I was recently featured in a list of resources for multimedia students and it made me to think back to when I was a student, yet to experience the world of commercial multimedia.
It would be no exaggeration to say that I learned more in my first few months as a multimedia designer than in my entire final year at university; and that’s nothing against my university – I just learned an awful lot! So if I looked back to when I was just leaving university and about to move into employment, what words of advice would I give myself?
Become a good Googler
Google is a fountain of knowledge – Do not be afraid to use it if you get stuck. You might think that your co-workers or your boss will think less of you, but let me tell you, even after over four years as a multimedia designer I visit Google at least once a day to help me solve problems that come my way. Your boss would much rather you spend 20 minutes finding a solution on Google than spend 4 hours trying to solve it yourself.
Being able to use Google to find solutions is a great skill to have. Does the website you are working on not look right in Internet Explorer 6? Are you getting a PHP error? Is that extension that you installed not working? If you encounter a problem the chances are someone else has had it before, so type out the problem or paste the error code into the Google search bar and hit search.
Most of the results will usually be forum threads and blog posts. Scan through these, read the responses and before you know it you will find an answer. (If not, why not register and post your question on one of the forums?)
Test, Test and Test again
It’s happened to me before a number of times. I’ve created something for a client; it works brilliantly on my own computer but then as soon as I try it on theirs, something goes horribly wrong. It’s very embarrassing and sometimes non preventable but it’s definitely something to watch out for.
There are a million different setups a computer can have (Windows/Mac, XP/Vista/7, Internet Explorer/Firefox, different versions of Flash Player) and the list goes on, so it goes without saying that all systems aren’t going to work the same.
When you have built your multimedia or web application you are only two thirds of the way there. You need to test it out on as many different platforms as you can get your hands on. Your sister’s computer, your phone, your Nintendo Wii…
A few years ago I was involved in a project to create a multimedia resource for a very large organisation to be distributed on a CD-ROM. The disc had to run an interactive application if it was put in a PC and play a video through the TV if it was put in a DVD player. We somehow managed to pull it off but the client wanted assurance that it would work in most household DVD players, so we went to the nearest Currys electrical store and they were kind enough to let us try it on a range of different brands!
You probably won’t need to go to these extremes, but why not send it out to friends and family for them to test and report back with any problems?
Back up your work
You will hear this a lot, but believe me, don’t ignore it. There are nasty little gremlins living in your computer that break your equipment when it is least convenient.
A couple of years ago I was involved in the creation of a video and on the very day that it was supposed to be sent to the client, the external hard drive with the Adobe Premiere file, video files, graphics and all other working files broke. Thankfully we had exported an old version of the video a few days earlier, which we were able to chop up and reassemble – but this still cost a lot of extra man hours.
Over time you will develop hundreds of folders of projects, working files, images, content from clients etc. Imagine what would happen if you lost all this…
It’s always a great idea to keep two or more backups of your files. Furthermore you should keep one of them in a completely different location in case of theft, flooding, fires etc. I use a great free program called Spesoft Backup and back up my files on a daily basis.