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A Day in the Life of a Web Developer – Alex Walker

October 7, 2016 - Sam Doyle

10:43am

I stagger into the living room in a semi-comatose state, slump on the sofa and watch three back-to-back episodes of The Big Bang Theory I’ve already seen a dozen times, wondering during the ad breaks if I should change out of my dressing gown at some point during the looming afternoon. I’ve got some important hoovering to get round to and then –

Oh, you wanted a work day?

Let me start again…

6:55am

I stagger around the bedroom in a semi-comatose state trying to find a clean shirt and some trousers so I can change out of my dressing gown. Then it’s out into the cold, misty October morning, which always seems to be there at this time of day whether it’s October or July.

I take the bus to work because environment and the quick dash from my flat to the bus stop wakes me up a little. I usually pass the time on my journey across Nottingham with an educational book – science, history or football trivia – but lately I’ve also been doing crossword puzzles on my tablet. Since watching The Imitation Game I’ve been of the view that if there is another world war, I want to be one of the people doing maths problems at a country house in Buckinghamshire and going to the pub every evening rather than risking my life on the front, so I’m treating these crosswords as a matter of life and death.

After the bus, I have a short walk to the office, during which I’ll stock up on caffeine products for the day. Sometimes I stop at the local sandwich shop and send out a group WhatsApp message to take orders for breakfast cobs, ensuring that at least one or two workmates are looking forward to my arrival…

9:00 – 11:00

My first project of the day is munching down the fried-egg and mushroom cob I just purchased, washed down with Diet Coke to send the message loud and clear to my brain: ‘Okay, you – you’ve got no excuses now.’

Second on the priority list is a scheduled update on a web application I built for a corporate client earlier in the year. This particular app is an email marketing tool with some really cool bespoke features for customising the messages they sent out. The client loves it, to the extent that they’ve used it too much and are struggling to keep tabs on all the campaigns they’ve created.

So, my job this morning is to add some additional controls to the custom admin interface so they can filter search results by various criteria and find archived entries quicker. Bespoke systems like this often need updates along these lines and will always evolve as the client uses them.

11:00 – 13:00

I used to make my living as a writer, so the marketing team are always pestering me to take time out of my development schedule to pen a new blog for the Fifteen site.

My approach to blogging about dev stuff is that nobody really wants to read it, so to at least get them interested, I try to fill my blogs with as many jokes as possible. And puns. Lots and lots of puns. You might say the wordplay in my blogs was punlimited, although if you did someone would probably kick you in the shins.

At the moment I’m writing a series of guides to the baffling jargon that crops up in our industry. I particularly enjoyed the one about robots where I was able to let my sci-fi geekiness run amok like a Dalek with its lasers set to ‘extended metaphor’.

13:00 – 13:30

Lunch is a bit healthier than breakfast – a readymeal vegetable bake from M&S. You caught me on a good day.

To wind down for half an hour, I’ll turn off my brain and argue about politics on an internet forum, a domain where thinking is strictly forbidden.

13:30 – 14:30

I get a message from my colleague Lucy who has received an email from the client whose email system I was updating earlier: “I’ve just been on to give it a try – it’s perfect, thank you! Please pass our thanks on to Alex. He’s a star!”

Aww shucks.

It’s now time to apply my star quality to testing a website one of my fellow developers has recently built, although I doubt they will be as effusive with their admiration for this job. Site-testing is a good way to annoy your colleagues, especially if you are as picky and obsessive about detail as me, but it’s an essential part of our creative process.

No matter how much care and attention you pay during the development phase, you will overlook certain things and make little mistakes. Thoroughly testing a website from the user’s perspective irons out all the creases. As we go through the process, we create a bug list that the project’s lead dev can then refer to as they ready the site for its live date.

The developers at Fifteen take personal ownership of each project that arrives on their desk, but we still work as a team. As well as testing, we’re constantly asking each other for extra insight into a tricky bit of coding or some other technical wizardry. We’ve all got our strong areas and our blindspots and the key is knowing what those are – not a day goes by when, as a lifelong PC user, I don’t ask Mikey how to carry out a certain operation on my Mac.

14:30 – 17:30

I’ve got some time free in my schedule for the rest of the day, so I turn to one of my pet projects. At the moment I’m building a mobile app for the Fifteen blog – as well as a potential marketing tool, it’s also an exercise in expanding the range of products we can offer to our customers.

The app’s quite simple – just a feed of our blog posts – but I’m playing around with various touchscreen actions, such as swipe left and right to move between posts, parallax scrolling on the featured image, and pull down to refresh.

I have a utility that allows me to code on my computer and instantly preview the changes on a mobile device, so I’m using the Fifteen testing lab – a dozen or more mobiles and tablets of varying, size, shape and model – to get my interface working as smoothly as possible across all platforms.

Home time

Although my job is quite technical, I’m also a bit of an old fashioned type, so before I start packing my bag to go home, I check my diary (yes, a book-type thing made of paper) to make sure I haven’t forgotten something important.

Any non-urgent jobs I didn’t get around to doing today I’ll highlight in bright yellow so I don’t ignore them tomorrow. Powered by caffeine, mushrooms and microwaved veggies, I’ve managed to get through all my chores for the day and ticked a few items off the mobile app plan.

A client has just sent through an email with some visual amends to a system Fifteen are helping to rebrand, so I make a note to tackle that tomorrow morning, then head off for my bus. I’m still no closer to figuring out nine across and Blighty is depending on me…

Sam Doyle

Sam Doyle

Head of Development

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