Software Development
Design / POC in Tech / Roundups / Web development

Ryan Brown, Kapowza’s newest tech hire, on why front-end web development is like building sandcastles

The developer and content manager talks about design trends and offers some troubleshooting advice.

Ryan Brown. (Courtesy photo)

This editorial article is a part of Design Month of's editorial calendar.

For Canton-based creative agency Kapowza, there’s been an uptick in digital work recently, from a revamp of the Baltimore Restaurant Week website to social media content.

The influx of work has also meant adding an in-house web developer to the team: Ryan Brown recently joined Kapowza as developer and content manager. The Baltimore native brings a decade of web design experience and has worked on websites for ecommerce and local businesses.

Brown said he was excited to join a tight-knit team that he called “small and mighty,” but things are a bit different during the pandemic. For instance, starting a new role in this time was reason for Brown to upgrade his home office in Bolton Hill, rather than set up a new space inside Kapowza’s Natty Boh Tower HQ.

Still, the work goes on, and for Brown, a big chunk of that work means creating new websites with tools such as HTML, CSS, jQuery and JavaScript. It’s work that involves taking what a designer has put together, and translating it to what it will look like on the web.

“When a designer is giving you a page layout, they’re giving you the ideal form of the website,” Brown said. The work of getting it to the web includes ensuring details are in place that will allow the user to interact with it.

The simplest answer usually is the correct one.

“I liken front-end web development to building sandcastles, because while it’s fun and relaxing to me at this point, you still have to have attention to detail to the smallest grain of sand — or pixels in this case,” Brown said. “Everything matters from letter spacing to line height.”

This means considering what certain elements will look like when a cursor is hovering over a dropdown, or what happens when someone clicks it. Designers will consider these things, Brown said, but at times it falls to web developers to fill in the gaps. It’s a process that can invite collaboration between designers and developers.

“There is a difference between seeing a final and approved design for a website and then seeing it living and breathing for a browser,” Brown said. “You want to make sure this is exactly how they imagined it was going to look once it is moving.”

What trends is the developer seeing for websites? Elements like 3D objects and virtual reality show promise for a new level of interaction with the content.

Brown also said he was thankful for one thing that’s already being implemented more widely: dark mode, which turns a white background on a browser to black. It requires extra work for developers as they work with an entirely different style sheet. But for folks who spend their days in front of screens, “anything that can be less harsh is better.”

Experience has brought some lessons for Brown over the years. When it comes to troubleshooting an issue with a site, things can get frustrating. In trying to find an answer, it can be tempting to think that it’s necessary to tear down the entire thing and build it back up. But when there’s a problem, he has found that it’s usually a matter of working back through what you did to find the answer. And it helps not to overthink things.

“The simplest answer usually is the correct one,” he said.

Sound advice for troubleshooting — and life.

Companies: Kapowza
Series: Design Month 2020

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