Find a Web Design Mentor


Building a web design business takes effort, time, and loads of TLC. If you’d like to be successful then you need a good role model. There are many successful web designers and developers out there you can craft your business after.

Find a mentor

I recommend finding a mentor to begin molding your business after. Am I suggesting copying them? No. What I am suggesting is that you take the time to really evaluate what it is you’d like to accomplish and then see who has accomplished things like that already. If you want to take your business into full time freelance, then find a full time freelancer. If your goal is to develop your own web agency, then find someone who’s running one.

What do you do once you’ve found them?

I believe this is the most critical step of all. Once you’ve found someone that fits exactly what you and your business need then it is up to you to contact them. I say this is the most critical step of all, because what I’m telling you to do is to contact them. That can be via phone, email, twitter, or even good old fashion mail. You need to open up the communication between yourself and your targeted mentor. Before you start objecting and giving excuses like, “I don’t want to bother them,” “I’m not good at networking,” or “I don’t know what to say to them” give me a chance to help you out.

It will not be a bother to them, you don’t have to be a master networker, and it’s very easy what you want to say. Let’s work in reverse order and tackle the what to say part. Here are a few things you’d like to include when contacting them:

  1. Who you are.
  2. Why you are contacting them. Yes be specific and tell them exactly why you’re contacting them.
  3. Why you’ve chosen them.
  4. Ask for additional contact information and their permission to contact them further. You are looking to develop a relationship with someone and email, instant messenger, skype, twitter, and etc.. are going to be very valuable to you — so ask for it.

The most critical step of contacting them is actually the easiest. If you contact them and get no reply (which is doubtful) then you have lost nothing. You’re out nothing and then you simply go to the next possible mentor on your list. Working through this process will actually improve your networking skills which I’ve already mentioned is key.

Additional reading: 7 tips for power networking & Master the art of business card networking in 4 easy steps

Listen to their advice

Lastly, listen to what they say. Look you’ve gone through the hard work of selecting someone and now contacting them. What they have to say, despite how odd it could sound, is worth it’s weight in gold. I can’t tell you how many odd things people I’ve contacted have said. But what I can tell you is that no matter how odd, they’re usually right. Just like your parents, the ones you thought didn’t know a thing growing up, who mysteriously get smarter once you get into your 20’s.

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Measurable Progress

In this fast moving world, several things I’ve grown quite accustomed to. Being able to easily measure progress is one of those things. Unfortunately, we are at the stage where measurable progress for Code Eight is hard to… measure. I like to see things checked off, finished, working, and ready. However, I’ve learned recently that with programming sometimes those things aren’t as easily stated.

Set something measurable

Ask any programmer and they’ll tell you that they know what needs done. Each programmed element is made up of tiny elements (those things that designers like me don’t know). They may be 90% done with one task and it’s taken them all week because of the 100 mini todo’s that make up that task. Don’t misunderstand me, designers don’t need to know all the minute details. What I am suggesting though is use some project management software to track tasks, projects, milestones, and the like. With this you’ll always be able to see some progress.

Stay on top of it

Of course, you’re going to want to frequently check in with your designers and programmers to check their progress (even if you can see it in your project management software). Not to bug them, but to stay informed. At least at this point that’s what I’ve found to be the most effective.

Don’t be afraid when you don’t see progress, because the chances are things are getting done without you knowing it. Marc Amos stated that “even immeasurable progress is progress.” He is absolutely right!

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Time lines, Deadlines, Goals, and More

One thing I’ve been pushing pretty hard since we started is setting up a good timeline for Code Eight. I think it is important to stay on task as much as possible. Does this mean we won’t get behind? Ha, if only that were true. It just aids us in not get too far behind.

Why bother?

It would make sense to not even worry about time lines, deadlines, or goals if you know that you’re going to fall behind. True, but how many people plan on falling behind. That sounds stupid.

Plans are nothing! Planning is everything.

Dwight Eisenhower stated that plans are nothing, planning is everything. He is quite right, the plans themselves aren’t as important as sitting down and planning. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t really get there.

The Best of Intentions

Even with the best of intentions, we’ve already fallen behind of my illustrious launch goal. No matter! I am sure there will parts of our plan where we can make up some time. The beauty of working on Code Eight is that we’re in charge. No pesky client is telling us when it’s due, and we’re not holding up the launch of a product/website. It is a wonderful change.

With that said, you NEED to treat yourself as a client as much as possible. If not, you’ll abuse and take advantage of yourself.

Time to go harp on my developer to get back on track…

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Web Design and Development Help – The Web Squeeze

What’s in a Name

We’ve broken up the project into two distinct areas: design and development. I’m sure that sounds elementary, however there are other ways to break down an applications development (more to come on why we choose the path we did). Being charged with the design aspect and with the business end of things in my head, I tend to look at things differently. Here is how we came up with our application’s name.

What limitations did we apply and why?

With every logo, company name, or product name one has certain limitations or guidelines to follow. Since this is an internal project and not a client project we had no initial constraints. I on the other hand had several in mind. The name had to:

  • be marketable. (meaning could easily design a campaign around it.)
  • be memorable.
  • be catchy.
  • be fun.
  • be short in syllables (so it wouldn’t take an hour to say)
  • have the domain name available. (preferably the dot com, but a dot net would suffice)
  • have an association with the application. (preferred, but not required)

How did we start?

I always stress about coming up with a name, mainly as a designer because I’d like some idea as to what direction to start designing. So where to start coming up with a name? We started with the obvious, what did the application do. I did a web search and jotted down some interesting words. Then we listed play on words based on it and we added words that were complimentary to them that we liked. Still more lists of some words in reverse. As desperation was setting in (not really it just felt like it to me), we tried using the Top Level Domain as part of the name. At this point we didn’t really have a name we immediately felt was perfect. We had several worth keeping on the list, and exploring further.

BINGO! (almost)

This entire process took a few days of searching, making a list, bouncing ideas back & forth and off friends. Then it hit us — the perfect name was on our original list. We liked the name, the fun-ness of it, the marketability. One by one our criteria was met…. until we came to the dot com. It wasn’t available. Wouldn’t you know!

I like seeing who owns the domains I want, so I took a peak and got angry. It’s a SEDO page someone is sitting on. The dot net was available so we bought it just in case I couldn’t work out a deal for the domain. I emailed the owner of the domain to see if he’d be interested in selling it. He replied with what I expected: “sure, make me an offer.” So I made a very modest offer, expecting a counter. What I got shocked me! “Take your offer and multiply it by 30, and I might be interested,” was the reply I received. I countered with double my original offer and left the ball in their court. I was happy with the dot net domain so if we got the dot com domain – it would be icing on the cake.

And the winner is…

We’ve selected Code Eight. I know you’re thinking what on earth does this have to do with our application. The application we’re building is an innovative web-based backup utility. Code Eight is the police code for “requesting backup,” so it’s a perfect fit!

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Call for Web Application Questions

While we’re busy at work on the application designing a landing page and coding the backend we’d like to know what topics would you like us to blog about? What specific aspect about building an application appeals to you the most. If you’re thinking of building a web application, what question is keeping you from doing it.

This is your chance! Ask them, and I’ll gear the upcoming articles your way to address all the questions.