Chris LeCompte I design, develop & create products.

Stuff I write about

Lessons Learned From My Time Running a Web Agency

February 1, 2018

I have never written extensively (or really at all) about my time as a web agency owner. Partly because I’ve never been a boaster, partly because it wasn’t all fun and glory—but mostly because it’s in my past and something I’ve been moving on from.

I make it sound great, don’t I?

There were phenomenal aspects to running a web design shop. I miss the days of being in complete control of projects, from the client kick-off meetings to designing and developing websites to managing meaningful relationships with small, local businesses. Those are the awesome parts of running a web agency. You help others grow their businesses and organizations, and you can see the direct impact your work has on your local area.

However, behind all that devotion is a business. And a business can be a nasty beast, waiting to claw at your heels. As a sort-of long-procrastinated post-mortem, I wanted to highlight some of my key takeaways from running that business.Keep Reading

How I Turned My Life-Draining Commute into Quality Time

January 10, 2018

I was talking to my wife last night about a lunch she had earlier that day. She told me something her lunch companion had said. Something that made me sit up with shock strewn across me face.

Her lunch companion had said he enjoyed commuting.

As I slid back down on the sofa, I realized myself that commuting—gasp—isn’t really that terrible. Yet we all complain about it. Studies are constantly churned out that show the negative impact our car culture has on health, happiness, the environment, and productivity.

Given I live in Northern Virginia, my commute probably meets all of those negative marks. But my commute is necessary for my livelihood, and it’s something I’ve learned to accept—and it’s an opportunity I’ve undertaken to improve myself.Keep Reading

Goals for 2018

December 21, 2017

I like the idea of having a fresh set of goals for the new year. It’s like a reset, a clear starting block from which I can jump back into the race. With some goals already in mind for 2018, I thought it’d be effective from an accountability standpoint to share some of them on this blog.Keep Reading

The Imposter Syndrome Must End

December 14, 2017

The “imposter syndrome” is one of those industry terms we’ve all probably encountered—that over-sensationalized claim that people feel a degree of falseness within their jobs; the idea that we’re just winging it, unqualified, waiting until we’re discovered as fakes.

I first discovered the imposter syndrome early in my career. It was an eye-opening experience. I exclaimed to myself, “that’s me!” I felt validated that my internal sense of incompetence was normal. I could continue down my path, discarding any negative thoughts as just another bout of that pesky, self-loathing imposter syndrome.

The imposter syndrome served as my safe haven for a long time. It was my excuse, my reasoning, my blanket I could hide under when my mind was venturing into negative zones.Keep Reading

Switching to Puma-dev from Pow for a macOS Rails Environment

December 12, 2017

Last week, I posted my notes on dropping MAMP in favor of a native environment for my local web development setup. Since I run Rails apps on my local machine, I covered the process for making Apache and pow work side by side.

Well, of course things change. And pretty fast.

That change is the removal of pow and the installation of Puma-dev, a more recent and better maintained Rack server for Rails. Puma-dev even self-describes as, “the emotional successor to pow.” Who am I to argue with that?

Below are my field notes on making the switch. All in all, it was a painless process. The biggest advantage to Puma-dev I’ve noticed so far is its SSL support, getting around the annoying Chrome .dev https issue.Keep Reading

Dropping MAMP for a Better Web Development Environment on macOS

December 7, 2017

I have been a MAMP user for a long, long time—ever since I started developing with WordPress back when it was really just a blogging platform. MAMP is a breeze. It’s easy to setup new test sites, and the behind-the-scenes configuration of Apache, MySQL, and PHP made life simple.

I realized I had a problem when my MAMP Pro software started to become severely incompatible with my projects. Rather than shell out for a new license, I decided it was a good time to re-evaluate my local development setup.Keep Reading

Getting Started with Front-end 508 Compliance

November 28, 2017

In my current role as a front-end engineer, Section 508 has become a driving force in some of my work. Since my company does business with the U.S. government, we’re required to meet a level of accessibility that ensures users with visual disabilities can interact with our web properties.

Most, if not all, developers and designers dread Section 508 compliance. Oftentimes, it means combing through our interfaces using unfamiliar tools to make sure people we’re not even sure exist can use our software.

This is a cynical mindset, of course—because those users do exist and they have real disabilities that developers and designers must take into consideration. Can you imagine if buildings were not required to support wheelchair-bound patrons or if crosswalk signals did not incorporate auditory features?

The web is not dissimilar to the physical world. Websites must operate in a fashion where people of any ability can achieve critical tasks. For me, this meant ensuring users could access online verification tied to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ new services portal.

In implementing and improving the 508 compliance of our technology, I learned a few good lessons, which I share below.Keep Reading

How Front-end Developers Can Make a Bigger Organizational Impact

November 14, 2017

I have been a front-end developer my entire career. Beginning as an owner of a small web agency, I moved on to join other companies, where I was often the only front-end guy. These were and are great gigs. I’ve contributed to product interfaces, team frameworks, and marketing campaigns.

In being the “only guy” to do front-end, I’ve realized it’s not so great after all. I’ve experienced the Mulder syndrome at times (which isn’t an actual syndrome, but a nerdy reference to The X-Files, where the eccentric protagonist Fox Mulder is exiled to the FBI basement). In other words, I sometimes have felt people don’t care about or respect front-end. It’s a department they realize is necessary, but it’s also a department they don’t want to see.

I think we all know front-end is a valuable role—just as back-end is essential, as well as design, project management, quality assurance, devops, and so on.

But I’ve always been left with that sense that I’m not a real coder, I’m not a real designer, and my job responsibilities fall somewhere between “code this email” and “make this button look pretty.”

How can we make front-end development’s importance more accepted?

It’s not easy. But with a bit of proactive effort on your part, you can turn the front-end department into a valuable resource that has a direct impact on your organization’s goals.Keep Reading

Developing with an Evidence-based Mindset

November 2, 2017

In my senior year of college, I enrolled in a course on evidence-based management. With only five other students in my class, the course proved to be quite the immersive experience into the scientific model. We focused theoretical business decision-making on creating hypotheses, observing our environment, gathering data, and refining our initial guesswork.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what to think of the class. Evidence and business seemed like two very distinct disciplines; one very scientific and formulaic, and the other entrenched in creativity and agility.

The idea clicked with me after I left school. Operating from an evidence mindset is not strictly for science geeks—evidence is critical to every aspect of life, from our personal goals to our job performance.

Evidence-based front-end development (quite a mouthful) has played a huge role in my career. Performing my engineering tasks with a logical thought process that encourages best practices and optimized results has allowed me to execute more precisely at greater speeds.

Below I walk through some of my takeaways from adhering to an evidence-based approach to front-end development.Keep Reading

Life Like a Government

October 13, 2017

I think of life like the government. I know, that sounds like an oxymoron. Since humans organized into tribes, there’s always been a clash between individualism and collectivism. So how can I can possibly equate life to that of a government?

It’s simple. I, myself, am the government/nation, and I organize my thoughts, actions, and plans into different “departments.”

Most governments are divided into smaller entities. Within the executive branch of the U.S. government, we have multiple departments. Each of these groups carry out different missions to achieve goals that impact the health and continuation of the government and nation. Individual life is not much different. We serve ourselves—the government and nation—and to achieve that purpose we must organize our thoughts and actions into logical bureaus of internal interests and outside relations.Keep Reading

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A brief bio

Working from Northern Virginia, I’ve been designing, building, and managing websites for nearly a decade. I’ve been involved in both large and small projects in multiple industries and fields. Through these experiences, some good—and some bad—I’ve grown to appreciate just what is possible on the web. I’ve coupled my experiences with a degree in Management from George Mason University.

Chris LeCompte 2014–Present

    Front-end web development, design & other cool stuff in the digital identity arena.

    Freelancer Forever–Present

    Web development, design & strategy for tons of awesome clients.

    CXO Advisory 2007–Present

    Complete web and technology management for an investing site I co-run with my father.

    ACS Creative 2013–2014

    The front-end development guy for a small creative agency in Fairfax, Virginia.

    CAVENDO 2006–2013

    Web development, design & web project management – taking care of all the clients at the small web agency I ran with a friend.

Working on cool things