I’ve done a lot of freelance work in the past few years, but nothing has been more fun and more enjoyable than the work I did for free. I’ve built wedding websites for friends and a site for my roommate’s feature documentary, Sanskriti.
There are a number of reasons I think I enjoy this. Partly, I am giving it as a gift. I love giving gifts more than anything, finding that perfect item for a person I care about, and watching their eyes light up when they receive it. Sometimes, that’s homemade cookies. Once, it was a personal travel journal where I hand wrote best places to visit in the United Kingdom and printed subway maps. But one of the best gifts I can give someone is the time and effort to give a website that is better than any generic template they could find, or a free service provider with ads.
That makes me sound pretty selfless. I must admit, I don’t do it just for them. These projects, where I’m not being paid, are giving me a place to experiment and learn new things. I had never worked with parallax scrolling before Sanskriti, and it was a time I could try and fail. The site is currently in it’s third iteration, and will be redesigned again by the end of the year. When that’s up, it will probably be miles ahead of the current iteration.
For the past several months, I’ve been designing a wedding website for my friends, Laz and Breanna. This has been an incredibly fun project, and not only because I’ve known them since the beginning of their relationship in our sophomore year of college. I wanted to give them something for their engagement that would also bridge the gap of our distance (they’re currently in North Carolina). Though we kept in touch post-graduation, this was something that would give us more of a reason to keep talking.
It’s pretty common nowadays for couples to have websites for their weddings. I spoke with Breanna and Laz about what was important to them, what sort of information should be featured. We went through the necessities (event logistics, wedding party bios, and guest information for hotels and directions to the ceremony). Because their relationship began on Facebook, I took note and decided to design a timeline reminiscent of Facebook’s earlier iteration of the timeline.
My first project was actually for my friends Joanne and Tom back in 2011. I was just beginning to learn how to build websites, and I’ve come a long, long way since that project. At the time, it was the coolest thing I had ever built (and I even presented to my class, WRA 415 Digital Rhetoric, about the project and the process). Ever since that project, I had been seeking opportunities for myself to become a better web designer and web developer. That being said, I wasn’t interested in projects that weren’t fun. I didn’t want to slog through pro-bono cases where I couldn’t take the opportunity to learn something new.
In my heart of hearts, I’ve always been a nerd. I loved being in the front of class, asking questions, and challenging myself. I love learning more and becoming the best I can be at what I do. Passion projects are an opportunity for me to explore and learn, with less risk of being bored and giving up. If I were to just create something for myself for the sake of learning, I may not follow through. When I commit to an actual project and deadline, I force myself to keep going.
Breanna and Laz’s wedding website will launch in under a month. There’s still some content missing, and features to be added as the wedding gets closer. Hopefully, all of their guests will love it as much as we do. And hopefully, I’ll be given the chance to give future friends who get married this gift.