My first month as a remote web designer
I've developed websites for more than seven years. I've designed and coded every type of website you can think of in those seven years, from eCommerce sites to little one-pager.
But I've always freelanced - so I almost always have worked alone.
Just as the pandemic hit last year, my son was born. The pressure of keeping a freelancing business afloat and a baby alive were too much. So I decided to find a job.
That immediately cut off more than half of my tasks - at the same time, it gave me other kinds of responsibilities.
This post is a little compendium of what I have found.
I like to think of web design as modern-day carpentry. What I mean by this is that I want to keep my workspace organized and clean. It felt like arriving at a stranger's workshop. Nothing was where I would have put it.
Was it wrong? Not necessarily, but it was very different.
In my first week, I got absolutely nothing done.
After talking to a few friends, I've found that Americans, Canadians, etc. see their work differently from how people from Latin America see it.
While Americans see it as an exchange between two parts, we see it as if employers were doing us a favor and we have to do everything not to lose it - perhaps I'll write about this in more detail someday.
So, at first, I was apprehensive because I had nothing to show.
The first project I worked on was translating a Figma design to CSS. That would have taken me a day or so in normal circumstances, but I had to run the site locally.
The past designer left me instructions on how to run the site. I followed step by step point, but the site didn't run.
I had to look at the code to realize I had to install MongoDB - after trying to install the MongoDB.prefpane with no success, I ended up installing MongoDB Compass
I tried again, and the site didn't work. It turns out on a footnote of the instructions it said I should use node 4. I was trying on v.16
I know that these are silly mistakes. But, as the pressure mounted, the less clearly I thought - and more mistakes I made.
Along the way, I found out that I needed some other packages the past designer had installed globally - anyways took me a week to set up my workshop.
The following Monday I finished everything I couldn't in 2 days.
Let's get practical
I don't want to keep telling stories because I believe they only serve me. So instead, I'll go straight to the lessons I learned.
Don't be afraid to ask
I learned how our business works from the data guy. I learned the QA from ... actually, I don't know what his title is, but he is "the least technical" person in his own words.
Everybody has taught me something. The person who I speak the least is my boss. He is usually too busy to help me solve any problem.
I am the only designer, and most of the other guys don't know exactly how the past designer worked. But they have helped me piece the jigsaw and get up and running where she left.
Read the docs before starting to code
The docs the past designer left me weren't wrong. They were boring as hell and sometimes confusing, but if I had read carefully what the devs had written, I would have found the solution to many problems earlier.
Understand the business before getting hired
I met and chatted to my whole team 2 or 3 times before understanding exactly how we made money.
Luckily It turns out we don't do anything evil, but what would I have done if we did?
I was so busy trying to get hired that I didn't stop to think about what the business was about. I only knew I had the skills they were asking for.
So, that's that. It has been a good month, and I'll try t give more details in the future - I need to find out what's confidential and not.