In our continuing series of interviews with the S7 team, this week I interviewed our coder, Forbes Robertson. The work Studio 7 produces on a daily basis would not be possible without Forbes’ incredible talent and insights! He not only codes awesome, mobile-friendly websites, but he fixes broken websites too. (And if you’re ever in need of an obscure movie, TV, or music reference he’s available for that as well.)
Sarah Newlin: How did you get started doing web development?
Forbes Robertson: I’m self-taught. I was in college getting my degree in visual communications. I was on some website, and thought to myself “How does this work?” I ran with it and learned about the source code. After that I kept learning as much as I could.
SN: Do you do anything to stay at the top of your craft?
FR: I always keep my eyes out for new ways to do things with current code. Not just new technologies, but everything. You need to be familiar with what’s current, as well as everything that came before it- there’s always a fallback when it comes to new technologies.
I also try to learn something new at least once a day, time permitting. Something that will allow me to learn an easier, better way to do something.
SN: How do you approach a new project?
FR: If I’m dealing with a client most of the time the client doesn’t know what they want in terms of the way their site will function; the main purpose for their website. I try to use that to steer them into the direction I think is best for their company and what they are trying to communicate to a specific audience.
SN: Do you have any unique processes?
FR: I like to work in small chunks- a bit at a time, whether it’s a chunk of code or one page. You always want to keep in mind the big picture, but burning through the small pieces in haste is one of the worst coding mistakes you can make.
SN: What’s your preferred work environment?
FR: The most comfortable chair possible that won’t put me to sleep. A lot of background noise- loud music or a fan. (I don’t like pure silence.) A fast computer and fast internet are must haves. If I’m waiting for a program to catch up to me, it’s more frustrating than anything. And coffee. Pop works too.
SN: How to you work through a challenging piece of code or a design you aren’t sure how to implement?
FR: Time permitting, I step away. Going back to it with fresh eyes helps. But if I’ve done that and haven’t been able to take what I know, and use that knowledge to finish something, I know what resources to use to find what I need.
SN: What’s the most misunderstood thing (or things) about web development?
FR: There’s no easy button. Any coder who says they don’t use references (there are some that do) is living in fantasy land. There’s a lot of information out there, and it’s constantly changing. If someone tries to say they know everything there is to know, then they have failed as a coder and are not receptive to growing or change.
There’s also a lot of math involved. Whether it’s equations, or laying out a website in pixels or percentages, it takes a lot of math-related thought.
SN: What’s your coding pet peeve?
FR: Improper syntax and messy coding. Basically cleaning up behind people- I would compare it to having someone come over to help you move your very expensive, antique furniture. Then they come in and start throwing your stuff around like sacks of potatoes. Coding should never be done in haste.
Also – I absolutely hate WYSIWYG editors such as Dreamweaver. Hate ’em, hate ’em, and hate ’em. I compare them to a paint-by-numbers. Yeah, you have a painting at the end, but in no way have you learned how to paint.
SN: What advice would you offer someone who wants to get into web development?