An Interview with Matthew Kammerer of UX Booth
Since starting this blog just under two months ago, I’ve met a lot of truly interesting people in the web design niche. Still being a student myself, I particularly love finding others in my age group doing big things on the internet.
Matthew Kammerer of UX Booth is an excellent example of how age doesn’t matter when it comes to success on the web. I had an opportunity this past week to ask him some questions about his background, projects, and future plans. The results are below in Build Internet’s inaugural interview.
Give us a little background on yourself. You’re a student. What are you majoring in?
I am currently attending college at Young Harris College in North Georgia. I am planning to graduate this year with an Associates Degree. The major I have chosen is actually a funny story. I was planning on Business but due to over exerting myself with Student Government Association (I am the President) and other activities I was not able to complete a few classes I needed.
I am now an Education major.. haha! Fewer math classes and no accounting… it will work till I transfer to my next school. The closest Wal-Mart to my school is 45 minutes away so that puts into perspective what there is to do near me. Most of my activities while at school are outdoors from hiking, to repelling, and kayaking.
How/when did you get into web design?
I got into web design in 6th or 7th grade when I built websites on template sites. I forget the actual site but it allowed me to have mydomain.4t.com or something of the like. I started sites for anything I could think of. I then hired someone to do a site for my gecko business I was running in late middle school. I modified the code enough to become familiar and it gained my interest. I dove into Photoshop and Fireworks and started experimenting.
Where I actually learned to crudely code also happened to be at the Governors Honors Program, where I started a web design company with a friend there. The company taught me a lot of things from how to do my own taxes to dealing with a partner in a business. Since then I have done a bit of freelance work and enjoy designing, but still need to work more on learning CSS. David and Andrew are the design gurus at UX Booth and I always enjoy learning from them.
I know many of my friends have a hard time understanding what I do with both blogging and client work. Is this the case for you?
I get pretty excited when my posts go live on UX Booth and always ask my friends to read them. What they’ve told me lately is that they will open the links I send them and scroll through. They are telling me that they have no idea what I am talking about. I never thought what I blogged about was that advanced, but it’s interesting to get their feedback. I think the growth of blogging has allowed them to get a slight grasp of what I do.
I have had a great time explaining it to my family, however. My 12 year old brother in particular really makes me laugh. When I was home for break he would always ask me if I had worked today and what I had gotten done. If he approved then he would allow me to play Star Wars Battlefront on the play station with him. If my work completion was not up to par then he’d tell me to ‘GET TO WORK‘.
How did you end up on the UX Booth team? How’s it been so far? Give us a little insight into the group dynamics and process.
Andrew, Redd, David, and I knew we wanted to work on a project together. Our diverse skill-set and backgrounds made for a great combination. We started with different ideas but decided the niches we were looking into were not right and content would be hard to generate long term. Someone brought up usability and we all agreed it was a growing field we were all very interested in. We meet a few times a month in Atlanta at Andrew and Redd’s amazing loft. Basecamp helps a lot with our pre-planning and establishing topics of discussion.
Redd is our editor and helps us keep from sounding too silly in our posts. David helps polish posts since he most experienced with blogging and designs some with Andrew. Andrew is a front end designer by trade and has done a large part of our design. They call me a PR guy, I find places to grow our viewership and brand. We really work out to be a great team!
What’s it been like working with David Leggett of Tutorial9?
Wait, I thought this interview was about me… only kidding. David Leggett has been a large part of our success with UX Booth I believe. He has guided us in the ways of blogging and his established network has helped as well. I actually met David and Andrew at the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program in 2006.
The program was designed for rising high school seniors to go to college for the summer at no cost. I did not earn any credits, only gained experience and lived in an environment with hundreds of like minded people. It was a great experience; I met many friends and have kept in touch with a few. David is a fun person with a passion for teaching people.
What web languages and design tools are you good at? What are you in the process of learning?
This is a bit embarrassing, but I am not actually ‘good’ at any web languages. I can easily navigate HTML and CSS but can not write my own full site. For freelance web design I always outsource my coding. It has seemed easier than learning. I do want to learn someday though.
However I am pretty well versed in Fireworks and it is my editor of choice. I also have a lot of experience using and modifying the Aardvark topsite script which I run a few of my reptile websites off of.
Have your successes on web projects translated into any other interesting opportunities?
One story comes to mind. When I was in high school I was asked to develop the school website. In return I was given credit for a class I never even did any assignments in. The class was a work study type structure and I learned about time management and pleasing others. When I applied to be part of the Governor’s Honors Program the judges thought highly of this and I feel it was a major part of my admittance to the program.
I also went to my first conference last year in Atlanta called the Web Master Jam session. It was an awesome and inspiring two days. I took so many notes and learned so much. I hope to attend more conferences in the future.
Most recently I have used my experience of PR representative at UX Booth to land a job with BuySellAds. I contacted Todd to express my interest in joining him and he took me in with open arms. I am now on staff working on blogging, twittering, following up support requests, and other jobs! So far the experience has been magnificent and I look forward to my continued work with an excellent company.
I’ve noticed you have a directory site on geckos. I’ll admit, this is an untapped market. Is there a back story?
My first reptile related site was Gecko Topsites. As I branched out and created other reptile sites I decided to create a “mother” site to encompass them all, called Reptile Network. I run several sites ranging including topsites, wallpaper sites, and care sites. The network is up to six sites now! I used to breed geckos before I went to college. I had upwards of 200 geckos and they ranged in price from $25 to $1000 a piece. When I left to go to school I sold off my gecko collection and bought a nice camera :). I hope to get back into breeding geckos when I can move out of a dorm and into an apartment.
The niche is full of wonderful people and I am lucky to have had connections from when I bred geckos. This has helped me gain credibility and support for my projects. I look forward to launching my first reptile based blog in 2009.
Have any goals or projects for the new year?
I have never been one to set new years resolutions, but this year I have considered a few things I want to accomplish. I would like to guest post on a few blogs I admire. I feel like 2009 will be a year that I expand my personal presence online and attempt to find my groove within blogging and the design community.
I feel strongly that UX Booth will grow greatly in 2009. So far the response has been amazing and the UX Panel has some exciting things to bring to you in the new year!
Do any client work? Or do you stick to blogging?
I do a bit of freelance to help pay for gas and school expenses. The jobs are limited, but they are interesting. I am currently working on a Seawall company website in Florida with Matt at Spoonfed Design. Also I am in the process of finishing an agreement with a country music singer to design his web site. A side job that helps pay for hosting includes banner design to the reptile community.
Do you still consider blogging and client work a hobby, or has it developed into a full/part time job?
I look at blogging for UX Booth as a part time job. I invest many hours into it and have great pride in what we are doing. I hope to develop a part time income in 2009 from UX Booth and look forward to my next blogging venture, whatever it may be!
Client work has become part time due to my blogging and other jobs I have taken on. I am going to limit myself to one freelance job at a time to limit over extending myself.
My recent hire at BuySellAds has me going to full throttle. I do not have time to goof off anymore, but at the same time I can not try to take on anymore. Especially with a full course load at school this semester!
Besides UXBooth, what are your favorite blogs to follow? Discover any new ones you’d like to share?
I’d love to plug a friend’s blog I have been helping out with a bit. Andrea, someone I also met at the same time as David, has recently launched The Y Kid, a blog remembering Generation Y.
I am always inspired by the Envato network, as well as other well know sites such as Smashing Magazine, Tutorial9, etc. My favorite part of my growing presence is being able to get to know the owners of great sites such as these.
This is the first of what I hope to be semi-regular interview posts. Know anyone else making waves on the internet like Matthew? We’re always open to interviews with the next great web designer, developer, or niche blogger. Drop us a line and we’ll be in touch!