Community17-Year-Olds Colton and Nicole Launched a Web Design and Development Company and Won Gold at The SkillsUSA National Web Design Contest


Faye Bridge
writes on August 26, 2015

For 17-year-olds Colton and Nicole, web design and development were great ways to channel their existing talents and interests into future career skills. Nicole was intrigued by web design, seeing it as an opportunity to combine her creative interests with technology. Colton was immediately hooked by the problem solving that coding required when his class started learning to code. However, Colton found his learning expectations limited by the online resource his classroom used, so he took to the web in search of an alternative. He found Treehouse to be the perfect learning environment. Shortly after, he introduced Nicole to Treehouse and convinced his teachers to integrate it into their curriculum.

Colton and Nicole were soon able to excel their coding skills and teamed up to take on their first independent web design and development projects for clients. At only 17, this was an exciting and early start for their careers in the web industry.

With their skills and confidence solidified, Nicole and Colton decided to enter the SkillsUSA National Web Design Contest. Not only did the duo win gold at the state competition, but also went on to win gold at the national competition level.

Today, Nicole and Colton’s business, Cherry Pop Designs is thriving with Nicole leading design whilst Colton owns the back-end of projects. They’re both excited by their rapid progress and looking forward to bright futures in the web industry.

We caught up with Colton and Nicole, to hear more about their learning experience, the SkillsUSA Contest, and their plans for the future. 

Colton and Nicole

Colton and Nicole

What first drew you to the web industry, in particular, web design?

Colton: When someone signs up to go to my high school they pick the program area they’re interested in. Web Design is one of those areas, and the funny thing is I didn’t even pick it. I picked Video Game Design.

When we started coding in class I realized how much I loved it. Then, Nicole and I got to the point (after about 2 years of learning) where we started taking on real client projects outside of school! This was the coolest thing ever because none of our friends were making any actual money and we were selling websites to people after school.

But in all honesty, I just absolutely love the programming side of things. Every time you write code it’s like you are solving a puzzle. HTML is a puzzle. CSS is a puzzle. JavaScript is a puzzle. PHP is a puzzle. When you think of it this way, it’s just a ton of fun.

Nicole: Since I was little, I always loved drawing, painting, and doodling. I always thought that technology was so cool while I was growing up and it inspired me to learn how to create websites. I wanted to connect my drawing skills to web design. Since technology is always getting better and changing every day, I was always interested in learning web design.

What encouraged you to learn with Treehouse?

Colton: At school our Graphic Design and Web teachers used to use for a lot of the lessons we do in class. I always hated it because they were boring, but it didn’t seem like there were any competitors. After doing some research, I found Treehouse almost right away and signed up at home to see if it was something that the teachers could replace in-class. Sure enough, our web class started using Treehouse instead and it turned our classroom from everyone complaining about watching videos to laughing about Mike the Frog. Since then, I kept my Treehouse subscription and try to put in a couple of hours a week. Sometimes, I’ll sit down and go through an entire course in a single day. It is just a great learning tool.

Nicole: Colton introduced me to Treehouse. I started learning about design along with basic HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and even AJAX basics.

You recently took part in the SkillsUSA National Web Design Contest and won gold for both the state and national competitions. Tell us a little about the contest, your entries and the experience of taking part.

Colton: For the national competition we were tasked with making a website. We were given a client (who gave us all of our assets) and then had to build an end product in 8 hours. We started with wireframes, then Nicole mocked up the webpage while I marked up HTML. I used Sublime during the contest and Nicole used Sketch 3 for the designs. As Nicole moved forward with the mockups, I went ahead and developed the CSS and JavaScript for the site. We had to make three pages: A homepage, an about page and a blog page.

For the final product, we had to deliver a responsive website with the given content, assets, a logo, and a banner ad. The contest itself was absolutely amazing. While we were sitting there, we were able to look around and see all of these other people with the same exact interest as us working just as hard. There were 31 teams, each from a different state and we even became friends with the team next to us.

As far as our entries go, we would love to show our entries, however, it’s against the national rules for us to show the websites that we built for the contest. But you can see our names listed here.

SkillsUSA National Web Design Contest

Nicole: At SkillsUSA State Competitions, Colton and I competed in Web Design. We competed with many different competitors from schools across our state, Nevada. The contest consisted of a few challenges: An HTML Challenge, CSS Challenge, JavaScript Challenge, and a Design Challenge. The Design Challenge was my favorite part as we designed a mockup for a fake client.

At SkillsUSA National Competitions, we competed with competitors from around the entire country that won gold medals in their home state. The contest consisted of us building a website. So the judges gave us a 10-page PDF of everything that they wanted on the website.

SkillsUSA National Web Design Contest

SkillsUSA National Web Design Contest

What has the value of a Treehouse education meant to you?

Colton: Treehouse has just been a lot of fun. I always feel like everything I’m learning has a meaning and is practical. I can go online for hours on other websites and learn about JS tricks that would never actually be used on a webpage for a client, but with Treehouse I feel like I’m learning what I actually need to know. I also have fun doing it. The teachers are ever boring and that’s what encourages me to watch Treehouse for hours on end.

Nicole: Treehouse explained everything in the simplest ways including visual pictures and explanations to help me understand what’s going on within a website. Every other online learning resource I’ve tried before Treehouse was either boring or I just couldn’t understand it.

Our web design classes at our high school even started watching Treehouse to learn design and code!

What are your plans for the future, and what’s up next on your learning path?

Colton: Both Nicole and I want to go to college for a web-related field. I want to go for either Computer Science or Web Design. I know that no matter what, it’s important to keep using Treehouse. I mean, I already have a job in the industry, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop learning. The web is always changing and it’s important to stay educated with the latest software and the latest techniques. I trust Treehouse with providing that. 🙂

Nicole: After I graduate from high school, I plan on going to the Art Institute to focus on majoring in web design, graphic design, digital design, or illustration.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with new students, who are aspiring web designers?

Colton: Yes! I have a couple of pieces of advice:

  1. Find a Web Designer (or Developer) who inspires you and try to mimic them. I follow Amber Creative (the guy & girl behind Codyhouse), Mackenzie Child, and Chris Coyier of CSS Tricks.
  2. Always keep learning.
  3. No matter how great you think you are, there is always room for improvement.
  4. Where you spend most of your time is where you should spend most of your money. Here are some examples: I spend 8+ hours a day on the computer. Since I spend so much time there, I worked all summer and saved up to buy an extremely nice laptop. I spend a lot of my time editing code, so I bought a license for Sublime. It’s not bad if you spend a lot of money on digital items. What matters is that you are making the most of your time. If you spend all of your time developing, then get what you need to develop!

Nicole: Don’t give up. There will be many times where it’ll be very frustrating and the code or design will just not work or look good enough. That’s why the Internet and Treehouse are there for you! It’s full of inspirations and references!

To read more awesome student success stories, check out the Treehouse Stories Page.


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One Response to “17-Year-Olds Colton and Nicole Launched a Web Design and Development Company and Won Gold at The SkillsUSA National Web Design Contest”

  1. Interesting article, I’m trying to make my own site into a 3d website based on space. You have great advice thank you.

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