New Years has just past and now that we are in the first week of 2010, it is the perfect time to make some real resolutions that we can all stick with and achieve. Everyone likes to set really lofty goals each year, but it’s never a good idea to make resolutions that are even remotely unrealistic since everyone knows deep down they wont be met. Here is my list of 11 reachable and realistic New Years resolutions for web designers, developers and bloggers to help make 2010 a great year.
1. Take Time to Wander the Web
Its essential for designers and developers to take regular time to wander the web. No need for serious research, just window shop. A good pace to start is over at Stumble Upon and see where things take you. Don’t go to the same sites you always do, find something new and start following links. There is no doubt you will find several blogs, websites and forums that at the most will provide you inspiration, education, and at the least just plain fun. Also, its good to take a break from all the seriousness of your work. This year, make time to just wander the web and find the millions of sites that you would not have gone to otherwise. Be sure to bookmark your favorite resources, there is no doubt you will want to come back to them when you need that new idea.
2. Leave Your Creative Comfort Zone
If you are a print designer, make a venture into the world of the web. If you are firmly based in the web world, make 2010 the year you try a print based project. The amount you can learn from the different medium is invaluable. Most of the time you can take these new found skills and incorporate them into your future work. And maybe you will find that you like the other so much you will want to start offering the service to your clients. On the other hand, if you are a coder/developer, venture into the world of creative. It will give you a new perspective on the initial stages of many projects you work on and perhaps help you solve problems that pop up since you now understand how designers think.
3. Try To Read One New Book a Month
Just reading your RSS feed isn’t good enough…you need to be reading something not on the computer screen. Go to the bookstore or the library and find design related materials. Even a new magazine is fine. The opportunity to step away from the computer and still continue to learn has great benefit. The larger book chains have huge sections on art, architecture, graphic and web design. Broaden your horizons, see what other people are doing, get ideas from alternative sources and you will become a better designer for it.
4. Two Words : Social Media
If you have yet to fully venture into the world of Twitter, Linked In, Digg, all of web design community news sites or the myriad of other social bookmarking/media sites then now is the time. It will open you up to an entire world of other like minded professionals who are looking for the same things you are. Promote your ideas, designs and work for free to the entire world. Simply put, its the future of networking. Give people more ways to find you and your work.
5. Step Away From The Computer And Exercise
Over the past year or so I have, by the gentle nudging of my family, realized that I need to take more breaks from working and do something athletic (typing isn’t exercise?) . For me, Krav Maga has been that outlet. The hours spent 2 times a week is essential to my ability to work those long hours. Most designers and developers can spend up to 14 hours a day in front of a computer and its horrible for your back, your eyes and your hands. Starting now, put down the mouse, step away from the keyboard and make time to exercise. Whether it is taking a walk, playing basketball, swimming or karate, the diversion is good for you mentally and physically. When you come back to the computer you will find your self more creative, better focused and ready to work.
6. Master At Least One Application Or Programming Language
Most designers and developers are handy with many different applications but seldom are they pros with at least one. In this coming year, make it your business to master just one. When you are an expert at that one thing you will find that your work flow is smoother, ideas come faster and people look to you for advice, bringing you more recognition. Whether its Photoshop, Illustrator or jQuery, this is the year to do it.
7. Experiment with Typography
For the designers who are nervous about going beyond what is comfortable, the new year is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf. Too many designers tend to use a very limited set of fonts for their designs, sometimes out of not wanting to go out of their comfort zone and sometimes because they don’t want to pay for new ones. Regardless of the style of their project the fonts remain the same…Helvetica, Arial, Bleeding Cowboy or Verdana. This year, find 15 new free fonts to incorporate into your designs. As I discussed previously, a stronger emphasis on typography in web design is going to be a growing trend in the coming year. You don’t want to be left behind.
8. Only Work With the Clients You Want To, Not The Ones You “Have to”
Starting at the beginning of the year, don’t keep on clients who only cause you stress or waste your precious time. This past year one of the best things I did, besides starting to blog, was shedding the clients that I hated to work with. I finally said to my self “who cares if the money is good, its just not worth it anymore”. Their demanding nature, inopportune weekend calls and bloated emails that require you to use a decoder ring to understand, make your life miserable and take you away from things you would rather be doing. If you feel dread when the phone rings, its time to change. If you have a client who thinks they know more than you and can do a better job than you…let them. It may mean less money for you, but your sanity and stress level is worth the trade off.
9. Teach a Class
Search out the opportunity to give back to those interested in design or development. Whether at a school, continuing education establishments or private tutoring, you will find that going through the process of teaching someone from scratch is a highly fulfilling experience. Imparting your knowledge is a true gift. In addition to making you a better person, it will make you a better designer/developer as well.
10. If You Freelance, Don’t Negotiate Your Rates
Project confidence, if you feel that your work is good and therefore deserve to be paid for it, then don’t be embarrassed when it comes time to talk money. Find out what the average hourly or per project rate is in your area and don’t go any lower. If you don’t think and project to your potential clients that you are worth the money then they won’t ever pay it. Make it your practice not to negotiate your rates with them. Sometimes you need to know going in that you have to give a low quote if you want the project, but the client shouldn’t be part of that process. They will respect you and your work more.
11. Create A Product That Generates Income
It is a tough economy out there and more people are getting into design and development making the market very saturated. This year find an alternative stream of income outside your regular work. Take a look at your skills, experiences and tools to find ways that can help you build/generate recurring income. Whether it is developing and selling your own fonts, a useful informational product, WordPress themes or even adding advertisers to your blog, it is vital to diversify.