parallel is probably working pro bono.)

IE6 sucks. Really, if you are still using Internet Explorer 6, upgrade now. Firefox and Safari are fine options. And free…

Client relationships. In the print world, client relationships are often simple transactional affairs. There is a project beginning and a project end - usually resulting in a deliverable of some sort. In the web world, you have to find a way to deal with the ongoing maintenance of the site and other issues like hosting and email. With web work especially, a good contract is vitally important.

The panelists were going to pool a number of resources and publish them online. I’ll link to them as soon as the list goes live.