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Hi,

 

My main job has nothing to do with web design but I'd like to gradually focus more on doing websites. I have had around 1-2 website jobs a year for the last 2-3 years. My problem is that I'd like to deepen my knowledge and skills in JavaScript (and ReactJS). I'm getting better at it which motivates me even more. Now this year I've had 2 website jobs where unfortunately due to client requirements, I could not have used ReactJS. The clients requested an easy way to update articles, upload images, etc. so I did both websites in Joomla, which is fine but if I keep doing it (ie. Joomla), it'd make sense to delve in PHP in some other Joomla related stuff (which I'm not proficient in and which I'm not extremely passionate about).

 

Due to me being a very small one-man organisation, inevitable I'll keep getting very small clients (friends of the friends, small companies) who will most likely again want to easily update the website after I've created it (ie. CMS).

 

How do you guys do it? On the one hand, I can't imagine that all of you do website in CMS for people. On the other hand, I can't imagine that clients agree that any updates are done by you (and you get paid for that)?

 

What is your experience and advice? Does my interest in ReactJS fit anywhere here? In my situation, would I need to forget about ReactJS and focus on CMSs?

 

I hope it makes sense what I'm asking about.

 

Btw, I hope this thread is in the right part of the forum

 

Thank you

portia

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I do the same small-time, local, trades, individuals and charities type business. Always on a CMS, but a nice simple one. Some but very few clients actually update their sites regardless of how simple it is and how often you show them but the CMS makes it way easier for me to build then alter and update in the future.

 

Does my interest in ReactJS fit anywhere here? Not really.

 

I should say also that I shouldn't give anybody career advice, and the market is not what you might hope.

Edited by TimW

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If you want control over the frontend with React then look for a CMS that allows you to build REST endpoints. Both Craft CMS and Wordpress can do this currently.

 

That said, unless you need React I would be reluctant to just start adding it into projects, at least at the scale of building your entire frontend with it. It adds another level of complexity that is rarely needed for CMS driven sites, especially when scale isn't an issue. For example, if all of your content is pulled into React using JSON, and it behaves like a single page app, you really need to look at server-side rendering, which would also require hosting a separate copy on a Node server. Depending on the project you're building, this could be a really over-engineered.

 

What we do at my work, is to use libraries like React where we need them, so we will build components where we get the benefit of using something like React, and let PHP handle the normal content outputting / templating. So for example, we might decide that we want a certain list of data to be displayed with React because there are benefits in doing so, but the other pages will remain as normal PHP. At the moment though, React isn't really part of our toolchain, we're using Vue, but the framework/library is irrelevant, the idea is that you don't have to go down the whole single page app route, you can just sprinkle components in when you need them.

 

Lastly, don't build another site in Joomla. It's hands down the worst CMS out there. Adding React to Joomla is basically adding a Tesla Model 3 engine to a Fiat Panda.

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Use the right tools for the job, if that means React is the best for specific job then use it, otherwise use the right CMS for the client, or just build a static site.

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React is really beneficial for SPAs so if you want to be using React you want to be looking to build applications rather than websites. It might be difficult to gain experience doing this as a freelancer as applications are typically required by larger organisations than your current target market so I'd advise you to seek out junior roles at web dev houses - but specifically those that focus on building applications rather than your run of the mill wordpress sites.

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Thank you everyone for the useful advice. Things I'm going to take from this thread:

- leave Joomla

- Play for REST API in Wordpress

- try to incorporate React components in Wordpress (just for fun because I can)

- Deepen my Wordpress knowledge.

 

Now, could you also clarify one thing for me, which is unrelated to my original question. I understand the idea of a SPA. You just have one page that you modify via javascript. Setting aside clients' requirements, would it be a misuse of ReactJS to create a standard website as an SPA. I know it'd be an overkill but besides that would there be any other reasons for not doing it as an SPA. Similarly, when does a website become a web application (requiring SPA)? What is the difference? Is it just that most traditional websites offer just presentational elements (text, images, etc.), and a web app would also have some functionality (usually done by JS). In other words, when do we say: ok, now, this will need an SPA (as opposed to a standard website)?

 

Thank you.

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I think there's only one site I've built at work in the last few years that I wish I built as a full SPA. For me, the signs are usually:

  • You have a lot of JS everywhere already and it's getting difficult to manage
  • Managing state on the frontend is getting hard and more bugs are creeping in
  • The user experience is suffering as a result of traditional full page reloads (ajax can solve this but then go back to point 1 and 2)
  • It's getting difficult to reinitialise state once the user has left the page, usually this involves setting data in session or local storage and retrieving it again.

Web applications typically have all of the above problems, and you get to them much faster. If you think of something like Google Docs or Google Sheets, there's a lot of JS needed for that, and a tonne of in-app state to keep track of at a given time. Even Gmail when you compose an email in the small pop-up, is keeping track of all your text formatting, cursor position etc, as well as watching for incoming email and notifications.

 

Most traditional sites don't deal with this level of state, though, and most don't need the benefits of client side routing where a traditional full page refresh has no impact on user experience. The reason why I tend to sprinkle in JS components instead (not necessarily small components) is because there are also problems with SPA's and web apps in general, and it's a trade-off you really have to consider:

  • Your app is rendered in client-side JS unless you explicitly look at server-side rendering. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but for a website that requires search engine visibility, you will have issues that your competitors likely won't. Most start-ups have a marketing site that links to an SPA, for example asana.com uses a CMS called Statamic and a traditional site to manage the core marketing pages. They have approached this well, keeping it simple when it needs to be, so they can focus on the core product.
  • Non-server rendered apps can have performance issues, both on initial load and after. You generally have to make a lot more considerations and rely on tooling more to avoid sending megabytes of JS down the wire.
  • Single page apps are harder to build correctly, and can be difficult to maintain if you start making incorrect decisions. Un-doing something in an SPA, or web app in general, can have a huge knock-on effect to how the rest of it behaves. This is why automated tests really are required when you start wiring components together. I haven't really found the same to be true for websites because so much is handled by a CMS for you.
  • You would need to factor in a higher maintenance cost to your clients for keeping the app dependancies up-to-date. You don't want to have something like React fall a few major versions behind, because you will spend days refactoring the code again to plug the new API changes. This goes for other frameworks too, even ones in PHP land, like Laravel. Websites on a CMS usually take a few minutes to update, and have been designed to take the hard work out of it.

Over engineering is not a good thing, it can be extremely costly to businesses and stressful for the maintainer. Similarly, under engineering or over simplifying can cause issues too, so use your best judgement to pick the right fit for a project, whatever that might be. If something feels like it needs to be a full SPA from the brief, then go for it. If you're doing it just to use and practice React, I'd avoid it on client projects, build something for yourself instead.

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As a freelancer that's what you get anyway. It's dead. If you're a Dev, which it sounds like you are, then it may be better but for a Web Designer it's not worth the £2,000+ and years of learning I put into it. If I had to rely on web design / UI design I'd have starved to death long before now. It really is a waste of time.

 

I know of freelance and contract designers who are inundated with work because they have adapted to Agile workflow practices like I described in the other thread. Big up-front design is very much dying away and rightfully so because it doesn't work well for building software. iterative Agile design based on components is booming.

 

It is critical for any career in tech as a freelancer or employed to be continually learning and adapting to new workflows, technologies. That is the very nature of the industry and keeping right upto date is typically very lucrative. I don't know any other careers where you can earn director-level salaries without formal (very costly) qualifications like uni.

Edited by rbrtsmith

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I've stopped building websites and now focus on applications. Build some useful plugins and extensions for popular platform and offer a pro version/upgrade. Once this is all automated and set up it's free money. I now earn enough per day to not have to work very hard.

 

I doubled the cost of my upgrade on one plugin and people were still willing to pay. In fact the uptake even increased. And it has led to lots of bespoke work - which is far more lucrative then building websites.

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I was talking about freelance design which is dead. I've looked into Agile and it seems the designer has to design the site and make an interactive prototype in a sprint. Then others say they don't like it and you have to do it all again. I charge £150 for a Home page design and still get no clients, I couldn't afford to do loads of 'sprints' that end up in the recycle bin.

I don't make minimum wage from web design, luckily it's not my main job.

I was also referring to freelance designers as I stated explicitly in my post. I think you are misunderstanding the agile workflow as your depiction is not indicative of any agile environment I've worked in. At £150 you are massively undervaluing yourself, not many business are going to take a designer seriously if they are charging that kind of fee. You are much better off charging per hour (£50 and upwards). With agile you do not get set deadlines as you never know when a piece of software will be completed, there are too many unknowns. You design part of a system and improve it based on user feedback. This is much, much better for end users that get the software they actually want rather than taking the risk of building the wrong thing.

 

I think you need to step away from thinking in terms of pages for your designs and more about components that can be re-used. A page or view is just a collection of components so it's upto the designer to work with the stakeholders and development team to design individual components that solve specific business needs then compose them together in views.

If you are struggling to make a living as a freelancer have you not considered going in-house at a firm, earning a solid salary and gaining very valuable knowledge? The majority of successful freelancers / consultants that I know have worked in-house for a number of years before freelancing, and continue to reflect up and update their skillset to keep up with an ever-changing industry.

 

Like I say, it's not dead at all, it is in fact booming right now - yes even for designers.

Edited by rbrtsmith

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I've stopped building websites and now focus on applications. Build some useful plugins and extensions for popular platform and offer a pro version/upgrade. Once this is all automated and set up it's free money. I now earn enough per day to not have to work very hard.

 

I doubled the cost of my upgrade on one plugin and people were still willing to pay. In fact the uptake even increased. And it has led to lots of bespoke work - which is far more lucrative then building websites.

I think it's been made clear that Robby is a designer. By applications I hope you don't mean WordPress as that would be a terrible place to build any serious application where you should be looking at a front-end SPA framework that talks to a REST or graphQL api on the server (Again better still when built on a microservice architecture).

WordPress is okay at doing brochure style websites, but far from the best in the field, although I don't think there's much money to be made here compare with applications unless you happen to be working with a very big client - in which case you wouldn't wanna be using WP.

 

I do think though that to build something that can passively earn you income is a great thing to do and while WordPress remains popular with the types of developers that want to throw plugins at every problem they face you can potentially make q good passive income.

However I think the days a limited for this kind of platform though as users have an increasing demand for sophistication and speed that is just not attainable with platforms like WordPress. And the developers that cater to the really basic brochure style websites will be pushed out by much more cost-efficient WSYIWYG platforms.

Edited by rbrtsmith

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I think it's been made clear that Robby is a designer.

My post was directed at portia79

Edited by fisicx

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Specialize and charge extra for it.

 

Your martial arts redesign works well - probably because you understand/enjoy the market. I'd rebrand myself as digital marketing designer specialising in martial arts and charge extra for that expertise. You then know exactly who your prospective customers are, few competitors will have your insight and you can concentrate on a design philosophy which really works for your marketplace.

 

I love animation but in the cinema not on websites. I think most people see it as a time-waster unless it's used wisely as a benefit to UI clarity and efficiency. A lot of stuff on Dribble and Behance is just showboating IMO.

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My mistake, sorry.

 

I get very few clients for £150 so £50 an hour is not possible. I understand what you mean about the agile process but I wonder how the Dev's and clients picture what their website will look like when all they get to see is a bunch of sections and elements.

Cheaper rates doesn't equate to more work, especially in this industry. Experience drives price, so if you're charging £150 for an entire project, companies are still likely to want a freelancer that's charging more. The perception is that higher rates means you've earned your stripes at some point to justify it. When I see good work in a portfolio, and the designer is charging £200 for an entire project, I usually just assume the work is stolen. Even out of university, students are charging £40+ an hour.

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Yeah, it's the same in any industry. If I'm looking to take the Mrs out for a steak dinner I won't even pay attention to places doing meals for £5 because the chances of the quality being good are close to nill. Higher price gives the perception of increase quality / ability.

 

Many new business go bust because they get involved in price wars when consumers are not looking for the best price but actual value and perception of value is everything in this game.

 

People will also take you seriously if charge properly. when a business owner sees the price for a service being super low it just screams out inexperience, and you won't hire inexperience for a serious project, especially when there are other experienced freelancers are around - it's worth paying more for experience.

Edited by rbrtsmith

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And if you charge a decent rate you can always discount it to bring a project in quickly, encourage prompt payment or provide some other incentive and, if you are desperate, you can go back to a client who baulks at the price and offer a "lite" version of your service for less.

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In terms of branding or selling yourself look at how you can add value to companies. Beautiful design doesn't add that much value to most business.

 

The kind of designer that focuses on Conversion, User Experience, simple yet elegant designs that translate well to code are in high demand.

 

Having some knowledge of code helps but not necessary in my opinion, you may have to commute outside Plymouth but the larger tech companies employ a lot of designers Sainsbury's does in their hundreds and it's far from being a tech firm.

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I should add that charging a decent rate will also save you time and money as the amount of time wasters that you encounter will drop like a stone. Nobody makes any money from the something for nothing type clients who introduce a tonne of scope creep, silly deadlines amongst other issues.

The issue is to charge a high rate you do have to be good at what you do, and experience in the industry working with other professionals really sets you apart from your competitors which is why I recommend that freelancers work for a number of years in the industry and earn their stripes to steal a phrase from Jack :)
Once in this position, especially if you have gained a reputation you can charge exponentially more and attract the clients that want somebody really skilled who are tired with working with cowboys.

Prime example is Harry Roberts, god knows how much he charges but without his prior industry experience and ability to market himself he'd never have got the chance to work with the likes of Google, Sky, BBC, UN, Etsy. These kinds of companies just want the best and are willing to pay for it. In fact few companies want to take the risk on hiring somebody on the cheap because the risk of being stung and then having to pay for somebody to fix it is really high and costs more in the long run than just shelling out for the right person from the outset.

Edited by rbrtsmith

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The issue is to charge a high rate you do have to be good at what you do, and experience in the industry working with other professionals really sets you apart from your competitors which is why I recommend that freelancers work for a number of years in the industry and earn their stripes to steal a phrase from Jack :)

Once in this position, especially if you have gained a reputation you can charge exponentially more and attract the clients that want somebody really skilled who are tired with working with cowboys.

Any work experience, whether your a designer or developer, is invaluable IMO. I would never recommend a developer going straight to freelance work, if they can get some agency or startup experience. If you think you're a good developer or designer, sit next to someone that's better than you, and you will realise just how much learning there is to do. Fortunately, working at an agency or startup allows you the security that you're getting paid to learn on the job, and you can get a lot from working alongside other people of varying experience levels.

 

Prime example is Harry Roberts, god knows how much he charges but without his prior industry experience and ability to market himself he'd never have got the chance to work with the likes of Google, Sky, BBC, UN, Etsy. These kinds of companies just want the best and are willing to pay for it. In fact few companies want to take the risk on hiring somebody on the cheap because the risk of being stung and then having to pay for somebody to fix it is really high and costs more in the long run than just shelling out for the right person from the outset.

 

He does a lot of performance workshops now, but originally marketed himself as a expert at maintainable and large-scale CSS, in such a niche and opinionated part of dev, I can't imagine how difficult that would be to sell to people. It would likely be impossible if he didn't have prior experience at Sky.

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Any work experience, whether your a designer or developer, is invaluable IMO. I would never recommend a developer going straight to freelance work, if they can get some agency or startup experience. If you think you're a good developer or designer, sit next to someone that's better than you, and you will realise just how much learning there is to do. Fortunately, working at an agency or startup allows you the security that you're getting paid to learn on the job, and you can get a lot from working alongside other people of varying experience levels.

 

 

He does a lot of performance workshops now, but originally marketed himself as a expert at maintainable and large-scale CSS, in such a niche and opinionated part of dev, I can't imagine how difficult that would be to sell to people. It would likely be impossible if he didn't have prior experience at Sky.

I've learnt so much in the past 18 months working alongside some developers who are unbelievably good. @@citypaul has worked with one of them and can attest to how good he is.

I started out trying to freelance and I am so glad I took the plunge into employment, I quickly realised I had an awful lot to learn :)

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Cheers. I have thought of this but, like most web design, it's already a flooded market. I do work with other dojos and advise them on running their business. I've offered web design to them but like most small businesses they're more interested in low prices than quality. A lot of the dojos I advise/have advised used Squarespace and sites like that.

Seriously it's not flooded. Most of the big companies are crying out for good designers. Go and work for one of the companies in house, or even for a web agency as a designer and build up industry experience. With that experience and a reputation built up during that time - especially if you can work up to working for a big name you will then be able to work with the larger companies that will budget for designers.

You also have to embrace agile design as it's necessary for building modern web applications. Waterfall is not appropriate here.

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Cheers. I have thought of this but, like most web design, it's already a flooded market.

There is tons of work out these. I'm rubbish at design so I leave that to people like you - even small business want something different than the standard layout and there is a huge amount of work fixing UX issues and doing front end stuff for apps and plugins and whatever.

 

Give me a call tomorrow - I've got a stalled project that needs some help.

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