Welcome to Front End Center!
Hello, my name’s Chris Landtiser. Welcome to the first episode of Front End Center.
This is a project I’ve been meaning to tackle longer than I care to admit. A huge shout out to Paul Jarvis for his recent challenge to start a podcast that gave me (and many other people, I’m sure) the requisite kick in the pants to actually get moving.
Where better than this first episode to introduce myself and my goals for Front End Center? It’ll be fun to look back in a few years from wherever we’re at and alternate between nostalgia and vigorous head shaking.
I’ve had the opportunity for what might be considered an “old school” education in web technology, which is to say… none at all, really. Despite studying the glamorous fields of Political Science and the German language, web design and development have always been my bread and butter.
What started as a landing page for a gaming group quickly became a fascination and professional focus. I handled small projects as a student to pay (a tiny fraction of) my tuition costs, which transitioned into sporadic freelancing after school.
If you’ve done much freelancing as a solo business, you know there’s a LOT to handle. Having to align so many moving parts for a final solution is probably what really first captured my attention on web development. I can’t really say I want to be any kind of thought leader of any kind on a specific technology, design, or other specialty. I feel most alive when I’m connecting puzzle pieces across a spectrum a media, and can take pride in the finished product.
No freelancer is an island, however, and I liked the idea of joining a team to learn more about collaborative processes and different methods of working. I was able to make a connection with a marketing startup not far north of me, in Vancouver, WA. They were growing like wild fire and, during my time there, I don’t think a month went by without at least a hire or two. In a small, bustling office, you get a lot of exposure to many elements of the business. For a “first outing” professional position with a team, I picked up a lot of good do’s-and-don’ts that still serve me today. Eventually, all good things run their course, and I had the chance to decide where I wanted to continue expanding my web skills.
I made the logical move after being part of a hip, boutique startup and of course… went to join a corporate team with an international consulting group. Duh.
The team and their methods quickly piqued my interest when I met them. Despite being an integrated corporate team for a humongous, multifaceted business, there were only a few members, and they all had clout and input on their methods and projects.
My transition into startup-land had been fairly smooth. Wordpress isn’t meant for only rocket scientists, thankfully. I expected running head first into the multiple technology stacks used by this team to hurt significantly more.
Surprisingly, and in no small part thanks to my amazing teammates, the transition was actually incredibly efficient and enjoyable! All my experience up to that point had focused me on writing simple, reliable front-end code and design principles. The new challenge was understanding the methods and architecture of the new projects, and sliding my own work into the appropriate places. As long as nothing has horrifically jumped the rails, that’s not such a tall order.
I’ve always advocated for simplicity in work, no matter what you do. Being able to see this ethos work and even flourish across so many different environments solidified my belief in the importance of simplicity.
This podcast, Front End Center, will aim to tackle the lack of simplicity in a lot of design and development today. There’s a daily war waged across the internet on this topic. Medium articles refuting Twitter campaigns, extolling Hacker News threads that decry a recent Reddit trend.
A lot of chatter comes from two camps in the industry. The first advocates absolute minimalism and bespoke code, in every situation. The second abhors the concept of reinventing the wheel on a weekly basis, and hails the robust convenience of frameworks and premade tools.
On both sides are very intelligent, highly driven implementers who shape the approach of their perspective. Many of us, though, end up following these visionaries and falling into a sports-team rivalry with “the other side”. Not everyone can, or should, be an industry-shaping luminary. What the rest of us CAN do, though, is widen our perspective and understand how simplicity can best serve our own needs.
Having shifted through a spectrum of solo, small team, and corporate infrastructure, I enjoy pitting the perspectives against each other. Allowances I make for technology in my current team might have left my start-up mentality baffled. On the other hand, I can draw on a playbook of enterprise concepts that reduce freelance issues from mountains to molehills.
Many freelancers feel the stretch of being nearly “Full Stack” developers in a lot of teams. If the old catch-all title of Webmaster had a child, it is definitely Front-end. User experience, graphic design, responsive interface development and more may or may not fall under your umbrella. It may also change next Tuesday, and again the following Thursday.
Whether this is good or bad is largely personal preference. (Okay, it’s probably a terrible business practice, but I actually love having my fingers in every pie.) But whether you’re a fan or not, being able to cope, or even excel, is a valuable skill.
Every time I think I’ve got a handle on how to do things, I learn a new trick or make a new connection. With that many moving parts, it’s hard not to! I’m incredibly aware, though, that everything I learn is based on what I do on a given day. For every one thing I simplify that day, every other developer and designer out had a different set of challenges and a new set of solutions.
And these ideas tend to compound. Patterns start to appear, and a quick cheat sheet of tricks turns into genuine, professional knowledge.
I want Front End Center to be a focus point, for me and anyone else, to gather those little ‘Aha!’ moments. A chance to look back at the previous week and relay what made my life better, and my work simpler. Some of those moments will dabble into strange territory. Design, business practices, and the black magic that is back-end development all impact the front-end at every scale of work.
So for those of you listening, thank you for joining me in this first episode. It’s the start of an adventure that will hopefully be both inspiring and useful to as many people as possible, and make even a small impact on an industry that I love being a part of.
Until next week, I’m Chris Landtiser, and this has been Front End Center.