I recently did a round table with other graduates from my college to first years students in the Multimedia Integration program. It was fascinating to see the actual next generation that would work on the web, and what was their inspiration as new students in a 3 year program were they would learn all about design, front-end development (HTML, CSS, Javascript and a bit of PHP), flash, video and 3d.

First thing I saw was that I was becoming old, with 5 years working as a front-end developer, I already lost some hairs and could have been a teacher. The students looked a bit like kids that liked to play video games a lot, which in fact when I think about it, was not very different from me.

Eager to learn

They were very eager to learn about design at Ubisoft, what is a typical day at work in general, and how they can do freelancer stuff. The fact is, freelancer students are rare, mostly because they are not ready to work professionally, unless they got a peculiar natural talent. Most of the questions were directed to the Ubisoft work environment. This was not really a surprise, mostly everyone loves games in this program and when you pick up one of the the only public program with 3d, it is bound to attract this crowd.

It is more important than you could imagine, in Montreal the video game industry is very present, we got a big Ubisoft, and some smaller Bioware and EA offices around. Even if there is (was, recently announced to close) a Ubisoft school, it affected a lot the Multimedia Integration program in 5 years. Web centric courses like javascript has been diluted a bit to let place to 3d and video. I cannot blame them. As a student you’re expecting a lot more courses about 3d than those about HTML. Students are still clients, and you need to bend a bit to their will.

One thing some of them will figure out later is that 3d is not necessary as much fun as they could imagine. I was very exited to learn Softimage XSI at college, and was very disappointed when I figured out that I literally sucked at it. This is where my interest for the web really kicked in, I needed to redirect my career choices.

A bit less technical

One thing that disappointed me was the lack of new technologies they were learning. Not learning any javascript framework is a big error I think. I am all about 1 session on learning basic javascript, but not one agency in Montreal is still doing pure javascript, and having a jQuery, Mootools or Prototype on their CV would help a lot. That means for employer that these students are up to date with javascript technologies. And you know what, I am pretty sure students would like a lot more javascript courses with a framework. You can actually have fun with frameworks. When you have fun you learn more. Just try to do anything interesting with pure Javascript.

Also there is still no UX (user experience design) centric course, personally I think this is even more important than plain design, everyone can profit from this kind of courses, this help to understand how to structure website with another level of knowledge than just Photoshop design.

One good thing however is that they are learning AS3, big time, instead of Director. There is a lot of jobs for flash developer and I can say that AS3 is valuable, specially for a front-end, that is one thing I’m currently lacking (working slowly on it..).

So what kind of web developers and designers we will get out of this? Certainly more design oriented graduates with a bit less technical knowledge. Personally I am a bit at the opposed side, I can help in usability and user experience but I cannot design a button even if my life was depending on it.

PS: Please keep in mind that this situation is really specific to Montreal and Quebec region, I do not know what kind og program they offer in the US or the rest of Canada. I am not talking about computer science but more Multimedia specific programs.

3 thoughts on “The next generation of web developers and designers

  1. Your article is very interesting, I am a web designer and I see every day the situation which you described in the article, I mean, the new web designers don’t know how to work with a javascript framework, but they learn AS 3.0, this situation happens in my country, Uruguay.
    Have a nice day!

  2. Nice article.

    So, is it easy for a front end developer to find job in Montreal ?, is there a lot of demand for this ?

  3. It is pretty easy, finding a fun front-end job is less easy

    I personally think that having a portfolio with xhtml/css template a some small js plugins help a lot.

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