From IT Fluency to Accessibility

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.

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An Introduction to LS 560

Greetings LS 560 class, and welcome to my blog! It’s hardly a thing of beauty and it has fallen into disuse more than once, but you might notice some posts scattered over the last seven years. Again, my name is Jennifer Fain and I am in my second year of MLIS program here at the University of Alabama. I am originally from the Seattle area, but have been in Alabama since 2009. I received both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in History from UA and apparently could not get enough school because I came back for the MLIS here as well. I am yet another student here at SLIS who is on the archival track, hoping to combine my general interest in old things with archival work.

I would not call myself particularly fluent in IT. While I am someone born in the “digital age,” and do not have many problems in terms of operating different types of technology, I have extremely limited knowledge in how these tools actually work, whether that be software or hardware. My phone, Surface – even my car – might as well be powered by the magic of tiny wizards inside for all I know about them. Whenever someone mentions the words “computer science” or “computer programming,” I tend to try to find a way of extricating myself from the conversation as quickly as possible. That being said, I have used HTML on several occasions, and found that I have enjoyed it very much. Starting with a Web Design class in high school and ending this most recent Spring semester with the creation of  LibGuide on Bigfoot, I have found HTML to be both a challenging and satisfying puzzle. I am very much looking forward to using HTML again, and despite my leeriness over IT in general, am tentatively looking forward to the other topics of this course.

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Pic of the Day!

Sooooo I know that I was supposed to post a piece about my drive across the country a couple of weeks ago, complete with pictures, but things have been crazy every since I got back. I managed to get another job and have therefore been working constantly. Also, writing about my trip turned into a more personal post than I was expecting and I want to do it justice. Hang in there, people!

The king of the jungle relaxes in the fading light as the sun sets over the Wellington Zoo.

The king of the jungle relaxes in the fading light as the sun sets over the Wellington Zoo.

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Pic of the Day!

So, completely unforseen by me, it appears that I will actually be driving across the country next week! Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to make a real, American road trip out of it, but needless to say I will be taking some pictures and hopefully keep you guys updated through the four or so days that I will be driving. Starting point will be a few miles north of the beautiful Seattle, WA, and we’ll finish up in Northport, AL! Roughly, this will be a drive of about 2,600 miles, depending on which route we take.

600

Yet another view from the Seattle Space Needle.

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Pic of the Day!

This isn’t for the squeamish! A view of the gum wall in Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market.Pike Place

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Pic of the Day!

Here’s another picture I took in New Zealand. This was taken in a national park (the name is completely escaping me) on the drive to Milford Sound from Queenstown. The place was so remote and in such pristine condition, our guide told us that we were breathing some of the purest air on Earth. Unfortunately at the time I was suffering from a cold and because of a completely plugged up nose I can’t really tell you how great the air was.

Reflection

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Pic of the Day!

Hi everyone! I know that I have been MIA for the past few weeks, and I just wanted to let you all know that this is going to continue as I get ready to graduate from college in just under three weeks. This, followed by the holiday season and settling into my new life away from home and outside of school, means that you probably won’t hear from me until after the new year. Until then, have a happy holiday season and I will leave you with this adorable picture of my dogs.

My beautiful puppies

Shasta [right] and Thor [left]

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