J.Kirchartz Web Yinzer

2010 Web Developer Interview


In 2010, the mobile web was still in its infancy and CSS3 and HTML5 were starting to take traction. - Standards Compliance meant broken websites - ugly hacks often saved the day. I was working at WorldDealer at the time, they provided websites and advertising for car dealerships across the United States, I pitched and developed their first mobile website templates long before the concept of “mobile first” and demoed them on a Blackberry and a Palm Treo. On April 13, 2010, I was interviewed as part of my old friend Brad’s “CS114 Academic Strategies for the IT Professional” Finals. I’ve lost touch with Brad over the years, but maybe this old advise might still have something to it.


1. What is your title?

I’m officially a Web Designer, I mostly work in development but if I were called a web developer I would have to answer to a different team, and deal with a whole different set of bureaucracy.

2. What are your responsibilities?

I write code for use on the internet using HTML, CSS, Javascript, Flash, and Coldfusion, but I sometimes work with other server-side technologies. My job is to make a fully functional website, maintain it, and make sure that a wide audience can access it. Usability, accessibility and search-ability are a big factor in working on the web. I do some SEO /SEM stuff too.

3. What kinds of skills do you need to perform your job?

To develop for the web you need to learn standards which are controlled by the W3C. You need to be good with logic, and basic math skills. Problem-solving is a huge part of development, sometimes something works perfectly fine until you set it live for the web, sometimes the end-user finds some bug you never thought of or couldn’t test for and sometimes you have to fix it without any idea as to whether or not it works right. Also you need to stay somewhat organised, images belong in the image folder, CSS belongs in the style-sheet.

4. Describe what you do during a typical day.

I check my e-mail & to-do list frequently, spend a lot of my time writing & tweaking code, checking it cross-browser in Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and a few versions of Internet Explorer. A lot of the time It’s all about hacking something to work in Internet Explorer, but I’ve worked with people who develop for Internet Explorer and they have to hack it to work for all the other browsers out there. It’s easier to just code it for a browser that pays more attention to W3C standards, then get it to work in IE.

5. What other jobs have you held that might have helped prepare you for this position?

I spent some time working in a Library & a Record Store, those really helped to teach me to stay organised and working with different systems of organisation like Library of Congress & the Dewey Decimal system. I worked at Radio Shack for a while, and people would always come in with some crazy problems. “How do I hook this up to this other thing”, “Why does this chew through batteries”, people looking for help on their kids science fair projects etc. I had a guy bring in a battery that the positive & negative terminals were switched. Just weird problems that really made you think, and since the work was commision-based, you made more money if you think fast & move on to the next customer. I also spent time tutoring, which is helpful because seeing the way other people use the software you use, and the way other people think really shows you how to think differently.

6. Do you have people who work for you, and what do they do?

No, I work in a team with a few other developers & designers; except for my freelance work which I’m playing all the roles, Project Manager, Designer, Developer, Help-desk.

7. What is one of the most challenging things about the work you do?

Meeting deadlines can be tricky sometimes, different browsers display the code slightly differently, and Internet Explorer is just broken in so many ways, sometimes getting something to look the same across all browsers takes more time than you expect. Also sometimes with javascript and flash, a missing semicolon in your code could break your entire project, and the error messages generated aren’t really helpful sometimes, so you can end up pulling your hair out for hours trying to debug something, then somebody walks up and fixes it in like 0.3 seconds.

8. What time management tips could you suggest?

Just keep organised the less time you spend looking for something the easier it is to work. When I was a kid my dad always told me that the tools belong in the toolbox, I’d never put them away and he always got frustrated looking for them. I’m usually multi-tasking so that really helps speed things up. If I get stuck on one project I can take a break and look at something easier for a while. You really have to think in an abstract fashion to work on the web, but taking a little break definitely boosts productivity, I just saw a study the other day that facebook & tweeting at work can improve productivity by like 25% or something.

9. How do you balance your family, job, work, and leisure time?

I think it’s fairly easy, a lot of the time I work a pretty standard 9-5, so I always have dinner with my wife or we have friends over. Sometimes when I’m on a tight deadline I’ll have to spend more time at work, or if something blows up I’ll have to go in and fix it, But my schedule is always a little flexible.

10. What advice would you give to someone interested in this career?

Read Everything, The web is changing and evolving every day, new standards are coming out with html 5 & css 3, there’s always some cool new tip/trick that you would’ve never thought of, so get a feed reader and subscribe to web developers depot, ajaxian, techdirt, smashing magazine, anything that that investigates, develops or aggregates what’s out there. There’s always somebody who is a much bigger nerd, and knows so much more about the things you’re doing, in a technical way. It’s always helpful to hear what they have to say.

I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting https://100daystooffload.com