Tags: user

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Thursday, April 30th, 2020

Prioritizing users in a crisis: Building the California COVID-19 response site

This is a great case study of the excellent California COVID-19 response site. Accessibility and performance are the watchwords here.

Want to know their secret weapon?

A $20 device running Android 9, with no contract commitment has been one of the most useful and effective tools in our effort to be accessible.

Leaner, faster sites benefit everybody, but making sure your applications run smoothly on low-end hardware makes a massive difference for those users.

User agents

I was on the podcast A Question Of Code recently. It was fun! The podcast is aimed at people who are making a career change into web development, so it’s right up my alley.

I sometimes get asked about what a new starter should learn. On the podcast, I mentioned a post I wrote a while back with links to some great resources and tutorials. As I said then:

For web development, start with HTML, then CSS, then JavaScript (and don’t move on to JavaScript too quickly—really get to grips with HTML and CSS first).

That’s assuming you want to be a good well-rounded web developer. But it might be that you need to get a job as quickly as possible. In that case, my advice would be very different. I would advise you to learn React.

Believe me, I take no pleasure in giving that advice. But given the reality of what recruiters are looking for, knowing React is going to increase your chances of getting a job (something that’s reflected in the curricula of coding schools). And it’s always possible to work backwards from React to the more fundamental web technologies of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I hope.

Regardless of your initial route, what’s the next step? How do you go from starting out in web development to being a top-notch web developer?

I don’t consider myself to be a top-notch web developer (far from it), but I am very fortunate in that I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside some tippety-top-notch developers at ClearleftTrys, Cassie, Danielle, Mark, Graham, Charlotte, Andy, and Natalie.

They—and other top-notch developers I’m fortunate to know—have something in common. They prioritise users. Sure, they’ll all have their favourite technologies and specialised areas, but they don’t lose sight of who they’re building for.

When you think about it, there’s quite a power imbalance between users and developers on the web. Users can—ideally—choose which web browser to use, and maybe make some preference changes if they know where to look, but that’s about it. Developers dictate everything else—the technology that a website will use, the sheer amount of code shipped over the network to the user, whether the site will be built in a fragile or a resilient way. Users are dependent on developers, but developers don’t always act in the best interests of users. It’s a classic example of the principal-agent problem:

The principal–agent problem, in political science and economics (also known as agency dilemma or the agency problem) occurs when one person or entity (the “agent”), is able to make decisions and/or take actions on behalf of, or that impact, another person or entity: the “principal”. This dilemma exists in circumstances where agents are motivated to act in their own best interests, which are contrary to those of their principals, and is an example of moral hazard.

A top-notch developer never forgets that they are an agent, and that the user is the principal.

But is it realistic to expect web developers to be so focused on user needs? After all, there’s a whole separate field of user experience design that specialises in this focus. It hardly seems practical to suggest that a top-notch developer needs to first become a good UX designer. There’s already plenty to focus on when it comes to just the technology side of front-end development.

So maybe this is too simplistic a way of defining the principle-agent relationship between users and developers:

user :: developer

There’s something that sits in between, mediating that relationship. It’s a piece of software that in the world of web standards is even referred to as a “user agent”: the web browser.

user :: web browser :: developer

So if making the leap to understanding users seems too much of a stretch, there’s an intermediate step. Get to know how web browsers work. As a web developer, if you know what web browsers “like” and “dislike”, you’re well on the way to making great user experiences. If you understand the pain points for browser when they’re parsing and rendering your code, you’ve got a pretty good proxy for understanding the pain points that your users are experiencing.

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

Checked in at Sheepcote Valley. Lying in the grass on a hillside — with Jessica map

Checked in at Sheepcote Valley. Lying in the grass on a hillside — with Jessica

Saturday, April 11th, 2020

Checked in at Sheepcote Valley. with Jessica map

Checked in at Sheepcote Valley. with Jessica

Friday, April 10th, 2020

Checked in at Sheepcote Valley. with Jessica map

Checked in at Sheepcote Valley. with Jessica

Friday, March 27th, 2020

So no one told us the internet was gonna be this way | The Outline

An interview with Joanne McNeil about her new book, Lurking:

Someone who was creating, say, a small decentralized community for a specific group of people would not have luck finding investors, as opposed to Facebook, which sought to build a platform for all.

‘Sfunny, when I was on Quarantine Book Club the other day, this is exactly what I talked about one point—how Facebook (and venture capital) moved the goalposts on what constitutes success and failure on the web.

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

Checked in at Queen's Park. Getting some fresh air — with Jessica map

Checked in at Queen’s Park. Getting some fresh air — with Jessica

Sunday, March 15th, 2020

Checked in at The Hartington. Last chance for some tunes? map

Checked in at The Hartington. Last chance for some tunes?

Thursday, March 12th, 2020

Checked in at Jolly Brewer. Tunes! 🎶🎻🎶 — with Jessica map

Checked in at Jolly Brewer. Tunes! 🎶🎻🎶 — with Jessica

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

Checked in at Cartwheel Cafe and Roastery. with Remy map

Checked in at Cartwheel Cafe and Roastery. with Remy

Monday, March 9th, 2020

Checked in at 200 Degrees Coffee map

Checked in at 200 Degrees Coffee

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

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Checked in at The Winding Stair. Lunch in Dublin — with Jessica

Checked in at The Salt House. 🍺 — with Jessica map

Checked in at The Salt House. 🍺 — with Jessica

Checked in at Cava Bodega. Scallops with black pudding — with Jessica map

Checked in at Cava Bodega. Scallops with black pudding — with Jessica

Checked in at Tigh Cóilí. 🎶🎻 — with Jessica map

Checked in at Tigh Cóilí. 🎶🎻 — with Jessica

Checked in at The Crane Bar. 🎶🎻 — with Jessica map

Checked in at The Crane Bar. 🎶🎻 — with Jessica

Sunday, March 1st, 2020

Checked in at Hooked. with Jessica map

Checked in at Hooked. with Jessica

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Checked in at Coffeewerk + Press. with Jessica

Checked in at Tigh Cóilí. Afternoon session — with Jessica map

Checked in at Tigh Cóilí. Afternoon session — with Jessica

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Checked in at wa cafe. Sushi — with Jessica