Recently I have taken to doing more web development, even though I truly enjoy music and electronics. I have taken to doing web-based projects because I find them engaging, I enjoy the end results and the web is an essential skill. I have completed two projects thus far, Shears of Elegance and Ideagerie, and my favorite was the later. Why? Because it was an art project.
Throughout most of my life I have been dedicated to music and composition. I value the arts and when my friend, Kaity Reilly, asked me to develop her website, Ideagerie I jumped all over it. The good thing about working with a friend on a project is that the communications are less strained and there is less of a begrudging acceptance of the clients choice. Also artists are less particular about browser compatibility (if it doesn’t work in IE3 they don’t care much, so long as it gets out to a decent audience) and more willing to let you experiment on the backend, they will let you use what they are unfamiliar with. These sort of partnerships should be approached as being exploratory for both parties involved.
For Ideagerie I decided to use Sinatra and Ruby as my main workhorses and deployed on Heroku. This ended up being perfect for what the artist wanted. The git based updates allowed me to update the site swiftly and sink my teeth into development right away. By using Heroku I was also able to engage the artist in the process as they were able to see the updates almost immediately. Of course this is possible through more traditional means, but Heroku is more or less free for low-level use and you can swiftly update everything with a few git commands. Also, the artist I worked with liked to engage themselves in parts of the process, which is a unique opportunity to teach and receive new ideas.
Working with an artist is not all fun and games though. There will be constant disagreements over certain things, especially efficiency. Just because you naturally code efficiency doesn’t mean that the artist desires efficiency. In fact, there are times when the artist might just want to dump everything onto one page and remove pagination completely. Also, they tend to be particular about presentation. As my friend said, “The site [Ideagerie] does not need to be an Apple quality marketing campaign, but it does need to look like a person made it” (Kaity Reilly). Kaity also told me that, “the presentation, for me, is the most important part,” at a point where I was obsessing over efficiency/database issues.
Remember, don’t only work with other engineers or web designers, work with all sorts of people. You will gain more insight that way.