Interview with Andrew Clemente - Founder of DevLounge


Ok boys, girls and things, I have had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Clemente the founder of DevLounge. Devlounge is a community website like Fadtastic and I thought it would be a good idea to see how its founder views the future, maintaining a community site, and Fadtastic itself.

Hold onto your hats, here is what Andrew Clemente had to say...

Hi Andrew, Thanks for stopping by and making the time to have a chat. First off - who are you, what do you do, and where have you come from?!

First off, thanks for having me! It’s a little odd to be put in a position like this, because usually I’m the one writing up interview questions as apposed to answering them, but I’ll give your questions my best shot ;)
I come from a background filled with internet tidbits that I’ve picked up over the past few years. I live in Rhode Island, the smallest state in the U.S, which is just south of Massachusetts (because no one ever knows where it is). I’m 16 (17 in February), and spend most of September – June locked inside school.
When I get out of school each day and for the summer, it’s all fun and games - be it just hanging out, writing articles for Devlounge, putting together new design work, and whatever else I can think of.

You are of course the founder of the famous Dev Lounge - a very respected community site. Would you like to share with us the reasons why you started this.

Devlounge came about roughly a year ago. Even being so young, I had previously been involved in multiple projects. As early as age 10 I was involved with a news site for beta, unpredictably titled “Betanewsâ€. In 2004 before I was really any good with design I tried organizing my first project called Soundvolume, which was intended to be a music resource. Eventually that project fell flat and I called it quits for a while.
Than in 2005 I started getting serious about design and putting a lot more effort into it. The move to much simpler designed sites was just beginning, and it made my designs do fairly well because it was the hot and wanted “look†at the time.
With a year of much stronger design under my belt, I entered 2006 with the vision to start doing something. In early January I was discussing different ideas with an “internet friend of mineâ€, Prashant Sugand, and we settled on the idea for Devlounge. We thought that the internet lacked any other true designer resources with valid and original content besides Alistapart. At the time I had no idea about Fadtastic or Vitamin. I use Devlounge as my own median to share the knowledge I’ve picked up on my own over the last few years.

Do you use any particular software to assist you in updating this system? If so which one?

Devlounge is powered by Wordpress, which is obviously the choice of the two best design / development resources out there ;). I’ve always liked Wordpress because of its expansiveness and extremely large support base. When I first started building Devlounge, I knew little about WP. I had used it, but never realized its potential until I started reading articles and digger deeper into the codex. Once I figured out how to harness the power of Wordpress I started using it on all my projects.

Well Andy, I for one am amazed at what you have achieved at such an age. Have you ever felt your age a hindrance?

Not at all. If anything, I think the earlier you get started, the more you can learn benefit from your experiences while you were young. Once you build up a respect level, most people will give you the respect you’ve earned, regardless of age, because more and more kids are getting started at younger ages. That’s why I hate reading requests for designers who must be over 18, unless there’s some form of contract involved. No matter if you’re 60 or sixteen, if you have the skills, you should be looked at with the same amount of respect as someone older.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Well unlike most interviews where this question tends to come up, I won’t be at any huge age milestone. Instead, I’ll truly just be getting going. 5 years from now I should be in my fourth and most likely last year of college, where I’ll probably be studying for architecture or something of the like. I don’t see my time on the web coming to a close any time soon though. I’ll continue to work freelance for spare cash throughout college, and maybe sometime have my own web 6.0 startup, but who knows.

You have recently upgraded areas of Devlounge – can you give us an introduction to these changes and the reasons behind them. Also do you see any more improvements being made to Devlounge?

Well if I didn’t tend to make so many, maybe it’d be easier figuring out what ones you’re referring to :P. I think that maintaining a site requires a lot of improvement to be made on a fairly regular basis, no matter how small or large the improvements are. I’m always tweaking things, because one week I might think “this looks fine†and the next I’ll think the complete opposite. In the first 6 months Devlounge was around, I went through 3 redesigns before I finally settled on the current design and was fully happy with what I had produced. I don’t see this design going anywhere for a while, and most of the changes will continue to come on subpages. Some of the most recent changes are: relaunched the podcasts page, gave sidenotes their own page, added different graphic page headers to many of the pages, and the occasional code fix / tweak here and there. Work is never done.

What is it that you feel makes a well designed website – please give some examples…

I think a lot of factors go into deciding if something is a well designed site or not. For one, I’m all for originality. Smacking on a trendy “web 2.0†badge on a site won’t make it any better just because it’s the thing to do. Too many designers, especially beginners, get nervous when they think about putting something together that’s “outside the boxâ€. Trends come and go, and it’s up to us to be original in our work to continue to make new trends possible. Other factors I think make good designs are flow (how logically the design is laid out), ease of readability, and a color scheme that’s easy on the eyes. Unfortunately (yes, this is sad), even though I run a design / development resource, I don’t spend much time scouring for good designs. When I come across something I like, I tend to take notes, bookmark, on screenshot them for reference in the future. Since October in my weekly “Friday Focus†I’ve spotlighted 3 sites a week that catch my eye from various CSS galleries. These posts are probably the best idea of what I consider good design to be.

You mentioned that you hope to go through college and then to require a job. Do you feel this is necessary and do you feel that the things you are being taught at college are essential to your work outside of it?

I don’t think they’re always essential; it depends on what you plan on doing when you get out of school. I know there’s been much discussion on whether or not college really matters, but I think in most places, it does. Even if you go to school to continue general schooling and not major in any one subject, it shows you had the initiative to continue with your education, and you didn’t just stop as soon as you got the chance. Collage also tens to affect your total salary in a year, and there can be dramatic differences between out of high school and out of college salaries.

What advice would you give others of your age to help them further their design skills and career prospects?

Don’t stop. If you have a passion for doing something, keep working at it. Don’t be surprised if people hate on an early design or the work you do, because many of them are going to until you prove you have the skills to make it as a designer. It may take a few years, or it may take a few months, but you’ll figure it out so long as you continue to try.

How do you see the future of the Internet panning out? What kind of technologies do you think will influence the design of the future?

I think design and web development as a whole will reap the benefits of where the internet’s to go in the future. We’ve already started to see hard drives that could hold a lifetime of files, allowing you to save just about anything. I think at some point, the way we connect to the internet will be entirely wireless; you’ll just be able to buy a computer, turn it on, and be online without wires, modems, or service providers. We’ve begun to see web based operating systems make their way onto the web, and with the increase of faster internet speeds throughout the world, one can only wonder if someday the need for the operating system will be entirely replaced with all web based applications.

And finally Andrew, What are your views on Fadtastic? Do you see us as competition to Devlounge?

Yes, I’d like to the site shut down for good and all the contributors join Devlounge! (Ahem!)Heh, but at all seriousness, I think Fadtastic is an excellent resource, and when readers read both FT and DL, they’re getting some really excellent insight. I prefer not to look at Fadtastic as competition, because we’re both doing the same thing our own way and independently. Instead, I view sites like Vitamin as competition, because they find themselves with some of the most reputable people as contributors, but here you have two excellent sites showing they can compete without all the industry firepower. I wish Fadtastic the best, and I’m sure FT and DL will continue to have a great working relationship.

Andrew, its been a pleasure speaking with you. Take care and keep up the good work...

Comments

Really appreciate people writing quality articles like this, many thanks!