Christopher Schmitt

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

Basic and advanced graphic design skills - Basic graphic design skills get students to understand the core concepts of design, however I’ve seen students just stop learning at that point. Some students I’ve found don’t learn how to effectively use these techniques to design well.

JavaScript. It’s a great gateway technology. Simple to get up and running and ties into the DOM, which allows for dropping off to semantic HTML and well-formed CSS.

Then I would go with PHP/MySQL for basic database-driven Web sites.

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

Students should have an understanding of both disciplines at the basic level and specialize in one area. The Web isn’t a fixed medium requiring technology in order to support it. You can’t have have a great Web site with only great design or backend technologies.

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?

These are the objects I made for a Web design course:

  • Develop and present a well-researched competitive analysis for a Web site project.

  • Create and present an orderly, well-structured information architecture for a Web site project.

  • Create and present clear and cleanly designed page-level wireframes indicating the layout of content and features on main site pages.Create valid one, two, or three-column CSS layouts for a Web site project.

  • Develop a collage-style mood board to define the personality of a Web site.

  • Develop and and implement an appropriate color scheme for a client.
  • Use best practice approaches to incorporating JPEG, GIF, and PNG imagery in conjunction with CSS.
  • Use CSS to specify and layout typography for main Web page applications, including titles, headers, and body text.
  • Use CSS to precisely manipulate column width, alignment, paragraph formatting, blockquotes, and initial caps.
  • Follow basic principles of usability in page layout and navigation design.
  • Perform a usability test to assess the effectiveness of Web site structure or functionality.
  • Design an artist’s portfolio site, making sure important objectives are met and using a DOM-based technique for presenting graphics.

Since the course was more about process and related to design, there wasn’t much of a development component—however, if there was I would have worked on basic Web development concepts in JavaScript and run the students through some simple database-driven examples.

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

I would like to see a student have an understand of the usable nature of the Web. Some portfolio examples I see give me the impression there seems to be a disconnect between student designers surfing the Web sites they use all the day and then building Web sites which I believe they would find themselves hard to use.

We can teach design. We can teach programming. But teaching the merging of design and technology into a usable site is something I haven’t seen addressed in colleges.

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

They need to have a school system that supports updating computer equipment or put the onus on students to buy their own, up-to-date technology. (A decked out MacBook Pro could be a standard piece of equipment that students need to buy.)

Also sending professors to conferences and require them to get certified from everything to Adobe products to programming languages as they become mature enough to warrant certification.