March madness continues as another site goes live.
Apart from presenting another challenge of getting as close as possible to a truly “good” site (with all that implies about the quality of the code, structure, content, design etc), this one has two aspects that may be of particular interest.
Firstly, the Languages Education in Australia website focuses on an issue that really matters. I think any web designer or developer worth their salt would agree that it is so much more fulfilling working on something that has the potential to change lives for the better, and the quality of your work lifts when you’re doing something worthwhile.
Secondly, this website forms part of a suite of sites that I’ve been fortunate to create for the Australian Council of State School Organisations. In this case, the Languages Education site is meant to complement and work in concert with ACSSO’s own site, the Values in Education site and the Families Matter site, with more planned to focus on hot topics in Australian education, including music and science.
Both of these factors change the way I work and – I believe – the quality of the work I produce.
I consider myself very fortunate to be able to concentrate mostly on work that is meaningful. Sure, I take jobs that are commercial in nature, but I’ve never felt I had to take work that I didn’t personally approve of.
That isn’t always easy for web designers and developers. Just to pay the rent (or mortgage) we sometimes have to take jobs that don’t allow us to insist on tables-free, semantic, valid, accessible markup. Sometimes we work on sites for products we wouldn’t buy ourselves. At the extreme, there is work to be had in online pornography and gambling that can be very lucrative.
Before you dismiss that last sentence out of hand, consider also that porn and casinos have provided training grounds for some of the stuff we now take for granted, from online payment facilities to streaming video.
So I’m grateful for the chance to work on sites that promote public education, as well as those that represent people whose work I respect and admire. The commercial sites I work on sell stuff that I either do purchase (wine, posters, fine cheese, books) or aspire to (holidays in Italy – yes, please).
On the second point, there is something about working on a set of inter-connected websites that is both challenging and immensely satisfying.
I suspect it relates to the nature of the world wide web itself. The internet is, after all, just a way of getting a whole lot of computers to talk to each other, in the process providing the opportunity to set up collections of files that present specific information and images in a reasonably coherent manner.
Search engines help us to find the stuff we’re most interested in and the all-powerful hypertext link allows us to jump around, following themes that may be meaningful only to us.
To work on a suite of sites is to have the opportunity to suggest how that group of websites might inter-relate meaningfully to anyone from the most casual visitor to the most ardent fan.
I believe it brings out the best in me.