I think I was using an app called HotDog.

It was about fifteen years ago and the web was so young that it still had smears of amniotic fluid on its chubby little cheeks.

HotDog was a HTML authoring app. I can’t remember if it was just a code editor or if it had a WYSIWYG editor, but I remember the excitement I felt when it’s metallic textured (ahhhh the ’90s) logo and splash screen would popup.

Upon visiting a site that grabbed my attention, I’d see if I could rebuild it in anyway. It was only ever small things – headings and body copy, a table, maybe some text that blinked.

But it’s how I learnt HTML. Most of us have similar stories. We became interested and so we started to tinker, hoping to understand.

“I wonder …”

I’m not sure about you, but I feel as though I rarely do such a thing these days.

Not often enough do I see something built and wonder to myself how the designers and developers did so, and then, this is where the important part is especially lost, follow through and try to remake it.

The gift of being a web designer is that we can see how things have been built and then go about doing it ourselves. We don’t need to scour for a specific variety of timber, we don’t need to colour match a forgotten varnish, nor do we need to produce glass the way it was done hundreds of years ago.

We right click, view source. We open Photoshop or Sketch and draw shapes. We Google and, probably, end up on StackExchange. We browse through comments on Dribbble and find answers. Often only small pieces to a greater whole, but meaty enough answers that can get us moving in the right directions. And if we get really stuck, we ask on Twitter.

We build a craft by thinking about beautiful objects, about what they mean, and why they’re effective. We can’t simply gawk at them and hope to understand them because they have curves that make us sit up straight.

These beautiful objects have to be pieced apart. We have to be willing to dismantle some of their grace by developing an understanding of what each piece does, why it’s made the way it is out of the materials it calls its own, and how everything goes back together.

Look, Dismantle, Understand, Rebuild.

Much like I did, like we all did, when starting out, we have to look at things like we’re children and embrace wonder. We mustn’t be content with thinking something looks good – we have to strive to understand why it looks good and why it works well, and then remake our own version of them, and in which find pride, regardless of how poor or rich an imitation they are.

To me this means taking the beautiful examples I find and, more than just clicking “Like”, or “Pin”, deciding to understand and remake them.

It happens slowly – a single piece at a time, sometimes taking days or weeks to recreate something that caught me in a moment.

Before we try to make beautifully crafted products, we need to understand what a beautifully crafted product is. We need to establish a criteria, using our tastes and preferences, to figure out what “crafted” means, then we must hunt such objects down and care about all their detail.