With the overwhelming number of tools, libraries, and technologies out there, it’s impossible to know everything. Yet web designers place a great deal of pressure on themselves to keep up. It can lead to a feeling of being burned out and hopelessly behind.
The truth is that there is only so much you can know. After all, you have clients to serve and a limited amount of time for learning. Thus, we must focus on what’s most relevant to our job.
This is one of the hardest things to accept. We’re often bombarded with messages about the things that we should know. If not, we may not measure up to our peers.
Each of us has limitations. So, how do we learn to accept them? How can we still thrive as designers and developers? Let’s examine the pressures of keeping up and the realities of this industry.
The Trouble With Forcing Yourself To Learn
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in this situation. You’re working on a project, and your client requests a new feature (never mind the scope creep for the moment). The feature requires a skill you aren’t so adept at – let’s say it’s writing some custom PHP.
Sure, you have some experience with the language. But you’ve never taken on something of this magnitude. You’re a little bit wary but agree to do it.
You’re hoping to learn as you go. And maybe you pick up on some of the concepts involved. But you quickly realize that you are running into some roadblocks.
You’re spending precious time and resources trying to piece things together from tutorials and support sites. Meanwhile, a deadline is approaching. This is not a good feeling.
Adopting a Better Approach To Learning
This scenario has likely happened to most of us at one time or another. At first glance, it may seem like lacking a certain skill is the culprit. But that’s not the whole story.
Sure, it would be nice to have a Jedi-like mastery of the language. But it’s not in our repertoire just yet. And by refusing to accept this, we put ourselves (and our client) in a tough spot.
We often put things into the same context as sports or action movies. You know, the brave soul who takes a hit but comes back stronger. However, web design is neither of those things.
Learning a complicated skill on demand isn’t easy or realistic. Star athletes and action heroes can afford to spend copious amounts of time and money on improving. We don’t have this luxury.
So, while attempting to improvise sounds noble, it’s also counter-productive. Instead, there are more effective ways to approach the situation:
Explain the Situation to Your Client
When it comes to client relations, honesty is the best policy. As such, having a frank discussion about your limitations can be a bit freeing. Plus, it sets a realistic level of expectation.
For the most part, clients will appreciate this information. It helps them understand what’s possible and adjust their budget accordingly.
Make a Plan
The job still needs to be done. Thus, it’s important to have a plan for how it will be implemented.
This could mean delaying the project’s launch. The advantage here is that you’ll have enough time to work through any potential roadblocks.
Or it might require hiring an expert to help. That will save you the trouble of doing everything yourself. Plus, you’ll be able to focus on the other items on your to-do list.
Follow Through With a Solution
Clients are usually focused on the result. Therefore, the path we take to achieve a goal isn’t as important. But working with them to find a solution is a key part of the process.
The conversation can be difficult. But by showing you have their best interests in mind, things can come together nicely.
The lesson here is that having personal limitations doesn’t necessarily hurt the project. By acknowledging your limits, you can create a plan that works for everyone. That’s a valuable skill in itself.
It’s All About Perspective
The web design industry often sees limitations as a character flaw. It’s as if not having a particular skill should disqualify you from getting an opportunity.
Both freelancers and agencies tend to perpetuate this myth by promising the world. The whole “we can do it all” narrative is great for marketing, but little else.
The reality is far different. Accepting what we don’t know is the first step towards breaking free of these impossible standards.
We can still create great outcomes for clients. Meanwhile, we can continue to learn at a comfortable pace.
From there, we start to treat learning as a journey – not a race.