27 Jul 2013
This is a post about craftsmanship. I know you’ve read plenty of these already, but indulge me. This one isn’t quite the same.
A lot of these kinds of posts are about taking pride in your craft, comparing you to architects and sculptors. I’m not gonna do that, here. I’m going to talk to you about doing honest-to-God, unglamorous work, and taking pride in that.
Our aim is to design and build something that will allow users to do whatever it is that they need to do, then get out of their way. It’s not as fancy as I think we sometimes make it out to be—we’re not artists or poets. We just make websites. That’s my go-to response when people ask me what I do for a living: “I make websites.” I’m not a something-engineer or a whatever-architect, and I’m sure as hell no “rockstar” or “ninja.” I make websites. I’m alright with that; you should be too.
When you lose the fancy titles and the posturing and the industry-wide identity crises, all that’s left to this gig is sitting your ass down and putting in the work. This is a brand new career, in relative terms. When we lose the comparisons to other jobs, this job—this entire industry—can be whatever we want it to be. We can plunk down for eight hours, build something that works as much as it has to in the umpteen browsers someone put on a list of browsers that are easy to support, or we can work harder. We can do whatever gets us a paycheck and sends us home—we can make this “just some job”—or we can make up our minds that “it’s how we’ve always done things” isn’t a real reason for anything. We can pick apart every technique we take for granted, build new ones, and share them with each other. We can file away the “browsers we need to support” list and never look at it again, and never tell a soul—because we’ll make sure any user with any browser has access. We’ll build things the right way because we can; because that’s just what we do. That’s what we’ve decided this job should be.
It’s not easy, and I don’t aim to make it sound like it is. It’s frustrating. You’re making more work for yourself than you need to, sure, but you’ll also be building something you can be enormously proud of. Some people want their paychecks and to go home, and that’s fine. You and me, though—we’re gonna work harder than they do. We’ll build things that ensure that entire populations just setting foot on the web for the first time can tap into the collected knowledge of the whole of mankind.
The hell with being a rockstar; I didn’t have the hair for it anyway.
I make websites.