Alan Laidlaw

Why I Switched From Front-End Developer to UX Architect

I have always wanted to be Geordi LaForge, the chief engineer on Star Trek: The Next Generation. While Picard worked out psychological quandaries with other lifeforms, Geordi kept his focus on the thing that kept them in space in the first place.

My favorite scenes are when Geordi figured out how to save the ship by rejiggering the phase inducers with the trans-warp drive – or something like that. Fucking brilliant. Geordi’s expertise impressed me more than Picard’s monologues or Ryker’s trombone solos. Geordi didn’t have hobbies, he didn’t even take time off work.

I’m the Senior Front-End Developer at my agency for a few more days and then I’ll be trading hats for the title UX Architect. When I tell people at my company about my new role, I get some strange glances, like Geordi just told the crew that he’ll be the new ship’s councilor. Councilor Troi was an empath. This was like having the mutant power of boredom. Empathy never saved the ship. And even Commander Data, the robot who couldn’t feel things, gave same quality of advice that Troi gave. I don’t know she got a seat next to the captain, but gender politics were pretty strange in the 90’s.I’ve traded coding for customer satisfaction surveys.

Like Councilor Troi, empathy is a big part of UX.Another big part of UX is bullshit. The term is dangerously meaningless.Meaning it can lead to conclusions like “if she floats, she must be a witch”. Anyone who has empathy can do UX. Even Commander Data could do UX. Another problem is that UX is incredibly subjective so it’s hard to pin down dollar value to it. Personas and qualitative research ensure that the thing being made solves the client’s problem. “Problem-finding over problem-solving1” requires empathy. But is it as important as producing code?


  1. Eric Dahl’s UX Axioms

Law and Web Development

Being a freelance web developer is like being a criminal defense lawyer. When you get a case, the first thing you do is look for previous cases that establish precedence. As a web developer, you look for plugins or libraries that solve your client’s problem.

Make Terminal Love You Back

tl;dr – when you make aliases, add instructions.

Terminal – the name is full of foreboding and the User Interface delivers.

If you’re a developer, Terminal lets you move really fast. Mastering the multitude of commands can get daunting though, and can suck time. Fortunately, Terminal lets you have a sidekick called .bash_profile.

Imagine Terminal is the infinite neon-strafed lightscape from Tron. You’re on a lightcycle and .bash_profile is in the sidecar, clutching a map.

Using Git Branches to Make Wordpress Multiverses

If you make a lot of custom Wordpress sites for clients, working locally becomes a hassle.

You can either wipe out an old install, create a new install or do something fancy like a multisite install. I’ve tried them all, and they all amount to tons of unused or forgotten directories.

Because of this, many Wordpress devs work directly on the server, but that creates a host of other problems.

For example, if you use Git at all, it’s probably just an afterthought. Git can be so much more. In fact, Git solved all my problems with working locally.

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