My Philosophy

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Web development work is inherently user-focused, which makes it an extremely good fit with the mission and objectives of library science.

I have taught beginning computer users how to use a mouse and keyboard, taught preschool children how to begin writing letters and numbers, and taught subject librarians how to use Excel to analyze usage data for their collections. When I begin a new project, I try to imagine it as a teaching experience, where I must build the interface in such a way that the user can find what they need on the first try, without needing anyone looking over their shoulder to offer guidance.

Writing code and creating style sheets is simple compared to the task of organizing the information that comprises a website. Sometimes the simplest questions are forgotten in the quest to build a beautiful site: who is the primary audience, and what tasks do we want them to be able to accomplish on the site? It is the web developer's responsibility to ensure those questions get asked before the design process begins.

Another challenge of working as a web developer in an academic library is the need to work well on a committee. The developer must communicate to the group the design and architecture principles that go into a usable site, while also listening to and engaging group members who bring their expertise and knowledge of user behaviors and needs. And it's necessary to check assumptions about user behaviors by testing a site with actual users. As usability expert Jakob Nielsen points out, if we allow myths and assumptions about college students' internet habits to guide web design, we can easily build sites that they will avoid entirely: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/students.html.