Web Design Roundtable – The Complete Conversation

Linc Wonham
by Linc Wonham 29 Apr, 2012

One of the distinct advantages online media has over its print counterpart is a virtually endless amount of space. While space limitations prevented WM from printing the entire transcript of our Web design roundtable discussion, we have no such restrictions here. Below are all of the questions and answers in their entirety.

WM: What are the biggest challenges facing website designers today, and the biggest design hurdles encountered by all businesses on the Web?

Scott Forshay, mobile and emerging technologies strategist with the digital marketing firm Acquity Group: Without question, the biggest challenge facing designers is how best to create experiences across an ever-growing number of device platforms. From big browser websites to tablets to mobile devices with seemingly innumerable form factors and operating system nuances, this challenge carries the additional complexities associated with the unique capabilities of each new medium. An obvious representation of these challenges is designing effectively for mobile devices. Simple display concerns associated with the smaller form factor aside, designers and brands alike are faced with giving consideration to how best to incorporate elements unique to smartphone devices such as location. The big browser web is primarily a presentation-oriented medium. Mobile design, although it shares a common infrastructure, must account for targets who are no longer necessarily stationary.

Anora Vasant, technical project manager at the London-based Web design agency Base Creative: The continually growing demand for richer and more functional websites that perform well across a range of devices means that web designers need to balance the creative side of their role with a more analytical one. It is not enough to simply produce something pretty in Photoshop anymore and let someone else worry about issues like user experience, information architecture or content strategy. A web designer's role is now more than ever to understand all aspects of a website and demonstrate to their clients how intelligent design can help them overcome these hurdles.

Brad Maglinger, Director of technology for the digital marketing agency Switch: Liberate Your Brand: Many of the challenges that were once systemic are now being overcome. There is a new generation of designers and art directors that understand and can design to functionality, usability and the flow of a site. However, still existing is the challenge that many designers have of understanding the audiences, and not designing for themselves. It's difficult in any medium, but more so in the digital world of layers and devices . . . and dead ends. A designer's ability to understand what it means to meet a particular person's goal on an iPhone after four clicks, for example, is still largely identified by UX designers (not artists) — if they exist at all in the shop or company.

The good news, I believe, is that gap will close in the coming years. So often we create roles and responsibilities as a temporary relief to a problem, and hope for osmosis – not specifically related to the Web world. UX designers will simply be . . . Web designers. And Web designers will, in turn, become just designers. The lines will continue to blur.

The biggest design hurdle for businesses on the Web, which should be all businesses, is boiled down to three things: 1. Audience Context, 2. Compatibility and 3. Shiny Objects. The latter is likely the biggest obstacle. Snap tags to social media to video and so on, these items all have their place in marketing and design, but they usually attract everyone. For example, there are countless companies with social media channels with no real purpose or goal in mind. They have them because they think it is slick or trendy, but mostly they're getting lost in the flood. On the design side, compatibility is an ever-growing problem of overuse. Some of the best sites I've ever seen and used are essentially three pages, like Facebook or Pinterest. Keep it simple. Don't do too much.

Jason Cianfrone, Designer/developer for the London-based Web design firm Base Creative: Speaking as a web designer, one of the biggest and constant challenges I find is making sure what you build is suitable for all users, across all platforms. Gone are the days when all we’d worry about is accessibility and cross browser performance. Through the explosion of mobile and tablet browsing in recent years we now have to deal with multiple screen sizes on a much larger scale. As the web continues to evolve we must evolve with it, and with this evolution comes a new bag of potential issues to look out for. At least it keeps us on our toes and keeps our creative minds active.

In regards to design hurdles, I think we’re only limited by our own creativity. Our previous mindsets centered purely on our roles have all gone out the window and we’re starting to see style, functionality and content approached with equal consideration. We’re seeing designers and developers work in unison to communicate more personality, meaning and emotion in everything we create.

Nick Julia, president of Scottsdale-based design firm Epic Web Solutions: One of the biggest challenges that we encounter from a website designer standpoint would be designing for the functionality and user experience. We look for designers that design with the user experience in mind. This means that they understand the development process and how a user is going to navigate through the website and using design to improve that process the best way possible.

Lauren Whitson, manager, 1&1 Internet, Inc.: Web designers are often faced with situations where clients have a vague knowledge of the design process. Designing a website from the ground up takes quite some time and effort in order to produce a quality online presence. It is not a process that, done with custom coding and animation, can be done swiftly. Especially if a client is focused on achieving a certain level of visibility with search engines, many aspects need to be considered, explored and executed in order to achieve significant results.

Most businesses in fact measure the success of their website based on its placement in search engine results, and hold Web designers responsible for overcoming this challenge. Developers however face a constant fluctuation in the infrastructure behind search engine optimization (SEO) which makes it virtually impossible to determine a single, solid method for guaranteed success. Trial and error has become one of the most effective techniques to identify the value of each step in the process. Therefore, keeping detailed records of modifications, while seemingly tedious and unnecessary, can really help designers determine each edit’s significance. Unfortunately, many clients expect results without always realizing how much time is required for search engines to find and evaluate the site.

Patrick Llewellyn, CEO of online marketplace for crowdsourced graphic design services, 99designs: More than half of the small businesses in the U.S. still lack websites. Designers and business owners alike are faced with a challenge that didn’t really exist five years ago: multi-platform functionality (Web, mobile, tablet etc). They have to think about so much more now than just, “what do I want my website to look like?” They must carefully consider who and where are their customers, and then why and how will they most commonly access their websites.

Businesses and designers need to work that much harder to determine what is the single most important action a customer is going to make on this site or page, (making sure that this aligns with the businesses strategy) and then optimize everything around this action. Simplicity in design is the key challenge we all face.

Peter Marino, chief designer and CMO of New York-based HTML5 Web design and social media marketing firm, reelWebDesign.com: Although I can not speak for all Web designers I would have to say my biggest problem is getting a constant flow of new clientele. If you work for yourself you probably understand what I mean. Therefore, I think it's important that all designers understand SEO and some PPC marketing in addition to their design skill-sets. If you don't have a webmaster tools account for both Google and Bing you need to open one and figure out how to utilize all of the components in it. In addition to this you should have an AdWords/AdCenter account in both Google and Bing respectively.

WM: Which tools and/or strategies have you implemented in the past 12 months to best overcome these challenges?

Anora Vasant, Base Creative: At Base Creative we have strong personal development and training processes that help find solutions to any obstacles a project may have. Creative “Brainstorming” sessions are a must, as well as constantly challenging existing processes. We believe continual development is crucial in an ever changing industry and this applies to development of our team members as well as our processes. Over the last 12 months specifically we have continued to develop our process involving responsive design and user experience as these two aspects are central to a better web experience.

Brad Maglinger, Switch: We've implemented two primary strategies. The first is our own LMS system to encourage ideation and education at a pace that is comfortable to our internal staff. The second is more integration across our company. More designers in programming meetings, and conversely more programmers in design and planning meetings. This also extends beyond the gatherings by cross-pollinating responsibilities, occasionally, for designers to experiment with wire framing or a programmer to play with a typeface. In the end, we believe understanding each others' obstacles is the best way to produce better, faster work.

Nick Julia, Epic Web Solutions: Before our designers start the design process we wireframe the navigation process of the website and how the website will function. This allows the designer to design for those specific functions and we have seen a higher quality in our clients’ websites because of this process that we implemented.

Lauren Whitson, 1&1: Technology and time are two aspects that Web designers have limited control over. However, I think Web hosting providers are realizing the speed at which the IT industry is changing. Many are facing this trend head on by focusing on developing a new type of website design solution. For instance, 1&1 Internet has created a design application called 1&1 MyWebsite which establishes a framework for users to start from for site design. In the past year, we have implemented our SEO Ready Service for this solution as a way to further support successful design practices. 1&1’s team of SEO experts determine specific website enhancements in order to improve the site’s reputability with Google. Especially ideal for Web designers that are not particularly expert with SEO or who may not have the time to dedicate to the process, the tool eliminates the trial and error step of the process. But for those who are savvy in areas like keyword integration and backlinks, this can be an additional resource for more information.

This cohesive product is an intuitive and user-friendly application to provide all levels of users with a straightforward and efficient design tool with content this is easy to edit and customize. Optimizing for SEO is time consuming but essential, which is one of the core reasons for integrating an accessible content editor similar to that in a Word document. Additionally, changes are immediately live. Once the user clicks “save,” all changes are instantly implemented and can be viewed on the website.

Patrick Llewellyn, 99designs: 99designs has introduced new mobile app design and social media categories, which are rapidly growing in popularity and we believe have a lot of future potential.

Jason Cianfrone, Base Creative: Keeping a close eye on the industry, and being aware of any new technological advances in the realm of mobile is a must. We need to know what is being released so we can identify any potential problems that may arise.

Peter Marino, reelWebDesign.com: As I previously stated, SEO is probably you're greatest strategy for new business.   Although I am fairly new to the web design world I am steadily gaining ground on the search engines by implementing good SEO tactics.  And when I say SEO for designers I mean implementing niche SEO. We can't all compete for the words web design and expect to dominate those terms on Google but we can compete for niches in our design world and rank high for that particular niche. For instance you may be an expert in “WordPress design” or “Joomla design,” but even those niche keywords are hard for any individual to rank high in so maybe it should be “Joomla designer in Chicago Il” or any other geo-locally search term on that.  Then maybe for the keywords you are not able to rank high in you could implement a budgeted PPC campaign on Google or Bing.

WM: What are your thoughts about responsive design, and how can online businesses most effectively design for today’s multi-platform users?

Scott Forshay, Acquity Group: Responsive design, philosophically, is predicated on a write once, deploy across all platforms approach. While it is an effective for media and content-focused sites, where imagery and text can easily be viewed regardless of platform without additional coding or on-going support, responsive design does not account for utilization of the inherent capabilities and functions of the devices themselves. A multi-channel retailer, for example, would likely want to utilize functions like GPS to help customers navigate easily to their nearest location. In that example, a responsive design approach is insufficient. In the end, it depends on the type of site.

Alex Brooke, Designer/developer for the London-based Web design firm Base Creative: Responsive design is definitely the way forward, I think online businesses can effectively design for multi platform devices by designing from the mobile upwards. This way, it can be ensured that the design looks effective on all devices, and scaling down the design is not an issue.

Brad Maglinger, Switch: Responsive design has become an absolute necessity, as it forces a more compelling design and presents the work in the most organized and relevant manner. This concept used to differentiate good design (or thoughtful design) and the other shops. However, the growing number of mobile and tablet usage (mixed formatting; horizontal/vertical) has simply made it absolute — extending beyond the traditional browser window aspect ratio. By in large, this concept is, and should be, natural to the Web design process.

We've read several "effective" means of integrating responsive design. And, to be honest, to each their own, but we almost always take the longer road. We detail out personas, scenarios, success matrix, wireframes (variable desktop, tablet and mobile) and the creative (variable desktop, tablet and mobile). The reason we do this goes beyond looking appropriate on each device, and evolves into a greater conversation about the context in which they're viewing. What's important at home or work takes on a different hierarchy (content and visual) when accessing the same site or page on a mobile device.

Anora Vasant, Base Creative: A website fully catering to a user's needs will be 'responsive' as users expect to be able to browse the web on a range of devices. Except for specific cases when a separate website or app may be a better solution, every website created today should be responsive to ensure that users have the best possible web browsing experience. Mobile and tablet internet adoption is growing and what is important about this is that user behavior differs on smaller, mobile devices.

Nick Julia, Epic Web Solutions: Responsive design is going to continue to increase in popularity due to the demand of mobile hardware. With mobile hardware improving at an incredibly fast pace, screen resolution will continue to increase in pixel count. The days of having a dedicated mobile site will become a lesser priority. The only thing that is holding back responsive design is proper communication to a client on what it really does and how it can benefit them.

Lauren Whitson, 1&1: With the current demand for Web-capable technologies outside of a PC, there is an absolute necessity to consider an infrastructure that can result in fully functional and attractive websites across multiple platforms. But, there is also the need to understand where the peak of remote internet access sits and realize the relationship between this trend and your business’s audience. Fine-tuning a responsive design strategy so that it puts a business’s website in front of its audience on the right devices is most important – not necessarily the number of platforms it can be accessed on.

Through coding, designers can modify elements to improve the end-user’s experience, for example, on a mobile device. Flash for use in a mobile Web browser can affect the load time of the Web page so saving special effects like these for the full version might be best. Instead, designers could find a way to convey the same messages but in a more text-image friendly format. Also, limiting pages or functionality on the mobile site can help effectively organize content for optimal mobile browsing.

Patrick Llewellyn, 99designs: Responsive design is the future of web design. But until the technology for creating responsive sites is more readily available, my advice to online businesses is to keep it simple. Design a homepage that is clean, sharp, and focused on conveying the most important things you want to get across to your customers.

Businesses also need to think about who their customers are at the outset.  For instance, if you’re a pizza place heavy on delivery, you’d better be sure to have a great mobile site or app, because chances are a lot of business will come from people accessing you through their smart phones. If you’re an ecommerce company, what you sell may dictate where to put your resources.

Jason Cianfrone, Base Creative: Responsive design is the future of the web; it is our duty as web professionals to consider everyone viewing our website on any device. Aside from a fluid template and some media queries we can use frameworks such as jQuery mobile with HTML5 to push the boundaries further. Web based apps look like they’re here to stay too though I strongly believe the market for native apps will continue to grow.

Peter Marino, reelWebDesign.com: Responsive web design (RWD) will become standard design in the next couple of years since everyone will want there site to be viewable on every device seamlessly. So learning and implementing RWD is should be a requirement for any web designer if you don't want your skills to be outdated.

CSS3 is at the core of RWD and any site can be rendered viewable on all screens if they're willing to implement the CSS code and modify some images and columns on their site.  But wait there's more! RWD is also a great way of getting old clientele to update their websites. After all no one wants to be left behind in the online Universe!
I'm also planning to redesign my business site utilizing RWD.

WM: What adjustments have you as a designer or your business’ clients had to make in the past two years due to the increasing popularity of social media and mobile technologies?

Scott Forshay, Acquity Group: Effective design, in any medium, requires a thorough understanding of the inherent strengths of the medium in order to design for its differentiated capabilities. In the case of mobile technologies, in particular, designers and the brands they support have been quick to latch on to the new shiny object and rush to market with mobile sites and apps without sufficient long-term strategic planning. Often decisions concerning mobile strategy have been made under duress when a CEO cannot view his company's site on his mobile device. In the infancy stages of mobile, the rush to develop apps for apps' sake led to siloed applications lacking a cohesive strategy. As the market has matured and brands begin to better understand the requirements and expectations of their consumer base, design strategies are more intensely focused on providing utility to consumers specific to the use cases most often encountered on mobile devices.

Alex Brooke, Base Creative: These days there are often links/share buttons that are placed onto websites in order to encourage the user to use these new technologies. This is a lot more common place now than it was two years ago meaning that people can now easily network online straight from the website.

Brad Maglinger, Switch: From a design perspective, we often must play second fiddle to the hand of social media. For the most part, we trust that their design decisions are correct. Likely the most dramatic change this past year has been the evolution of Facebook design, display and application interaction for the company pages we manage.

In the past two years, the impact has surrounded the capturing of compelling content and the connective tissue of the physical world (events, experiential, ad hoc) to the social media environment most used by the demographic. For the vast majority of our clients, this transition has been smooth, but the specificity of the healthcare market on a global scale, and physician online interaction in particular, has presented some unique obstacles.

Nick Julia, Epic Web Solutions: We have received more requests from our clients regarding mobile sites due to their Google Analytics showing that the percentage of traffic by a mobile device is continuing to grow. Several years ago we couldn’t justify the value of having a mobile site because the traffic was still not there, but today our clients are seeing the value of mobile sites and content optimized for mobile hardware.

Anora Vasant, Base Creative: Businesses have had to become more aware of the range of social media services available and understand how implementing social media marketing strategies can benefit their business. Many business websites integrate functionality from various social media services to make their services more appealing to users, such as content sharing buttons and user account log in functionality. However, every business will not benefit from every service available and we would work with clients to advise them of the most relevant options and how they can use them to benefit their business.

Lauren Whitson, 1&1: The popularity of, and honestly consumer expectations for, social media technologies has made it imperative for businesses to generate a presence on social networks. This need has fueled 1&1’s development team to generate new social media features for integration into the MyWebsite application. Widgets have been implemented for two of the most popular social media networks – Facebook and Twitter – allowing users to easily incorporate them into the website layouts. Providing a direct link between these platforms is not only effective for raising awareness, but also for improving SEO.

A similar progression can be seen with the emphasis put on mobile access. Mobile Web access has also become more of a norm than the exception, with almost half of US adults possessing a smartphone.  Ensuring business users had the ability to address this trend was a priority that 1&1 addressed last September for its MyWebsite users.

An expertise in coding languages is a valued skill designers use to build a site more aptly suited for mobile Web browsers. But should a business owner be managing their own website, a simple process for mobile optimization is ideal. 1&1 MyWebsite users can enable a setting within their management tools that automatically codes and optimizes their business site on the backend for most smartphone devices. A time consuming process requiring extensive knowledge is now a viable option for anyone.

Patrick Llewellyn, 99designs: 99designs has broadened our contest categories to include both social media and mobile app design so that we can be sure to provide our customers with the type of design services they need as demand increases in these areas.

Peter Marino, reelWebDesign.com: The major adjustment I made for social media was learning how to implement it effectively and efficiently. It’s easy to put up some social media icons on a website but remember they should always be prominent and if you want a “like” or a “plus” give it a call to action. Give users that like you a free month of hosting, or a mention on your Facebook fan page or something else creative and enticing. Don’t expect people to like you for nothing, though.

The tool of choice that I use for implementing social media posts for clients and myself is HootSuite. This app makes it easy to post across multiple social media outlets at once and analyze data and make reports effortlessly.

WM: What is the most positive technological or ideological development you have experienced as a design professional in the past two years, and what has been the most negative?

Scott Forshay, Acquity Group: From a purely technological perspective, this is an incredibly exciting time to be in the digital design field. The proliferation of emerging technology devices that have hit the marketplace over the past three years has created a wide array of possible canvases for designers to work with, each with its own unique capabilities. This influx of emerging platforms is continuing to drive the ideology of design. Mobile experience design, when done properly, is instantaneous, contextually relevant based on knowledge of time and space, and intensely personal. Mobile devices, in particular, have become very logical extensions of our human selves. They house our address book, calendar, pictures of family and friends, and immediate connection to our social graph. With this in mind, designers must design to experiences that are augmentative to what a person is experiencing in their world at any given moment and correctly support any number of situational determinants.

Alex Brooke, Base Creative: The most positive is probably the release of HTML5/CSS3 and the ability to make your websites responsive. Negative? I don't like the fact that there isn't a "standard" as such in HTML5, meaning people can do pretty much what they like with it and get away with it, I think this could eventually lead to a lower standard of websites code if front-end coders aren't careful.

Brad Maglinger, Switch: The most positive development we've executed, and seen other shops exceed us, is the use of parametric analytics, and consequentially producing variant designs on the same site. A site that recognizing your demographic and location, categorizes you and then responds with the appropriate messaging, call to action, photography, colors and shapes. We first started experimenting with this last year, but have seen some amazing things coming out of the UK in the past six months.

The most negative is, without question, the continued overuse (misuse) of QR codes. They have their appropriate time and a place, but we continue to see a critical mass of these without any analytical evidence for their usage on many different executions. That said, promotionally, they are hugely effective and the AR executions are always tremendously engaging.

Anora Vasant, Base Creative: Most recently the announcements by Mozilla, Opera and Internet Explorer to support a limited number of webkit prefixes was possibly alarming but definitely confusing. Mozilla's reaction seems natural given that they are trying to solve an issue brought about by websites being built with reliance on webkit prefixes, however, while websites should not rely on such features the area will become confused by partial support of webkit prefixes by non webkit browsers. What has been encouraging is the debate around solutions to this problem. Hopefully we'll see websites that are not so reliant on one type of prefix that they break in other browsers.

WM: Where do you see the Web design industry headed in the next five years?

Alex Brooke, Base Creative: I think as long as people are careful to keep their web standards high there is so much good that could come out of the web industry in the next five years. As devices and browsers update and html5 and css3 become more of a standard, there will be all sorts that we can do with our websites.

Brad Maglinger, Switch: The general difference between Web and traditional is measurement. We (digital) have the ability to refine and correct our mistakes in a more precise manner. We have the ability to adapt and become increasingly more agile in our natural environment; whereas another medium might adapt viscerally, rather than adapt with trending.

Where will it be? The best answer to that is digital will expand to everywhere and anywhere it naturally can (cars, appliances, etc); so the Web design industry will continue to grow into new formats, applications and contextual engagement. This said, from a technological point-of-view, the pain of an ever-expanding pool of platforms, APIs, frameworks and third-party environments will increase as software and languages become more rapidly digestible for corporations. An example might be Lexus' in-car platform built off Objective-C and building/designing tools or services to fit their proprietary framework.

Nick Julia, Epic Web Solutions: Website design is now becoming more of a science instead of an art.  We are now becoming more data driven than subjective design.  The data that is collected now gives you real results, like Crazy Egg’s heat map testing and other A/B testing software.  We believe that design will continue to evolve as it has over the last several years, and continue to become more and more of a scientific process instead of an art form.

Anora Vasant, Base Creative: I like to think we're moving closer to a universally accessible web. The web is becoming a more crowded place and in order to be truly accessible and to provide the best user experience as standards develop and new technologies becomes available it will require the entire industry to be on the same page when it comes to standards - website designer/developers and browser companies alike.

Lauren Whitson, 1&1: What will matter the most I think is the level of specialized services professional Web designers are able to provide clients. The moniker “there’s an app for that” speaks to the proliferation of interest in specialized tools for online services. The next natural step for websites is to offer these features that directly support their mission directly within their websites.

This is something I foresee becoming especially crucial to online strategies for small businesses, as a way to emphasize their consideration of customers and the need to stand out among competitor sites. Convenience is king when it comes to the internet so the more websites can offer to visitors, the better.

Patrick Llewellyn, 99designs: The web design industry is going to experience explosive growth, with the demand being driven by increased reliance on using mobile devices to go online.

Peter Marino, reelWebDesign.com: In the next five years it will become easier for any one to design a website so that's both good and bad because it makes the competition more fierce but more efficient as well. That's why it's important to have a few niches that can separate you from other designers. My strength has always lied in being able to see the big picture but also being able to look at the details.  I use SEO and social media marketing as a way of making it easier for a business to choose mine over others since we can handle both the digital marketing and web design needs for their company.  However, what you do to separate yourself should be different and cater to your technical and social abilities.

Jason Cianfrone, Base Creative: The future for the web is definitely a good one. With an industry so full of craftsmen continually pushing their creative boundaries to inspire the next generation I personally can’t wait to see where we are even a year away from today.

WM: What advice can you give other design professionals that will best prepare them and their clients for these developments?

Scott Forshay, Acquity Group: I think it's important to understand, fundamentally, that digital design has evolved beyond simple aesthetics and usability. Design is now experiential in nature, creating experiences that aid, inform, entertain, and help people navigate an increasingly digitally-enabled world. Effective design is always based on the specific set of use cases that people encounter and, in turn, designing to add efficiencies and augmenting those experiences through technology in a subtle and refined manner.

Alex Brooke, Base Creative: Just to make sure you keep up to date and keep your standards high. Never let standards drop to
get around an issue.

Brad Maglinger, Switch: Never stop learning. No matter your skill level, everything will inevitably change next month on Web.

Nick Julia, Epic Web Solutions: Designers that have experience in font-end programming are becoming more valuable than a designer that strictly designs. Our advice to designers would be to create a foundation of programming, not only will it help you understand programming, but it will help your design because you will now know how to design for functionality and user experience.

Lauren Whitson, 1&1: Don’t be afraid to utilize third-party solutions to enhance the Web design and functionality of a site. Open platform solutions let developers and skilled designers use published technology and mold it to fit their own needs. Now with the advent of applications, open software programs are becoming increasingly popular as specialized solutions are sought out by people with unique needs or objectives. These APIs open many possibilities and can really enhance the level of service designers are able to offer their clients. The application space is the new up-and-coming environment for utilizing online tools (hence, the development of application marketplaces), and is precisely why it is to the benefit of Web designers to expand their resources.

Anora Vasant, Base Creative: It may seem obvious but keeping up to date with the developments in technology are crucial for ensuring
your designs cater for the capabilities that are available. Continuous development, getting involved in debates with peers and trying out new techniques will ensure you're developing with the industry, but nothing can replace pure passion for creating great websites.

Patrick Llewellyn, 99designs: Learn to design with a single focus on the most important information you want to convey, or the action you want your customers to take. Keep it simple. Keep it focused and engaging.

Peter Marino, reelWebDesign.com: Keep learning, but don’t just learn haphazardly. There are so many choices for programming languages, design tools and digital marketing. Therefore, you must look at yourself first and see what it is that you like, what you’re good at or could become good at and choose from those innate abilities. I have seen so many people learning stuff “for the money” or for what's hot at the moment just to find themselves unhappy or obsolete in no time. Make choices that you can live with and ones that have longer term sustainability.  For instance, I've seen a lot of people learning new programming languages so they can make Android and iPhone apps, but in 5 years when a phone can do everything a laptop can do or more, will making phone apps be around or as lucrative? If you do like making apps I would suggest concentrating on HTML5 web apps since the web will be here for the very foreseeable future.

Jason Cianfrone, Base Creative: Stay inspired and continue to inspire others. Keep reading, keep learning and don’t be afraid to give back to the industry. A crucial part of your job is to stay up to date with what’s going on in the industry and to help it grow.