While design and development are often seen as two different skill sets, at the end of the day they both accomplish the same goal: solving problems. A developer is focused on solving a problem through the implementation of back-end technology, while a designer seeks to solve the problem by improving the user experience.
As a full-stack designer, Jesse Showalter has learned to augment his front-end design skills by incorporating a wide array of ever-changing back-end technologies to help him solve problems for his clients. He also uses those skills as an online content creator to help others learn about digital design tools, techniques, and business concepts.
On the latest episode of our podcast, Decoded, Showalter shared his journey as an example of why he believes that development has never been more accessible.
Learning as Your Go
While Showalter began his career as a traditional print designer in the late 1990s, he quickly caught the website development bug. He started out by building websites in Dreamweaver, but he soon realized that his dependence on the tool limited his ability to execute his ideas. That realization inspired him to learn more of the foundational knowledge required to truly develop for the web. As he explained:
“It was always needs-based; I’m a person who says, ‘Learn what you need, when you need it.’ So in those first interactions I was like, ‘I need to know HTML and CSS to put together websites that are not based on tables and won’t break with one slight mouse move. I need things to cascade and work well.’”
As each new requirement came up — such as adding interactivity or leveraging frameworks — Showalter would learn new skills, such as Java or React. This allowed him to focus on learning what he needed to solve the problem in front of him, rather than delay creating a solution by trying to first learn everything about everything.
“We all have it in our minds that we need to be Michael Phelps to be a good swimmer. If I view that as a success, I’m going to be training forever. But if I view success as keeping my head above water for five minutes, I’ve won today. I’m successful today.”
He urges developers to shift their perspective of success to be one of growth, not necessarily proficiency in a specific tool or language.
“It’s a perspective shift that says, ‘I don’t need to complete X amount of hours or this many boot camps or that many courses or this internship before I’m ready to bring my idea to life. Instead, I’m going to run with my idea and patch together a lot of stuff along the way.”
Everyone Is a Developer
The accessibility of no- and low-code tools makes it easier than ever to quickly test and build new ideas, bringing true democracy to development. By removing barriers, these tools allow designers, engineers, and everyday people to focus on executing their vision instead of learning a new program or language.
“You can whip together entire web applications right now using a no-code tool and mad-scientist something together. That’s what innovation looks like; mad scientists that are figuring out ways that don’t fit the standard narrative. Everybody has this in them — the ability to be a creator and a maker and a producer of something.”
In order to continue his journey as a full-stack designer, Showalter has branched out into content creation through his popular YouTube channel and online courses. By creating content about the design process, Showalter is able to help others while sharpening his own thinking.
“One of the best ways to learn something is to teach something. Preparing yourself to share experience, knowledge, and expertise means you have to spend the time honing that.”
Thanks to more user-friendly tools and the ability to freely access world-class knowledge, traditional obstacles no longer hold aspiring developers and designers back. Showalter believes this will help more people act on their innate creative spirits so that they can lead more purposeful lives.
“I love helping people see what’s possible because there’s so much talent and creativity in the minds of human beings. The more we can release, the better it is for everybody. All ships rise with the tide, and the tide that’s rising is the development of tools that break down walls.”
Watch Jesse Showalter and Decoded host Sydney Lai’s full conversation about the glories of learning and teaching design and development, and subscribe to the podcast today.