Turning a Designer into a Developer

  • Jarren Horrocks
September 28th, 2020
Art depiction by Jarren Horrocks of website design. 3 squares floating off of an imagined website layout.

For over 8 years I've been designing websites.

I've designed for myself, for family, for friends, and for clients. But my Achilles heel has secretly been the function behind the form.

Every website I've designed has been built on Webflow, Shopify, Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, Wordpress, and a few other niche web design tools. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to have such incredible tools at my disposal. But what once was a superpower eventually became a crutch. Sure I could design a website in a few days, but it always looked and felt the same.

With some clients I hired a developer to work through the back end of the site, but even then I wasn't writing the code for the front end, I would simply build in Webflow because it was my "skillset".

Well, that changes now.

Welcome to my new website. It's the first one I've developed myself, and of course that comes with certain pros and cons.

Pros

  • Fast
    This site preloads certain content, and progressively loads images suited to your display. It's almost jarring how fast it loads sometimes (I'll likely add transitions in the future).

  • Flexible
    I can do anything I want. And that's outrageously exciting. I am eager to begin sharing work of a wider variety, from web design to physical products, etc. I believe this site will be a much better foundation for my work in the coming years. Expect fun projects with three.js, AR & VR, etc.

Cons

  • Maintenance
    There is a true cost with sites like this, somebody needs to keep it updated. Thankfully there are communities around the stack that I'm using, though I need to stay sharp, otherwise my site will become a bit less than what I'd like it to be.

  • Learning Curve
    By far the most intimidating part of this project is the required skill in order to create something functional that is of equal caliber to what I design. Webflow sites look impressive, but they're not nearly as easy to develop. I'm eager for this step though. These skills are something I've been grasping at for far too long. I believe this site will look reasonably bland for a time as I hone my development skills.


My old site had some brutalist charm:




And as of the moment, my new site is drab and quite basic:


But this site is better in almost every way.

For years I've said that my website is like my zen garden. I tend to it simply because I find it relaxing and enjoyable. Once the function has been decided, the form can become truly delightful.

Thankfully with well-developed design skills, it's fairly easy to design beautiful things in new mediums. Once I get the hang of these tools, the site will be part of the best work I've ever done.

For the detail oriented people following along with the journey, I'm using Sanity Studio and Gatsby.js to build and operate the site, and I'm currently hosting on Netlify.

With that said, I'll get back to work.

Glad to have you along for the ride,

Jarren

Tags

  • Updates