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One on One With Web Design Teacher Fred Winton

October 1st, 2017 |

Fred Winton

Dave Downes: Hi Fred, thanks for sitting down with me for this interview. I’ll dive right in, what is your background in the industry?

Fred Winton: My pleasure, well I began working in Web Design in 1994, I worked for several small firms in San Diego. Mostly in web development, working front end, HTML, CSS, JavaScript. Hand coding websites, back then the web was much different than it is today. Most of us doing web design at the time were self taught, since there weren’t many schools for web design.

Dave: How did you come to work at Platt College?

Fred: In 1999 I had a colleague, Emily Kay, who was teaching at Platt College. She asked if I would be a substitute teacher for her class, during her honeymoon. That was in November of 1999 and I’ve continued teaching at Platt ever since.

Dave: Thank her for getting married, were you teaching before that?

Fred: Yes I had been teaching extension classes at University of California San Diego.

Dave: Seems like you were fairly busy at the time.

Fred: Yeah, absolutely, I was also doing contract work for a small web company at the time. Building sites for local firms here in San Diego as well as some firms in Las Vegas. My partner at the time was living in Vegas and we were building our reputation and business between here and there. Everything was new, and I was part of a small web startup that was trying to carve out the business itself. At this time the web was only four years old. Everything was about discovery and innovation, and yeah some of it was too flashy, but the foundation was rock solid. We were also providing hosting and customer support, in order to develop multiple streams of income within the industry.

Dave: “Multiple streams of income.”

Fred: I don’t just say it because it sounds catchy.

Dave: So you’ve had clients for almost 20 years that are still with you?

Fred: Wow, 20 years, yeah I should get them a card or something..

Dave: Shifting gears, where did you get the nickname Fishy Fred?

Fred: I wish there were some juicy story, but I’ve always been into fishing, and I’ve always been into aquariums. So it’s a combination of the two probably, I don’t know though who said it first, and I am not really sure when it began to stick. I’m certainly okay with the nickname though.

Dave: Somewhat disappointed to hear that, Okay then Web Designer and Web Developer, what’s the difference?

Fred: They are used synonymously and interchanged all the time. And I think one somewhat insinuates the other, back and forth. If I were to get technical however, a Web Designer is concerned with of course, design. User interface, and the user experience, understanding how that user is going to interact with that design and understand the metaphor and the content and the calls to action of the site. Then we take that design from a graphic design program, such as Photoshop, and use languages such as HTML and CSS to bring that design to a browser, such as Chrome. A web designer works primarily with a graphics editor and a web developer works primarily with a language and text editor.

Dave: So it sounds like you need to be a hard core programmer to be a web developer.

Fred: Well no, not at all. We consider HTML, CSS, and Javascript “scripting” languages, or front end “client” languages, meaning that these languages are interpreted by the web browser on the front end. Each of those languages has a role to play in web development, we wouldn’t consider HTML a programming language, it’s a semantic language that brings meaning and structure to the content. CSS is also not a programming language, it is a presentation language, it is used to modify and change the way that the HTML is presented to the user. Javascript is a programing language that’s based in the architecture of C, and it’s primarily used to create interaction with the user and the browser. All three of those languages are browser based. Another language that we use and that is a programming language is PHP, however it’s a server side language. It is used to communicate between the web browser and the web server for functions like login systems, check out systems, dynamic and database driven sites..

Dave: Do you have any role models?

Fred: I’ve never met him, but Sir Tim Berners Lee is certainly a role model of mine, his insight and vision of the world wide web are truly inspirational. But closer to home I’d have to say that Mr. Leiker is a significant role model, his passion about the college and wanting to do the right thing for the students and teachers, it’s one of the reasons I’ve been a teacher at Platt for these past 18 years.

Dave: What inspires you?

Fred: Oh that’s easy, my current and former students provide me with inspiration. It’s one of the reasons that I teach. I enjoy the moment in class when I see a student’s face light up when they grasp a new concept or the eureka moment when they tackle a nasty bit of code. On more than one occasion a former student has reached out to me to thank me and share with me a story of their post graduation success. It’s inspiring to think that I had some small influence in that.

Dave: That seems pretty amazing, and that is part of the formula for why you’ve enjoyed teaching at Platt for so long?

Fred: Sure, but there’s more to teaching at Platt that I enjoy. If I were at a traditional college, I might never see the students after they leave my class, but at Platt I see those students no matter what direction they go. Be it 3D, Video, Graphic Design, or Web I get to see them all and interact with them, because we’re such a small school. And because of that, I get to see how happy those students are following their passions, even after they graduate. When they go on their first interview, when they get their first job, when they buy their first house. Platt has facilitated my ability to help people make a positive change in their lives.

Dave: So you care for them, like a family?

Fred: Yes, but it is still a business, so we have to care in a different way. We’re here to help students hone and improve their talent, then augment them with the skills employers are looking for. This is especially true with Web, we have to keep our finger on the pulse of the industry, just because some blog or magazine might have a new “trend” in web design, that might be nothing like what the firms are looking for in employees. So we have to stay agile and relevant, and communicate that to our students, to ensure that they are best prepared to succeed.

Dave: In closing is there any resource you would suggest to aspiring web students to become successful?

Fred: Like a website?

Dave: Yeah, somewhere that they can turn to, in order to become inspired about web design.

Fred: I can’t name just one, and if I did then that would be counter intuitive to what I’ve been trying to say here. And besides, they’ve all changed numerous times in the past 20 years. The number one resource for the aspiring web student; an inquisitive mind. Stay curious about web. About everything. If you’ve been in my class you know how to crack open the web and peer inside. Keep that up and you’re sure to be inspired.

Dave: Thank you, Fred.

Fred: Thank you.

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About the Author:

Veteran Liaison, Wampa wrangler, Dr. Pepper taste test coordinator.

Dave is a 20 year US Navy veteran

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