To continue meetings with hard-workers and helpful people in Web Design, I’m pleased to share this quick interview with Soh Tanaka.
Soh is a passionate, high-skilled, Web Designer and Front-End Developer. He produces usable and aesthetically pleasing designs using XHTML and CSS structures.
He is a tutorial writer. You can find his articles on Soh Tanaka Web Design Blog, DesignM.ag and Noupe. In 2009 he has also launched Design Bombs, a fantastic Website Gallery.
Soh, welcome to PV.M Garage and first of all thank you for this informal interview (I’m honored). I’m sure the PV.M’s readers know who you are and what you do; but could you introduce yourself, where you are from, and what do you do in your spare time?
Thanks Pier for having me on PV.M Garage. My name is Soh Tanaka, and I am from Los Angeles, CA.
Besides my love for design and development, I am very passionate about a particular street dance called “Popping” (West Coast Poppin), which is a funk derived dance that started in the 70’s in California before “break dancing / bboying” emerged in the media in New York in the 80’s. I dance/rep for a street gear/clothing company called “Triumvir” located in Santa Ana, CA.
“I am a problem solver” you say in your about page. Well, what kind of problem can you solve and why do you love to solve them?
Problem solving can come in many forms like coming up with a design to raise conversions, correcting usability/accessibility issues, debugging code, to simply figuring out how to translate your design to effectively communicate to the users.
Every designer/developer goes through this process on a daily basis but personally I love the feeling of being able to take a raw concept and turn it into something beautiful, usable, and functional. It’s the challenges that I face that make me want more out of this industry/career.
Your projects are very interesting and they inspire many web designers all over the world. High-Quality design with a particular attention for web standards and the usability to make functional and excellent website. What is the key to making a good website?
Every designer has his/her own philosophy of what makes a good website and there are many factors that come into play. A website is a tool for communication, so usability is usually #1 on my list. But of course functionality and aesthetics play a big roll as well on making a website successful, memorable, and stand out from the rest.
I notice you focalize your work in clean and nice design with a particular attention for web standards and usability. What is the essential step in a web project? Good design, perfect code, Search Engine Optimization…
It’s essential to first know what the goal is for the website. What is the client looking for, and ultimately how will you cater for the users. Once you figure that out, then you can start designing and developing the site. The site itself needs to be solid design/development wise so it can be easily maintained and flexible enough to expand in the future. A good website constantly grows and evolves as you learn more about your users and their needs.
It’s always good practice to keep search engines in mind when developing sites as well. Things like file structures, naming conventions, internal linking structure, which keywords to target, etc. Planning ahead on how to market the site once the site has launched is very important.
Could you describe us your best work?
I don’t know if I have something that I am 100% proud of. I always start something that I like, then a month later start frowning on it. I guess I am my own worst critic, but I’m hoping sooner or later a project would come by that makes me completely satisfied.
HTML 5 is not a W3C recommendation yet, but we read articles and tutorials about this new version of HTML code.
What do you think about the enthusiasm for HTML 5 features and about its use in this moment? Is it early?
HTML5 looks great and I am very excited for what they have been cooking up. I would not personally use this now since the support for it is very minimal, but once other browsers start catering to it I would definitely be jumping onboard.
I personally love jQuery for its simplicity and the friendly learning curve. The jQuery community is very strong and a lot of resources can be found for it. I would say it’s probably more useful for designers more than the hardcore web developers though. Chris Coyier recently spoke about “Using jQuery to Extend CSS” (http://css-tricks.com/front-end-design-conference-09-wrap-up/), which is a great summary of why jQuery is so useful for designers.
Why do you need a blog “to market” your services?
Well I didn’t start a blog to market my services really. That was not my initial plan, but it has now started to take on that roll. I started a blog just to document things that I had learned and to pass it down for those who were seeking similar information. It was more of a personal note that I can come back to when working on projects, but eventually the practical tutorials caught on and people seemed to enjoy what I was sharing.
Your blog does not monetize your useful posts. Why?
Like I said in the previous response, I really had no intentions to go all out on my blog. It was something I had never done before and I thought would be a good time to learn how to write more effectively and to try to document all of the techniques I had learned. I do plan on adding ads in my next redesign, the idea of placing ads never came into mind when I was designing my blog originally.
SohTanaka Blog, Design Bombs (your inspiration portal for web designers), WestCoast Poppin are your personal projects online. What can we look for from you in the next future? What projects will you be working on in this period?
There is a place here in Long Beach, CA that houses a lot of street dancers and hiphop culture called “Homeland”. The guy who runs the place is named “Steam” who is a great graffiti writer, and I am planning to make a graffiti gallery for all the pieces they put on the walls of this building. The spot has been going on since the late 80’s and they have a huge archive of murals and graffiti pieces that street artists from around the world have put up. I wanted him to have a place where he can share the talent that has come by there, and get the recognition that it deserves.
I’m all about supporting raw underground culture, so my next personal project would be to get that up and running for him.
If I say you “save only one of the following items: WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Radiant CMS, ExpressionEngine, Movable Type”. Your choise is…
I would say WordPress, simply because I am most familiar with it. I have given Drupal and Joomla a shot before but I really liked how simple and customizable WordPress really is. I have been hearing a lot of great reviews about ExpressionEngine though. I would like to give that a try in the future.
Thanks so much Soh to share your experience. The last thing. Could you greet us leaving a suggestion for beginners in web design world?
My suggestion and advice would be to be passionate, stay hungry, and to learn as much as you can. Don’t wait to be spoon-fed, but take initiative, stay focused, and make the most out of your time and situation!