Blog Entry

Interview with James Archer

James is another one of the “web guys” I met through Refresh Phoenix and he’s also one of the guys who helped get Refresh Phoenix started. James is the founder and CEO of Forty Media, a local web design company, and CJO of Jitsu.com.

How did you get started as a web designer?
In ’94, I was sitting in a college computer lab, and one of the lab managers handed me a photocopied tri-fold brochure called “Introduction to HTML,” with a recommendation that I do something better with my time than trying to find free video games. I signed up for a GeoCities account that very day.

How long have you been working as a web designer?
I’ve been doing web design/development non-stop for the past 12 years. Most of the jobs I’ve held since that date have involved HTML in one form or another.

A couple of years ago, I took a job as a project manager at Rhino Internet (one of the bigger local firms), and spent a year there learning the ropes. It was a great experience, because the project manager’s always in the middle of the action, and because I was able to work with some major clients (Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Opera, a number of local hospitals, etc.).

After about a year, I turned in my notice and launched Forty Media as a full-time endeavor. It’s been a roller coaster ever since.

What part of your job do you like the most?
The fact that we’re an integral part of other people’s success. It’s at once terrifying and fulfilling to know that our work helps people feed their families.

What was the first website you ever built?
A very silly site for a micronation. I believe the home page itself was about 12 pages long when printed. It was great fun.

What’s the biggest mistake or hardest lesson you’ve learned as a web designer?
The hardest lesson was learning that pretty much anything that can possibly go wrong with a project is attributable to poor project management. If the server crashed and everything was lost, or if I got cheated out of our payment, or if client got frustrated with my response times, it’s my fault as the project manager for not taking appropriate measures beforehand.

What’s the most helpful thing you’ve learned?
That you can make just about any client happy with almost any design just by adding more gradients. It’s a cheap, dirty technique — but it works in a pinch.

What is a typical work day like for you?
I typically work a normal 8-hour day shift at “Forty Media National Headquarters” (a garage that we’ve kindly been allowed to use), and then maybe a 4 hour night shift at the home office. Probably half of my time is project management, and then rest designing or developing.

What are some sites that you visit daily or regularly?
Jitsu.com of course!

Other than that, and the usual work tools (GMail, Google Calendar, etc.), I don’t really frequent any particular sites. I usually check my RSS feeds in the morning and see if anything’s shaking, but I generally try to avoid hanging out on the blogs, entertainment sites, etc.

Any other words of advice for new web designers?
Learn your craft well, and treat your customers as your friends. The rest will take care of itself as you go.

Thanks for the interview James!

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