Never Stop Learning

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Our industry is in an ever-changing state. Sure, on the surface it doesn’t look like much changes, but that’s where you’d be wrong. You might find it hard to believe, but there are some developers that still use tables. There are some developers that use inline styles or refuse to use CSS at all. Why? They stopped learning or learned just enough to get their job done. How can you stay on top of things and avoid?

  • Follow industry leaders on Twitter. Sure, not everything they say will be relevant, but industry leaders will frequently post links you should be reading. Check out Listorious or WeFollow to get started.
  • Subscribe to the RSS feeds of well-known designer and developers (and their firms, if applicable). If you’re using Google Reader, check out feed bundles.
  • Attend local meetups. Find a Refresh group in your area. Attend a BarCamp or WordCamp. If there aren’t any in your area, change that. You might be surprised to find out how many web designers and developers are in your area. Learn from each other. Push each other to learn and improve your skills.
  • Go to conferences. You’ll learn a lot from conferences like An Event Apart, Web Directions, FoWA/FoWD, SXSWi, etc. If you can convince your boss to let you go, trust me: make this happen. You’ll meet people who will inspire you to improve yourself. You’ll learn from people who really know their craft.
  • Read books related to what you’re wanting to learn.
  • Look for e-learning opportunities.
  • Experiment. If you have a personal site (and you should!), use it to experiment with things you might not otherwise be able to use in your day job.
    Push yourself to learn at least one new thing each day. You never know, some of these experiments might yield better ways to do what you’re currently doing – or may help you land a new job.
  • Go to [back to] school. If a local college or university is offering classes on things you want to learn about and will help you become a better ____, don’t miss out on them. Plus, you’ll be exposed to others who are just as interested in ____.
  • Don’t ever get comfortable. The moment you do is the moment you’ll be left behind

Make a commitment to learn. Make a commitment to improve your skills. Don’t let yourself or your current situation keep you where you’re at.

What are your strategies for learning? Does your current employer encourage you to learn and improve upon your current skillset?

9 thoughts on “Never Stop Learning

  1. Based on learning some of these bullet points from conversations with you over the past couple of months, I feel that even I have escalated in my design capacity. I’ve learned some new tricks, networks, groups, and strategies that have definitely helped with production on my end. Great post!

  2. The easiest way I learn something is to find or write down what I want to accomplish, and then break it down and do one step at a time. Get one portion or module working before even thinking about the next.

    Fortunely my employer encourages learning and is willing to pay for books for self training. Everyone tries to learn one new thing a week, regardless of how small it is.

    • How could I forget to add self-training/elearning or books to the list above? Thanks for the reminder.

      I’m glad your employer encourages your personal development. One new thing a week is a good, achievable goal.

  3. Definitely agree with you to keep learning. Before recently going back to school to get my MBA, I would take individual courses at local schools on topics that interested me or that I could apply to my career.

  4. All of these are great points, especially the one EXPERIMENT ON YOUR OWN SITE. Thanks. PS Love the transparent scrolling panel here and the drawing which stays anchored to the edge – very cool.

  5. I learn by doing, so I always try to push myself to try new things and attempt something I’ve never done before. I think that’s why I enjoy messing with programming code so much. There’s always some new function or technique to learn about and explore. With design work, I love how you can never be perfect, you never reach 100% completeness in your learning, there’s always something new to try. That’s what keeps it fun and exciting for me.

  6. Great list of pointers here. I believed that employers should not restricted their employee from upgrading and learning. Even they didn’t send you to any course, we should still upgrade ourselves not for our current employers but for our future.

  7. Hi Chris,

    As a slight counter arguement to a well written piece, sometimes the “web” comunity place way too much emphasis on doing things the new or current way.

    As an example: CSS has been around for over 10 years, is there any huge or ultra important reason for someone to lear CSS2 or CSS2.1 or CSS3? Does their site still not work in all browsers if using CSS1.

    Also, what’s wrong with tables? Tables get a horrible rep, but are very important and 9/10 from any website built in the last. Browsers and users and screen readers and search engines all love tables for everything apart from splitting websites into columns, and really, how often do you see that these days? Or actually in the last 5 years? The only time i’ve seen it (and it’s rare) is when people have used old versions of dreamweaver to output code.

    On a number of my websites i still use my own JavaScript library from circa.1998. Given the dHTML routines i added over the next year when developing with Thomas Bratta, i can do almost everything that fancy Libraries/UI’s can do.

    The realism is, for 90% of web development work, what has changed in 10 years? AJAX would be kind of a biggie (even though i believe its so overused it’s unreal), but what else? (and lets not forget, AJAX was working with IE4! when the xmlHTTP header was added IE4! how new is that) JavaScript? 18 years. PHP? been around 16 years. dotNet? 11 years HTML?40. Flash?13. What has happened in the last 3 years, that if i don’t learn it I’ll become obsolete?

    Don’t ever get comfortable. The moment you do is the moment you’ll be left behind

    In reality, i don’t believe this to be overly true. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t follow major changes in your industry, having been doing this for a long time, it seems to me that the next wave of people coming through (and their enthusiasm is really wonerful on the whole) have a tendancy to think that the latest “golden cow” will always have a huge impact, and rarely does it.

    Thanks for the article,

    Take Care,
    Kev

  8. I agree with reading, but I would suggest reading about things other than what you want to learn. Reading about design in general can open a lot of doors in what you will want to know more about.

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