Interviewing Zeldman…

Well this is one of the things I can scratch off my list of to-do’s. Looking forward to the DIBI Conference I spent a short while interviewing the Keynote speaker, Mr Jeffrey Zeldman. The entire interview is posted up over at the DIBI Conference website but here’s a snippet from the interview.

1) With everything that you do, what’s a typical day like for Jeffrey Zeldman.

“Typical” is a luxury I can’t afford. Each day is different. Thursday I worked out, wrote a Foreword for Andy Rutledge’s Design Professionalism (, held a planning meeting for An Event Apart, and worked with the nice people at Mail Chimp on a showcase video about A Book Apart. Friday I attended “Math Buddies” at my daughter’s school, held a Happy Cog meeting with my partners Greg Storey and Greg Hoy, and caught up with A List Apart author submissions. Today (Saturday) I’m catching up with travel plans, meeting schedules, and taxes and expenses for my businesses. Tonight I take time off to attend a play with a friend in the West Village.

2) You’ve now got An Event Apart in five different locations across the US. What has it been like building AEA over the years in to what it is today and are there plans to expand further in the future? Maybe moving internationally?

Six, now, actually: Seattle, Boston, Atlanta, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. It’s wonderful because there is a great community out there of passionate practitioners who care deeply about this web we’re building together — people for whom mere competence is not enough. Our attendees care as much about good experience and great design as they do about smart code and engaging content. We are not directors of this community, we are part of it. It’s like attending a festival of great web design every two months. But I don’t have to sell you on that dream: you founded DIBI, so you know how intense and wonderful these conference events can be. (And how much planning and work it takes to make sure attendees have a great learning and emotional experience.)

We started really small: Eric Meyer, me, and Jason Santa Maria in a rented room at the Ben Franklin Museum in Philadelphia, with about 100 attendees. Our friend Ian Corey brought the PA equipment and projector! The screen was the size of my head, there was no Wi-Fi. It was fun, but we’ve definitely come a LONG way in a short time. A lot of the credit goes to our event planner Marci Eversole and our lead producer Toby Malina. They’re fantastic, as anyone who has attended the show can tell you. Today we even have our own Wi-Fi guy, because no venue with the exception of one place in Seattle can cope with the amount of Wi-Fi our attendees suck down during the three days of An Event Apart.

Marci and Toby work on the show literally every day of the year, and their professionalism and ability to make stuff happen free Eric and me to focus almost entirely on content and the attendee learning experience.

3) How involved do you get in the day to day running of Happy Cog? Could you explain how you now fit in around the business and what your primary role is?

Although my title is still Founder and Executive Creative Director, I function more like a Chairman. Think Walt Disney, although obviously a lot less awesome than he was. Walt didn’t animate his later movies, didn’t design the characters, didn’t write the scripts, didn’t build the live action sets, didn’t direct the pictures, didn’t design the streets and buildings of Disney World, didn’t license the characters or design the merchandise that spun out of his creative galaxy, but his DNA was in every frame of film, every song, every Disneyland street.

Okay, now remove two thousand percent of the grandiosity and you have my role at Happy Cog.

With studios in Philadelphia, New York, and Austin, and with product ideas and content being produced in all three locations, we use Basecamp, Skype, and iChat to keep in constant contact and stay aware of what we’re doing and where we’re going.

On some projects I’m part of every key meeting and most major decisions; in others I hover. When you have presidents like Greg Hoy and Greg Storey and talent like the folks on this roster (, you interfere only when absolutely necessary with the day-to-day flow of client services work. Instead your job becomes strategic. Which authors should write on which subjects for our magazine ( and books ( What kinds of products should Happy Cog create (Happy Cog Hosting is a recent addition) and how can we balance them with our client work? I make these decisions in cooperation with the two Gregs, and many of the big ideas come from them rather than me, but strategy and content fall primarily in my domain just as satisfying clients (and more importantly, their users) and winning awards are mostly Greg Hoy and Greg Storey’s turf these days.

4) A Book Apart is doing very well with some awesome books already published and Ethan’s book going on sale on the first day of the DIBI Conference. What made you get in to publishing and will we see a Jeffrey Zeldman A Book Apart any time soon?

Erin Kissane, Jason Santa Maria, and I talked about A Book Apart for years before Mandy Brown, Jason and I finally launched it. We waited until the publishing industry was hemorrhaging! I thought it was hilarious that our friends were making fortunes coming up with Internet apps and communities and *that’s* when we took the plunge back into the world of Gutenberg. But the books are doing well. I think we know what people in this community want to learn about because we’re part of the community and we want to learn it too! And we know the right people for the right topics. People who can see over the next few hills (leaders, not followers) and who write with strong (and strongly engaging) personal styles. It also doesn’t hurt to have an editor like Mandy Brown and a book designer like Jason Santa Maria.

Another reason we’re off to a good start is that we decided from the very beginning that our venture had to pay authors well. Publishing is a great way to burnish credentials and fertilize the world with your ideas, but it hasn’t traditionally been a great way for authors to make a buck. Authors often start with royalties of 8%, and publishers are often squeezed because of high overhead, tough-minded distribution partners, and so on. By bypassing most of that overhead and guaranteeing authors 50% of free and clear profits (instead of 8% of reduced profits), we offer an appealing combination of real money plus the expertise, convenience, and brand benefits authors associate with publishers.

This is not to say that our kind of publisher replaces the other kinds, any more than indie rock or underground hip-hop means the death of Top 40. Our community will always need great publishers like Peachpit and O’Reilly; we’re just another part of this ecosystem.

5) A short list of some of the things you’re involved with being Big Web Show, AEA, ALA, Happy Cog and A Book Apart, endless amount of public speaking and appointments with the Dentist is there a plan for what’s next in life for you? Is there anything you’d like to do which you haven’t as yet?

We may also need to find a new school for my daughter, which in NYC is a full-time job in itself. And although my wife and I remain amicable co-parents and our separation is low-key and friendly, we’re still stuck in a seemingly endless divorce that requires taking entire days off to go through five years of financial records and so on. Last year I also began teaching in the MFA Program in Interaction Design my friend Liz Danzico started at School of Visual Arts; engaging with the students is a fantastic experience. But, yes, I’m pulled in many directions, and it’s sometimes stressful.

What keeps me sane besides how much I love my daughter and my work is regular visits to the gym. Without those visits I’m sure I’d be losing it at this point. I’m basically a lazy man who likes to get stuck in a rut. My perfect night would be falling asleep on the couch with a mouthful of Oreos. By accident, some of my ideas have made me busy, and now my personal life is like a big-budget mini-series with lawyers, teachers, and therapists. It’s a lot of pressure for a guy like me. But running and weight training give me the strength and clarity to hang with it.

What I’d like to do? Take a girl other than my daughter to the movies. 

I interview Martin Bean

Martin Bean - Digital Pop/Yourfightsite.comMartin Bean is a talented young developer from the North East of England. Working through the day at online marketing and digital marketing agency Digital Pop, Martin spends the rest of his time freelancing for An avid fan of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and with a great understanding of back end development, Martin will achieve a lot.

Full Name and Age please

Martin Bean (Martin Christopher Bean if we’re being pedantic) and 20 years.

Favourite Biscuit and Drink?

Fox’s Crunch Creams and a cup of coffee. Together.

Last Book you read and the last movie you saw?

The last “book” I read was actually a graphic novel: “Batman: The Long Halloween” by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Someone referred it to me as it was apparently one of the graphic novels The Dark Knight team took influences from for the movie’s story (and it was interesting to see those similarities, albeit subtle). The last movie I saw was “Angels and Demons” on DVD. I thought it was a bit pants to be honest. My girlfriend assures me the book is far better, so I may have to pick up a copy to see if she’s right.

Where and when did it all start?

I’m not sure how or exactly when it started. I remember being in maybe the second year or secondary school (so about 12) and picking up a book on HTML in my school’s library. I gave up after the first chapter. I would later re-visit the idea of learning HTML and building websites and was a fair bit more successful than my first attempt.

I also had a copy of FrontPage on my home PC, but worked religiously in the code view. Crafting HTML pages and getting irked with FrontPage’s habit of inserting Microsoft specific tags and removing them way before I heard of standards compliant mark-up or what it meant. CSS then came soon after.

I began subscribing to Practical Web Design magazine (a now-defunct offshoot of .net magazine) and that helped my HTML/CSS skills considerably in a quick amount of time.


At college, I didn’t really progress my skills that much. I had a good knowledge of HTML and CSS and was the go-to guy with my peers for help, but other than that I wasn’t going anyway technically, but picked a hell of a lot up in terms of the theory of web design and design in general. In my second year of college, I got a placement with a leading new media design agency in Newcastle. They threw me in the deep end, telling me I had two months to learn PHP (which saw me end up swimming rather than sinking) and got my foot in the door to employment in Newcastle. I would move to Newcastle from my home town of Darlington little over a year later after a couple of stints at other agencies in the region.

Is there anyone in the industry you’re enjoying the work of at the moment?

Andy Clarke. But that vested interest is biased as he’s redesigning the home page for CannyBill, a product by Ltd, whom I used to work for.


What does a general day consist of for you?

A week day usually consists of getting up at around 7:00am. I hop on a Quaylink to Newcastle City Centre, then get on another bus to work. At the moment my days are spent working on a super-secret project, but other than that I’m a web developer for a digital online marketing agency, so there’s never a shortage of projects. But currently I working away developing a social networking site in PHP/MySQL.

What’s your cup of tea, front end dev or back end dev?

Definitely back-end development. I thought I would be a web designing, but turns out my calling was in development.

You’re a huge fan of MMA and set up, who do you think will be able to take the title from Brock Lesner? (I’m a fan also).

Good question. Brock Lesnar has this stigma that due to being a former professional wrestler and a multiple-time WWE Champion that he shouldn’t do well in a “real” fight sport, but the fact of the matter is, is the guy is a monster. His only downfall is his lack of experience in MMA fights which was glaringly visible in his UFC bout with Frank Mir back in February 2008 I think it was. That will be Brock’s downfall – a lack of experience. However, with each and every fight he closes that gap, and no one can go toe-to-toe with him in terms of size or strength.


Are you a PC or a Mac and do you have a reason for choosing one over the other?

PC, simply for the fact that I’ve never had enough money for a Mac when I had to buy a new machine at home. And at work we all use PCs. However, if I had the option I would definitely grab a Mac.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I think it’s dead set that PHP is my core skill set, but in the future I hope to expand my knowledge of web technologies. I want to be a versatile programmer and have a great knowledge of various languages. Java interests me, .NET not so much though. I don’t want PHP to limit my capabilities in the realm of server-side development or programming. I definitely want to become my au fait with AJAX as well.

Will you be heading to any conferences over the next year?

I’ve been wanting to attend a conference for the past year or so, but haven’t been able to whether it was because of money or lack of time off etc. I’m really pining to go to one, so think I may try and attend one in the North East first, just to see what’s involved, and then go for a larger one down south. Richard Quick’s Bamboo Juice conference piqued my interest somewhat and was about to go until something came up at the last minute, despite the nice chap offering me a discounted ticket!

Thanks to Martin for getting involved, check out Martins work at

I interview Paul Randall

paulrandallPaul Randall is a Web Designer & Developer from the South-West of England and has been creating websites full time since 2006. He has worked on some very interesting smaller personal projects which I inquire about during the interview.

Thanks to Paul for taking the time out to get involved in the interview.

Full Name and Age please

Paul Randall, 22 years old

Favourite Biscuit and Drink?

It has to be a mug of tea, and Crunch Creams. I could literally eat a whole pack in one go!

Last Book you read and the last movie you saw?

I have just finished reading Thinking In Type, by Ellen Lupton, and was captivated by District 9 at the cinema.

Where and when did it all start?

After my A-Levels, I left school to work as an IT Administrator for a manufacturing firm—doing the usual fixing PC and printer problems, but soon became tried of the monotony of it. I was doing a day-release Foundation Degree course in Computing & Internet Technology at the time, and so I offered to redesign the companies’ site for them. I was always a creative person and had made personal websites in my spare time before, but when it launched, that’s when I knew I wanted to design and build sites as a job.


A few months later I noticed a job advertisement in a local paper which was looking for a Web Designer/Developer. I applied and had a phone call on the Friday to come to an interview on the Saturday. I was offered the position straight after! I stayed with that company for just over a year, working on in-house ASP sites in SQL Server and some client work before moving to my current job in June 2008, where I now work predominantly with HTML, PHP and MySQL.

Is there anyone in the industry you’re enjoying the work of at the moment?

I really admire the work of Tim Van Damme, Jina Bolton, Vitor Lourenço and Greg Wood.

What does a general day consist of for you?

I will get up at about 8, catch up on Twitter and head for work just before 9am. You will usually find me with the headphones on, listening to Daft Punk or The Prodigy working on the latest piece of client work in either Dreamweaver or Photoshop.

After work I tend to play around with new bits of HTML5 or CSS3, catch up on RSS feeds or play on the XBox.


What’s your cup of tea, front end dev or back end dev?

I really enjoy the creativity of graphic design, so front end dev is the thing I enjoy most; but the best thing about my job is the fact I work in both, and love switching between them. If I had to choose though, it would be front-end, every time.

You work on various projects, which has been your favourite so far?

In terms of a personal project, it would have to be the H1 Debate ( It was such a simple concept, but from the comments it has had, it really caused people to think about how they use the H1 tag, and about coding their sites in general. It also gained a lot of exposure, which I really didn’t expect.

I am always pleased with the work I produce at my job, but never showcase my employers’ work.

I have also recently begun creating monthly wallpapers. I really like the design challenges it creates,   as it keeps me trying to find new inspiration, but I missed last months’ due to me working on my personal site relaunch.


Are you a PC or a Mac and do you have a reason for choosing one over the other?

I have always worked on a PC and currently use Vista on a daily basis. This is simply because the   places I have worked for have been PC-based. My laptop is also a PC, running XP, but I will switch to a Mac when it needs replacing as I need to see what all the fuss is about!

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I’d love to focus on just designing more, but continuing to work in a small team. I really enjoy the involvement you can have in a project—seeing it from start to finish.

Will you be heading to any conferences over the next year?

I haven’t got any planned at the moment, but I always try to catch up on the speakers’ slide-shows, or watch the talks online.

Paul Randall –

I interview WooThemes

woothemeslogoWooThemes is pretty well known, they have delivered 44 wordpress themes in to the commercial theme market. I wanted to ask a few questions to the guys about where things were headed with business and personal life. Mark and Magnus were kind enough to answer some questions.

Just in case people don’t know, could you list the names and roles of persons involved within Woo?

WooThemes was started by Adriaan Pienaar in Cape Town, South Africa, Magnus Jepson in Stavenger, Norway and Mark Forrester in London, England – with the internet being the life blood of the company.

It’s quite evident that WooThemes has a very big voice amongst the web community and beyond, if you’re ahead of the rest, what is keeping you motivated to achieve great things everyday?

Mark: I think all 3 of us are quite competitive, both amongst ourselves and our competitors. We are always trying to knock each other off top spot for best selling theme, or studying our web traffic and blog posts were we are mentioned and planning how we can strengthen our position online with great themes, content and competitions. I think that definitely helps in achieving bigger things each month.

We also are lucky in the fact that we can collaborate with industry leading designers, so we get their personal styles infusing with ours to really create unique and trend-breaking designs.

Magnus: I think the advantage we have over “the competition”, is that we have a unique team composition, and that we all want to apply our ideas, to make Woo an inch better. Both Mark and Adii have also felt the heat, since my first themes proved to be the most popular 🙂

Adii has recently been involved in an interview stating that 90% of the marketing activities are down to him, would you say that your known more for quality themes or your marketing activities?

Mark: Definitely a combination of the two. Marketing poor quality themes wouldn’t exactly work in our favour especially with our rather viral Twitter profile. We pride ourselves on unique designs, built on a very stable theme framework boasting lots of useful functionality.

Magnus: We have all found the parts that we enjoy the most in Woo, and Adii has a knack for marketing, as I have a knack for doing support, so people sometimes only think Adii is running Woo, as his voice is so prominent 😉


Woo2 was hyped to the max, has your marketing since the Woo2 launch increased your hits/turnover?

Mark: Definitely. Woo2 launched with a much more competitive pricing structure for the club membership, that coupled with a far more sexy and usable company website has definitely done wonders for our traffic and sales.

Magnus: Yeah again I think the marketing we did through ads, twitter and other interactive marketing was spot on, and it’s really helped take us to the next level.

What would you say are the reasons why you have such a good reputation in the industry?

Mark: We were lucky enough to have got in early to the commercial theme market,  that said it was not all down to luck, we identified a big gap in the market and pounced on it. We were therefore mentioned quite a bit online amongst the early WordPress adopters.

We are also extremely vocal as to our plans, we love engaging with our community and getting their feedback on our next moves. This is directly related to our reputation. We adapt and mature quickly, but always do so to offer something better for our loyal users.

Magnus: I think the advantage we had at being early in the game, and having a great team has made us get a good reputation. I also believe that our designs, both self produced and those done by top designers, have elevated our themes above the rest.


44 Themes and more on their way, where do you see theme design going?

Mark: We are exploring so many different types of themes at the moment – business, multimedia, magazine/news, and personal themes so there is definitely not one direction we are moving in. That said more and more businesses are turning to WordPress for an affordable and very usable content management system so with every theme we try produce something breaking the traditional blog format of WordPress themes.

Magnus: What amazes me is how good the first few themes like Fresh News and Gazette are still doing. These themes have become the building blocks for us, and I think our main focus will still be around magazine, business and multimedia themes, but I’d like us to explore more niche themes as we keep growing. I think our customers crave updated designs, but with similar functionality, so that allows us to reinvent our older theme designs, while not reinventing the functionality behind them.

The Magento themes seem to be on the back-burner, what are the reasons for that happening?

Mark: We at WooThemes are big on ideas and quick on communicating them to our users. Sometimes probably a little too quickly. We’ve certainly learnt to take things one step at a time, developing 44 WordPress themes and now entering the Drupal market is a huge amount of work. Now that the platform has been built with Woo2 to support the sales of different CMS themes we can focus our attention to Drupal and Magento, with Drupal being the guinea pig.

Magnus: We like to think big, and it all sounded so good when we discussed it, but in retrospect I think we should have focused on taking one CMS at a time, and not promise to evolve to 3 other CMS off the bat. Hopefully we’ll get there in the end though.

On a personal level, how much time do each of you spend on Woo work, as most of you have your own little businesses behind the scenes?

Mark: All three of us are very entrepreneurial, but WooThemes is our day job and passion. Being internet based we have the flexibility of working the hours we want. Usually we work far too many, but we try to take it easy on a friday, and of course always find time for an XBOX session 🙂

Magnus: I actually find myself working way more now than when I had a 8-4 job. It’s just so much more motivating to spend time working than sitting in front of a TV. I probably spend anywhere from 6-12 hours a day working on Woo.


What are the three top goals for Woo over the next 12 months, considering you’re already reaching 1 million page views per month!?

Mark: 5 million page views per month. No, on a serious note we are not only drived by traffic and sales figures. We want to cement ourselves in the web design industry as the leading theme development company, but all the while having fun, doing what we enjoy, and to keep impressing our awesome community of users.

Magnus: I’m always eager to see growth and stability, as I hope to be working on Woo for years to come. Page views isn’t a goal in itself, but I think that is a result of our hard work with continuously pumping out quality themes. I’d like to continue on that path… Why change a winning formula?

Thank You

Thanks go to Mark and Magnus for answering the interview questions on behalf of WooThemes.

I interview Prisca Schmarsow

I recently had the chance to interview Prisca Schmarsow about work, teaching, web dev/design and everyday life. Thanks Prisca for taking part!

prisca_portraitSQFull name and Age please

Prisca Schmarsow, 39

Favourite Biscuit and Drink?

Amaretti & Capuccino

Last book your read and last movie you saw?

Book:: “Designing for the Web” (Mark Boulton)
film:: “Coraline”

Where and when did it all start?

Well, I was one of those people …. I used to think I am not cut out for working with computers. I started with hand-drawn visuals, doing pub blackboards and drawings/illlustration for adverts and did not think I would get my head around being creative on a ‘machine’. Quite funny now to think of it….
Gently pushed by my partner – I eventually did venture into the digital arena by doing a graphic design course – and it all started there. Painter was, and in many ways still is, my favourite app at the time. Doing graphic design work – I was soon drawn to the internet and its design possibilities. Though I was by then quite happy to work digitally – I was still a bit of a techno-phobe, thinking my head would not be able to cope with the technical complexities. So when I did start with webdesign – I took the then easier road of flash design. It gave me complete control over my designs. I absolutely loved creating flash websites though I of course soon realised its drawbacks and its place within webdesign overall.

And then there was “designing with web standards” by Jeffrey Zeldman, introducing me to webstandards and a better web 🙂 After finding Eric Meyer and his site – I went onto to learn handcoding and CSS from online resources — and here I am 🙂

Is there anyone in the industry you look up to?

There are many, too many to list really. I love the web for its online community spirit — I feel I owe my knowledge and understanding to all the helpful and lovely geeks out there. I could tell you lots of stories on how various people have helped me through various stages of learning webdesign – this would fill a book 😉


Suffice to say that Eric Meyer is my all time guru – I feel I owe him and Jeffrey Zeldman my current career. Had it not been for their writing, sharing of knowledge and inspiration on so many levels – I don’t think I’d be doing what I am doing now and loving it. And of course now there are many more inspiring people, too many to mention.

You teach web design, how did you get in to teaching?

Teaching is not something I ever envisaged myself doing, to be honest. I’d been working with graphic and flash design for about 2 years when the training place where I had done my first course had a vacancy for a graphic design and multimedia tutor. I would not have dreamed to apply but work was slow and my former tutor encouraged me to go for it. So I did – and to my surprise got the job despite my complete lack of experience. And though it was incredibly nerve-wracking initially – I loved it. Now I run the ‘design for the web‘ (as well as the ‘digital animation‘) course at TowerHamlets College and can teach what I consider good working practices to my students, hoping to send them into our industry with good skills – aware of what matters: good user-friendly design, web standards, accessibility and so on. And the ones who make it – make me proud 🙂

What does a general day consist of for you?

Always start with a cup of coffee 🙂 I usually work on several projects at the same time, splitting my day’s time between them. Depending on whether the academic year is in flow or whether I can focus entirely on design – I divide my time up between my 2 jobs, taking care of my clients as well as my students. I usually take care of formalities in the morning and do a lot of the creative work towards the end of the day or evening. Love the holidays from teaching for being able to keep my own hours so I can do some late sessions if the mood takes me.

As well as teaching you also have your team, how is that going?

The eyedea team is currently undergoing a change – we’re working on our new site at the moment as  we are shifting our focus now primarily onto webdesign. It all started as a freelance collective, combining multiple skills and working together as a team. Two heads are always better than one and we love collaborating on various projects and learning from each other.


As time went on we continued to work mainly on webdesign projects so we’ve decided to refocus. We’ve all still got our own areas and specialities, from photography over illustration to writing – but our main field remains the web. So I’m really enjoying designing our new site and looking forward getting it out there.

Where does your heart lie, with design or development?

Design all the way… I do enjoy the challenge of coding and certain aspects of front end development – but if I had to chose one over the other, nothing can beat design. I’m a big fan of the Bauhaus and its principles which are my motivation. Design is for people—has purpose—aims to be used and enjoyed though it might go unnoticed through its successfully designed and implemented functions.

Do you prefer teaching or full time design and development?

It’s the balance between the two that I like. Though teaching can be very hard work at times (mainly due to the bureaucratic mountain of paperwork it involves) it also keep you on your toes. I enjoy the challenges it brings and the learning environment, I remain a student myself.

And I do love design work, from start to finish – love the entire process and couldn’t do without it. And I do consider myself a designer who teaches and not the other way around so I suppose design would have to be my final choice.

What do you consider to be the biggest contributing factor to your success?

The open and sharing spirit of the web. Without the many many friendly and sharing people online I would not be doing or loving what I do. In my early days of flash design – I learnt everything from online resources. I had had 1 day of flash introduction and went from there. Learning from online tutorials, forums, even personal support from individuals. My first ever site went online with someone in the Netherlands holding my hand – taking me through every single step via online chat. Overwhelmed by the technical aspects – it would have taken me ages by myself so this was a major moment for me – and I could not believe how supportive the online community could be.
Fast forward to “designing with web standards” – had it not been for Jeffrey’s book – and then Eric’s site…. I would not be handcoding now, or even have a clue about good webdesign. And then there are people like … actually too many to mention, I’d only forget some vital names. Sites like ‘A List Apart’, blogs by inspiring designers as well as developers who explain in plain English complex techniques and so on keep me learning all the time. (This is why I don’t really agree with the term ‘self taught’. Though I did the learning by myself in a physical sense – I would not say I am self taught – but rather have been taught by so many  lovely geeks online)

So the short answer simply is: the biggest contributing factor are is the open and sharing spirit online.

Are you a mac or PC user?

Mac – though I think I was just lucky to learn on a mac. Saying that – I have to admit I am always in favour of gorgeous visuals which is why I’m happily sticking with Apple 🙂

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Hopefully continuing to try to make the web a better place alongside everyone else.

Will you be heading to anymore conferences in the near future?

Would love to – depending on time and money. At times some of the best conferences clash with my teaching — or are simply too pricey for a freelancer… But I do love the talks and the slides seem to be getting more creative now as well.

Prisca Schmarsow Portfolio Website

I interview Andrew Disley

Andrew, thanks ever so much for taking part in this interview so close to Christmas.

1. Full Name and Age please. 🙂

Andrew Disley, 23.

2. Favourite Biscuit and Drink.

Biscuit: Chocolate Shortbread. Drink: Latte with extra shots.

3. Last Book you read and last movie you saw.

Last book: Double Cross by James Patterson. Last movie: The Dark Knight.

4. Where and When did it all start?

My passion for the web began during my early high school years, I remember first being introduced to Google a few months after it launched by one of our teachers and I even remember the excitement I got while waiting for music to download using the original Napster which just amazed me, I was hooked. I spend all my hard earned paper-round money on our Dial-Up connection and it wasn’t long before I began to play online games like Counter-Strike. I joined gaming clans which inevitably got me into designing and building sites for these clans. I started out in Frontpage but soon found myself hand-coding the HTML because I didn’t like the “ugly” markup that Frontpage produced and much preferred to know what was going on under the hood. Professionally my career started when I was offered a job a local firm JJB Sports Plc looking after their websites.

5. Is there anyone in the industry who you look up to?

Lots of people, many of the people I’ve worked with in the past and many of the well-know names along with local folks I know through GeekUp and the likes. There are way too many people to list here.

6. What was a key factor in your professional growth and development?

It would have to be the time at Code, learning form the people there and working on high-profile accounts. I’ve also a real passion for what I do and the try to achieve the best possible outcome for whatever it maybe I’m working on.

7. Where does your heart lie, with design or development? And why.

Development, from an early age I loved taking things apart to find out how they worked and rebuilding them.

8. What was it like working at Code Computerlove?

Scary and quite intimidating at first, I’d never been around so many amazingly talented people before who had such love for the industry. Fantastically awesome people, and some great projects but there were some tough deadlines.

9. What was the biggest project you worked on whilst working there?

I’ve worked on some really big accounts and projects over the years at Code, but I think the biggest and most testing had to be the rebuild of in July/August 2007.

10. Throughout your entire career to date, is there any particular problem you’ve ran in to more than once? Clients, Jobs, Work?

The biggest problem I find myself facing is taking on too much, not just on the web work front. I’ve got that balance right, I think. I do still find myself pulling all nighters to meet deadlines. It’s the other projects I get involved with that stretch my schedule.

11. What do you consider to be the biggest contributing factor to your success?

Dedication and support from my family and fiancee, Kerry.

12. Where do you get your inspiration from?

Primarily online via the blogs and showcase sites, looking at what people are doing and how they’re pushing things technology wise.

13. As we all know you’re a mac man, what are your 3 favourite apps?

I’ve many more than 3 favourite apps but if I had to list only 3 it would have to be: TextMate, Quicksilver and YoJimbo as they are the most used apps on my machines.

14. What made you want to go full time freelance?

The flexibility, I found there just wasn’t enough hours in day to do my full-time job at Code and all the extracurricular projects that I take on. There were times when I could really do with taking a day of at short notice which you can’t really do when you work for “the man”. In all honesty there still isn’t enough time, but I can at short notice shuffle things around.

Role: Design and Development

15. How do you balance your time between your different businesses?

It’s tough and I think I’m doing a decent job of it, although if you ask my fiancee I’m sure she’ll tell you otherwise. When I do figure it out, I’ll let you know the secret.

16. Where do you see the future being?

I want to grow my freelance portfolio and I’m also in the process of teaming up with a few other awesome minds and in the not so distant future we’re hoping to launch a couple of things.

17. Are you heading to any conferences over the next year?

Hopefully, I’d love to make it to Reboot this year, along with a few BarCamps and there are talks of a local live streaming of TED via the TED Associate Membership.

18. If you had one goal to reach (anything) within 3 years, what would it be?

I’ve recently got engaged and it would be absolutely fantastic if in 3 years time we’ve tied the knot and bought our first home together. That’s more than one but I put them both under the heading “building the family”.

19. If you had one piece of advice for anyone wanting to venture in to the your industry, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, there a lots of offline and online communities around that have members who are very happy to offer advice and support.


I interview Sarah Parmenter

Hi Sarah, a big thanks for taking part in the interview!

1. Full Name and Age please. 🙂

Sarah-Jane Parmenter – not long turned 25

2. Favourite Biscuit and Drink.

It’s got to be Oreo and De-caff coffee,  I’m allergic to caffeine which somewhat limits my coffee consumption but I’m partial to Starbucks Christmas coffee!

3. Last Book you read and last movie you saw.

Last book I read was The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris, the classic that I think most web people have read,  and last movie I saw was Quantum of Solace.

4. Where and When did it all start?

When I was 3 my Dad sat me on our Atari and taught me how to play a game called “Kings Quest 3”  – but on a web design front, it all started when I was 14, so that would have been 1997. I remember having the Internet which charged you per minute and thinking chat rooms were amazing. My friends and I used to use Geocities as personal homepages for photos of our friends and family. My best friend had a page of her family photos, another friend thought it would be quite funny to get me to see if I could hack into her account (yahoo security wasn’t that hot back then, all I had to know was her dogs name to change the password) and change all her pictures to Transvestites (running joke as her family were all above 6ft) instead. The Geocities UI was clunky and instead I learnt the HTML to quickly enable me to change the pictures every night after she changed them back. She never knew it was me and I only owned up to it about a year ago.

When I had grown up and become a bit more mature (!!) our family friend from Australia came over who is a web designer carving his name out in the Australian web design world. He handed me a copy of Dreamweaver and I decided to tinker with it every night after school to see what I could do. I then had a brief stint in casting, whereby I did more work on the company website than casting people in commercials, I decided from that point on to go solo and try and get into the web design world, having no overheads and nothing to pay out for made this an easy step for me.

I then built up the business from my Mum and Dad’s spare room, after 18 months the business had outgrown the room and I looked into renting an office suite in Leigh-on-Sea, this I did and employed a friend of mine to help me run the business. In 2007 I bought my house with Stuart and it coincided with the girl who worked for me wanting to move to London with her boyfriend. The building in which our office resided had been refurbished, and not for the better – we found we were taking clients out rather than seeing them at the office, so it seemed a good transition to move out of the office and set back up again with a dedicated office at home, and this is where I am today. You’d be suprised how many of the well known web designers work from home!

5. Is there anyone in the industry who you look up to?

Andy Clarke and Twitterers, Andy is a web standards guru and genuinely nice guy, we keep in contact and he always makes me laugh, I’ve learnt so much from him and his books. People on twitter are just amazing too – always willing to help and offer guidance. Twitter has been an amazing tool for me, I’ve learnt so much from different people.

6. What was a key factor in your professional growth and development?

The Australians. As Roger is an insomniac he’s practically online 24/7 so whenever I got stuck I was able to get an answer quickly and finish what I was trying to do. This is still the same now, he’s an amazing person to have on board.

7. Where does your heart lie, with design or development? And why.

Development, I think. I get more satisfaction out of development as design is classed as art and it’s so subjective, I do absolutely love designing however I don’t like the process of getting sign off, where you grapple with the typical “make my logo bigger” comments. I have had the opportunity to work with other designers recently, this has been great as you both have common goals and objectives. I’d ideally love to fill up my diary with other designers work!

8. Out of these 3, WordPress, Light CMS and Expression Engine, which do you like the most and why?

Expression Engine without a doubt. Andy Clarke introduced me to it and it’s capabilities overwhelm me, it’s just an amazing tool that can be used in so many situations, I’m still learning about it but I’ve managed to gain quite a  bit of knowledge in a small amount of time just experimenting with it.

9. Where did the name YouKnowWho come from?

I was browsing around the Internet and came across a link at the bottom of a website that said “Designed by You Know Who” –  I was curious and clicked it, it went to a totally differently named company site and it became clear they did that for inquisitive people to click on. I then decided I loved the name and the potential it could have for future marketing and snapped it up there and then.

10. What is the biggest project you have worked on?

A personal one actually. One Valentines day we decided to flood our local privately owned shopping area with heart shaped balloons and hand written cards simply saying “Love You Know Who” with our contact details on the back – we had over 3000 balloons and to pump up and over 400 cards to write. We had a team and went out at 5am putting them in front of the shops. By the time everyone started going to work the area was flooded, it looked amazing.

11. Throughout your entire career to date, is there any particular problem you’ve ran in to more than once? Clients, Jobs, Work, Family?

Clients – ones that barter with your prices are bad news, never do a job on the cheap as a one off, they will always expect further work at that price. Never send anything over without them paying their invoice in full first and always get a design brief. If I had lived by these rules the first 2 years in business I would have done a lot better!

12. What do you consider to be the biggest contributing factor to your success?

I don’t believe I am successful yet – I think I do my job very well and that it’s unusual for a girl to do this job. I make mistakes, we all do, but I like to think my mistakes are kept to a minimum and always try to learn from them quickly. The definition of success for me is the ability to hand pick clients you want to work with and disregard those you don’t, I’m not in that position yet!

13. Where do you get your inspiration from and where are you most inspirational?

I find inspiration mainly online. There are great galleries for almost anything on the internet, I especially love When not online though, it’s generally about lunchtime when I’m walking the dog, I’ll come up with a crazy idea for a website or realise the best way to mark-up a site.

14. As we all know you’re a mac girl, what are your 3 favourite apps?

Adium, LittleSnapper and Things.

15. What other projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently in e-commerce mode, I think due to the economic downturn people are placing budgets online rather than retail stores. I’m currently working on a skateboarding store, a fancy dress store and a DIY store.

16. How do you balance your time between work and normal life?

I’m rubbish at it. I used to be excellent when I had an office as it was a  15 minute drive away and quite scary when no one was in there, but now I’m in my home office, I’m rubbish. I’m always checking my email or working out what app might help me run my business better, but because I enjoy what I do, it never feels like work.

17. Where do you see the future being?

I would love my future to be in designing and building top notch sites for other designers. I’ve had a taste of this recently and it’s great as they know why you might want to leave whitespace or not make a logo 500% of normal size. I went to a psychic recently and she said I’m going to be doing a lot of talking via work based travel, which could mean conferences – this is something I’d really love to get into as it lends itself perfectly to me also being in performing arts.

18. You’re a well known designer, do you class yourself as famous?

Not at all!! I’d be surprised if many people had heard of me, I haven’t written any books or spoken at any conferences yet so I don’t think my name is out there as much as others, I’m gradually building a profile but I think because I’m relatively young and female it’s a tougher job – not using the female card but as the majority of web designers are male I think it’s easier for them to align themselves with other male web designers.

19. Are you heading to any conferences over the next year?

Yes, I’m hoping to go back to FOWD next year and I really want to get to various workshops of Andy Clarke’s.

20. If you had one goal to reach (anything) within 3 years, what would it be?

To have my own studio down here with 2 others working with me. I’ve only ever wanted a small studio, not an office, a studio – that’s my dream.

21. If you had one piece of advice for anyone wanting to venture in to the your industry, what would it be?

Specialise. Don’t try and be clever being mediocre at loads of things just be fantastic in one.

p.s. Random questions from myself, theatre and web design? How did they become mixed?

Good question. I’ll go with the short answer 🙂 – They don’t really mix I guess, theatre is something I go into in my own time, it’s a great escape from sitting at a desk all day. Web design is my job, that I’m lucky enough to love too. Sometimes there is an overlap, like when I did the VoxPops at FOWA this year, it was like water off a ducks back as I’ve done TV in the past (that’s a whole other story) and I know enough about web design to competently interview people, that was a win win overlap for me 🙂

Thanks ever so much for taking time out of your schedule Sarah and answering questions for Floobe.

Sarah Parmenters Blog –

Company Website –

Twitter –

I interview Ryan Carson

A couple of days before Future of Web Design (FOWD), Ryan kindly took part in an interview. Thanks go to Ryan for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions.

Q1. Full Name and Age please.

Ryan Carson, 31

Q2. Favorite Biscuit and Drink.

Double-stuff Oreo and Dark roasted coffee with cream.

Q3. Last book you read and last most you saw.

Predictable Irrationality (or ‘Predictably Irrational’ – can’t remember which).

Q4. Did you enjoy working from home when it all started?

No, I found it pretty tough. It’s hard when you don’t have someone to bounce ideas off and ask for opinions. It’s also tough to stay disciplined. I think a mix of working at home and office works best.

Q5. Is there anyone in the industry who you look up to?

Jason Fried, Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Williams, Kathy Sierra… the list goes on.

Q6. What was a key factor in your professional growth and development?

My father and mother drilled into me that I could do whatever I put my mind to. This has given me the confidence to do a lot of what we’ve done.

Q7. Where does your heart lie, with web apps or conferences and why?

I love the web and technology, and I also love connecting people. Carsonified will always continue to build apps and sites, but our core revenue comes from events. I love seeing people’s faces light up at events when they’re encouraged, inspired or challenged. There’s such a buzz when everyone comes together.

Q8. Out of these 3, WordPress, Light CMS and Expression Engine, which do you like the most and why?

WordPress – hands down. Matt has done an amazing job with WordPress – it’s easy to use, completely open source, and very powerful. What more could you want?

Q9. Do you see Carsonified as work or just a way of life?

Definitely a way of life. It’s a part of me and even though we only work four days a week, I think almost constantly about new ideas and projects.

Q10. What was the biggest project you’ve worked on so far?

Both DropSend and FOWA London are huge projects. There obviously very different but both are challenging and rewarding.

Q11. Throughout your entire career to date, is there any particular problem you’ve ran in to more than once? Clients, Jobs, Work, Family?

The hardest part about running Carsonified is that there are really big ups and downs. When it’s rocking, it’s rockin. When it’s hard, it’s really hard. However, I love crafting a company where the team and our customers feel loved and cared for. That’s my ultimate goal.

Q12. What do you consider to be the biggest contributing factor to your success?

The fact that we try quite hard to treat other people like we want to be treated. We do our best to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and contacts.

Q13. Where do you get your inspiration from?

My wife, Gill and my son Jackson.

Q14. What are your 3 favourite apps?

Gmail, Things and Twitterific.

Q15. Do you think any company can do a 4 day working week?

You bet. It just takes a hell of a lot of determination and a specific decision to focus on quality of life instead of revenue.

Q16. How do you balance your time between family, carsonified, your apps, fowd, fowa etc??

It’s hard – we constantly balance everything. That’s something I find quite hard. However, I’m working harder at leaving work at work. I turn off email on my iPhone over the weekend and try to Tweet less.

Q17. Where do you see the future being?

For the company? We’ll be doing more events (probably smaller instead of big expos) and building more apps.

Q18. You’re a well known individual, do you class yourself as famous?

Nope 🙂 I might know a few people in our small web world, but I’m no where close to being famous.

Q19. Are you ready to head out to other parts of the UK to do other conferences, i.e. fowa or fowd?

You bet. We’re planning on taking FOWA to Dublin soon!

Q20. If you had one goal to reach (anything) within 3 years, what would it be?

Launching another web app, and taking FOWA and FOWD to more places. Also, a little more cash in the bank wouldn’t be bad 😉

Q21. If you had one piece of advice for anyone wanting to venture in to your industry, what would it be?

Be bold and humble. Anyone is contactable, so just keep trying and be respectful. Find a way to be helpful to someone before asking for their help.

p.s. Random question from myself, what core qualities do you look for when employing someone?

Friendliness and helpfulness

Ryan, good luck in your future and look forward to talking to you again soon. Would love to pop down to Carsonified HQ at some point.

That’d be fab! Stop by anytime 🙂

Ryan’s Website: |