Happy Halloween: Sessions Student Builds Scary Site, From Scratch
At Sessions, we love to hear success stories from students, especially when they occur when students are still in their programs! So we caught up with Justin to find out more.
Q: Justin, we were so excited to hear that you are applying your web design skills on commercial projects while you are enrolled in the program! How did the Real Live Adventures project come about?
Thanks! In July, I was part of the second round of layoffs at the company where I had been working for the past five years. I took a month off for my mental health, then started applying for jobs. Even though there were a ton of open jobs posted on LinkedIn and other places, I wasn’t having any success. After a couple months of this I was getting pretty frustrated.
About this time some friends reached out to me about this Halloween themed ride/theatrical experience they were building. They didn’t know I’d been studying web design, but said they had a feeling to contact me and see if I had any skills I could bring to the table to help with their project.
Turns out they needed someone to build their website.
Q: A scary coincidence…. The site was built from scratch, how did you create it?
Although I used my previous work to kick things off, the new site is very different from the first. It has a ton of extra CSS and design, transitions, and I think just some really fun elements. I also had to figure out how to incorporate a payment system.
There were many times when I’d want to put in a certain element, such as the accordion on the FAQs page or or the “grow” transition I used for the hyperlinks on the About Us page. Then I’d remember, “Oh, I’ve already done that before!” I’d go back to my previous assignments, see what I did in those, and improve on them for this site. For example, I wanted to make the accordion on the FAQs page a double accordion so it would take up less space, but didn’t know if that was possible. Through trial and error I could usually get things to do what I wanted!
It’s fun to look back and see how far I’ve come in such a short time through creating this website.
Q: You had a recent life change. What were you doing before and what led you to study Web design online at Sessions?
I started in a sales role at my previous company, then moved into marketing where my primary responsibility was lead generation. Part of my job was building landing pages, and I quickly learned the limitations of pre-built templates and the boxy tools that are designed for people with very little coding knowledge.
I grew more and more frustrated as I would have an idea of what I wanted my landing page to look like, but no idea how to make it happen. I could use my creative team to design pages, but there was always a huge backlog and I typically didn’t have time to wait. So, I began diving in and learning how to code myself. With my limited knowledge I was able to start making small things happen the way I wanted, but it still wasn’t enough.
Something I didn’t expect was that while I enjoyed my job, I LOVED jumping into the code and creating web pages the way I wanted. I started to feel like a magician as I learned some of the different tricks I could do with CSS. I felt like Harry Potter when he discovered this whole new world that he hadn’t previously known existed.
With how much fun I was having, I could see this as something I should pursue professionally. I looked at tons of online programs, and the Sessions College Web Design certificate made the most sense in terms of affordability and the knowledge I would gain throughout the program.
Q: You mentioned you are having fun working on Web design projects. What’s most fun about it?
So much fun! For the first time in my professional career, work doesn’t feel like work. It seems like every day I look at my watch and am amazed at how many hours have passed. The whole concept of passing time ceases to exist as I lose myself in the code.
I’ve always been a creative person, but have never had any real artistic abilities. I finally feel like I have an outlet for my over-analytical brain to create art through building beautiful, functional websites.
What’s most fun? I’d say when there is something I want to make happen with a website and I don’t know how to do it – I’ll work on it and tinker, trying different methods until I figure it out. Some things are harder than others, but I can usually crack the code with time. Learning new tricks to make website magic happen is such a blast!
Q: What are your continuing creative or professional goals after you graduate?
Real Live Adventures will be transitioning their Halloween hayride, The Ghostly Hollow, into a Holiday themed park and ride, so I still have plenty of work to do for them. Also, since starting this project, three other businesses have reached out to me for help with their websites!
With my marketing background, I’m confident I can use these initial web projects as a springboard to continue along this path. I know I still have a ton to learn, but each day brings me more know-how. I have a really great idea of how I can make high quality websites accessible to small, struggling businesses. Now I just need to find the time to build my own website so I can make it happen. 🙂
Lauren Hernandez is the Manager, Faculty and Curriculum Development at Sessions College. Lauren is an artist, educator, and former middle-school teacher with a passion for everything art-related. Outside of work, Lauren likes to take care of her plants and hang out with her bird.