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.

A Fix for Broken Photoshop and Illustrator Tools

For the longest time now, every so often my Photoshop and Illustrator editing tools would just stop working. I could load an image into Photoshop, try to crop it and all it would do is maintain the direct select tool cursor. It wouldn’t crop, draw a marquee or anything else that would alter the size of the image or canvas. I could do some things, like insert text, but I couldn’t erase. I could paint, but not use the healing brush. In Illustrator, the problems were similar. In addition, Illustrator would make a copy of every layer I clicked on. Drag a square with the direct select and you’d get another square dropped in the position you wanted it to be, plus the original in the old spot. The only known fix was to restart the machine and hold out for a few more days. Annoying.

Googling for the solution was useless. Try a search for “Crop tools don’t work in Photoshop” and all you’ll get is a bunch of about.com and ehow.com tutorials on how to use the crop tool. Very annoying. I even bought 4 GB more RAM thinking that would help, but nothing.

However, I have found a solution: disable OpenGL Drawing.

It’s a new feature in CS5 (maybe it was there in CS4, but I think it’s new) that interfaces with the computer’s graphics card. My iMac is brand new and Adobe’s products have never played nicely with Macs and OS X the last few years it seems. Disabling the OpenGL processor in Photoshop’s Preferences > Performance has fixed my problems.

Supposedly, using OpenGL would make for smoother graphics and less resource usage, but I haven’t really noticed the different with it on or off. It’s probably a bug that Adobe blames Apple for and Apple blames Adobe for, no doubt.

Websites in a Rough Economy

A few weeks ago I billed a client for $250. It’s a pretty low bill and only included work done on the development of a new blog until the client suddenly asked us to stop working. My immediate thought was that we had somehow come to an impasse, or maybe they weren’t getting what they expected. Basically, I thought it was my fault.

The client said they lived on a fixed income and “didn’t really have the money for a new site”. Either they got wrapped up in getting a new blog too quickly or they decided they didn’t really want to be taking us down the road of finagling payments. Either way, the work stopped and all that was left was a half-done blog they couldn’t use yet and we were left holding the bag for a half-done blog.

But, that wasn’t the biggest problem. The issue I faced was my first time dealing with a client who legitimately couldn’t pay. Paying by payments, interest-free for 90 days, is always an option to our clients. In fact, we don’t even do a formal credit check. It says on the invoice, “Just pay what you can and we’ll automatically enroll you in a 90 day payment plan.” However, it doesn’t stipulate that what you pay initially is what we base the payments on. I generally assume that people would pay a reasonable chunk of their bill.

Most often, websites are built for around $500-$3000+. Some are a lot more, but that’s the niche range we’re in. When I received a check for $25 for a $250 bill, I had to sit on it for a while to think of what I wanted to do.

Instead of haggling over the price and making them feel guilty, I’ve offered them the option to pay $30 a month for a year ($360 total) and we’ll finish the blog design assuming we can keep the changes and design choice changes to a minimum. As my gift to them, it’s effectively a price reduction of a few hundred dollars. It’s my hope that this will do something nice for them and they’ll pay it forward later.