Pegaweb Interview Transcript
This is the transcript of an interview conducted by Atul Thakur of insidegraphics.com with me, the webmaster of Pegaweb (Daniel Piechnick).
It has been posted here due to requests from site visitors.
Please enjoy my very opinionated responses. :)
1. Please Tell us something about you and how did you inclined towards graphics and web designing.
Hi Atul. Thanks for the offer of an interview. I started out doing sites for community organisations, and a few others, but all were gratis or for very small amounts of money. My site, Pegaweb.com, started out simply as a hobby site, with a few pieces of information on it—mainly a few Photoshop basics that I had learned during my short experience with Photoshop and web design. The site gradually grew and grew, as did my knowledge of Photoshop. Eventually I gave up on doing websites for other people—even when offered fairly substantial amounts of money—and simply focussed on my own site.
2. It's all about Photoshop on your site. Please tell us your perception about this great software. Have you used any other image editing software? What feature you found most amazing in Photoshop? Do you find any serious competition to Photoshop?
Yes, my site's all about Photoshop (and web design). If you're going to make a website about something, don't make it about anything else. Your site isn't a supermarket. It's better to be very good at one thing than average at ten things. I could have learned Flash, PHP, ASP, XHTML and Illustrator by now, and written tutorials about them. I haven't done this though, because I'd be very average at all of them, and people can go elsewhere and get information from specialists in any of those fields if they want to.
In keeping with this philosophy, I'm focussing more and more on tutorials about using Photoshop for web design.
My opinion about Photoshop is that it's the best graphics program around. Sure, I haven't tried any others, but I know that Photoshop is the industry standard, and it's intentionally the only program I can use.
The Blending Options (Effects for you 5.5-ers out there). These (not filters) are the foundation of my use of Photoshop. Once you know how they really work, which isn't a piece of cake, you can just imagine something in your head, create the base shape of it, and then fairly easily make it look realistic.
3. Any comments about Photoshop CS?
Yes. Photoshop 6, Photoshop 7, and CS are basically identical. However, they're all a big improvement on PS 5.0 and 5.5.
4. What is your opinion about third party plugins? Do you use them occasionally?
I don't use plugins. I'm sure there are useful plugins out there, but there's a way to do almost anything, without plugins.
5. Your tutorials are unique. They not only teaches Photoshop but gives extensive knowledge of web designing. Tell us your perception about web designing. Is it an art or science?
I focus on the graphical part of web design, so I'll give my two cents on that. It's mainly science. The "art part" is knowing what looks good, and the science (the hard part) is being able to get the image in your head onto the screen (this part is where 95% of web/graphic design goes wrong.) If you're not artistic, that can't be helped. If you don't know the "science" part, that can be improved, but it can only be improved through practice. Keep a folder of bookmarked sites that impressed you. Work out what the impressive effect is, drag it into Photoshop, and try to imitate it.
6. Tell us your experience of designing and maintaining such an amazing and one of the most popular web site like www.pegaweb.com
It has been a learning experience. Everyone wants instant success, but it ain't gunna happen. I only write when I have something important to say, never to "generate content". I use my website forum to generate mass informational fodder for search engines to pick up. I ask visitors to only post questions to my forum—not email them to me. This way, I can answer their questions in person, and leave the dialogue as a permanent resource for other visitors.
7. Tell us your philosophy about web and graphics designing and in general digital arts as an artist.
I'm not really an "artist" per se—not in the qualificational sense. My main aim in graphic design is to create realism out of non-realism. In my opinion, this is the crucible of artistic graphic design—the ability to picture something fantastic in your mind, and have the requisite technical knowledge to able to transfer it to the screen.
More recently, I've learned a lot more about good web design (both graphical and non-graphical) by taking stock of what web design is fundamentally about, and how people so easily lose sight of the big picture.
Good web design is about aiding the transfer of useful information to the visitor. (Unless your site topic is art or design, in which case the design of the site itself is of interest to the visitor.)
Most web designers don't realise that most sites' visitors don't care for website graphics... and care even less for bad graphics. Sure, if you can "wow" people, that's great... but that rarely happens. People just want their information... quickly!
"It's better to have a website with no graphics at all than one with bad graphics."
On my website, I pose the "Blank page" question. "Look at your site. Then paste all its text into a blank page. If the blank page with text looks better than your website, you have failed the test. All your work has only degraded your page's appearance."
In closing, here is some very brief and opinionated advice to other aspiring graphical web designers: Learn Photoshop almost exclusively. Forget about filters (except blur and a few rare others). Learn to use a very simple web editor (like FrontPage). Don't use any kind of animation. Make lots of practice websites. Be a perfectionist. Don't learn HTML. Don't learn Java, or HTML, 3-D programs, or anything similar. Whatever you do, don't ever use Flash. It does nothing. Make your website's design and navigation identical on all pages. Same layout, same SINGLE navigation menu. Never make an "intro" page, especially not a Flash intro page. ALWAYS use a white background. (Edit: there's no harm in learning these programs/languages, but most are simply not necessary for beginners to learn. Some, like Flash and Java, can be very useful, but are used to the site's detriment 90% of the time.)
Present text in the simplest possible way. No boxes for different things.
Make your page load as fast as possible. Keep graphics to a minimum. (You can break this rule if you're a graphics site.) Use one font for web page text. Size 2, black for text. Size 3, bold, black for subheaders. Size 4, bold, dark red (or other non-blue colour) for main headers. Actually, just present EVERYTHING in the absolute simplest way. Trust me.
If you don't trust me, go paste your front page into Word, set it up with the 2-3-4 font size and style I described in the previous paragraph, and ask yourself "why does this look kinda good?"