Join James Williamson for an in-depth discussion in this video Typical workstations, part of Introduction to Web Design and Development.
- In this chapter, we're gonna focus on the different tools used by professional web designers. I'm gonna start by talking about a typical workstation and some of the physical tools that you're gonna need to be a productive designer. The good news is that most typical web design workstations aren't that complex and don't need to be especially robust. You shouldn't need to drain your bank account by buying the most powerful and advanced computer hardware on the market or purchase new equipment every year. I'm using a three-year old MacBook Pro and it still works great for what I do. My rule is as long as it supports the way you like to work, it's going to be effective.
The first thing I wanna talk about is your computer. I'm not gonna go into models, processors, or other specs because quite frankly, they'd be dated the moment the scores comes out. Rather, I wanna talk in general terms about what type of system to get. First, I recommend getting a fairly powerful laptop. Web designers tend to do a lot of traveling and having a system that can do serious production work on the road is important. While it doesn't have to be top of the line, I do recommend making sure you get as much RAM and as much hard drive space as you can afford.
Those two things tend to be the most important factors in speed and productivity. The operating system really doesn't matter as much as you can be just as productive on a Mac, Windows, or Linux-based system. It's really just a matter of comfort. So, I recommend going with the model that you're already familiar with. One of the reasons I use a Mac, however, is because I can set up a separate partition with Windows on it. This allows me to boot up in Windows if I have Windows specific client files as well as test my files in Internet Explorer.
I also recommend getting a laptop with a HI-RES display. When testing graphics, it's helpful to know what they'll look like at high resolutions. The size of the laptop doesn't really matter unless you're gonna do a lot of traveling. Just try to find a model that gives you the best mixture of screen size and portability. Since you're not always gonna be on the road or in a coffee shop, I also recommend getting a second monitor. I use a twenty four inch Apple Cinema Display. Although any large or high quality monitor will do. It's great for reducing eye strain when you're working at your office and having a two monitor set up can make coding extremely efficient.
You can code in one monitor and have a browser open in another, giving you a real-time preview of what you're working on without needing to lose on your apps. You can also have chat pods, code snippets, and mail open on the second monitor too, making you that much more productive. You'll also want to have a strategy for dealing with extra storage for you projects and back ups. Hard drive failure is a matter of when not if so making sure that you can securely archive and mirror your projects is critically important.
You can go with lower budget external hard drives for temporary storage but for a more robust option you might wanna look at a mirrored RAY drive to give you that added security. There are a lot of online storage options as well. So, be sure to research which back-up approach best suits your specific needs. I also recommend getting a few portable flash drives. These are great for sharing files or creating back-ups while you're on the road. It's also a good idea to pick up a set of quality headphones and a mic.
Some people love the headphone and mic combos while others prefer having a free standing mic. You'll probably be doing a lot of video conferencing with remote clients and coworkers. Having a quality headset can make those easier for everyone and if you're thinking about doing some podcasting or client screen casts, it can dramatically improve your quality. Typing for long hours can put a lot of strain on you so I recommend getting an ergonomic keyboard that you can hook up to your laptop. Typing on a laptop isn't that bad but keep in mind that you're likely to be typing for hours each day.
Getting a larger expanded keyboard that focuses on ergonomics is important not only for productivity but for your health as well. That's why I also recommend getting a decent ergonomic chair. You'll be sitting for long hours and you need a comfortable chair that allows you to maintain a proper posture. A quality chair might be a little bit more expensive but trust me, it is worth it for both productivity and health. Some designers swear it by standing desks. (mumbling) I've never used one myself but I could definitely see the benefit.
You'll want to continue this approach when choosing a mouse or a trackball. Find one that gives you the best fit for your hand and is designed for ergonomic use. I also recommend having a mouse-pad that includes a wrist pad on it that helps prevent strain on the wrist. If you're looking for some inspiration, try Googling Web Designer Workstations. They are several blogs out there that showcase a variety of workstation types. You'll probably be surprised by how pedestrian some of them are. A good web designer really doesn't need more than a laptop, a chair, and an internet connection.
But workstations are always an extension of your own personality. So, make sure that you create an environment that allows you to be as productive and as creative as possible.
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- What is web design?
- What is a web designer?
- Learning to code
- Choosing a web host
- Working with a CMS
- Exploring how websites are structured
- Choosing your framework or software
- Designing with standards and accessibility in mind