A Coder’s Journey

As a web designer, coding is an important part of what I do. Recently, there has been some discussion in the design community about whether or not designers should know how to code. I’m not going to get into that debate in this article.

Suffice it to say that I do my work both in Photoshop and Coda, and actually do all my own coding by hand. For me, learning how to do it has been a long and interesting process that has spanned several years.

A Coder's Journey

I thought that it might be interesting to actually map the course of that journey, so that’s what this particular article is going to be all about. Novices and beginners might be able to learn a thing or two from my mistakes. And as for you more experienced readers, hopefully you will be at least entertained or be able to relate to some of what I’m talking about.

The Basic Story

The Basic Story

Let’s start with the recent past, head back to my beginnings and then move forward again. As of 2006, I completed five years of school at a small (but awesome) university near where I live. First, I did a four year program and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English literature. I then blitzed through an intense eight month Master’s program in the same field.

A few months ago, I would have said that my degree is completely unrelated to what I actually do as a designer and developer. Some of my recent thinking has started to change that, though, as you can see in a pair of articles I wrote recently on the relationship between language and coding.

Anyhow, that’s all a very roundabout way to come to the point that, despite having not actually completed a PhD (something I did consider pursuing), I seem to have earned the nickname of “professor” in my family, especially from my father. My dad always supported my schooling, but he has often said that he thought I would have gone into something to do with computers or programming.

He also likes to tell the story of how I “wrote” my first program at three years old. I don’t remember this, but apparently at that age I was able to build a very simple program in Basic, with a little guided assistance from my dad. I have no idea what that program actually did, and it was likely just a simple script of a few lines that would be executed by an interpreter. Still, I like to think of that as the starting point of my journey as a coder.

Learning to Program

Learning to Program

The first instance that I actually remember of doing anything that could actually be called coding (or programming) came several years later, when I was about 11. I was at a friend’s house and we were just playing around on his DOS-based computer (a very dangerous thing to allow two unsupervised boys to do), and we stumbled across a program called dBase, which we obviously started playing around with. For those of you who don’t know dBase at all (and I’m assuming that’s many of you), it’s an older database package that includes a command prompt, where you can execute single line commands and even extensive program files.

As it turned out, dBase was also a software package that my dad was quite familiar with, and I eventually sat down and started to learn how to write basic, procedural programs. After that, I moved on to working with a language called Clipper, which was a compilable variation of the dBase core. I learned about declaring memory variables, working with conditional logic, building loops and writing user-defined functions. The syntax was quite a bit different than most of what I work with today, but most of the key concepts were all there (no “objects” though).

My friend also learned the language, and together we developed a very simple contact management program, which we called Tele-Rec. It didn’t do all that much other than store contact data, and maybe print a few basic reports, but as a couple of 11 or 12 year olds, we were pretty proud of it at the time.

World Wide Web

World Wide Web

Ultimately, the dBase/Clipper language never really seemed to make the transition to becoming a viable development platform for the emerging world of Windows (though some efforts were made). As such, I never really pursued it much further. However, right around that same time, another technology was starting to become more popular. I think you might have heard of it. It’s called the Internet. Or, as seemed so trendy and hip to say back then, the World Wide Web.

Despite the fact that the dBase family of languages was completely and entirely unrelated to HTML, I still found myself migrating toward this new method of coding, which offered something that I never really had before – a simple way to develop more extensively graphical interfaces (as opposed to the simple 16 colour text interfaces that I was used to working with).

Like many young coders, I learned most of what I know now by studying and copying the code from other sites (scandalous, yes). Through trial and error, I learned how to structure an HTML document, and what most of the basic tags did.

Unfortunately, at the time, I had some pretty bad misconceptions about markup, believing that it was a matter of presentation rather than description. I thought of the tags as a way to make content look a certain way, rather than as a means to structure that content according to a certain schematic. I even taught myself how to slice up an image and recompose it within a table (insert blood-curdling shriek here).

Yes, I was a table guy. It was also 1996 and I was 15, so I cut myself some slack.

Further Development

Further Development

By this point I had started high school. My voice was cracking, I was fighting rogue pimples and convincing myself that the crush I had on that girl I knew only in the most superficial of ways is actually the incredible depths of love, all the while wallowing in self-pity as she does not return my feelings. As far as I was concerned, my future held nothing but drawing comics and writing fantasy novels (all very successfully, of course).

Okay, somethings never change – I still have plans to pursue both of those things to some extent at some point down the road. I did manage to outgrow the rest of those things though.

Still, I never really stopped coding, and managed to get my hands on some web space, where I created a plethora of horrid fan pages for the various geeky things that apparently interested me at the time. I think there was a Spawn page, and some stuff about Final Fantasy VII. It was probably about as bad as it gets, as far as both content and design are concerned, but I was still learning some of the things that would become the fundamentals of my later work.

One example was a basic introduction to JavaScript. I’m not sure if it was for a class project or just something that I decided to do on my own, but at one point this guy who was working for my parents helped me build a simple script that would accept input from the user and then print it out to a page. It was nothing all that fancy (I could probably recreate it in matter of minutes these days), and he wrote most of the code. I just knew how to change a few values, none of which really effected the functionality of the script itself.

High school was also the time when I got what could probably be called me first “freelance client”. I was taking a class called Communications Technology (or something to that effect), in which we were apparently learning some web stuff. In truth, I think we hardly learned anything at all from that teacher, but through it I did end up getting hooked up with a local telephone company, for whom I created a website of sorts. I built it complete with frames and poorly achieved JavaScript-based mouse over menu effects.

It almost hurts to remember those things now, but the journey was continuing, albeit rather slowly.

A Flash in the Pan

A Flash In The Pan

After high school, I worked for a year before university, and one of my primary responsibilities was to “redesign” and manage the company website. In that role, I inherited some JavaScript and Perl scripts, so I needed to learn more about those languages in order to be able to perform some routine maintenance. From that learning, I even found myself writing a few custom scripts (like an email tracking script which, looking back now, may have been of a somewhat dubious nature). In all honesty, I suppose “write” is a relative term. Patching together snippets of code might be a better description. Still, that’s the point at which I really learned the basic syntactical structure of C-based languages.

It was also around this time that I introduced myself to Flash. You see, being the silly and naive teenager that I was, I convinced both myself and my employer that it would be a good idea for us to have a fancy flash-based splash page (insert further groans here). So, I installed Flash MX on my super fast 486 and started learning about basic tweens and keyframes. In the end, I ended up building this ridiculously simple little animation that really accomplished nothing, other than maybe inflating my ego a bit and hurting the overall usability.

In fact, I am reasonably sure that I could essentially duplicate the same basic animation with a combination of jQuery, HTML 5 and CSS 3 today. Not that I would want to. But I could.

I don’t discount my time with Flash as completely useless, though, as I still find myself opening it up every once in a while, to build small, graphically rich web applications (but never a splash intro or complete site). The opportunity to work with ActionScript 2.0 was also useful, since I find that every programming language that I learn to code in actually helps round out my abilities as both a coder and programmer.

Marginal Progress

Marginal Progress

My journey as a coder didn’t make all that much progress during university. During the actual school year, all of my attention was focused on my classes (which, being in the English program, had very little to do with any kind of computer code). During the summers, I went back to work, but only part of what I did ever had to do with the website. I continued to learn basic JavaScript and Perl, and my designs were getting better, but for the most part I don’t feel that I advanced all that far.

The one thing that I did do was to make at least a minimal effort to start implementing CSS, though in horrible fashion. By looking at some existing code, I was able to figure out that you could apply classes to your HTML tags and then write CSS rules for those classes. I did not, however, have any understanding of the cascade, and ended up writing these horribly bloated style sheets, where everything was done with classes. I also had no concept of inheritance, and found myself repeating the same property declarations over and over again. Nor did I even know that there was such a thing as the box model.

The unfortunate result of all of this was that my use of styles was pretty much limited to changing the font, size and colour of text. Looking back, it was all really just one step removed from littering my code with all kinds of <font> tags.



By this point, you are probably wondering: what’s with this guy? Is he ever going to figure it out? Yes! After finishing university, I went back to work for the same company, and landed there just in time to be implicated in a complete re-branding process. This, of course meant another redesign of the website. By this time, I knew that my skills weren’t up to snuff, and I’d already heard plenty of murmuring about creating tableless layouts.

So, I made a concerted effort to get better at coding.

The main crux in that effort was a trip to the local bookstore, where I hunted down and purchased a book explaining CSS. It was like turning on a light in my mind. Suddenly, the box model was revealed to me. I had a better understanding of selectors, inheritance and specificity. I was astounded to learn about positioning and floats and pseudo classes.

From there, the next site I built was completely different, and much more inline with the way I code now. It still wasn’t great, but there were no tables (at least not for layout purposes – there were a few tables that were actually meant i> tables), and far fewer classes.

I also found myself hungrier for knowledge, and started learning about coding at a much faster rate than I have had in the past. Eventually, I was also introduced to blogging, which was also my first real introduction to the concept of content management. I started with a Perl and flat text file based system called blosxom, which was lightweight and elegantly coded, but a little bit inflexible and clunky in terms of updating.

Later, I discovered the much renowned WordPress and a system called Concrete5, both of which blew my mind and both of which I still actively use today. I started to learn PHP too, and have found it to be much nicer server-side language than Perl, especially when it comes to creating output specifically crafted for websites.

Conclusion (So Far)


Today, I develop custom themes for my clients, often building custom PHP routines to allow for very specific functionality. I keep my markup separate from my design with CSS. I can write complex JavaScript functions from scratch, or can implement a variety of jQuery awesomeness. I’ve even had other designers approach me with questions about their CSS code (and been happy help them iron out a few gremlins).

I think I’ve come along ways. Have I reached the end of my journey, though? Not even close. While I’m comfortable with my current coding ability, there is still so much left out there to absorb. I have a reasonably firm grasp on CSS 3, but I know there’s more to learn. The same is also true of HTML 5. Then there’s Ajax, which is something that I’ve never had to actually implement myself, but which I certainly want to add to my skill set.

The basic truth is that there’s always room for improvement – always some way to get just a little bit better. The day I stop learning is the day I become stagnant, and from there, it’s only a hop, skip and a jump to also becoming irrelevant.

So, while I’ve come a long way from sitting with my dad and writing that first Basic program, I can openly say that I still have a long way to go. I’ve found that is especially true in this precious landscape that we call the Internet, where technology is always changing and advancing.

What’s Your Journey?

We all take different paths to get to where we are. Maybe you can relate to one or two of my experiences, or that you learn a thing or two from some of my rookie mistakes back in the day. If not, I hope that you’ve at least enjoyed reading about how I got to where I am today!

Now it’s your turn to share. What was your journey like? Did you follow a similar path, or did you come to coding through a completely different avenue? Let’s hear some of your stories!


  1. WallMountedHDD says

    “As a web designer, coding is an important part of what I do.” – Bad first line, especially since designers don’t code. If you code and design, you’re a developer. Not a programmer, mind you, but at least a front-end developer. Even if you’re more designer than coder and only know XHTML/CSS and how to use jQuery, or a little more coder than designer and you can do Perl and database normalization and unit testing for PHP scripts while being ok in photoshop. If you make websites and you do both then you’re one of the many flavors of developers.

  2. says

    Great journey, Matt. As a beginning webdesigner i struggle with coding. I feel the urge to learn coding, but i noticed it slows my designing capabilities. That’s why i use Dreamweaver so i can design for the web. But i’ve noticed that working with Dreamweaver without any knowledge in coding is annoying. So i am now learning to code, small steps at the time. Actually i am now liking the learning process in coding and my journey now begins from the other end. First design and then coding. For now i concentrate on HTML and CSS and stay clear from server-side coding such as PHP (that’s another galaxy for me, for now at least). So, my journey in coding starts with Dreamweaver and more and more i see myself making the changes in the design in the codingsection of DW.

  3. says

    I think whatever degree course we (designers) do, it helps us in its own way. Engineering teaches designers detailed, precision work. Philosophy teaches the creativity as its helps us expand our imagination, accounting helps freelancers in managing their budget.
    And CODING which is the building block of web helps us enrich our site with lots of functionality

    My story is not so much interesting as yours.
    I first had my hands on MS-DOS games : “PC-man” and “Ram” in around 1997 when I was in 2nd grade (i.e. Kindergarten +3; India education system is a bit different)
    The first programming environment I was introduced to was “LOGO” with cute keywords like “turtle,FD 40, RT 90 ….” which was a year later
    Then came BASIC in 1999 when I was in 5th grade. My interest in computing was always high as it is now. When I reached 9th I thanked GOD, I was introduced to Java, the best programming language I’ve ever known. I was master of Java in whole grade. I got 96 out of 100. I also came across a book which was in our library @ home untouched for years which taught me the basic tags in HTML.

    My interest in Java was what inspired me to learn other languages : Java, Javascript, C#,C++, VB,ASP,SQL, PHP, Perl, Python, etc.

    Getting into HTML was like coming to the most beautiful world I had ever known/seen. HTML and also my dad’s profession helped me get my hands on Photoshop, Corel Draw, etc.

  4. says

    @WallMountedHDD Um…. Actually, some web designers do actually code. In fact, some can do everything— design, front end coding, and server side coding. That’s something that should be admired and looked up to.

    If you’re going to call your self a web designer, you better know how to code html and css. Else you’re NOT a web designer, you’re just a designer.

    Learning html and css is really very, very easy. It’s probably easier to learn than Photoshop, Illustrator, or Indesign.

    Artist or Programmer? Both?

  5. Billy Cravens says

    Nice, but I’m pretty sure you got the initial version of Flash wrong .. working with Flash when you got out of high school might have been version 2 or 3, not MX :-) Especially if you were running it on a 486

  6. Keiron Lowe says

    Great post.
    Being young myself (17 nearly 18) its nice to now how other people got into the industry, personally, it was around the age of 14 – 15 that I started to get interested in how web pages were made. So with a little help from a friend, looking over pre-made Dreamweaver templates and several blogs I managed to start learning HTML and CSS. Now currently trying to learn jQuery and PHP.

    P.S. Final fantasy VII was an amazing game

  7. says

    @WallMountedHDD: I gave up on explaining all this terminology a lot time ago. The fact of the matter is that a lot of designers write code, such as myself. What they choose to call themselves is up to them. I always identify myself as a web designer, for instance. Everybody has different perceptions of what these words mean. “Front-end developer” may imply both design and coding skills for one person, while another may think that they’re all about HTML/CSS/Javascript and not much into Photoshop, if at all. I mean, everyone knows Photoshop at some level these days, right? Haha.

    Matt, great article! I completely agree about the whole process of becoming a INSERT JOB TITLE HERE. I’ve been coding HTML and CSS for over 7 years now, and only in the last couple of years did I start getting into Javascript, PHP, and so forth. And now, with the addition of HTML5 and CSS3, there’s even MORE to learn. This is why we can’t ever stop learning. If we do, our skills will start to expire. Learning4Life!

  8. says

    @Carl & @Johnny – thanks. Glad you enjoyed the article.

    @WallMountedHDD – I agree it’s not a great opening line, but mostly because it’s just not a great opening line. I disagree about the whole developer thing for a couple of reasons. First, it’s overly dogmatic to suggest that anyone who touches code is automatically a developer.

    Second, I think it’s possible to design with code. I do it all the time when I’m mocking up pages. I’ll whip together my HTML and CSS as an exercise in designing a layout. I also make adjustments and tweaks to the code as I design the layout.

    Third, I would never call myself a developer, because I don’t believe that most of my clients are looking for a developer. They want me to “design” their website and are looking for a designer. Even if half of what I do is development, the designer term simply wins out because it’s what’s known.

    Fourth, terms and definitions are fluid at best, especially in the context of this postmodern world. And, to some degree, I suppose that I simply enjoy the apparent schizophrenia.

  9. Jonathan B says

    Hey, i was looking at ubuntu website a month ago and i found a quote that perfectly match your post.
    “Once you’re in technology, you have to keep on learning” -Samuel Mayanja

    Learn, learn, learn :)

  10. says

    Thank you for writing this heartfelt and somewhat intimate portrait of your journey. I relate in perhaps an unusual way. In fact reading yiur post brings out in me deep sadness because I’ve enjoyed learning code and felt that I was good at it. But for whatever reasons I didn’t pursue it.

    I wasn’t playing in Basic or DOS until 12 but I was learning it on my own in exactly the same way. I loved (and still do) figuring out how these things functioned and how I could write them to do what I wanted. This was all 16 years ago. My how the time flies.

    Now I find myself at a critical juncture in my life with very few of those skills that I crave to understand and that I love to master and implement. For this reason reading your post highlights a deep remorse I have for choices made and not made in the course of my now not-so-short life.

    I know looking back that if I had started with those things and stuck with them I would have been a tremendous programmer. It’s too bad I had it in my head that I couldn’t do those things.

    I’ve been thinking to begin again, but I’m so far behind now. The languages, to a great extent, seem to build upon each other and I wonder if I could ever catch up. I learn this stuff quickly but starting now seems daunting.

    What words would you offer Matt?

    Thanks. I’m very glad to have read your post and to have stumbled upon your blog.

    Happy Easter!


  11. Flick says

    I really enjoyed reading your journey and only wish mine could be that interesting! Thank you for sharing your story with us :)

    p/s: I am not a coder/developer/designer/road side hygienist or ant population manager etc. I just like to do it for fun, badly.

  12. says

    Hahaha, one of my first complete sites was a Final Fantasy VII fansite. I still think back to then and wonder why I did that. It wasn’t a multiple user experience, there was no forum or anything. I just wanted to express my fandom in a certain way, I guess.

  13. says

    It always take me so much time to learn something. My journey started when I was in Brazil, I was an intern in a web agency and I learn a lot there. After that I moved to USA and started working in construction :(. But since I got my green card I went back to web design. Now I’m actually a SEO Specialist taking care of law firms SEO campaigns :)

  14. says

    I definitely think that every designer should know at the very least, the basics of coding. Sometimes the designers come up with these off the wall designs that require tons of special coding to accomplish, which doesn’t bother me but I just wish they knew that before designing it. When I sit down with a designer (if im not the one designing it) I will let him know from a developing POV what is easy and what isn’t. If we are on a tight timeline than I will be sure to make sure he knows certain things are acceptable and some aren’t. I would consider myself a front-end developer/designer. I can design a great website and cut it up, make it all XHTML/CSS valid, and add jQuery to it. I can also do PHP/MYSQL work but I prefer to leave it to the back-end guys that really know their way around it. In order to be a complete, well-rounded designer, you should know the basics of coding.

  15. says

    Started as a young kid with a IBM XT black-and-white screen, learned how to draw with AutoCAD, thought to me by an American GI (true story !). Later on learned howto write BASIC programs, general pc use, etc. When I was 14-15yrs old started “designing” posters in CorelDRAW for my volleyball club, then student activities etc.. Got asked more and more by others to design event poster and became better at it.
    Meanwhile got introduced to “the internet” in 1995, soon after that created my very own website, think pattern backgrounds, Times New Roman, frames and an animated gif ;)

    Quickly became better at HTML, got a job where webdesigner was my official title, and learned lots more on the job. Still static sites though.
    Because I could find no-one to do databases and programming for me, I learned it myself. In the beginning ASP + Access-db, later PHP/MySQL (like everyone else ;) )

    Nowadays developing full-function websites with great knowledge of XHTML/CSS/Javascript, lots of times with WordPress or Drupal as CMS, although I’ve written my own in the past, but decided I don’t want to spend all my time in the backend. Still more of a frontend developer than a backend programmer. And still designing the layouts as well as the whole brand for companies like logo’s, stationary, folders & brochures.

    The last year stuff like User Interaction, SEO, webmarketing etc became stronger tools on my belt.

    ps: I dj at a very regular basis at all kinds of parties, clubs and festivals as well ;)

  16. says

    Wonderful article. For me, learning how to properly code has also been a long and interesting process that has spanned several years. A story very similar to yours. What I love about doing this is that there is that there is always room for improvement and new things to learn and try.

  17. says

    Tom. I don’t usually make it through entire blog posts, but yours is the exception. My journey in web design started a year ago when I took an elective web design class in college. My formal background is in Architecture (5 years + 3 more mechanical), and I’ve been drawing since I can remember. Being a visual person, I viewed code as a way of “drawing with text”, and I immediately picked up html and css with relative ease. I learned Photoshop over the years like you learned coding, and I use Dreamweaver only for its text-editing/auto-complete capabilities.Today after building only a few websites, I feel like I can claim proficiency in both of those languages, but I’ve never been able to grasp scripting/programming languages. It’s frustrating to have wild ideas for websites, and only be able to design and build the look of them without the awesome functionality that PHP or jQuery allow you to do. In grade school, I was more of a geometry person than a physics/calculus person. I understand the concepts of conditionals, variables, and functions, but the syntax in which the language is written is for some reason difficult for me to memorize/understand. In every beginner tutorial I’ve found, there always seems to be these unexplained (), $, ; and other symbols that are used in some places and not others. No resource so far has been able to sit down and explain what each piece of the language does, and I think that’s the problem. What resources would you recommend to get me started in programming that don’t promote the copy/paste method of doing things, and what did you use to finally achieve your lightbulb moment? I genuinely want to understand and write the code. Thanks for putting yourself out there.

  18. says

    @WallMountedHDD: If you only do graphics you’re a Graphic Designer, period. A Web Designer is a person specializing in design of webpages, which includes markup, styling, and interaction. That being said, (X)HTML and CSS are NOT programming languages. The former is a markup language and the later is a style sheet language. Javascript makes the designer vs developer debate a bit blurry, though to make it simple it’s generally accepted that Web Designers should be able to handle interaction between UI elements and any styling effects with the language, while Ajax interaction does bring a person closer to the “developer” moniker. That being said, it’s part of the reason for the front-end developer and back-end developer distinction made in the community, and it doesn’t mean that a person can’t be both, either at the same time or in different projects.

    Design is not only about making pretty graphics. Architects design how a building looks, Civil Engineers design how a building ‘works’. Their works overlap at multiple points by necessity, the same way that web design and development do.

  19. says

    @Michael Reynolds

    “Learning html and css is really very, very easy. It’s probably easier to learn than Photoshop, Illustrator, or Indesign.”

    Michael, i disagree. Of course, the fundamentals of html or css are easy to learn. But if it comes to cross-browser-compability, complex floating and other techniques, it isn’t easy anymore.

    On the other hand, the techniques used in PS are easy to learn too. But the process of getting creative isn’t easy as it isn’t easy to get the knowledge how to code a given design.

    I agree with:
    “If you’re going to call your self a web designer, you better know how to code html and css. Else you’re NOT a web designer, you’re just a designer.”


  20. says

    The most important thing in your story: your sense of purpose and what it means to you. Forget these critics who try to correct you.

  21. says

    “The day I stop learning is the day I become stagnant, and from there, it’s only a hop, skip and a jump to also becoming irrelevant.”

    This is the most beautiful line I’ve read today. Thanks for the great read!

  22. Mark says

    Thanks for sharing your story, it was a great way to start my Wednesday. All the best Matt.

  23. says

    I remember touching MS FrontPage as a little kid. I didn’t understand how to get my pages on the net back then and dropped it out of frustration.

    Later on we had a small HTML course at junior high school. Our teacher taught us bad presentative tagsoup. But it got me on my journey. I surfed the net and learned what CSS is, what standards mean, how to manage server space, install things such as WordPress, FTP clients, yada yada.

    Right now I’m trying to learn JavaScript and PHP to before going to school to learn media theory, technology and applications.

    I’m also learning UnrealScript, which is the logical code behind Unreal Engine games. A bit like Java, but with special aspects engineered for game development. :)

  24. says

    Great post. It’s always good to add more tools to the toolbox… or as I would say, your “dev shed”.

    Your story about dBase reminds me of when my father showed me qBasic when I was a kid. Endless hours of creating text-based games that were similar to those old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books.

  25. says

    I started out on a Spectrum 128k+2 with Basic trying to create a simple drawing program with a mouse I had aquired especially for the Spectrum. I also tried building games but would always end up playing other games instead! I was 15 at the time and gradullay got bored until 10 years later I got into web programming, now I’ve been hooked ever since. With skills such as XHTML, CSS, jQuery, Javascript, PHP, MySQL, Actionscript 3 (highly enjoyable) and ASP.NET under my belt I feel I’m well on my way to having quite a large skill set, lets hope it continues…

  26. says

    Great article. If I told my story it would share many things with yours: Learning from my dad; self-taught HTML; being a table-guy and feeling really ashamed for my past work when I discovered CSS; studying something not design-related…

    But the best part is that this is a journey with so much to discover yet.

  27. says

    What a fantastic story. In many ways it was a stroll down memory lane for me, as well as a history of computers and the internet since you first found them. I think one shouldn’t be embarrassed of the embracing of trends at the time, such as flash splash pages etc, because those were “cutting edge” in their day, that’s the history lesson aspect of your story, and it’s kind of cool to remember that. One thing that shines through the stories of you and all the commenters who shared theirs is the ability to learn and evolve, as well as making the best of what was available at the time which I personally think is a very cool thing. I can remember back in 1996 discovering how to make graphics with the paint programme in the accessories folder of my second computer, which was my first pc (before then I had the tiny apple classic). These graphics I put on my geocities site, back in the day. Thanks, Matt, and thanks to all the commenters too for the walk down memory lane.

  28. hybrid756 says

    Interesting story! It’s always nice to know that not everyone has gone to uni to do Computer Science and appeared out the other end with a kickass web programming career ;)

    Made my first page back in 1999, at uni attempting to do Physics. It was all HTML and looked like absolute crap.

    3 more years of uni, left to work at the council, went to law school for 3 years. That was in 2004. Got a myspace account (groan), started messing about with the already enormously bloated code of tables within tables within tables to dabble in some CSS. Never really got the hang of that.

    Got a job in a solicitors, paid bills, was completely miserable, quit law school, took up amateur photography (I still entertain the idea of becoming a full time music photographer), did a course in advanced photoshop, finally got the hang of layers, took a course in flash, hated it, took a longer, intensive course in graphic design, loved it. That was a year and a half ago, and it taught me NOTHING about coding. So I’ve been teaching myself that ever since.

    And now I’m at the enlightenment phase where CSS finally makes sense. It feels like when I wake up in the morning, the sun is shining and the birds are singing. I’ve even started dreaming about coding. That’s not sad, right?

    Started learning wordpress 2 days ago!

  29. Anonymous says

    Gonna have to flat-out disagree with everyone disagreeing with me. Graphic designers who designs user interfaces, including web sites, don’t absolutely have to code. There are plenty of professional designing and not coding websites. Leave coding to developers. You can be a jack of all trades, but you’ll be a master of nothing. Even if xhtml/css are easy. If you can expertly code xhtml/css, I already brand you a developer. If you can program javascript, which is a HLL for all intents and purposes, you’re for sure not just a designer. At that point you’re a front-end developer who can also design. The end.


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