Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Getting myself edumacated about "Web Development"

Above is a slide from my web development class. According to my professor, it is a wonderful example of good web design. That was true... a decade a go.

There's some good discussion going on at the University Web Developers Ning group. The topic? How higher ed web professionals can elevate web design at the university level. I added my 2 cents, effectively using >30 of my time, so why not re-post it here?

As a student who has been building websites from an early age (and now work at a web development firm as a User Experience Designer), I can definitely testify to the inadequacy of the "Web Development" course I'm taking this semester. My professor teaches the basic HTML stuff fine but the class is also supposed to teach "web design". Aside from the fact that attempting to pack HTML/CSS/Javascript/ServerSide/Web Design into one class implies failure, my professor hasn't worked in the field since the early 2000s (that's millenia in web years). It shows. The "Web Wizard's Guide to Web Design", which is our web design textbook, was written in 2002. The slides of "good web design" he uses do indeed provide a neat look back in time, to where web design stood in the early 2000s. There's just one problem: we've learned a lot since then. Needless to say I usually use that class period to network on Twitter and read the latest Smashing Magazine or A List Apart article. I don't fault my professor; he does a good job, its just a bit out of date. Below is another example of good web design from my professors slides.

A successful web development course should not just teach stuff (whether past or current) because what we learn now will be obsolete in a few years. In addition to teaching the up-to-date knowledge, it should also infuse the students with a passion to immerse themselves in the industry: read the blogs, check out the new technology, get on Twitter and ask questions... but most importantly, build a lot of websites. If you've got an idea for a cool web app, just try building it. Learn as you go along. Unless you have gotten your hands dirty, you won't have the passion to learn more.