HAWAII AT WORK
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Melvin Agustin spends many hours at the computer, which is why he uses a specially designed ergonomic mouse for his work at Top Level Communications, based at University Square on South King Street.
Working on the World Wide Web
Melvin Agustin designs and creates top-level Internet sites
Title: Creative director
Job: Creates Web sites for clients of Top Level Communications
Melvin Agustin learned how to design Web sites by studying the coding of sites that appealed to him on the Internet. That was when he was attending University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he earned a bachelor's degree in art. After UH, Agustin studied information technology at Kapiolani Community College, where he earned an associate of science degree -- and continued to hone his skills as a Web site builder.
Even now, through informal channels, Agustin goes the extra mile to stay abreast of advances in his field, which covers graphic design and sophisticated software and computer skills. And his skills are appreciated: Last year he won five W3 awards from the International Academy of the Visual Arts, for the "visual appeal" of sites he designed for clients of his employer, Top Level Communications, which he joined in 2005.
When Agustin isn't camped in front of his computer, either at work or at home, he likes to go diving with friends for tako.
Also a graduate of Aiea High School, Agustin, 34, is single and lives in Aiea.
How did you learn to create Web sites?
Melvin Agustin Actually, I learned how to do the technical stuff on my own, just by looking at other people's sites, and I used to look at the code. So then I started taking bits and pieces of code and putting it together, and as I progressed and learned how to use programs like DreamWeaver and Fireworks, then I started using Macromedia Flash.
Q: And how old were you when you were doing this?
A: This was back in, like, around '96, I think, because I graduated in 1998 from University of Hawaii.
Q: So you were in college at the time?
Q: What kinds of software programs do you use these days to create the Web sites?
A: The ones that I've just mentioned, including Photoshop. I think those are the main ones.
Q: What are some of the Web sites that you have designed?
A: I did Nicky Shoe; I did the Pearl -- that's a nightclub; I did Tiki's Bar & Grill; Holokai Grill; Highway Inn in Waipahu; and SHOPO.
Q: You mean the police people?
A: Yeah. And I did DJ Kutmaster Spaz. I created it from scratch. I did all the graphics. Most of these sites I design all of the graphics.
Q: Do you design the logos, too?
A: Some of these clients already have logos, so they give me the logos and I incorporate it into the Web site design. And they give me pictures and things like that, and I incorporate that into the design also.
Q: What sites did you win the five W3 awards for?
A: That was for ... (Laughter) ... wait, what did I win it for? Mostly for visual appeal. So the five were for Pearl, Nicky Shoe, this other site called Big Dream Productions, the Living Room Hawaii and DJ Spaz.
Q: Who gives these awards?
A: They are sanctioned by the International Academy of Visual Arts.
Q: When did you win these?
A: I won them in 2006.
Q: About how long does it take to build a Web site?
A: I guess within a couple of weeks to ... It depends if there is a lot of stuff that needs to be done, like programming, back-end stuff. It could take up to a month.
Q: What would be "back-end" stuff?
A: Shopping carts, content-management tools ... I guess that's it.
Q: Do you guys provide the hosting service?
A: Actually, we're kind of like a reseller. We don't have the servers here; it's with another company. But we buy the server space and resell it.
Q: What's your typical day at work?
A: My typical day? I guess I come in in the morning, and I usually just sit in front of the computer, I guess, for, like, 10 hours a day. (Laughter).
But, no, I meet with my boss, too, and discuss how we're going to design the Web sites, so it's not always just sitting in front of the computer.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Award-winning Web site creator Melvin Agustin, center, shares his office space at Top Level Communications with fellow 3-D animators Nathan Hutchinson, left, and Ben Leong.
How many people do you work with at Top Level?
A: Right now there's me and Nate (Hutchinson); there's Ben (Leong); and then Mike (Adderly) is our president; and Chris (Black) is the vice president. So there's five of us in the office right now.
Q: What customers are you designing Web sites for right now?
A: Right now I'm doing Elegant Hawaii.
Q: What is that?
A: This is a wedding planner.
Q: What do you think is an ideal Web site?
A: You mean in terms of functionality?
Q: Yes. But I'm really thinking more of simplicity versus bells and whistles. For example, how do you deal with computer operating systems or browsers that might not be able to handle the advanced graphics that you might want to use for a Web site?
A: I try to optimize the Web site so it doesn't give the browsers a hard time. So I guess I try not to use too much Flash animation and use the standard HTML code and HTML structure.
Q: What about simplicity in design?
A: Well, you know, our customer for the Elegant Hawaii site, they said they like that one because it's simple and clean, and the background is white. I'm pretty sure there are others that we did like that. The only Flash that's going to be on this one is the Flash intro into the site.
Q: Do you prefer Windows or Mac?
A: Actually, I'm a Windows person.
Q: Is that unusual for Web-site builders?
A: Well, I don't know, because I think most graphic designers use Mac computers, but that's mostly for print stuff. As far as Web stuff, I think a PC can do just as well as a Mac, and I've done it. I've been using PCs since college, because that was the operating system I could afford.
Q: Are you a gamer, too?
A: At one point I used to play games. I like games, but not anymore. I'm kind of busy doing Web stuff. And I'm constantly learning new stuff, especially like Flash, trying to keep up with the technology.
Q: How do you keep up with the technological changes?
A: Well, I guess the thing that I do is do a lot of research on the 'Net. And I look at other people's Web sites, too, and I get inspiration from it, and if I see something that looks cool, I do my best to research it and try to replicate what they did, and then apply my own style and make it my own.
Q: Do you spend much time on the computer when you're not at work?
A: Oh yeah. I have to because I gotta keep learning. As much as I don't want to. I kind of want to take a break. But I kind of enjoy it, so I don't really mind it when I go on a computer when I'm at home, which I do, most of the time.
Q: Is all the computer work hard on your eyes?
A: At one point it was, but I guess because I have been staring at it for a long time now, I'm kind of used to it and it doesn't bother me anymore.
Q: So where do you see the field going in general?
A: There's a lot more to learn, and the technology is advancing. I'm just trying to keep up, and I think it's going to be good. The Web's going to be around for a long time.