Q1: What is your background, for those readers not familiar with you?

I’ve been developing on the web for over 20 years. Sometime between my first website and now, I finished my degree in offensive hacking, spent some time as a youth pastor, and came back to continue life as a developer. I’ve worked as a developer in the financial sector, medical, agriculture, and education. I’ve written code in HTML, CSS, JS, PHP, C#, VB, C++, Python, Objective C, and Swift. It’s been a crazy, wild ride. I also co-founded Prestige Conference with Kiko Doran.

Q2: You have a lot of experience in infographics, and a lot of people love them. What are your top 3 tips for a company looking to create one?

Let the data write the story. Too many companies want to tell a story and look for the data to support it. It’s completely obvious when that’s the approach you’ve taken. It feels forced and inorganic, which is the death of a good infographic.

Hire a great designer strong in data visualization. Visualizations are the medium used to tell the story. Bad design in an infographic is akin to bad grammar in a book. Don’t overdo the interactivity: It’s like salt. Too much is worse than not enough.

Q3: As a front-end dev, what do you love about WordPress?

I love the freedom that I have as a front-end developer to make WordPress do EXACTLY what I want it to do. It really is unopinionated when it comes to to the way the content is shown to the user. The WP REST API makes this even more true.

Q4: As a front-end dev, what do you not love about WordPress?

That freedom is a two-edged sword. Two themes, even if both are coded well, will have very different code bases. Each time you’re asked to take over the maintenance of an existing theme, or to customize a purchased theme, requires learning a mostly-new code base with unique ways of doing similar things. If that is one of the many, many bad themes available in the commercial WordPress ecosystem, that burden is even heavier.

Q5: What are your favorite aspects of front-end development in general?

Over the last 3 or 4 years, we’ve seen an explosion of the front-end development tool ecosystem. The better front-end developers have gone from “people who makes a design interactive” to solutions architects who are just as concerned with performance as the traditional server-side developer, but in a much more hostile programming environment (the browser). We’re solving much more difficult and interesting problems than we ever have, in much more innovative ways. It’s exciting to be part of the forward momentum.

Q6: What are your least favorite aspects of front-end development in general?

The ADD nature of JavaScript. While it’s my favorite language, the speed at which frameworks move into, and then out of, favor is dizzying. Within the last few years, I’ve programmed major web apps in Backbone, Angular, and React. I’ve used Grunt, Gulp, and Webpack as task runners and build systems. I understand that each of these tools has strengths and weakness, and at times is built as a solution to the weaknesses of it’s predecessors, but it’s also exhausting at times.

Q7: What’s in your SaaS toolkit?

  • Azure: A great solution to hosting Node.js, MongoDB, and mobile app projects. I also love their BlobStorage APIs.
  • BrowserStack: The best way to quickly view a website in Android and Internet Explorer. Of course, I still have IE8-11 and Edge VMs, as well as multiple mobile devices, for in-depth debugging.
  • Google Apps: Email and Office alternative.
  • SendGrid: The best email API that I’ve found. I love their logging features.
  • Dropbox: A no-brainer at $10/mo.
  • Adobe Creative Suite: Not a real SaaS, but a subscription I happily pay for every month.
  • Jetbrains: Ditto

Q8: If someone is looking to hire a front-end dev, why are you the best choice? Don’t be bashful.

While I am a great front-end developer, that’s not the reason that I’m the best choice (there are plenty of great front-end devs in the world). I take that a step further. I’m incredibly easy to work with, flexible, and continually learning (see questions 5 and 6).

I do a lot of work for designers who don’t code, or maybe don’t love to code, so they can focus on what they are great at. I also work a lot with startup founders to help bring their vision into focus, and then implement it. Something a typical front-end dev doesn’t do.

Q9: If someone can’t make it to your Prestige Conference in person, how can they follow along?

When kicking around the idea of Prestige we knew we wanted to accomplish a few things: A) Learn from brilliant people in the tech ecosystem B) Share the knowledge with our peers. We know that it’s not always possible to be at the event which is why we added a live stream component. Our stream is professionally shot and produced in real time incorporating the slides from our speakers.

In-person really is worth the effort and cost. The best conversations happen between the sessions and at the happy hours, and it’s where I made the contacts that allowed me to start a business with clients already lined up.

Q10: What is South Dakota really like?

Stark and beautiful. The amazing view combines with the uniquely warm and open people, and the further west you go, the less evident the fingerprint of humanity is. You’re slowly transported back to a time before European civilization arrived. It’s fascinating to see, and I can’t really imagine a more amazing and perfect place to call home. Of course, I’m writing this in the midst of a blizzard (12” of snow and 50-60mph winds). (Stockholm Syndrome, maybe?)

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Brian Jackson

Brian has a huge passion for WordPress, has been using it for over a decade, and even develops a couple of premium plugins. Brian enjoys blogging, movies, and hiking. Connect with Brian on Twitter.