Kirsty Burgoine is a web designer & php web developer based in Shropshire in the UK and a geek in general. Working for a digital agency by day and a freelancer by night, she is an active twitterer and has her own site. She also recently started her own blog, which has received a fantastic initial response with over 550 page views since its launch a month ago, and is also an active member of ShropGeek.
You work at a digital agency, but you’re also a freelancer; how did you become a freelancer, and where do you want to go with it in the future?
Becoming a freelancer came about a bit by accident really.
About 18 months ago I was working for a graphic design company as a mac artworker / front end web developer. I had been teaching myself php for a little so when they reduced my hours to 3 days a week I started to freelance as a php developer.
I was very lucky and not only managed to gain a few of my own clients, I landed some regular freelance work at another print and web agency in Shrewsbury. However, working for 2 rival companies became awkward and so when I was offered a full time position as an intermediate php developer I jumped at it.
I did initially stop freelancing when I first started. I found myself in a position where I was the only developer for about 4 months, which as I was supposed to be in an intermediate position, was a steep learning curve.
I started freelancing again after about 6 months because I love the variety of work I get to do. In my day job I have a very specific role within a team and framework but as a freelancer I get to expand my skills and try new things that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do otherwise.
I don’t have a solid plan for the future, at the moment I’m just enjoying learning as much I can. If I gain enough clients to pay the rent, I may start my own business (I quite like the idea of normal sleeping patterns sometime before I’m 50) but its not something I’m actively pursuing at the moment.
What inspired you to become a developer and what inspires you to stay a developer?
I came out of university with still no clue as to exactly what I wanted to do, My degree was in Media Studies which isn’t very specialized but I managed to land a position as a Media/Marketing assistant for a musical instrument wholesaler. I designed packaging for a whole array of instruments, created promotional flyers, press advertising and every 18 months designed and created their 300 page product catalogue.
When the company I worked for decided they needed a website, I said I’d give it a go. Once I got into it I remember thinking ‘this is a bit good’ and after that, I knew I wanted to build websites and I haven’t looked back!
Now, I continue to be a developer just because I absolutely love it. The web industry is continually evolving. New technologies, and trends are always appearing and you can’t stand still otherwise you get left behind. I love the challenge of a new project, thinking about the ways I could approach it and its always satisfying when a site goes live.
Give one piece of advice to newcomers to design and those who are starting up their own companies.
For people new to design, I’d say pay attention to what the site is supposed to do and how easy it is to do that. You can design and build a stunning looking website but if it doesn’t do what it is supposed to the site is worthless.
Starting a new business, I have found that nailing down the exact spec for a website is probably one of the most important things. Everybody has different expectations of what a website should do and if you don’t nail it all down from the beginning, you become a victim of ‘scope creep’. You can find yourself spending hours (maybe days) doing additional work that was never agreed and you can’t charge extra for. I find keeping a standard document of what features are included on my sites handy and then just customize that to suit each brief.
Do you have any upcoming projects that we should be excited about?
I am involved in a project at the moment that I am really excited about.
‘The Oswestry Festival of the Word’ is a series of events being held in and around Oswestry (in Shropshire) to celebrate ‘the word’ written, spoken and sung. A lot of local businesses are involved and the line up of events will feature all sorts of things including Book signings, local bands and music, theatre events and more.
I’m currently designing the logo and website for the festival. Although its all still in concept stages, the design is quite quirky to try to combat the stigma that ‘reading is boring’ and will hopefully reflect the slightly anarchic feel the event organizers are trying to bring to the whole thing. For me as a designer and a developer this is very exciting.
Also, (literally while I’m answering this) it looks like I may become a contributor for Creative Boom Birmingham. Although I don’t live in Birmingham, Shropshire really isn’t far away so, it is a great opportunity to show that London and the south are not the only places that have a fantastic creative industry. Of course that all depends on whether I can think of anything to contribute! ~ grin!
Which upcoming designers do you think we should watch out for in the future?
That’s a tough one, I confess that I don’t really follow the work of specific designers, but if I had to choose…
What applications and hardware do you swear by?
I love my Mac, I have a Mac Mini at home and it is ace. The question ‘Are you a Mac or a PC?’ only really has only one acceptable answer for me! (and its not PC) ~ grin!
Most of the software I use is Adobe these days, I originally learnt to code using Macromedia Ultradev so have never moved away from Dreamweaver.
Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign have also always been my choice because I find the Adobe Creative Suite easy to use no matter what type of project I’m working on. Print or web.
Any hardware or software on your wishlist for 2010?
My wishlist is never ending so I won’t bore you with it all but I am planning to get a new Mac Mini next year so that I can upgrade to Snow Leopard.
Name a few of your favourite websites of 2009.
I really like the Vimeo website, the way the background moves as you scroll down is really cool.
I regularly check the Envato sites (Tuts+, Theme Forest, AppStorm, etc.), I love how the branding has been carried through all of their sites but they still each have an individual style. Their blog has some great articles and (if I ever find time) I am hoping to contribute some php scripts to the Theme Forest site.
What’s your view on HTML5, will you be using it and if not, when?
At first I was concerned because XHTML was being ditched as I always use that. But actually after looking into it further, I think it will be very good. Everything evolves and moves onward and I do use a similar structure on my pages to the elements they plan to introduce i.e.
<div id=”footer”> etc. So I don’t think it will actually change the way I work a drastic amount.
And finally, á la Inside the Actors Studio, what turns you on?
I think a polite way to describe me is ‘quirky’, therefore anything that’s a little unusual always appeals to me.
Music is a major passion. I don’t play anything (I’m so bad they took the triangle away from me in school), but I listen to it at work, at home, in the car. Pretty much anywhere I can and I try to go to gigs as often as possible.
I’m a huge fan of graffiti art, and have a hard drive full of photos of unusual graffiti I’ve spotted when I’ve been out and about (which I will one day put up on flickr).
I also love to go walking, living in Shropshire means I get access to some fantastic scenery in both England and Wales so I try to get out as often as possible (although not as often as I would like). It’s good to unplug from my computer for a while and a great way to blow out the cobwebs, literally if I’ve gone up a mountain!
I’d like to thank Kirsty Burgoine for giving me the opportunity to interview her, it was a pleasure. If you would like to contact Kirsty, you can follow her on Twitter or visit her website.
About the Author
Luke Jones is a freelance website designer and SEO from the United Kingdom. He has been working for himself for over a year and specialises in site usability and accessability standards. If you enjoyed this post, then you could follow him on Twitter (@traxor) or visit his website (Traxor Designs).
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