Interviewee

Aarron Walter

What skills and technologies should colleges and universities teach students who want to be web designers and/or developers? Why?

Professional Process: writing a project proposal, use cases, personas, sitemaps, flow charting, wireframing, concept notes, design comps

Strategy: how to create a design appropriate for a brand, how to layout content to achieve business and communication goals, project management, independent problem solving

Concepts: web standards (HTML, CSS, DOM), file management, FTP, layout, typography, color, usability, accessibility, findability, information architecture, Flash (timeline and scripted animation, embedding into a document, video delivery), client-server relationship, general history of the Web,

Communication: how to defend a design without being defensive, team work

Should students be educated in both web design and development or just one? Why?

Both in order to better understand the various roles of members in a professional production team. A diverse knowledge of the craft also fosters a better understanding of the capabilities and limitations of technologies and how they relate to design. It would seem to make sense to offer specialization tracts so students ca dig deep into topics for which they are best suited.

If you could create your dream curriculum for web design and development, what courses and information would you include? Why? What courses and information now in such programs would you eliminate? Why?

Digital Design Production: Photoshop and Illustrator for design comp production

Web Design 1: Intro to HTML, inline styles, basic layout with HTML/CSS, FTP, server-client relationship, high level intro to professional process

History of the WWW: Origins of Internet and Web, introduction to key events and the people who were involved

Information Architecture: User research, content inventory, content organization

Web Design 2: Advanced HTML, Forms, image replacement, local and global style sheets, intro to accessibility concepts, intermediate CSS design techniques, production strategies (templating, quick keys, firebug, etc)

Principles of Visual Design: Grid-based layout, typography and typographic history, color, gestalt theory, contemporary trends in design

Layout for the Web: Advanced CSS layout (positioning schemas and floats), creating typographic base-lines, modular design, bullet-proofing designs for dynamic content

User-Centered Interface Design 1: Principles of interaction design, design patterns, intro to design for web applications

DOM Scripting 1: Intro to programming concepts (conditionals, variables, loops, functions), the DOM, progressive enhancement, event handling

Usability: user testing and analysis

Accessibility: WCAG, Section 508, accessibility for HTML Flash and JavaScript interfaces

Findability: relationship between SEO and web standards, robots.txt, sitemap.xml, performance optimization for efficient search indexing, microformats for content re-discoverability, making blogs findable, making Flash and scripted interfaces findable

Production Team: Students work in small teams to create a professional web site for a nonprofit organization. Students go through each step of the project lifecycle.

DOM Scripting 2: Ajax interactions with the server, JSON, intermediate DOM scripting techniques, discussion of popular JavaScript libraries

Interactive Portfolio: Students create an innovative, online portfolio showcasing their work in order to obtain employment

What type of projects do you want to see in a recent graduate’s web design and/or development portfolio?

Projects should show a range of skills, independent thinking, knowledge of the project lifecycle, ability to work in teams, high production values, user-centered design, and a strong understanding of web standards.

How can colleges and universities keep web design and/or development curriculum current and relevant?

I think it might be helpful for a curriculum should have special topics courses where contemporary topics can be explored in detail. Having these sorts of expansion joint courses can let a curriculum adapt as the industry and technologies change. Departments need to create a culture of learning that requires faculty to stay abreast of new topics. Schools should make it a priority to send faculty to conferences and training programs to ensure they’re not falling behind.