10 Things Web Development Taught Me About Life

Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Being a Human

1. Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan.

In any project, it works best to put pen to paper and create a plan of action. In programming, we tend to call these algorithms. They take shape as lists, flow charts and diagrams. I do them all the time. They fit into our patterns of daily life quite well. It’s all about making the right decisions, implementing them is the easy part.

Organization and foresight can save you in both web development and life. (Though, there’s something to be said for spontaneity.)

2. There Are An Infinite Number of Solutions To Every Problem.

It’s true. There are a million different ways to do something. In web programming, the metric for appropriateness is the client needs, the hosting environment and project budget/scope. In life, it tends to be your environmental context, i.e. social, economic, political, etc. All in all, there’s no 100% definitive right way to do something, what a pleasure it’s been to accept that truth!

3. Shortcuts Have a Time and a Place.

That epic battle of quality versus quantity. Everyone wants both, whether they are a client or someone in your personal life. There’s a time and a place for libraries of code, pre-existing applications and templates. Ideally, you want to craft your own path, but sometimes you just don’t have the budget. That budget could be a project’s financial budget, it could be a timeline or it could be your mental or physical energy.

I’ve found that context is a key indicator in whether or not I should be using a shortcut in my web (and personal) development.

4. Nothing Ever Goes 100% As You Planned.

It’s hard to meet 100% of people’s expectations. Expectations, even if clearly defined, can still be subjective. Everyone has an image of how they want a project to go, and it’s rarely exactly as they envisioned. The same with life. Perfection is a myth and there’s perfection in imperfection. It’s a great thing, and it’s very relieving to understand that fact and appreciate the moments you have.

5. Specialization is Key.

This is about focus. Remember the old design adage: if everything is important, nothing is important. It’s true. A jack of all trades is an expert in none. Same with life. Keeping your focus on the things that are most important to you will make you successful. For some it’s family, others it’s career and status, and for some: it’s others. The best advice is to find out what you want to specialize in and become an expert. Success is bound to follow.

6. Exercise Is Important!

Practice makes perfect. Exercise your skills and you’ll get better, polished and more refined. The same with your body and mind. The computer is my tool for work, my body and mind are my tools for life. Never stop learning and growing. It keeps you fresh and focused (see #5). Exercising your body will also help your energy levels, concentration and keep you healthy.

7. Nothing Gets Done Until You Do It.

In my industry, we tend to talk a lot about process. What would be great/fun/cool/exciting. But nothing ever happens until we start building the application. Same goes for life. You can talk all you want about what you want to do with yourself, but it’s never going to happen until you take action.

8. There’s Always Someone Better Than You (At Least In Your Mind).

I think I’m a good programmer. I’ve gotten compliments from mentors and people I respect/admire in my industry…then I see some other great professionals’ work and I think, I suck. Not the case! There is always someone better than you at what you’re doing, and if you’re the best, odds are you don’t know it. That’s the nature of hard workers.

It’s important to remember that and avoid becoming stressed out or consumed by what others are doing. That’s just unnecessary distraction. Focus on you and be the best version of yourself – and OWN it. Good things will follow. No one ever stood out by following the crowd anyway.

9. You’ll Never Be Disappointed You Did Something Right the First Time.

So, you’re building a form that accepts payment information. You’re only checking to make sure fields aren’t empty. 1,000 spam submissions hit and plague your clients inbox because you didn’t validate an email address or require a CAPTCHA. Ouch.

If you had took the time in the first place to build it right, this wouldn’t be an issue. You’d be playing some kind of stereotypical gaming console drinking Red Bull or whatever drink the typical web developer is drinking now-a-days and your client would be happy and probably referring you to others.

There’s a classic honorability in doing something right the first time. Same with life. I’ve taken far too many shortcuts when I shouldn’t have in life, and in most cases it’s cause me grief. I have never regretted taking the long road to do something right.

10. There’s No Substitute For Fresh Air and Sunshine On Your Face.

Get out of the house, get away from the screen and breath some fresh air. You need it. You’re body, mind and soul will thank you. You’ll come back with a fresh perspective.

My career is based on machines, and I’ll be the first to admit that human beings weren’t meant to sit in front of them all day. Think of me as the blogging, freelancing Peter Gibbons.


  1. vlad safronov says…

    10th is great.

  2. Emily Barrowclough says…

    I’m sitting in your workshop at WordCamp in Raleigh, NC and you just made my life so much easier by giving me the best explanation possible to tell folks not to buy themes and expect them to be the shazazama… Thank you! Why? Cause it’s great. 🙂

  3. andy says…

    @Emily Outstanding gravatar! I will be posting the links to the presentation in a blog post early this week, stay tuned. I’ll probably drop them on slide share as well.

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August 7, 2010

Filed in Development, Life

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