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How to make the web better? Take care of the noobs.

the shift

About a year ago I became a noob. My new medium was video. There is lighting, sound, writing, storytelling, editing and performing. So many facets of a new medium to become proficient at. I’ve been googling really basic stuff and soaking up other’s wisdom.

When I started, I was the audience. I’ve been illustrating and web designing for a while so I wrote scripts as if I was explaining something to someone in my shoes.

The questions and comments I got on those early videos blew my mind. Questions so simple that I hadn’t even thought to ask them. What app did you draw that in? Did you scan that in? How do you draw something like that digitally?

At the same time I was asking the same kinds of questions about video production. Can I plug a mic into an iPhone? Why can’t I draw a perfect square in After Effects? How do I get my forehead not to shine so damn much?

My videos really started to get some traction and build a following this fall when I started pulling the content way back to a beginner’s level. Analyzing every line in my script and looking for places where I could explain something in more detail. I know the difference between a Wacom Cintiq and a Surface Pro but to many watching they see a screen being drawn on and assume they are the same kind of device. A totally understandable assumption.

I feel like that bare bones beginner mentality has been lost in web design. Specifically in front end development. I’m a UX/UI guy. I used to write quite a bit of html/css so I don’t consider myself a complete noob. But man, I’m so lost right now.

I set up this very blog with Craft this fall. My first time trying it out and kicking the tires. Whenever I had a question I took to Google. For the first time that I can remember I couldn’t find anything useful that answered my questions. I found a lot of people asking the same questions I had, but the answers were mostly the “install this framework, library or some other dependency” sort of answers.

I know that I can do some killer animations without Javascript. I know I can build a blog without a css framework. I know I should be able to make changes to a CSS file without spending half a day setting up an environment. These tools exist to make expert’s lives easier, but they create a huge barrier for the less experienced.

Maybe this is what our field is becoming. Maybe I should suck it up and invest more of my time into learning Grunt, Bower, Angular, React, or whatever the flavor of the month is. Maybe I’m becoming a relic of the past. But there is opportunity here.

If you’re looking to carve out a niche on the web, look towards teaching the beginners. The best part is you don’t have to be an expert, just share what you’ve learned. Write, tweet, blog or stick your shiny forehead in front of a camera and talk. No matter how basic you think it is, I guarantee there are hundreds of people searching for your advice.


This was written as part of the #startyourshift project. Anybody can join in, in fact you, yes you, should. Read more about it here.