Interview with Web Designer Gavin Golden

  • May 30, 2016
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I wanted to revamp my website but had no idea how to pick a designer. Then it came to me: When I see a website I like, contact its designer. And so I did—author Helen Harper’s site (http://helenharper.co.uk/) led me to Gavin Golden, a personable web designer with a background in systems analysis and design. He did a wonderful job and consented to be interviewed here.

Gavin, when I realized you were living in Malaysia, I almost didn’t hire you! I wasn’t sure if our software, the time difference, and money exchange would create problems. But I think it all went pretty smoothly. Do you find living where you do to be a challenge in terms of finding work?

It’s something I keep in mind at the very start of a project. I do try to be upfront and manage expectations right away. If people are staying away because of it, they’ve never told me! It’s only really an issue with the Americas, as the 12-hour difference gives a narrow window for communication. I do also have to make it clear sometimes that I am an actual qualified programmer with native English—there’s a stereotype about the “Asian IT guy with the fake Western name just reading from a script” that can put people off, justifiably or not.

By building up a relationship with a client where they can trust that I’ll be honest, that when I say it can be fixed I mean it and that I really do want to get the issue fixed for them ASAP, distance and circumstances become less of a problem. I want them to think of me as “Gav from il.lustr.us” rather than “some guy in Malaysia.”

Do clients ever say, “Oh that’s wonderful, now make it cooler?” How do you deal with those abstract “I don’t know what I want but make it great” requests?

I do expect some adjustments. I try my best to make a mockup that represents how the design will look (and to have the client agree that that is what they want) in advance of getting into the nitty gritty of code, but it’s a bit like shopping for clothes. Sometimes it can look great on the rack but once you try it on for real you see the problems. Which is fine! I’d rather have a mockup “on the rack” rejected than an entire design.

Coming from a programming and systems design background, I have plenty of experience turning a process into logic and then into code, but I’m not sure anything ever prepares you for trying to turn a three-sentence website request into a design. Nontechnical clients are understandably going to be less able to describe what they want or like, and sometimes clients with some understanding can be worse. I always try to create a dialogue with clients about what they like and don’t like, so that we get to where we want even if it’s by trial and error.

What would you like to be asked?

I’d like to be asked how “programmer-designer-photographer” fits on my business card. I know that it is something people think is a bit strange or indicative of a jack-of-all trades, but I’ve never had the opportunity to refute that. I’ve always enjoyed all three; so my current situation of alternating these roles is personally very satisfying. The real problem is convincing others that these are complementary disciplines.

Programmers have a pretty unexciting reputation. The fashionable term at the moment is “software engineer,” which is fine. A less kind nickname is “code-monkey,” a basher of buttons until something works. How unfair! I don’t think these terms convey that producing software isn’t just technical know-how but does often become an art in itself. No one would deny a master carpenter recognition of art in the finish of a piece of furniture, even if it began with clinical measurements and sawing. Programming presents you with problems, sometimes with one solution, often with millions. The little adrenaline rush when you solve a problem elegantly gets you through the rest of the day. It’s the same feeling as when you move a graphical element an inch to the left and suddenly it’s beautiful; it’s the same feeling as when you line up a photograph half a second in advance and click—and know before you ever see the result that you’ve captured a moment to enjoy forever.

In the end you might be the only one to see it; users don’t usually trawl through the source code of the hundreds of different software apps they use every day, so you could just bash out a solution in any ugly manner and usually achieve the same result. But, as they say, we make art for art’s sake.

 

You can find Gavin at il.lustr.us.

  • Photo by Gavin Golden

 

 

Interview with Horror Novelist Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin

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You write speculative fiction that’s mostly horror, like your recently published novel Snare (The Waiting Dark Book 1). Why horror?

The world’s a scary place. Writing about bizarre bad stuff helps me deflect what’s out there. It allows me to mold it into something I can deal with.

I heard you went a little above and beyond in your research. Something about duct tape?

Oh no, the duct tape! One of my characters was bound hand and foot and gagged with a strip of duct tape. I had to get her free but didn’t know how, so I asked my husband to tie me up (please stop snickering) and slap some tape over my mouth. I learned two things: duct tape smells vile (see the anagram for evil?), and sometimes there are ways to get it off your face without using your hands.

Good thing you didn’t ask about the crawlspace incident.

The crawlspace incident?

No way—I’m not going into that one here.

Okay, I’ll let that go this time. Is there a reason you went with traditional publishing instead of indie?

I wanted the structural support and industry weight a publisher can offer. Indie publishing is a lot of work—and to do it right is even more work. The whole marketing issue aside, I wanted to focus more on the writing and less on being general contractor to formatters, artists, and distribution entities. I see what indie authors go through and am in awe of the stamina required to do a fine job on both the writing and the business ends. I’m already involved in indie anthologies, but maybe someday I’ll be brave enough to attempt an indie novel or novella.

Do you have a writing routine?

I sit at the desk, push the cat off the keyboard, and vacuum the fur from the keys. Then I start writing.

Actually, my routine varies depending on what else is going on—editing work, family obligations, appointments. What I have is a certain amount of writing that I want to complete every week or every two weeks. I prefer writing in the morning until I reach a logical stopping point or have to turn to something else, but if mornings don’t work then I’ll do whatever it takes to reach the goal I’ve set for myself.

Any advice for writers?

Grow a thick skin. Be persistent. Do not give up. If you throw enough pasta against the wall, you will eventually learn how to make viable patterns that stick. Be professional. Be kind to your fellow writers. Be grateful to your readers. Love your pets.

Where can we find Snare?

It’s on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Smashwords. It can also be purchased through Permuted Press.

Where can people find more information about you or your other writing?

My website is cvnelkin.com. I’m also on Twitter (@cvnelkin) and Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

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