As part of my first blog post for my information technology course, I was asked to address my IT fluency. It has now been a couple of weeks since my last post, and in that time I have been able to work through some HTML basics and begin to build my webpage – the first assignment that is due in our course. As I mentioned previously, I am not unfamiliar with HTML, having taken a web design class in high school. I utilized many of the tags I learned in that class to help me format my old MySpace page (thereby dating me for my readers), and later on my blog here at WordPress. As everyone who has used a WYSIWYG interface knows, things do NOT always translate once you publish them to the web. Being able to switch to the HTML editor on both of these platforms and see where things were going wrong was a useful skill. HTML resurfaced again most recently when I created a LibGuide as an assignment for a course. My chosen topic was Bigfoot, and my slightly dusty knowledge of HTML allowed me to format a lot of text and images that otherwise would have sat on my pages in unattractive blocks.
That being said, I do remember that in my high school class, I struggled once we got out of basic HTML tags. This meant that the concept of CSS was incomprehensible to me, and I had trouble getting it to work correctly in my pages, as well as some more advanced concepts. This probably had something to do with the style of the class. While similar to our information technology course where we are largely left to learn on our own, in high school our only recourse was the textbook. I have found that this is simply not how I learn to use IT. Having visual examples, being shown how things operate, just makes so much more sense to me than having to read about something I have never seen in action before.
I am happy to report that my CSS page is working great for my current webpage and it was a lot of fun to choose the whole color scheme using the tools on w3schools. However, once again, usability and accessibility have to be taken into account here. When discussing CSS, Dr. Bonnici mentioned thinking about different kinds of users when choosing your color scheme, one example being colorblind users. Selecting anything in the green or red range could be a big flop for those viewers who are colorblind. Unfortunately, the color scheme that I chose for my page is a sage green with white and dark gray text. I love this color scheme and I think that it represents me very well. However, should I change it to something a little more universal? On the one hand, I do want as many users as possible to enjoy the full effect of my webpage. On the other hand, this is my personal page, should I change something that I feel is representative of myself? Certainly if this were a business’s page, an effort should be made to maximize the viewing potential, but does the purpose of this particular webpage change that somewhat? If I do keep the background color, have I at least chosen text colors that provide enough contrast for those who are unable to see green.
This constant reminder of access and use has also been brought up in conversations we have had in LS 500 (Organization of Information), that touch on how most users take for granted that the organization they are encountered with when navigating spaces like libraries is a natural occurrence. In fact, these are heavily constructed spaces. Centuries of organizational theory and practice have culminated in the system that we use today, but all that work goes largely unnoticed and taken for granted. I think this happens frequently on digital platforms as well. A lot of work goes into website design, but I personally don’t often spend a lot of time thinking, “Wow, this website is so easy to use, I love how they chose to word these navigational buttons,” etc. However, it is often SO noticeable to me, the user, when the design is bad. A slightly off-topic example: I have been in the process of transferring medical records and therefore have had to fill out several forms. It has been taking me forever, not because I want to drag out the process, but because the forms themselves are not self-explanatory, and it is not always clear to me what they are asking for. I am sure that for whoever designed the forms they make perfect sense, but I am still left with a lot of questions that apparently aren’t easily answered over the phone. This is an important lesson for developers of any kind: is what seems clear to you, clear to your users? It may take a little creative thinking to get yourself out of your own head and into someone else’s.