I started out working with Sybase and Oracle databases, doing logical design and writing stored procedures and inline SQL. My focus was on supporting the front-end developers, building tools in Visual Basic, Java and designing web pages. Over time, I developed an interest in going beyond basic HTML and really sharpening my web development chops.
I have been designing WSS-compliant websites since 2002, with a focus on streamlined code that delivers and renders fast. I don't make the prettiest designs, I will admit, but what I do code, I button down tight: the HTML must be correct and validate, the CSS needs to be pared down and minimized, and I adhere to the strictest coding standards for rapid page download and rendering. I use Google Pagespeed analysis, waterfall analysis, and benchmark timing from locations around the world to make sure that the websites I build are readily accessible and will display as quickly as possible in all environments and browsers.
I generally start with design elements inspired from other websites, and then use Photoshop, or often Seashore on OSX, to create as many visual elements as needed. While I can certainly create graphics - and then of course optimize them (convert, strip, quality, etc.) - my strength lies in getting the job done. I thoroughly test my website designs to make sure they are complete, e.g., I will tail Apache access logs to watch all 200 and 404 status requests for page components; I will inspect HTTP headers to make sure files are delivered as compressed with the proper header tags for caching, etc.; and as mentioned before, I will do waterfall analysis to make sure as much parallel downloading of page elements is being done to maximize browser speed.