Why graduate web designers should have an opinion on FTP software

Specialists in all fields have a tendency to fetishise their kit because mastery and selection of tools is a way of demonstrating expertise. 

James Bond choose an off beam choice in his Beretta 418. That tells us something about him – he’s a maverick, a specialist, an expert. I can only find this scene in German, but this is the moment from Dr. No where M reins him in and insists he take a more orthodox sidearm – watch and note Bond’s body language and words:

Bond is a master craftsman. No mistake.

What’s in your backpack?

Web designers and developers like to choose tools and design workflows for themselves. This is pragmatic in one sense (when your workflow is right, you’ll work faster) but it does have a performative aspect to it too – the kit chosen plays a role in explaining who you are as a designer or developer. If you need evidence of that, head over to the rather geeky Bag Check where people detail their set ups and chosen tools for a variety of jobs – look at some of the web development lists and you’ll see what I mean.

We have the tools, we have the talent

If, as a graduate designer / developer, you want to step into this world and be taken seriously, you need to think about your tools. You need to be able to go into a meeting with your new industry peers and answer the question “what’s your favourite FTP software?”. You need to be able to answer that question with conviction and reasoned judgement.

But at Uni we use Dreamweaver!

At BCU we kit out our design studios with Apple iMacs, and we kit those iMacs out with Adobe Creative Suite. That means that by default we can support you in building websites using Dreamweaver and Photoshop (or Fireworks); if you want to design with the stabilisers on, you’re best to stick within the narrow but capable tools of Creative Suite. Why do we do that? Well, any one of the modules that come under my pathway bring together students from across the School of Media, and some of those are web design casuals. But the thing is we don’t do that to limit students’ learning – we do it because we need to provide a base level for students to build upon. So students who are web specialists, who want to learn mastery, should be stepping outside of that, and refining their own workflow.

Leave the Beretta behind, Bond

This isn’t just about being pretentious, this is about separating your skills from your software knowledge. For all that choosing and refining your kit bag is a useful professional activity, once in industry you may have to standardise your workflow with a group of colleagues. You may have to abandon your own principals and ideas and quickly adopt to a new set of tools. And a flexible master like Bond is lethal whether using a Walther or a Beretta.

By Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jonhickman Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: http://interactivecultures.org