What Major for Web Designers? Developers?

This question comes up a lot. It was asked of me recently:

I’m currently in high school and interested in possibly becoming a web designer in the future. I’ve already taken a web development class and recently won an award for a website I made, which made me more confident about getting into this field. I have two questions. What kind of degree is best? IT? Computer Technology? Art?

Two things:

First, because you get a web design ‘award’ doesn’t mean squat. In fact, those get handed out like candy. Unless you win a Webby, don’t bother caring about it.

Second, the Bachelor’s Degree is the most overrated product in America. Seriously. If you want to work in a corporate environment, fine, go piddle away your money at a degree that won’t teach you anything you couldn’t already Google. And it won’t teach you what you need to know, either. Like how to run a meeting or deal with lousy clients.

If you want to work on your own, skip the degree and just do some work on your own. No client ever asked a freelancer or a web agency, “Great, you’re hired! But can I see your degree first?” In fact, most web agencies would rather hire someone with talent over a degree. If it came down to two people and one had a degree and the other had a great portfolio in comparison with no degree, I’d take the guy with the better portfolio.

As a bonus, any web class you took in high school or a community college probably wasn’t that great. At least here in Indiana, the quality of most programs isn’t up to par because of inadequate technology, software, hardware and time for the teacher to keep up with the latest standards.

Toyota vs. Ford

Jason Grose:

A luxury car may have the same number of wheels, seats, windows and doors as a traditional vehicle, but what sets it apart from the competition is the time spent on the details. Heated leather seats, a push-to-start engine, keyless entry, automated parking and extensive digital consoles add value to an expensive, new car. …the same goes for web design.

For years, Ford struggled to produce a car that could compete with Toyota’s Corolla and Camry models because they couldn’t make as much money on each car sold compared to Toyota. (Ford claimed it was because they had higher union-labor costs than Toyota). Toyota’s higher profit margins allowed them to re-invest back into their cars.

For instance, Toyota’s have long had a higher-fiber seat fabric. It lasts longer, is more stain resistant and improves the resale value later since it doesn’t look as crummy years later. Ford couldn’t do that.

Standards. They’re important.

Book Review: Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki

I picked up a copy of Guy Kawaski’s “Reality Check” the other day. I was surprised by how big it was at nearly 500 pages. It reads almost like a bible for small businesses, entrepreneurs, salesmen and anyone that needs to benefit from marketing.

I expected it to take forever to get through, but I actually got through it in about a week. The line height in the text is pretty high, so the number of words per page was pretty small.

I’m glad it was, too, because it allowed for easy skimming in parts. I don’t sell tangible products, so I wasn’t so interested in messing with that. Nor do I hire employees or have to fire them and other administrative stuff, so I skipped a few of those chapters.

The text was remarkably well written and it read almost like a blog post. It was easy to pickup, read a little and come back to later to read some more. I can’t say I picked up a lot from the book that I didn’t already know from reading other books, which is why I call it something of a bible. Take this advice:

If you’ve never read another marketing / sales / startup book before, don’t bother. Just read Reality Check and it’ll cover and say everything every other book has said (or tried to say).

One part that did stick out to me that I bookmarked was chapter 82, “Ten or so things to learn at school”. The advice was spot on and it stuck out to me because no school teaches this stuff:

  1. How to talk to your boss
  2. How to survive a meeting
  3. How to run a meeting
  4. How to figure out anything on your own
  5. How to negotiate
  6. How to make small talk
  7. How to explain something in 30 seconds
  8. How to write a one page report
  9. How to write a five sentence email
  10. How to get along with co-workers
  11. How to use PowerPoint (or Keynote)
  12. How to leave a voicemail

Personally, I think the more people knew about numbers 9 and 11, the better off the world would be. I’ve designed PowerPoint presentations for people before, I actually kinda like doing it, too. You get to frame someone else’s talk and ensure they don’t bore people with a bunch of bullets in dozens and dozens of slides.

A great book, well worth the time to read it either by skimming or from cover to cover. It has interviews, experiences and a directness that’s well worth it. Plus, it’s only $10 for Kindles.

WEEEEE WOOO WEEEE WOOOO

Storms rolled through Indy last night around 3 am. What woke me up was a text message from IUPUI telling me to “run for your life, hold on to your wigs and keys and prepare to die.” I’m paraphrasing, a little.

I got up to turn on the news and I had a few random observations.

First, some poor bastard at the Marion County Emergency Operations Center had to be the one to sound the tornado siren and wake up the entire city. Marion County is always a little trigger happy with that thing. They sound the alarm if a Thunderstorm Warning is in effect while under a Tornado Watch. They also test it weekly. And they sound the alarm when Mayor Ballard raises another $10,000 in campaign contributions.

I didn’t hear the sirens here in Beech Grove, but then again, if Beech Grove blew away you might not hear about it for a week.

The Libertarian in me could have fun with titles for such action:

“Socialist government now waking everyone up at the same time.”
“Big Government deciding when you can and can’t sleep.”
“Nanny state threat: government now telling people to ‘go to your room’.”

Also, it occurred to me that this is the sort of event TV station commercials are made for.

“WE GOT UP AT 3 AM TO PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN AND YOUR SCRUFFY WITTLE DOG. WITHOUT US, YOU WOULD HAVE DIED!!1!!1!”

Or something like that.

Which makes me wonder, does anyone actually get swayed by TV station commercials? I turned on the TV and FOX was the last station I watched, so I saw it and thought, “Meh, there’s a guy with a radar. He’ll do.” Is there really someone out there that says, “Psh. Brian Wilkes. Fuck that guy. I’m getting my death threats from Channel 13.”?

It’s going to be a long spring and summer.