Our line of work boasts instructions for absolutely everything. For example, gurus are there to tell us every new CSS feature – including why it’s the next big thing (or not). It is part of what happens when anyone can publish.
And since designers know the web better than anyone, we tend to build blogs and write about our experiences, hopes, fears, and even biases more than other professions. Almost every topic can be promoted, explained or dismissed entirely.
But as a designer, how does one even begin with all the tools, libraries and views out there? Sometimes it feels like there are so many things we need to learn to keep moving forward. You may not know where to start. Frankly, it’s great.
To that end, here are some tips to filter out the noise and focus on the good stuff.
You don’t have to know it all
The irony is that many of these well-known techniques have been around for quite some time. That new flavor of the month may be gone before you even have a chance to learn it. Of course, there’s always a chance of success. But the point is that it’s okay to wait and see how it all develops.
For example, have you ever worked with some must-have tool and implemented it in a project, only to find a fatal flaw that makes it unusable? It has happened to me more than a few times. I can even recall a case where I mentioned such a question to a developer, who said, “Wow, thank you!” – just leaving the problem unsolved.
As always, you have to be careful when choosing what to use and what to leave behind. Just because a tool is generating buzz doesn’t mean you’re obligated to try it.
Understand that Opinions Are Not Always Based on Facts
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I love sharing my opinions. If you’ve ever seen my Twitter feed, you probably get that message loud and clear. And a well-written opinion can be a valuable resource when making decisions on anything from the car you should buy to the WordPress plugin worth installing.
But they should also be taken with that proverbial grain of salt. While I’d like to think that most people are pretty honest when sharing their thoughts, there are a variety of reasons why someone might love or hate a certain thing. The hardest thing for us who read these comments is that the author’s reasoning may not always be so clear.
Did they like a product because it works or because they are friends with the developer? Did they hate something because they had a bad experience or didn’t know what they were doing? Often it is hard to tell.
Comments can be insightful and fun to read. But we probably shouldn’t take them as the final word. If we are interested in finding out more, we should research or even try the item in question for ourselves.
Search for What is Relevant and Useful
As a designer, your social media feeds and inbox can be flooded with tools, tutorials and product announcements. Definitely not for the faint of heart to keep an eye on. And even if something looks cool, you may not have the time to sit there and read through every item.
This is where picking can help. The truth is that you are unlikely to use most of your feeds. Instead, look for items that you think are useful for your particular workflow.
That means if you’re a WordPress developer, you can probably filter out most of the Drupal or Joomla stuff (unless you want to learn about them). If you’re just a beginning designer, code frameworks might not be very relevant.
You only have so much time in the day. So, dedicate it to the things that will help you improve your skills and efficiency.
Listen Out When You Can
Like so many people in our lives, designers tend to keep their phones with them at all times. And our jobs often require constant vigilance. Websites break, clients have questions, and so on.
It’s tempting to have that smartphone in your hand and start scrolling through feeds and checking emails. Another opportunity for information overload.
It is healthy to take breaks from it whenever possible. Even shutting yourself off from the online world for an hour or two before bed can have a positive effect.
Otherwise, you run the risk of becoming out of touch with technology. That would be a shame because there is always something new to learn – if you know how to filter through the junk.