To Design, or Not to Design…

I’ve made an odd realisation: that I miss making fansites.

I’ve often mentioned the fact I started my online life with fansites, and the point has even been raised in job interviews. I signed up to and moderated other people’s sites, then learned enough about graphic design and desktop web editing to start making my own. MThomson.co.uk, my old portfolio ‘site, came first but was followed by sites devoted to Sonic the Hedgehog and Beyond Good & Evil. I even made one for a comic project, but most of my ‘sites ran as information archives – an excuse to write at length about the games which excited and entertained me.

These sites drifted off as my time grew thin. College and then university beckoned, and while I now create enough of my own projects to write about, there is something drawing me back, for there is fulfilment in paying extensive tribute to other people’s work.

I recently conquered CSS in my own, amateur way and am looking to layout design as the next step, with the dream of forming my own, cohesive Tumblr and WordPress themes one day. My attention is also being drawn to a tantalising new domain though, and with it the prospect of a site I could just go nuts with; on features, design and content.

My problem is one of time. The more I delve back into web design and its associated skillsets, the more I feel I’m letting my design practice down. My level, game and world designs don’t actually go anywhere, as I lack the coding skills to produce demos single-handedly, but they do allow me to practice cartography, 3D sketching and other digital illustration techniques. Web design is how I began embracing digital technology, and it has undoubtedly formed the foundation of my career, in which community, entertainment and layout design all play a key part. But it’s not game design, and it costs more to engage with than simply typing into a wiki or an InDesign template for free. Costs are a nasty thing when you’re working to try and find employment.

Does anyone have some advice or insight they could share?