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Looking at web design
from a teen’s perspective
By Mary Winn -- August 9, 2000

Many teens spend their weekends out partying, gossiping, shopping, checking out the latest movies, and attending the “happening” events in their communities, all while procrastinating on that science project that was due… yesterday?  Web designers, on the other hand, sit at home all day staring at their computer screens while downloading, uploading their latest creations, e-mailing clients, admiring other sites, and desperately waiting for that latest release of Flash to come out.  Meet me, Mary Winn, a teen web designer.  While many would consider this an oxymoron, I beg to differ.  Although these two roles are both incredibly challenging, especially while doing them simultaneously, they are also educational, fun, and very fulfilling.

How did I get involved and get to where I am now?

It’s hard to squeeze three years in a little paragraph, but I’ll try… I actually made my first web page on Expage (www.expage.com) after seeing a friend’s, and of course, me being my competitive self, wanted to make a better one.  After months and months of my Expage site, I finally discovered that there was this language behind the whole ‘web site thing,’ and it was called HTML.  By trial and error, I taught myself HTML in about a year’s time.  After going through free web site hosts including Delphi, Geocities, Tripod, and VirtualAvenue, I did finally figure out that there was more to web sites than a simple language, that being design, layout, and professionalism.  I have grown in the level of professionalism behind my design mainly through:

1. Reading articles about both design and critiques of other sites.

2. Joining newsgroups and getting an understanding of what other people like.

3. Withstanding both constructive and non-constructive critiques for my own work.

I obtained my own domain (www.marywinn.com) in February 2000 and have been continuing my learning in web design ever since.

What draws me to it?  What keeps me coming back?

One word: competition.  As I mentioned above, I am a very competitive person, so the web is just down my alley.  A day never goes by when I don’t visit a site that I haven’t been to before, or admire those sites that are truly involved in the technological revolution on the web.  I know I can’t be the best designer in the world as just a sophomore in high school, but it is definitely something to strive for… and something that will keep me coming back.

How do I manage my time, being a teen, and is my social life affected?

As for the first part of the question:  My time is very scarce—I know that.  A typical day, I would wake up about 6:00 and check e-mail before heading off to school, which starts around 8:00.  I go to school, check e-mail during computer class, art, or lunch, and then stay after for some club, organization, or rehearsal. I end up getting home about 4:30 or 5:00.  I would then check and see what I had to do as far as school was concerned… if it could wait, I head off to the computer while listening to the radio, watching TV, and sometimes even talking on the phone at the same time.  It if can’t wait, I get it over with before heading to compute.  I go to a fine arts school with a highly challenging academic program, so yes, there are some nights when I don’t get on the computer until pretty late (or even at all)… and have to wake up the next morning.  So you can see, I do not have a lot of free time.

As for the second part of the question:  I don’t feel that my social life is affected.  I have lots of great friends and love talking on the phone, chatting (works great while doing web design at the same time), shopping, going to the movies, and just hanging out.  How do I have the time?  Good question.  I’m not sure that I know the answer myself.

Would you recommend web design to other teens?

Why wouldn’t I?  Web design is an incredible field to be in, even as just a teen.  On the educational side, it teaches management of time, organizational skills, and helps math logic out, in that there is a lot of logic that needs to be understood for some of the latest technology (Flash 4, CGI, and JavaScript).  But on the other side, it is lots of fun—meeting other people from all over the world, showing your work to your friends, and that great feeling you get when you finally figure out how to do something that you didn’t think you’d ever be able to do.

If you are a teen and have a desire to design sites, go for it.  It is one of the few areas that truly allows you to express who you are as a person, and just goes to show that you can be a teen and play a part in the technological revolution.

Copyright 2000
All Rights Reserved
Mary Winn
marywinn@marywinn.com

 

About the Author
Mary Winn is the designer and maintainer of MaryWinn.com, where she runs and teaches free online classes.  She has also been a member of the 5.0 rated Nem5 judging staff since February 2000.  Mary Winn is currently a sophomore in high school where she is president of the National Junior Honor Society as well as an active member of Student Council.

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