Tool Proficiency

Circular Saw

Have you ever picked up a tool that you had never used before? Was it awkard? Did you feel self-conscious?

A friend of mine had wanted a loft for her bed since she was a teenager. She decided that 40-something was the perfect age to fulfill that dream. I have some cool friends.

She found a great design but she needed tools and a place to build it. Could I help? With room in the garage and plenty of tools, I said “Sure!”

She was clumsy when she first picked up the circular saw. She didn’t know where to put her hands, or how to line the blade up to cut along a mark. With guidance and practice she gained confidence. She had fun, and did things others told her she could never do.

Proficiency with tools is important, but it isn’t enough. She wasn’t ready to design a new loft from scratch. To be fair, that wasn’t her goal; she just wanted a bed that would make a college freshman jealous.

I feel like my friend right now. I’m playing with a lot of new software packages. When I start, I don’t know where to click or which menu to use. With time, things get easier. I’m getting comfortable with graphics editors and IDEs.

But I’m also reminded that tool proficiency is not enough. Creating a world-class website from scratch is still beyond me.

There is a difference between my friend and me: She only wanted one loft, so she quit when it was done. I want to build lots of websites for people, so I’ll keep going.

If you are starting something new, you should keep going, too. You will be glad you did.

Picking a Starting Tool

Recently learned that I need to consider the big picture when designing a new website.

I started playing with GIMP a couple of weeks ago. I found some tutorials on using it, but it really is a different animal than anything else I have worked with. It is basically a free software package that does (just about) everything that Adobe’s Photoshop does with all of the learning curve, half the support, and none of the cost.

I know a lot of successful people using are using Photoshop, but in my startup mode I can’t afford the software right now.

Today I read this brilliant article by Josh Sears in Web Design Depot. From my past experience as a design engineer, this structured approach makes a lot of sense. It enhances communication between a designer and developer, it serves as a memory-jogger when the designer picks it up later, and it also works with my creative process. I tend to take an ordered approach to creating something new.

I’m going to try to adapt Josh’s approach as I GIMP along for a while to see how things turn out. If you know of any good tutorials or other resources, please share them in the comments.