Eric and his daughter playing.
Dungeons, dragons, and princesses, oh my!

Hello — I’m Eric, the founder of Okay Dev, a freelance creative developer, and owner of Van Holtz Co.

I work from my home office in Michigan, USA, where I’m a husband and dad. When I’m not playing with Barbies or coloring, I’m often up late working on new features for Okay Dev or my client work.

What has being part of the Okay Dev community meant to you?

When I went full-time freelance in 2018, I wanted a place to chat about web development with like-minded people. Today, Okay Dev is a thriving community, but it began as a small private Slack workspace. I invited creative developers I admired and they’d recommend colleagues, creating a close-knit group of friends. It’s unlike any other online community I’ve been part of.

I’ve formed friendships with community members, many of whom I’ve known for years now. We’ve met at conferences, shared meals, stories, and laughter. While our little Slack group isn’t going anywhere, I hope to extend that same sense of connection to others in our industry. My career dream is for Okay Dev to remain my primary focus — time will tell!

A group of Okay Devs hanging out at a bar in Amsterdam during Awwwards Conference 2023
Awwwards Conf 23 — Eric, Xavier, Cyd, Servin, Edan, Emiel, and Mees.

What got you interested in the web industry?

Showing my age here, but my first experience of the world wide web’ was at my cousin’s house when he received 1,000 free hours of AOL dial-up internet from a CD in the mail. Back then, chatrooms were the most entertaining thing online.

The first time I saw something in Flash was when a friend of a friend showed me an animation he made of a stylized black-and-white sketched face drawn in a 3D style. It looked like a camera was rotating around it, and its skull cracked open with bats flying out the top. I couldn’t believe he was able to make something like that. At the time I had no idea how it was possible, but wanted to learn.

Intricate Photoshop designs and Flash animations were incredibly inspiring to me. Each new version of 2Advanced Studio’s websites were jaw-dropping and motivated me to pursue a career in the web industry. Surprisingly, 2Advanced Studios just announced their return, and I can’t wait to see what they do next!

How did you learn your craft?

In our small town, there was a secondary education school where students could spend half their high school days learning trades or specialized skills. I attended for my junior and senior years, enrolling in the Computers, Networking, and Internet class. We took a free online Cisco networking course which taught us how the internet works, and experimented with Photoshop and Flash. The school’s website was built in Flash by a graduating student, and they needed someone to maintain it. I was selected, and that became my first industry job, earning me the title of Web Master”. It was exciting to get paid for attending school! The following year, a night class student who was also the CTO of a company in a larger city offered a paid internship to three students. Two friends and I were selected, and we drove 1.5 hours each way to work there for a few hours each school day.

When I graduated, my love for video game cutscenes, TV shows, and movies inspired me to pursue a degree in 3D animation. I enrolled in the accelerated Computer Animation course at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. During college, I continued to experiment with Flash, Photoshop, and learned a bit of HTML, PHP, and this new thing called floats in CSS. After getting my degree, I discovered that most of the desirable jobs were in California, a place I couldn’t afford to live due to my student loans. I decided to fall back on my web design skills and pursue that instead.

Most of my skills were self-taught or learned from colleagues and tutorials. Web development evolves rapidly, so I’ll always be learning, but I aim to share my knowledge with the community.

Full Sail University Campus, Orlando Florida
Full Sail University Campus, Orlando Florida

What’s on your desk?

Well, one of my hobbies is researching the latest tech releases, from sports cars to mechanical keyboards — most of which I can only dream of buying. However, there are a few things I have splurged on, including a custom-made oak and resin standing desk, an Apple Pro Display XDR, and a NuPhy Halo75 V2 mechanical keyboard. You can check out my workspace here.

Modern home office setup featuring a wooden slatted wall backdrop, a large monitor displaying a geometric blue pattern, a laptop on a stand, various tech gadgets, headphones, potted plants, and a framed artwork. The desk has a neat and organized arrangement with books, a keyboard, and a tablet, creating a professional and creative workspace.
Home office workspace (day).
A modern computer setup featuring a large desktop monitor and a laptop with matching abstract, geometric wallpapers. The scene is lit with vibrant purple and blue LED lights. The desk includes a mechanical keyboard, a mouse with a glowing logo, speakers, a few books, a small plant, and various other desk accessories.
Home office workspace (night).

What inspires you?

My primary source of inspiration comes from seeing other people’s work, which I find on X/Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Interactive websites, designs, motion graphics, typefaces, and TV show and movie intros — all these spark my creativity. Watching friends win awards for their work pushes me to do my best.

Additionally, my connections with people and my desire to help others succeed have greatly inspired me to build Okay Dev. Helping provide for my family is also a powerful motivator for my success.

Family photo at a beach in Bermuda
Family photo at a beach in Bermuda.

Which project(s) are you most proud of?

I was truly honored and proud to collaborate with BASIC/DEPT® on an internal passion project of theirs. Each week, they have employees and friends create a Spotify playlist, and they reached out to me to develop the website for it called B/D® JAMS.

I’ve always admired the work from BASIC/DEPT®, so having the opportunity to work with them was a dream come true. I love how the website turned out, featuring many fun animations and interactions. New playlists are still being released, and I enjoy listening to them. It was BASIC/DEPT® and my first-ever Awwwards Site of the Month award.

B/D® JAMS website

What’s your perspective on AI, and have you integrated it into your workflow?

Like many new technological advancements, people are still figuring out how to best utilize AI. For me, it’s been a fantastic assistant as a solo freelancer. AI has been helpful with business questions, proofreading my writings, and providing a starting point for copywriting and coding. I currently use the ChatGPT desktop app and have experimented with Claude and Gemini. I’ve heard great things about GitHub Copilot, so I’m looking forward to trying that out as well. I also had the pleasure of developing the Anthropic website, designed by my friends at Geist (I developed their website too).

Anthropic website displayed on a laptop on a couch. | Photo by Geist

Are there any technologies and/or tools that you’re excited to explore more?

I’m amazed by the recent advancements in online apps like Rive and Spline. They are evolving rapidly with new features, and I’m really impressed by the teams behind them. They have shaken up the interactive, animation, and 3D offerings for the web and beyond. Given my Flash background, this is the first time since then that I’ve felt there’s software allowing you to create anything you can imagine.

Any advice for aspiring creatives?

Don’t let new challenges stop you from trying. I’ve often found myself sitting and staring at the screen, wondering how to complete a task. I worry about messing it up and think maybe I should research more to find the right way. However, I’ve learned that I’m most productive when I dive in, try things, and experiment. For complex coding tasks or something you’ve never done before, break the task down into smaller steps. Work on each one and see where you hit a wall or run into an error. Then do some quick research, make changes, test more, and find another way if needed, or ask for help. Once you get past it, keep going!

We live in a world of constant distraction. If you’re passionate about achieving a goal, you’ll likely need to make trade-offs in your life to put in the time needed to achieve it. It’s not always easy, and you might find yourself going through phases of dedication, but in the end, you’ll be glad you made it a priority.

Final thoughts…

I’m incredibly thankful for anyone reading this, our community members, and everyone who finds value here. I built Okay Dev to be the go-to place for finding and promoting creative developers’ talents. I’m excited about this journey and can’t wait to see where it leads.

If you’re looking for a freelance creative developer to collaborate with, please reach out!