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Daniel Ryan

Daniel Ryan, or "dryan", is a senior frontend developer with the Obama 2012 campaign in Chicago, Illinois. Besides his campaign work, and releasing opensource projects like the CSS smart grids framework, Daniel has been involved in the making of beautifully crafted websites such as Web Standards Sherpa (designed by Dan Cederholm).

You can follow him on twitter @dryan and read his articles on his website.

Published Thoughts

Change happens in our industry when enough folks embrace something new. This can be seen in the past few years as many of us have embraced HTML5, responsive design, web fonts, etc. The next shift we need to bring about isn’t a new technology or technique, it is embracing diversity in our industry. We need to actively become more inclusive in our workplaces, our conferences and our professional organizations. Gender and ethnic diversity should be our resolution for 2013 and beyond.

My favorite question to ask in an interview is “what have you built recently just for fun?”. I don’t really care what it is they built. I’m just looking for people, like me, that live and breathe frontend so much that even when the work day is done, their brain is still working and coming up with ideas. It’s clichéd but true that you should love what you do and do what you love. You might not have the job you want right now, but the real question is do you have the passion to do the work that will get you to your dream job one day?

Never do something more than twice that you can automate. Our jobs necessarily involve a lot of repetitive actions and tedium, but don’t put up with any that you don’t have to. One of my favorites is a little Python script I wrote called “makeproj”. It sets up a new folder structure for a project, creates skeleton CSS and JavaScript files, makes a new project on Github and pushes the project there. Every time I run it I save myself at least 15-30 minutes.

If not now, then likely at some point in your career, you’ll be in a position to hire people. When you do, try to hire people who are smarter than you. If you don’t find anybody that is, then look for people who are eager to learn. There’s nothing worse than working for someone who needs to be the only one that can actually get the job done except for working with people who think they’ve learned everything there is to learn.

If your jobby job doesn’t have you producing work that’s meaningful to you, find somewhere to volunteer your skills. The most fulfilling and fun work I’ve done‚ outside of my current job‚ wasn’t for money. It was for good causes. You can have a real impact on your community and the non-profit, school, etc. you choose will be grateful and have more funds to use elsewhere.

The best thing about freelancing for me was having my commute be 10 steps down a hallway. The worst thing was how often I never made the commute back from the office. Working from home is a great thing in many ways, but it takes discipline. A trick I learned a few years back was to put shoes on while I was working and take them off when I wasn’t. Simple mental hacks like that make all the difference. A bigger tip is to trade in your laptop for a desktop. Don’t take your work out of the office.

The best career move I've ever made, and one of the best decisions of my life overall, was when I stopped designing. I'd never heard of a "frontend developer" (I don't think the term was around yet) but that's what I decided to focus on. Why? I'm a bad, seriously horrible, designer. In the six years since I made that decision I've come to the conclusion that frontend and design come from opposite sides of the brain. You might be able to technically do both, but you won't be great at both.

If you’re a designer and want to endear yourself to a front-end developer, work on a grid. A real grid. Not just some guides you threw together in Photoshop. It doesn’t have to be one of the popular ones, just put your design on an actual grid. It makes our lives, and I’d have to assume yours as well, much easier.

When I'm working on a project for a client, it's rarely the wants of the client I focus on. Instead, it's the needs of their clients. I can't even begin to count how many arguments I've had with my clients (or designers) about type that's too small or colors that are too distracting or "make the logo bigger". The next time one of your clients tells you "the customer is always right", ask him if he'd make that argument to a pilot or surgeon.

Great web design is driven by content and user experience and best practices. Each of these boils down to one thing: the person (not the "user") who encounters the work getting what they wanted from the encounter. It's not easy to achieve for the creators but it is effortless to enjoy by the people who visit it.

I can't wait for the day when responsive web design means more than multi-width layouts. The web will never reach it's full potential until its architects, designers and engineers build it for an audience bigger than themselves.

I love it when people, especially my mom, ask me if I saw such-and-such on Facebook or the new flash in the pan on Youtube. My response of late has been "if I worked in a coal mine I wouldn't hang out there after work".

I can only assume that when Sir Berners-Lee coined the term World Wide Web, he was envisioning the seeming randomness of a spider's spinning that connects into a thing of beauty. But the metaphor is a double-edged sword. This work of millions of people, easily the most amazing undertaking of our species, has ensnared us all, directly or indirectly. And I'm OK with that.