An Interview with Jonathan Snook

Recently, I was able to pull Jonathan Snook away from his many projects for a few minutes to have a quick chat. I’ve been a long time fan of Mr. Snook. I recently saw him speak at The Future of Web Design 2007 in NYC, and before that finished his excellent book, Accelerated DOM Scripting. Jonathan Snook is a highly respected individual in the Web design & Development community, here are a few words with him:

Quick formalities. Could you provide a bit of a bio for yourself?
I’m currently a freelance designer and developer based out of Ottawa, Canada.
What got you started working on the Web?
I’ve always been a computer geek. I used to hang out on the BBSs of the day. When the internet came around, it was fun to see all the information out there. But it wasn’t until the web came around that things really started to take off. So, it became a hobby of mine until 1999 when I decided to break into the sector and try to make a career out of it. I landed a job at a local agency within the month and, as they say, the rest is history.
What’s a typical day like in the life of Jonathan Snook? Is there such a thing?
As a freelancer, no day is typical — especially with family. While the type of projects I work on vary, most of my time is spent from home with the occasional conference call or on-site visit.
You’re basically famous for a multitude of talents; what do you call yourself? Designer, developer, programmer, writer, all of the above (and then some)?
It depends on who I’m talking to. At the most basic level, I’ll just say that “I make web sites”. If I’m talking to someone who understands the web then I’ll say that “I’m a freelance web designer/developer”. That covers the majority of the cases.
Of all your talents, which do you enjoy working with the best?
That’s one of the great things of having multiple disciplines — I can work on whatever I like best at any moment. Sometimes I want to design, other times I want to get knee deep into code. In the end, it’s all about solving problems in different ways.
Geeky details. Would you mind outlining your choice of hardware and software you wouldn’t want to be without?
I’m still a diehard Windows user running Microsoft Office. But I couldn’t live without UltraEdit, my text editor of choice for a number of years. I also need to have Fireworks for design work and Dreamweaver for heavy HTML work.
You’ve managed to release an excellent book recently, how was the writing experience? If given the choice, would you start over and do it again? What would you do differently?
Writing is hard. I found myself doing a heck of a lot more research than I ever thought I would. That can really slow you down. I’m not sure that I’d do anything differently except have a better understanding of the time and effort it deserves. Writing an entire book definitely isn’t something that I necessarily want to do again but I’ll probably write a chapter or two for multi-author books when the opportunity arises.
You’re familiar with both the agency as well as freelance way of life, can you say that you’ve got a preference?
For the most part, I prefer the freedom that freelance brings. I like working from home. I like working closely with clients to build cool things. It takes a great deal of discipline, though, which I don’t always have. Working within an agency also has some freedoms, like the freedom from decisions. It’s nice to just ask, “which is more important” and then let a project manager handle the client. For now, though, I’ll continue with the freelance life. It still offers up potential. I’d like to take advantage of that and exhaust those possibilities before I jump back into working for someone else.
What is it that keeps you speaking at conferences, writing books, and maintaining your very popular website?
I still enjoy the process of sharing knowledge. But at the same time, it’s also vital marketing for my own business. It’s a great win-win.
I want to thank you so much for taking some of your valuable time to interview with me, Jonathan. I know you’re an extremely busy person and I really appreciate it.
Thanks so much for asking.