I am often being asked how I ended up in the web field and why I care about user experience and web accessibility. There were so many things that I was interested in before I started college, and it was difficult for me to decide what to major in. My main interests were arts and computers, so I was suggested to major in graphic design.
The internet and all things related to it (emails, browsers, web design, etc.) were new to me when I became a college freshman in the mid 90s. My first exposure to it happened during my family’s vacation in Florida before starting college. I was playing table tennis with a group of college kids at an hotel we were staying at. One of them wanted to keep in touch with me and knew that I could not use phone, so he suggested me to exchange email addresses and gave me a piece of paper with his contact information. I was staring at the “@” character and tried to figure out what those characters in his address meant. After my question about what email was, he tried to explain to me about the internet and suggested me to wait until after I started school to get the idea. It was then that I realized how wonderful the internet was, and it literally changed my life. It is amazing to see how much technology has changed since then – from using a desktop computer to using a small phone in your hands and seeing others from faraway places via video!
During my last year in college I took some web design classes and loved them. At my first job I got to do more than 80% of web design work, and I realized that I loved coding more than designing. To advance myself, I decided to get a Master’s degree in Internet Technology. I was also interested in business and took marketing and management classes in addition to programming classes. It was then when I realized that I preferred to drink Java than to code it, but my knowledge of programming helped me better understand how back-end works. I enjoyed business classes more, especially marketing. Analyzing customer data and working on group projects was so much fun that I even was thinking of switching to marketing major. However, I was more interested in making products usable to customers than to make them buy them. Only years later I realized that user experience has similarities with marketing in terms of customer focus, but the major difference is in improving a product for them.
After graduation I worked as a front-end designer and liked it because it was different from back-end programming that I did for graduate school classes. Those skills also helped me better collaborate with developers. Thanks to one of developers, I learned to write cleaner code to make pages load faster. He even loved Macs and was the first developer I worked with who is an Apple fan. Since then I have been hearing less arguments about Macs vs PCs because Unix was implemented in Mac OS and first iPhones were released around that time, and more developers became Apple fans.
Attending web conferences allowed me learn more about web accessibility, information architecture, user experience, etc. I have loved making sitemaps and wireframes when designing and coding websites and later realized that it was part of information architecture and that web design was not only about designing and coding. I also started to realize that it is not enough to have a beautiful and functional website – user testing and content optimization is something that needs to be done first and web accessibility should not be an afterthought. With all those bells and whistles, many people – regardless of abilities – get frustrated with usability and accessibility. So I always enjoy working with businesses that care about making websites user-friendly.