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

My name's Matt Soria, and I'm a freelance designer and front-end developer from Chicago, Illinois. I have been working on the web for the past few years as a freelancer, with a couple of short stints at a company and agency.

I studied photography in college, in Chicago, where I really got my start, making websites for myself, fellow artists, and professors; but my first interest in making websites started when my family first got hooked up to the internet when I was about 13, making sites with Yahoo Geocities.

Last July my girlfriend and I decided to leave Chicago and move to Valparaiso, Chile, so I've been working remotely on a contract for a company back in the U.S. since I've been here, and I'm so grateful to be able to work in an industry that makes this lifestyle possible! I definitely encourage other people in the industry with aspirations to live abroad to take advantage of the unique flexibility that this field offers.

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

I bought the domain and built the first version of my site when I was about 17, and have redesigned it probably six or seven times since then. For a long time I was really into making really weird sites with all sorts of goofy easter eggs and gifs all over the place, with almost all of it comprised of scanned, hand-written content or photos.

Because I was intending on pursuing a career in photography and art, my site was always dedicated to showcasing that kind of work, but since I've been working as a web designer I haven't had a site that presented myself in that light, so this time around I was excited to try and design it from the perspective of Matt the web designer.

I had thrown together a quick one-page site that was more or less a beautified business card last year with the intention of spending the time to build the real thing, but it of course never happened. At the end of this past November I was listening to an episode of The Freelance Web podcast, and was motivated by Liz Elcoate talking about setting deadlines for yourself to just get it done, so I decided to finally just get it done.

I started waking up every day at about 4:30 AM to get a couple hours of work in on it before I started my actual work day, and just chipped away at it. I didn't do much designing beforehand - just a simple sketch of a layout, and got coding right away. I was hoping to have it done for the new year, but as usual things got in the way, and a last-minute desicion to go to Peru for a week postponed the completion of the site. Ten days away from the computer gave me some fresh perspective, and after a week or two of revisions and bug fixes I finally had my new site done!

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

I'm really excited to have a blog to write on now. I had a blog at (the origin of my online moniker) for a few years where I would post sketches, photos, and other art endevours, but I never had a place to talk about web-related things.

Other than that I'm just excited to finally have built my own site at the same standard that I build sites for clients at. For so long I've been the epidomy of that saying, "the children of the shoemaker have no shoes" - I make websites for a living, but my own site was seriously lacking in its design and code. What I like best about this redesign is that it was built the right way from the start, so changing it around, adding to it, and having it grow as I do is actually really easy now.

Is there anything you wish you knew when you first started building your website?

Just like everyone else that works on the web, or in technology in general, I'm constantly learning new things, or realizing that there's a better way to do something that I've been doing. There's not necessarily one thing that stands out, but hopefully it's going to happen continuously, and I'll be able to implement those things as time goes on.

There were a few things that I went back to implement before I launched though, like using Grunt.js, or after reading that article by Dan Tello about Sassier (BE)Modifiers I really wanted to give that a try, so I still need to get on that.

Technologies, languages, frameworks, or libraries?

  • The site runs on Statamic, which is a really great flat file CMS built on PHP. It was my first time building a site for Statamic, and I can't wait to do more!

  • I used Sublime Text 3 to write my code.

  • I used Sass(scss syntax) with Compass for styling.

  • I used jQuery for a few things here-and-there, along with Grunt.js to do a few simple tasks like concatenating the js files, and compressing my image files. I also used Retina.js to handle retina images, Prism.js to handle syntax highlighting, and a few other plugins for various things.

  • The project detail pages useScott Jehl's Picturefill to display different screenshots of the project according to what size screen you're viewing it on (check it out and resize your browser window).

  • I wrote a little javascript plugin to display a random excerpt from the Tao Te Ching on each page load in the footer, which I've open sourced as Tao.js.

  • I put the whole site on Github, and use Deploy to handle deployment from that repo.

Any upcoming changes we should look out for?

I don't have anything specific planned at the moment, but I'll be blogging regularly, and since the launch earlier in January I have been consistently improving and adding to it, so things will probably be changed all the time.

Interview date: 31 Mar 2014Permalink