And That’s OK

A few weeks ago, I had a brief Twitter conversation with the somewhat Twitter-famous Jay Rosen @jayrosen_nyu and some other writer/developer geeks about the infamous <div> tag.

Later, I realizedtwitterstream I hadn’t struggled with <div> tags in quite awhile. Nor had I obsessed over whether to style something as a class or with an ID or whether to use a <div> or a <span> tag. This may sound like Greek to laypersons, but I bet it sounds familiar to fellow web designers. The more I thought about it, I realized I hadn’t written hardcore HTML from scratch in, well, years.

Was I getting lazy?

It started to bother me when here and there, I’d dig into the HTML code view to fix formatting or play around with CSS to get things just right and I would have to look up the syntax. Was this leftover chemo-brain? Was I forgetting what I knew? Was I just getting rusty?

I thought about it some more. I’m a bit of a jack of all trades as a web developer. I prefer the front-end design as my strengths are in analysis, content management, and design. I like the artistic and graphic design element as well. But there was a certain street cred in having technical skills. Heck, I come from a generation where we were proud to work on the command line in DOS and UNIX. We re-engineered COBOL code to prevent government computers from crashing for Y2K [to this day, I’m not sure if we ameliorated the problem or if there never was a problem in the first place, but I digress].

I like understanding the workings of the beast.

When I first started building websites—along with everyone else—I wrote web pages in straight HTML. Then, I moved to styling them with CSS. And then, to building dynamic sites with SQL and PHP. I like playing with and learning new technologies. I learned Flash so that I could make a box rotate on its middle axis. Plus, it was cool.

Fast forward. Now, I mostly design and develop in  WordPress and Joomla. Both Content Management Systems (CMS) platforms and their Open Source communities provide such a rich development environment that I rarely have to hand code any more. And, I realized that while it may make me feel slightly lazy and less of a technical genius –

that’s ok

Actually, it’s more than ok, it’s pretty damn brilliant.

By not having to focus so hard on the nuts and bolts of the site, we can spend our time creating, managing and updating content.Lisa, LPS Web Design

That sounds trite and buzz-wordy, but it’s actually a pretty simple cost/time proposition. By spending less time and energy on the “can we do this?” and “how do we do that?” technical puzzles, we can spend our time and the clients’ money drilling down to what their core goals are, what actions they want website visitors to take, and what messages they are sending. And we can use our design skills and experience of what works and what doesn’t to craft content that works. Content that is fresh, useful and resonates.

As an example, I think Medium.com provides a similar platform and user experience to the WordPress experience. It allows writers to just write and/or post photos. It lets the Content shine without the writer needing to spend so much energy on formatting and knowing arcane syntax to get it to look good.

Ultimately, that’s the goal for a website. Great content. Great design. A site that works without too much overthinking, without too many razzle-dazzle technical whirligigs. In the words of usability guru, Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think.”Steve Krug