AzharKhan

Let's get to know you first. Tell us about yourself.

I'm a Full Stack developer (mostly learned through hacking away at something till it works), currently working as a Web Engineer at BNOTIONS which is a technology innovations company creating products that are disruptive and innovative solutions for clients. I stumbled into this field while navigating through the co-op program at the University of Waterloo. Being a Mechatronics Engineering student, I was exposed to various fields, but I have always been drawn towards the web industry because I had a keen interest in keeping up with new products as well as the amazing innovation and possibilities that it allowed. Although I didn't have a programming background, I was given an opportunity to work directly within the industry and learn by doing through startup companies. Using what I've learnt and constantly trying to get better, I'm working towards finding my own niche within this industry while keeping up with new technologies and trends.

Cool, so what's the story behind your website and its design?

A few months before graduating, I was looking to purchase domain names for my 4th year design project and I realized I didn't have my own personal landing page. I had a few blogs that I didn't maintain continuously but having a digital presence that is easy to find was very important for job applications as well as personal branding. I bought my current domain even though .com was taken, and put up an initial website. As you can see from the screenshots, it was pretty terribly designed and additionally, it looked horrible on mobile devices and overall I was just being lazy in updating it. You cannot get away with a website that isn't responsive these days. A web app, possibly but there is a lot of sharing and browsing done solely through mobile, so you are already losing if you haven't designed with at least a smaller screen layout in mind.

I am a big proponent of clean and minimal design and I always wanted to move towards that. I am unable to design something extravagant and fancy, due to my design limitations but having a clean design also puts the focus on the content as the rest blends into the background. I did some research and saved a few examples of ones that I liked and slowly built an "inspiration" folder from where I chose different components that I liked to build my website in it's current state. Although it's always going to be a work in progress, I was happy with the way it turned out mostly.

What part of your website is your favourite, and why?

One of my favourite part of the website is it's responsiveness thanks to the great Foundation grid framework which was a large reason for the redesign. The other two are the links to a "Music" and "Talk" pages that are powered by SongDrop and Rebel Mouse respectively. Music and social media are two of my most engaging activities online and I wanted a place where I could easily display the content that I was enjoying and sharing myself. Those two services did a great job in making it easy to embed their content within blogs or existing websites.

Technologies, languages, frameworks, or libraries?

The website was built from scratch using components from Zurb's Foundation for it's responsive grid layout and the overall element styling. I loved the simplicity of thinking in terms of a 12-column grid for arranging things and it made designing for mobile and the web very easy. It was my first project with it and I would definitely recommend it (although Bootstrap has taken a similar approach with their latest version). I did most of the CSS work through Compass + SASS because once you've written in SASS it's very difficult to go back to Vanilla CSS and Compass's mixins are a lifesaver for things like cross-browser compatibility etc. There's a bit of jQuery there of course and I had to write some PHP which was not a great experience, but I can live with it. Lastly, I used the great Font Awesome for easy and configurable icons for a better visual look on the page.

Any upcoming changes we should look out for?

I'm working on integrating a Jekyll blog on the website so I can "blog like a hacker" but mostly so that I can save and showcase some of the technical challenges that I have been working on as well as some of my personal observations and musings. I would want to have Grunt and Bower handler my dependancies and help me launch a quick development version of my website rather than serving it up through a simple Python server as I had been initially doing. Front-End development has changed a lot, and there are many tools that can make a developer's life easier by investing a little bit of initial ramp up time in setting up the environment correctly.

Interview date: 12 Feb 2014Permalink