Sunday, 15 November 2009

New home..


My Online Learning Journal has a new home @

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All the best,


Thursday, 5 November 2009

Web Designer Interview Questions

This week’s post asks us to put ourselves in the shoes of a web design studios recruitment team and come up with suitable questions to ask when conducting interviews. As someone who has experience of recruiting staff, there were several generic questions that sprung to mind including:

1. Why have you applied for this position?
This question helps separate the wheat from the chaff as companies are looking for you to demonstrate your desire to work for them not just because you need money.

2. What interests you about our company?
Whilst a company will not be looking for you to be able to recite the entire company history from memory, they will be expecting you to answer this question using facts and examples. This demonstrates your desire to work for the company and to be a success whilst in their employment.

3. What would make you an asset to our company?
This is perhaps the single most important question in an interview. This is the chance for you to really sell yourself as well as explain how your skills and experience would benefit the company going forward. Whilst confidence in yourself is important, it is vital that you do not appear arrogant which will put potential employers off.

4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Whilst there is no right or wrong answer, this is an important question which is asked to help employers gain an insight into the candidate’s personality. This then helps with deciding on the successful candidate.

5. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
This question again gives a valuable insight into your personality and helps a company identify whether or not you will fit into the existing team.

The following questions are related specifically to the web design industry:

1. Do you read any industry publications or follow any industry related websites/blogs?
As the design industry is a fast moving place with new trends and technologies appearing all the time, it’s important that companies stay ahead of competitors and are also able to meet the demands of their clients. It is therefore essential to demonstrate that you keep up to date with the industry and are continually learning new skills.

2. If a client is in the [______] industry and wanted to do [________] with their website, what advice would you give them?
This question enables you demonstrate your working knowledge as well as your creativity and problem solving skills to a potential employer.

3. How do you handle pressure and multiple deadlines?
More often than not you will find yourself working on several projects at any one time. Employers will be looking for candidates to give examples that demonstrate their organisational and prioritising skills as missed deadlines can prove costly and result in the loss of clients.

4. What do you do when you're faced with something you've never done before or if you're stuck on a problem?
As a design agency has a broad range of clients with differing requirements for their websites it is important to hire people who are adaptive as well as creative.

5. What's your favourite portfolio piece?
You should be able to confidently justify why a piece is your favourite in an interview as you will be expected to justify your design solutions to clients.

Whilst this is by no means a definitive set of interview questions, they are all questions that I would expect to be asked during a job interview.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Not ready yet...

For this week’s entry we’ve been asked to evaluate our employability at this point in the course by comparing our skills and experience against those required for full time employment within the web design industry.

After looking on the job site monster I came across the following vaccancy which interested me:

Job Summary

Altitude Recruitment

Middlesbrough, Yorkshire

Internet Services
Computer/​IT Services

Job Type
Full Time

Career Level
Experienced (Non-Manager)

15,000.​00 - 20,000.​00 GBP per year

Job Reference Code

XHTML/CSS Web Designer

About the Job
XHTML/CSS Web Developer - Teesside, 15-20k

Our client, based in the Tees Valley has been steadily growing and are now looking for a talented, enthusiastic web developer to join their team.

Your skills in client-side development will be strong: XHTML/CSS, Flash/ActionScript, good knowledge of W3C/DDA coding.Server-side knowledge an advantage, but not essential, asp.Net (C#) or PHP they provide solutions using both.

Ideally we're looking for a team player with 1-2 years commercial experience, good time management and an enthusiasm for all things web.

Working for both direct clients and as sub-contractors for some major UK agencies; you'll have exposure to and work on some very varied and prestigious projects covering brochure sites, CMS, e-commerce, viral games and e-marketing.

Great opportunity for the right person!

In theory, by the end of the course I should have gained all the required skills in order to successfully apply for the position. I have an enthusiasm for “all things web” which was heightened even more after a presentation on CSS 3 from professional designer Jonny Haynes.

XHTML, CSS and W3C standards coding formed the backbone of our first year of study. My previous management experience has developed my interpersonal skills and given me experience in dealing with a wide range of clients and team members to achieve my goals. I’m also acquiring a working knowledge of PHP as part of my SMLP, which whilst not essential to this vacancy, would enhance my employability.

So in short – am I ready for employment in the web design industry? Well not quite...

Not keeping an active hand in webpage designing/building over the summer break has meant there is a certain element of rustiness with XHTML and CSS knowledge. This has been exposed during the build side of assignment A9 which has seen me regularly referring to my trusty copy of HTML Dog, slowing the build process down considerably. Likewise I’ve not kept up to speed with the latest W3C standards and can’t recall ever even looking at the Disability Discrimination Act!

My time management, again another required skill, is still not where I would like it to be as I still find myself wondering where time has gone as well as procrastinating. Not only does this heap undue pressure onto me as deadlines loom but it is also hurting the quality of the designs I’m producing. This in turn hurts my chance of gaining employment within the industry as I will ultimately be touting a weak portfolio and giving a true account of myself.

So how can I plug the gaps, as it were, and make myself ready for employment? In the words of David Bowie:

Turn and face the strain
Just gonna have to be a different man

Basically I’m going to need to adjust my attitude towards the course and the industry. I can’t rely on simply attending lectures and then not put in the time outside of college. I’m going to have to eat, drink, breath and sleep web design. Not only will this bring me back up to speed with regards to my working knowledge of XHTML, CSS and W3C standards but I will also begin to identify new technologies and skills which will form the basis of website construction in the future. Also continuing to expand my working knowledge and beginning to implement PHP into my sites where appropriate will help keep it fresh in my mind.

Word Count (not including advert text): 500

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Hello, hello. Its good to be back, its good to be back...

...and so begins one of the most popular songs of all time! Its also an apt opening title to use in this, the opening blog of the second (and final) year of the HND. I am definately glad to be back to start a fresh year after just scraping throught the final few months of the first year.

There was a tremendous feeling of deja vu as I tentatively walked (or more accurately power walked) to the door of the classroom this morning. I was experiencing some of the same feelings as this time last year - what did the year have in store? had I forgot anything? Would I be able to cope with the workload? I'm pleased to say that any negative feelings soon left after entering the now all to familar classroom and taking up my seat alongside my fellow students. It was almost like I hadn't been away for the 4 or so months since I submitted my final assignment and before too long the old camaraderie was back.

The summer break definitely came at the right time for me, as previously mentioned I barely scraped through the final few months due to health issues and personal/work problems on top of my own time management issues. I've used the time constructively to sort myself out and hopefully put all of these issues to bed and will use this year as a clean slate and a chance to really show what I can do.

My goals for this year haven't changed from those I listed in my final journal entry from last year, Back to the start:
  • 100% attendance – to help reduce the possibility of falling behind with my work,
  • Improve my punctuality,
  • Properly structure my self study time to maximize the output,
  • Achieve at least a merit for all my assignments at the first time of asking

I believe these are all perfectly achievable goals and as I am currently leaning towards completing a third year of study in order to top up my HND to a full a degree, these must be the bare minimum that I achieve this year.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

My SMLP Resources

The following are resources that intend to use during the SMLP. As I’ve no prior experience with either PHP or MYSQL I’ve tried to find plain English texts and web sites to help get me started and that I can refer to to quickly and easily when comes to implementing what I have learned.

Web Based Resources

  • - The MySQL page is included for the same reasons as - I believe both sites will become invaluable resources both during the SMLP and in my future career as a web designer.

  • - I plan to use this site for its validation tools and its accessibility guidelines to ensure that I'm implementing PHP and MySQL in a standards compliant manner.

  • - This site provides straightforward, easy to follow tutorials on apretty much every aspect of web design and should prove useful when starting out and indeed implenting more advance uses of PHP and MySQL.

  • - Boasting some 85,851 members, this forum based site should prove invaluable should I encounter any major headaches whilst learning and implementing PHP and MySQL.

  • - This site has been recommended by last years 2nd years and again should prove an invaluble resource not only for the SMLP but also for the future as it covers not on PHP and MySQl, but also Javascript and search engine optimisation amongst other aspects of web design.

Print Based Resources

  • PHP 5 in Easy Steps - This is a book that came highly recommended by last years second year students for it's simple, easy to follow text and layout. I aim to use this alongside the companinion book SQL in Easy Steps as well as the online tutorials found at and, to give myself a basic understanding of the languages.

  • SQL in Easy Steps - Whilst PHP 5 in Easy steps book does incorparate MySQL , I feel it would be beneficial to have a dedicated resource to expand my understanding of the language. Again it shall be used in conjunction with online tutorials and other texts.

  • PHP 6 and MySQL 5 for Dynamic Web Sites: Visual QuickPro Guide
    This book is described as "indispensable for intermedite to advanced level web designers". I aim to use it to expand my knowledge and understanding obtained in the aforementioned texts and tutorials to hopefully implement new ideas and practises when designing dynamic web pages.

This is by no means a definitive list of resources, as I'm sure during the course of the SMLP I shall encounter more and more useful print and web based resources, they are however I feel a good place to start.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Self Managed Learning Plan Proposal – PHP/MYSQL

After I’ve finished my studies, I would like to be able to regard myself as an “all rounder” rather being classed as either a designer or a builder. My long term goal is to be working freelance or running my own design studio offering affordable web and print solutions to small businesses, up-and-coming bands etc.

Obviously these goals will not be obtained over night. Immediately after the course ends, I intend to be working for an established company gaining both vital experience and the additional skills. I shall use these newly aqquired skills to my make long term goals a reality. Given the current economic climate and the number of people competing for work, I believe being an “all rounder” will give me an advantage when applying for vacancies within the industry.

By simply typing the words “web” and “developer” into a careers search engine such as or and you will be presented with well over 500 results. Whilst the job descriptions/roles differ slightly from company to company, there does appear to be 2 common skills required (after XHTML and CSS) which links them together – “PHP” and “MySQL”.

PHP is a form of scripting language utilised by web developers to create dynamic web pages whilst MYSQL is a relational database management system which is most commonly found on Web Servers though can be used for a variety of applications.

By having experience of these languages under my belt, not only do I believe I shall be more employable, I also feel that they will help unleash creativity when creating solutions to clients briefs as I would not be restricted to creating solutions purely to the confinements of XHTML and CSS.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Back to the start...

Looking back through my journal posts, it's hard to believe that our first (academic) year on the course is over. We are now officially halfway through our learning adventure and it's scary to think that this time next year I will be sat here writing my final journal entry before heading off into the big bad world of full time employment as a web designer.

Upon reflection on my previous ramblings, it concerns me that there is an underlying issue that runs between the threads. My attendence, punctuality and time management outside of college have been talked about in virtually all of my journal entries.

Going forward (as I've seemingly stated all year) these are issues which I need to address. Only I can change me and eradicate the bad habits into which I've fallen. Proper utilisation of time management devices such as time sheets and production schedules should help but these are only the beginning. My attitide needs to change too. I need to get out the "it won't take me that long, I'll do it later" attitude and rediscover my intial enthusiasm for the course. Over the course of the year I've grown sick and tired of sleepless nights before deadlines and the constantly feeling stressed and underperforming.

There have been positives to being on the course. The lectures and assignments have been varied and interesting as have the field trips and guest speakers from the Design Mechanics and Jonny Haynes. The assignments we've completed this year were:

A1 - Sketchblog

I feel that I've underachieved with this assignement. The basic concept was straightforward enough - collect inspirational pieces each week either of your own choosing or to a given theme and annotate. This proved to be more of a challenge than you'd imagine, especially as I kept leaving it to the last minute to trawl the internet rather than actually going out and have things naturally jump out at me. Also evidenced as part of the assignment was the ideas generation and developement processes for each assignment. Again this is an area that I feel I can improve on. Simply by spending more time on the intial concepts and utilising various ideas generation techniques then I'm confident that my final designs will be more dynamic and visually interesting.

A2 - Journey of a thousand miles
Essentially this was our ease you in gently assignment. It definitely proved to be an excellent introduction to the different types of technologies and languages we would be using over the course of the year.

A3 - Sounds like a plan
I think I’d have enjoyed this assignment more if I hadn’t had the theme for the page dictated to me. This however is in keeping with the idea that the course is run in such a way that it reflects life in actual design studio / professional environment. My initial struggles getting to grips with Indesign resulted in a less than impressive, but solid site design.

A4 - Typecast
I’ll be honest my first impressions of an assignment about typography didn’t really excite me all that much. However once we got started and I started learning more and more I found it to be quite enjoyable. In fact it was the first assignment that I passed first time. The way it was structured helped an awful lot with each week having timed mini assignments to complete in class which helped keep me on track with the production side of things.

A5 - Builder
This was the assignment we’d all been waiting for - our first opportunity to create a webpage built with XHTML 1.0 strict and CSS 2.1. The initial lectures were quite daunting and I’m glad that my screen design from A3 was pretty simple in terms of layout. Having said that, I would’ve liked to have done so much more with the page, especially after I began to get to grips with the coding.

A6 - The big picture
Or an introduction to Photoshop as it should’ve been subtitled. Another very useful assignment though perhaps would’ve been more beneficial closer to the start of the course before the design work really kicked in.

A7 - Rasterised
Overall I’m disappointed with the way this assignment turned out. I feel I had a really good concept for the re-imagined CD artwork but looking back over the development process and the additional design work required for the assignment I can’t help but think it could’ve been so much better.

My work certainly wasn’t as Photoshop intensive as other members of the group – mainly due to the fact I’m not as clued up at using it as others. This is something that I have the ability to rectify over the summer as I intend to use the time constructively and begin to unleash the full potential of CS4 and my imagination.

This was definitely a culmination of everything that we’ve learned over the previous 9 months or so and I wish I’d put more effort into the initial design process to create more dynamic designs as I’m particularly unhappy with my Wire advert and logo designs as neither really jump out of the page.

At the end of the day though what’s done is done, I won’t dwell on past mistakes and if only’s. All I can do is make sure that I eradicate the negatives from this year and focus on the positives so that I hit the ground running in September. I’m looking forward to the additional challenges which will come with the final year. The self managed learning plan is an intriguing proposition and if I’m honest at this point in time I have no idea what I wish to learn about as part of it.

Going forward onto the second year, I think it’s important to set myself some goals to help keep me focused including:
  • 100% attendance – to help reduce the possibility of falling behind with my work
  • Improve my punctuality
  • Properly structure myself study time to maximize the output
  • Achieve at least a merit for all my assignments at the first time of asking

If I can achieve these small steps initially, I’m confident that I can go from strength to strength and achieve my full potential and so finish the course with a bang.