Being Limited

January 19, 2013

We all spend a lot of time learning new things. It’s part of the job description and also why I think the web has come a long way over the last decade. We enjoy getting better and sharing our ideas with others. This is what has brought our industry forward time and again.

The Generalist

It’s very tempting to feel like you should have to know about every aspect of web design and development. That’s tough though because as the years go on, and our industry continues to mature, those aspects multiply and expand. Our realm is not becoming more focused by any sense of the imagination.

Not too long ago most could get by defining themselves as a ‘developer’ or a ‘web designer’ (or perhaps previously a ‘webmaster’). That was good enough to describe your work efforts. Many are still defined by these titles. Likely this is because their skill sets are multi-faceted too.

They might know how to configure and optimize a database and later that afternoon spend time working on the UX of an iOS app. Not saying they’re great at either but they won’t limit themselves to any one area of design or development. These people are often limited in their expertise of a subject though.

The Specialist

On the other side of the coin, we are starting to see specialists begin to emerge who are setting a stricter focus on their areas of expertise. These are the ‘UX Designer’ and ‘Front-End Engineer’, as well a a ton of others that I have heard.

They spend more time dedicated to their main aspect of design or development and thus are more likely to become experts in their respective realms. They probably have a lesser grasp on other areas however. You can’t be an expert in everything. It’s not possible anymore.

I believe it’s better to be mostly a specialist these days. The topics that fall under ‘web design’ are too broad now to ever have the time to learn them all fully. I think it’s a mistake to spread yourself too thin and never fully master at least some skills. You might read articles which list ‘20 things you must know to be a web designer’ and I think that’s bull. One, because really there is no pre-requisite to be a web designer (we’re about as varied as they come). And two, because once you’re done trying to grasp those 20, half of them will be outdated and there will be 30 new ones everyone will be saying you have to learn.

The Realist

My advice, master some and then you can learn at least a little about the rest. It’s good to have some knowledge on other topics so you can have realistic expectations, but we all know the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none”. That especially applies here. I know it can be very tempting because we all love learning and because everyone loves to shout in our heads about what they think is the coolest new thing we all need to learn.

Trust me, you’ll be ok. I never bothered to learn Flash and I’m doing alright.