Creative Release Designs

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Interview with Addy Osmani

Post No. 9

phot. Addy Osmani

Interview
20 April 2010   |  Interview

There are some very exited web developers out there and Addy Osmani is definitely one of them! Next to being a Project Manager and Senior Developer for a private e-business firm, he just loves to code and he is helping people on StockOverflow.com when the are stuck. He took some time to answer a couple of questions on his profession.


Tell us something about you.

Okay. My name is Addy Osmani and I'm really passionate about creating new types of user interfaces. Whether it's through JavaScript or pure Web Design, finding ways of offering people an easier or better way to experience tools and services online is what does it for me. I probably spend most of my days kung-fu fighting code bugs, but it's worth it if you come up with something you can be proud to show to other people.

For how long has this been your passion?

Far too long. I probably need to get a life one of these days. I taught myself how to code software when I was about 9 or 10 years old. A few years later I picked up HTML, JavaScript, CSS and design and it really went from there. I was lucky enough to get a little recognition for some of my work when I was about 16 and that changed things for me a lot. I won a few innovation awards and even got a job offer from Microsoft (which is crazy for a 16 year old). I decided to turn that down in favor of going to college but I've kept designing and coding things since then.

So what did you study?

I started studying Computer Science then moved into Software Engineering. College is great for picking up on some formal backgrounds into the entire software design process but it really isn't until your later years when you get to pick up skills that you can use in the industry. I would say 20% of what I know I learned in there and the other 80% from experimenting.

And are you still making software?

A few years ago I saw that the industry was changing. Traditional software, whilst important, was slowly shifting online and there was a definite paradigm shift there. I decided then and there that I would rather be designing and building services for the web rather than doing it on the desktop. I think that we're eventually going to see most software applications existing online with cloud computing been heavily used for processing, but we're someways off from there yet. Not 'awesome flying hoverboard' away, but it might be a few more years before it happens

What kind of programs do you use?

A number of things. When it comes to coding I probably use Notepad++, Dreamweaver, JSFiddle and Aptana the most. Web Design and graphics would be the usual suspects - PhotoShop, Illustrator and Fireworks occasionally.

Did you see the launch of the new Adobe CS5?

I missed the launch but I can't wait until I've got a copy (In case anyone's wondering, I'll be the guy in line at the store looking like he's about to have a full blown seizure from excitement). I've heard good things about the new features being offered and I think Adobe have outdone themselves with this latest round of updates. I love the content aware fill. It's actually a feature I did some similar work on myself for my masters thesis in college. It's really great to see some research code ending up in commercial apps.

I can imagine! Are you using a pc or a mac btw?

I currently use two Windows 7 systems. That said, I'm quite tempted to pick up one of the new Macs so that may change soon.

What other design tools do you use?

960.gs (for their fantastic grid tools), After Effects (if I need to create some funky special effects for a site intro) and I've been trying out Microsoft's Expression Design 3 a little lately. We're actually going to be running a contest over on my site soon where readers can win a copy from Microsoft, so stay tuned, guys.

That's good news! And do you use a drawing tablet or a computer mouse?

I use a computer mouse. I've never actually tried out a drawing tablet but who knows? Some kind-hearted rich old man out there might send me one of these days (if so, just ask the guys at the store for something called the 'iPad'. that'll do). Most of my initial design work starts on paper and if I need to directly transfer a sketch or illustration to screen, a handy old scanner always does the trick.

What is your favorite color HEX code?

#D6A924. It's a Hex code for gold, because I'm worth it. haha. To be honest, I don't really have a favorite hex code.

This may be a strange question since I bet you have plenty to choose from, but what in your portfolio are you the most proud of?

I would probably say my HTML5 JavaScript CoverFlow component. It was really fun taking something as popular as the iTunes CoverFlow and finding a way to elegantly re-create it in pure JS. People e-mail me about it all the time and it's great to see that new technologies can attract such interest from the development community.

We know now that you like the apple like design, but where else does your inspiration come from?

My inspiration comes from a few different places including just experimenting on paper and blogs. I'm very big on continuous learning so the daily tips and tricks I get from sites such as Smashing Magazine are always helpful. I also like to set myself design challenges - have you ever seen a menu or a site design that made you stop and go 'Wow. I wish I could do that?". With me, I usually end up trying to see how long it takes me to recreate the design myself. I find it's very useful in picking up skills and appreciating all the hard work other people put into their projects.

How do you keep things organized? Do you use a program for that, or an old fashion paper calendar?

I use a number of tools both online and offline to keep myself organized. For tasks I use a combination of paper, 37Signal's excellent tadalist service and a project management tool called centraldesktop.com. When it comes to files (graphics or otherwise), I find that there's nothing better than having a local subversion repository to keep track of things.

What does your daily routine looks like?

Wake up, check the stats on my blogs and websites (I am such a geek..), answer the 150 million emails that hit my inbox (just kidding, but there's usually a lot) and the rest of the day is usually occupied by work unless I've got a new article planned. Im a Project Manager and Senior Developer for a private e-business firm so things can get pretty busy sometimes. My wife keeps me grounded but on the whole, I'm a code-a-holic at heart. I'm due to start writing a new HTML5 book soon so my schedule is probably going to change a little soon. I'm worried at how much I'm going to be writing, but it should be a fun experience.

What are your favorite 5 websites and why?

  • AddyOsmani.com - I mean, how can that not be my number one favourite site? I like it because the owner is a pretty nice chap and the content's not that bad either!
  • Twitter.com - I can never seem to get away from it. It's a great place to find real time news stories and dev articles too.
  • SmashingMagazine.com - for the latest gossip in my local designer world
  • StackOverflow – this is a really cool coder community where you can either find solutions to problems or help out others who are in a jam.
  • Apple.com – for no other reason than their site's design is constantly a great reminder of how minimalist design can be executed effectively.



Do you have some tips for upcoming designers?

The first tip I always have for designers is to enjoy their job. If you don't love what you do, whether that's coding or designing, try something else. Life is too short to spend it on something you don't enjoy or have a passion for. Next... always design and develop with the latest best practices in mind. You also need to make sure that you understand HTML, CSS and JavaScript from back to front because those technologies underpin the entire web. Learn as much as you can and try to keep it that way - if you can learn at least one new thing each day or each week, you'll be fine. Finally, remember that there will always be someone that knows more than you do about a subject. That's totally cool, though, because you can always learn from their work or their articles. I know that there are people out there who are much more talented than I am, but I'm open to learning from them so I can be a better designer and developer. I think that's it really.

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