Natalie Jost

12 comments | Posted: 22 May 06 in Interviews, by Yannick Lyn Fatt

I have been wanting to do this for quite some time now and I finally got the chance recently to interview Natalie Jost. Natalie is a Web Designer, wife, mother and lives by standards in both design and life. She also recently became a member of Godbit and the 9rules network.

Yannick:

So Natalie, how did you get started with web design and web standards?

Natalie:

Web design and web standards were totally separate for me. I started web design about three years ago in my bedroom, just playing around with a website of my own. I was working for Braden Business Systems in Indianapolis at the time at started playing with an intranet for them on my lunch breaks. They had a website at the time but it was a large JPG image map for a splash screen and then about 5 pages of a couple of lists of machines and some contact info. I went into the vice president’s office one day and asked him about it. He admitted they hadn’t put much time or money into it and had thought about redoing it but other things were more important. I said, “What if you didn’t have to put any more time or money into it and I take care of it?” I needed the experience and they needed a website. It was just a matter of letting me have some free time during my regular job to do it. He agreed and that was my start. It was a huge site, but all done with FrontPage because that’s what I knew at the time. It was shortly after that when I found web standards.

I was surfing one day and found Blogger and when I started blogging, moving up in the blogging world, to Typepad and then Wordpress, over the next year I learned a lot about CSS and XHTML, even RSS without realizing it was all web standards. I started designing blogs for people once I became comfortable with all the code and really honed my standards and design skills over the next year and THEN I actually heard the term “web standards” so I had been practicing it all along and it was exciting knowing I was finally a real web designer! I gave up FrontPage except for a editing the Braden site and I’ve coded every site since be hand. I’m actually in the slow process of moving the Braden site to a standards-compliant site.

Yannick:

What sorts of challenges have you faced in your web design career and how have you been able to deal with/overcome them?

Natalie:

My biggest challenge is my own confidence. I’ve always been a sort of doubtful girl, wondering if I’m capable of things, then finding I am, but was held back by my doubt. I’ve turned down projects because I thought I couldn’t do them and then found later that I could have. I’m still not sure of the best way to deal with that other than like I did with swimming. One summer I was playing in the pool with my brother. I was twelve years old and still couldn’t swim yet and my little brother kept taunting me, threatening to pull me under. I was more afraid of my ten-year-old scrawny brother than I was of the water, so I just did it. So in terms of design, I guess I just think about what I could lose if I never step out on a limb and do what I’m afraid to do. The worst that could happen is I find out I really am NOT capable and I bring in another designer to help me. I know so many awesome people there’s no shame there!

Yannick:

You got some good feedback on your series Faith and Freelance, then raving reviews for Standards in a Nutshell, completed a fabulous CSS Reboot and now you are a member of Godbit and 9rules. A whole lot has been happening over the past few months for you. What has it been like and how are you able to keep humble through it all?

Natalie:

Wow, yeah, that whole thing has been bizarre – thrilling, but bizarre. I’ve enjoyed blogging and writing but never really thought about things becoming popular. I do things for me, just playing around with things as I learn, and try to share it. Now I have to think a little more about things because there are so many more people reading. I have to word things more carefully and I have to assume that everything I put up on my site could turn out like the Nutshell and end up on office doors and cube walls. That’s a little unnerving.

As for humility, it’s easy to see how Satan can trip people up in that regard. There are a lot of bloggers who fight there way into the spotlight kicking and screaming and then they can’t stop the tantrum once they get there. And when you see those stats jump up suddenly and then keep climbing you can’t help feeling a rush, but like anything else, it doesn’t last. My stats went down about a week after the CSS Reboot and is holding steady just a little above where it was before the whole April Madness I saw. People have seen my site now and most have made their decision about whether or not they’re going to come back. Readers keep me humble too because now there are three people for every ten comments who will tear me down if I say something they don’t like. It reminds me that man is not my ally, only Christ. I also have alot of new godly friends who remind me that I am among many great people. It’s difficult to lose humility when I see all these people around me who surpass me in so many areas!

Yannick:

You seem to have a love for photography, has that helped you in anyway with the websites you design (including your own)? Also what other sources do you draw your inspiration from?

Natalie:

I do have a love for photography! And yes, it has helped. It takes my mind of the computer for awhile to just go for a drive with my daughter and take some pictures from around the country. It also helps me use that rigid square which we all are boxed into with web design and expand it. With a camera I can create very different scenes than I would with a computer, and yet it’s the same box, so I can transfer ideas between them. I keep a portfolio of stock photos on istockphoto.com which helps me pay for stock photos I use in my designs. The money I make from my photos pays for my credits for the ones I use in designs, plus a little extra for other business expenses. I’ve even been able to use my photos in some of my designs when clients request something more specific. If I’m able to photograph it for them it will save us both some money. I’ve even had clients ask me to photograph product for them, which I’ve then used in designing advertisements for them.

Other sources of inspiration are endless really, but my favorites are magazines with clean designs, particularly Real Simple and Discipleship Magazine. That last one is mostly for the reading, but their design crew is awesome so I draw a lot from them for my own design. Now, bear in mind, I’m a girl, so I use my own element for inspiration.

Beyond magazines I also get inspiration from the mall. Fashion in general is a great place to look for color schemes and line form, but the mall is great because you have store dressers whose job it is to design windows and other displays based on color, dimension, space, etc. They work in a three-dimensional world too, so you’re getting a really spectacular space to draw inspiration from. I used to dress mannequins and window displays myself so I know how much work goes into the planning. I trust that work and I know I can get good ideas to carry a three-dimensional design over to a new and different two-dimensional one.

Yannick:

You started Godly Creative People, with Wayne Moran. What’s that all about and how has that been going so far?

Natalie:

I started Godly Creative People September last year and it has steadily grown to about 70 participants now, all Christian creative professionals, including writers, artists, designers, musicians, and other people who make a living in some creative profession. We accept stories from members and members can comment on them. There’s a small forum for chit-chat, and the biggest thing for members is probably the blogroll. It’s just a simple list of members who have chosen to put a link to others on their site. The get on the blogroll. There is also an aggregator where you can see a list of the recent posts from people in the group who have submitted their feed to me. There is a lot that could be done better, but I haven’t had the time to work on it beyond basic maintenance. I would love to see more participation from existing members and automating some things would be nice too. I used Drupal to set it up because that was the best solution I knew at the time for a community site. If I were to rebuild the site again I might go with Wordpress knowing what I do about Wordpress now.

Yannick:

If you had something to say or share with other female web designers out there, what would it be? And anything for the guys?

Natalie:

Girls, don’t stop being girls! It’s too easy to start talking like all these guys and designing like them. There’s a reason you’re not a guy. You have something they don’t. Figure out what that is and exploit it! Seriously, though, there’s nothing wrong with being a woman in web design. In fact, I think there should be more of them. Just relax and remember that the guys can learn from you as much as you from them.

Guys, there’s not a lot to say. You know what you’re doing already. I would just say, although the girls shouldn’t be seen as different, we are, but in a good way. We’re all in this together, equal, but with different talents and different ideas. Never discount something a woman has to say because she’s a woman and never worship an idea either just because you think women might know more about this or that. Don’t judge one way or the other, just relax and get to know each girl for who she is. Oh, and watch your mouth. I probably don’t need to say that among this crowd, but just in case… keep the dirty talk and foul language offline or in your own webspace (your own site).

Yannick:

Would you mind sharing your testimony?

Natalie:

I was about 21 and still living in San Diego where I grew up. I was a real intellectual type and if I couldn’t prove something by reading it in a book (other than the Bible), then I couldn’t accept it as fact. Even then I questioned everything. I wasn’t entirely a skeptic – it was more like I believed anything was possible. Instead of committing to any one idea I submitted to the possibility that any of them could be true. I had a huge fear of commitment when it came to religion. I couldn’t accept any faith without accepting them all. I guess you could say I was the poster girl for tolerance. Everything was okay with me if it was okay with the person doing it.

I was also suffering from a huge medical issue at the time. When I was about 14 I had a sudden depression come over me and it lasted through high school and into my first year of college. It was that year that things really fell apart for me. I was still reading every book I could get my hands on, including psychology books, where I came to find out doctors had misdiagnosed me with depression. After talking to a psychology professor and a couple of doctors to confirm what I’d read, it turns out it was actually bipolar disorder. Now here is where most people cringe, and I can’t blame them. It’s a scary thing to hear that someone you know is “mentally ill” but it wasn’t like that really. Yes, it was painful, and yes, it tore my life apart, but looking back, it was what led me to God. This is also where non-believers say, “Oh, well that explains it. She’s not really a Christian, she’s just crazy.” Here’s the real story.

About a month after I found out, I went to a different psychiatrist and told him I needed a new plan because the misdiagnosed illness meant I was being treated with the wrong medication, which was in turn amplifying my illness. I spent the next year cycling through various pharmaceutical cocktails before I finally tossed them all and went to God cold-turkey. I asked Him to show me He was real. I’d done that before, but this time I was really sincere, coming to Him with no other options, telling Him it was now or it was never again. I just didn’t have the energy to live anymore if God didn’t do something to help me see what my life was meant for.

It was later that night I ran into an old friend of mine who I knew was a Christian. She invited me back to her house and we talked for a long time, not about religion at all. But, because I was in such need, I reached out to her and asked her to tell me about the whole thing, and why she believed what she did. This girl was ready for me! She was so kind and so gentle, just telling me what she knew without badgering me about it or making me feel pressured. She only told me that the decision was mine but not to wait too long because there might come a time when it would be too late for me to choose. After our conversation I knew what she meant so I went home to pray, in my way, the only way I knew how. I cried. I wallowed, and I succumbed to my suffering, allowing it all to take over. The details of how I was saved are another story altogether, but it was that night that I gave in and gave myself over to Christ, repenting and accepting His gift of His own life. It was also the last day I ever cried like that. The depression lifted, the bipolar vanished. Medication was never needed again, and counseling was a waste of time and money. For me it was instantaneous. I still had some basic new believer screw ups and it was about six months before I was really a follower of Jesus, but the illness was gone. I was completely healed.

It sounds trite to hear that, like it was that easy, but that’s the awesome power of God. I’ve had minor moments of sadness and glee, but never to the extent that I did all those years ago. Without God’s grace in freeing me from the bondage of that illness, I don’t know where I’d be if I would even be alive.

Yannick:

That’s an amazing testimony Natalie. It really shows how loving God is and the power he has to help us through any situation. Is there anything else you would like to add before we close?

Natalie:

God will never give up on you; don’t give up on him.

Yannick:

Thank you and God bless.

Discuss This Topic

  1. 1 Robert

    Great interview Yannick and great interviewee Natalie!

    Great testimony!

     
  2. 2 Rick Curran

    Hi,
    Great interview and great testimony!

    Rick

     
  3. 3 Tobi

    I really like testimonies like this, for they show God’s grace and love to us so clearly! Thanks for sharing!

    God bless you.

     
  4. 4 EricIsDeliriou5 (Eric Miller)

    Hey guys! I’ve been reading Godbit for a while, but this was such a great interview I thought I’d finally jump in and say “Thanks” with a capital “T”. Natalie your site is wonderful and it a refreshing fusion of faith, family and design.

    Reading between the lines a bit, I whole-heartedly believe that through the integration of people practicing their faith with their daily activities, whether blogging or retail, corporate or homeschool teaching, that many will come to desire the wonderful fragrence of a life lived with a deep purpose for our Father God.

    And while 3 out 10 may blast you, Natalie, for the things that you say about your faith in God, I can truly say that it is 3 more people that have realized just a bit more that you don’t have to be a… church-mouse to be a Christian. That is to say, they have seen one more person who goes after their pursuits with a purpose and commitment to excellence! And through your efforts, you are winning the opportunity to speak into people’s lives where very few others will ever have the chance (wow)!

    Just like Col. 3 (MSG) tells us “Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” Bill Hybels talks about this in his book “Becoming a Contagious Christian”, that each of us has unique opportunity to forge on another link to a person’s chain of events and experiences and relationships that God uses to bring a person into His family – and that is why we can view each interaction as an copprtunity to be an ambassador of Jesus.

    Whew! I guess that really got me going this morning, and I’m probably preaching to the choir, but I hope you are encouraged! Count me in on the feed!

    God bless you and the work of your hands Natalie! And thank you again to the whole GodBit Project team! You guys are truly awesome and are Prov. 27:17 to many!

    Cheers,
    Eric

     
  5. 5 Natalie

    Eric thank you so much for that! “Contagious Christian” is such a visual for me. It’s awfully scary too at times to think about how my actions influence others. I think about that bumper sticker that reads, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” So many people think Christians have to be perfect. I think it just makes them feel better about rejecting God when they see Christians who aren’t perfect. But on the flip side, if we were, they would think one couldn’t be a Christian UNTIL they are perfect… yikes!

     
  6. 6 Nathan Smith

    That took a lot of courage, in light of how our society views “basket cases,” to speak so openly of your own struggle with depression / bi-polar disorder. Often times, people either shy away from others with such a diagnosis, or tell them to “get over it,” as if it’s not a real condition. What we need to realize though, is that it doesn’t make one any less of a person. Thank you for sharing Natalie.

     
  7. 7 Natalie

    You know, Nathan, I think that’s why God allowed the illness to go to such a vocal person! Who better to get the word out? I can tell people first hand that the victim of the illness has much more to be afraid of than bystanders. It’s actually a lot like cancer in a way. It’s slow and often life-threatening, taking over the whole body at times. It controls a person entirely to where many people can’t leave the house, or even their bed. The illness can be muted in some people with therapy or medication, but it’s always there, and for some people there is no help at all. Some people live with the illness until it kills them. That’s much more important than how a “crazy person” is going to disrupt your life. Think about how their life is disrupted, the guilt they feel for not being able to live like a normal person, and the fear of not being able to control their behavior.

     
  8. 8 Lisa

    Oh Thank you so much for this article, Yannick—and thank you Natalie for doing the interview. Being a wife, mother, web designer and Christian myself, I know the delicate dance we do with all of these things. Its nice to know I’m not the only one out there :) Your interview, Natalie, has been inspiring to me. Thank you!

    Lisa

     
  9. 9 Yannick

    You are welcome Lisa. :) I’m happy the interview has inspired you. It certainly inspired me also. God has certainly done wonderful things in and through Natalie’s life and I know he is also working through each of us in a precious way.

     
  10. 10 Lisa

    He is amazing!
    Thank you!

    Lisa

     
  11. 11 Jason

    Great interview, nice to hear your story. Just joined Godly Creative People. Thanks for the link in the interview.

     
  12. 12 Kat French

    Thanks Yannick and Natalie for a great interview! I’m on the same path as Natalie in many ways (although not NEARLY as far.) I’ve been designing websites in my non-existent free time for almost two years now, and just this month made the flying leap to freelance.

    I’m also a Christian, a wife and a mom, and I’ve also struggled with depression off and on since my teens (although it’s “in remission” now thanks to a combination of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical disciplines that I’ve found work well for me.) And I’m also transitioning from a “whatever works for IE” mindset to standards-based design.

    So many things about this interview encouraged me on so many levels. Keep up the great work, both of you! God bless.

     

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