Join James Williamson for an in-depth discussion in this video A life of learning: Sam Kapila, part of Introduction to Web Design and Development.
- Hi, everybody, I'm here with Sam Kapila. Sam, I first met you in ARTIFACT Conference in Austin, Texas, and the thing that I loved talking with you about was your background is in higher education, and you and I had a great conversation about web design and sort of, where it fit in higher ed and how the approach to learning web design has changed over the years. So, could you give everybody, first, just a little bit of background about yourself? - Sure, I started actually right out of school going into advertising, which what I had kind of gone to school for, design within advertising.
And I kind of felt like, okay this stuff is great, but I kind of miss doing a little bit of web stuff that I had done when I was younger, like having a GeoCitiies website and Angelfire and and LiveJournal blog. And by being at South by Southwest a couple of years later, kind of started hearing people talk about it again, and then at that point, I had just started teaching and pursuing my masters, and asked if I could teach in web design, because I was kind of missing that side of things, and then went full speed ahead with that.
And have been doing that for six years, and it's been really great. - Oh, fantastic. Now I know one of the things that we talked about was, my generation, we were all self-taught. Because the web didn't exist when we were in school, so we kind of had to teach ourselves as the web sort came into being, if you will, if that's what we wanted to do. Now people have a lot more options. Can you talk a little bit about the way that learning web design has evolved over say, the past five years or so? - Yeah, I feel like when I was teaching it about, three, four years ago was when I moved back into the web side of things, I was having to do a lot of self-taught stuff myself to kind of update and see what was new with CSS and CSS3, and I feel like there's a lot of resources out there that students can use.
But they were kind of afraid to know which ones to trust, especially if there were differing opinions and anything like that. And I think that's still happening now. One of the common threads between the two. Another thing about teaching three or four years ago was that there was a little bit more, or maybe it's just in my head. It seemed like there was a little bit more structure to everything, probably because people were going with what was tried and tested, rather than experimenting with something new.
But we have browsers that are trying different things. CSS3 and HTML5 features that are coming out a little bit at a time. Elements that are just getting approved and you hear about it on Twitter. So, I think that things may have seemed a little bit more structured then than they are now. But at the same time I think, three years ago to now, it's still having... It's requires a lot of self-taught sort of folks and self-taught minded people.
- So you think that approach is extremely valuable for somebody that's learning web design. Somebody that's willing to go in and just find things themselves. - Yeah, I think if it's a career that they want to stay in, the need to continue to have the self-taught mentality so that they can learn what's new. I mean, when I started teaching responsive web design, I was still reading the book. I mean, I had read the book once, thought I understood parts of it, and then had to really go over and over and make mistakes and learn through those mistakes, how to fix them.
And then there were days in the classroom where I was on Twitter right before class, just like waiting for that one class to come out so I could go in and set up for my class. And then I see something pop up on Twitter, "This is how we're doing responsive images now." Like, okay, and I'm teaching responsive images today, so that changes everything. And I quickly try it out with my text editor and I'm like, okay, got it to work. Hopefully I can get this in class. And of course when I demo it class, it doesn't work. It breaks.
But that's one of the great things about teaching that way is you get to fix it with everyone right there, so they learn how to fix it down the road and hopefully, me teaching the kind of self-taught like I just learned this five minutes ago. I'm totally going to mess this up. And then I actually do. I hope that that is something that students can learn from. - Well, that's extremely refreshing to have an educator actually talk about that process, because I can tell you, you know, with all the courses that I teach and, you know, everybody just assumes that, as an instructor, you kind of know everything already.
And the fact is, is that we are having to go out there and stay current and learn everything. At hopefully, a slightly faster than the students can. And it's very difficult to keep up. So, for somebody who's learning web design for the first time, if they're just jumping in, what advice would you give them over the long haul, in terms of their career, as to what to expect in terms of learning web design and staying current with it? - Well, I think going back to what we were talking about. They have to accept that they're in a career where they're going to have to keep updating what they can do.
If they want to be able to stay in the field and sustain that career. They're going to have to read a lot. I think being active on Twitter and other blogs is really important, because that's where most of my curriculum came from was hearing people talk about it or hearing about issues with elements or browsers or resources that they can use. But I think at the same time, for me that was really overwhelming, seeing all of these resources suddenly come at me, especially in a place that's curated to topics that I'm interested in on Twitter.
The best thing about learning on the web is kind of, that the web has all the resources we need. So, just Google it when you need it. - So you think there's a lot of value in that sort of, just in time learning. Like, oh, you know, I have to go build this, and I don't have the skills to do it, so I'm going to ramp up, you know, right now as I need to do this. - Yeah, I think it's the type of career and the type of day-to-day workflow that requires that.
That you need to learn as you do rather than just read something and memorize it, so I think the best way is to bring it in when you need it. Let it break, fix it, you'll know not to make that mistake next time, or you'll know what the nuances of it are next time. - You had a great point earlier where you said that you were trying out something and it didn't work and you were like, that's okay, though, because we still learned from that. You know, I think it's a very valuable lesson to take away that, in web design, we learn a lot from our mistakes. And we make them all the time.
We tend to, I was talking to somebody the other night and we were talking about how, you know, we kind of tend to look back at ourselves and laugh a little bit. Like, oh, I can't believe we used to do it that way. Ha ha ha ha ha. But really, we're doing the best that we can with what our current constraints are. - I think that we're doing the best we can is a really important part. Everybody who is out there, even people who are putting together lynda videos, putting together books on responsive web design, anything like that. Everybody's still learning.
One of the newest elements was just approved in July, and now it's kind of like, okay we need to now learn everything about that element. And that's okay, because then you can... It's really fun and therapeutic to go back and refactor something you've made before and make it better. And that honestly, is the best way to learn over reading a blog post or seeing someone else do it. - Great, so if somebody's looking at web design as a career, they should prepare themselves for a lifetime of learning then. - Yeah, you are a lifetime student if you want to be a web designer, for sure.
- Fantastic. - I think that's one of the best things about it though. - I agree, fantastic. Thanks, Sam, so much for being with us today. I really really appreciate it. - Thank you! Talk to you soon.
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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