Interviewee

Eric A. Meyer

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

The fundamentals of the medium, both strengths and weaknesss. Open specifications like (X)HTML, XML, CSS, JavaScript/DOM. Popular closed technologies like Flash. How to use common tools like Photoshop, Dreamweaver, the Flash authoring environment. Programming languages (for the back-end; see below) like PHP, Ruby on Rails, Django, Python, and so on, all with a bias toward how these languages are used to create web sites and services.

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

Both, but with concentrations. For example, someone who wants to be a designer should have more design classes than development classes; the reverse for a developer-intent.

The reason is that web designers need to understand the medium in which they’re going to work, and developers need to understand the basics of design so they can communicate with the designers.

So start everyone with common intro classes and then let them specialize in their later years.

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?

I’dstart everyone with basic markup, CSS, and scripting; basic design tools and design principles; intro to information architecture; intro to usability and accessibility (I see them as being two sides of a coin); and a few “art” classes.

For developers, there would be two basic ways to go: front-end and back-end. For front-end, the courses would get more in-depth on scripting, markup, CSS, Flash, IA, accessibility/usability, user testing, AJAX, and so on. Back-end would bring in classes on PHP, Ruby/Ruby on Rails, Django, server administration and configuration.

For designers, there would be more design, usability, color theory, grid theory, web typography, and so on. Much more like a traditional graphic design course, really, but grounded in a thorough understanding of the medium.

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

As a front-end guy, I want to see the sites they’ve designed and/or built, and some information on how they met challenges unique to each project. I don’t care about any particular type of site: just that it have been done and done well.

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

The faculty has to practice what they teach and keep plugged into what’s going on. One way to do that would be to have the faculty (re)build a site for a local non-profit organization, one per school year (on summer break, say). And also be involved in the school’s own web presence, either as contributors or advisors (but only advisors, not directors or vetoers).