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Permanent Tourist

A personal website by Mark Howells-Mead

Lessons from the Big Web Show

I wrote a while back that I’d begun listening to the podcasts from the Big Web Show series, published by 5by5. I am continuing to do so: albeit skipping episodes which cover subjects I can’t get interested in. (It’s nothing personal: I just have a specific focus at the moment, so talk of how to run your own business or how to manage billing just aren’t on my to-do list.)

Aside from the interesting conversations amongst familiar designers and web workers – Zeldman, Todd Dominey and the like – I’ve picked up a few useful tips. Not just in the general area of web development, but also in general terms; such as how to manage my time better and how to move projects and development along more quickly.

The main non-technical lessons I’ve learned (for web projects) are:

Perfection takes time. Get a project to the stage where it’s acceptable, then get it online. You’ll never release a perfect, bug-free project: accept that and stop postponing the project until there’s nothing left to do. (There’s always something else to do.)

Don’t re-invent the wheel all the time unless the wheel in question is broken or unusable. There are thousands upon thousands of people working in the web and many of them have already solved a problem which is new to you. Let Stack Overflow and GitHub be your friends and “pay it back”: share work freely from time to time, so that others can profit from your experience and so that the community keeps moving forward.

Don’t judge a group of people against the highest performing or most experienced person. (Especially if it’s you.) Not everyone has twenty years’ experience and that’s fine. If you can complete a task in two hours and the least experienced programmer takes eight hours, that doesn’t matter. As long as the project budget and project calendar is prepared in advance for the longer timescales. Plan for eight hours, get the work done more quickly and spend the spare time learning something new. (Not hanging around the coffee machine.)

If you do have twenty years’ experience, don’t bang on about it, or how challenging it was developing for crappy web browsers in 1998. No-one cares. If you must prove yourself, do so by showing that you know how to excel at working on current projects and with current technologies. Share what you’ve learned, not how great you think you are because you had to learn it to get your work done.

Experience is nothing if you don’t keep it up-to-date. The web moves quickly and you must move with it if you want to be successful.