2015 Web Design Contest

Mark DuBois
Director of Education

As I look forward to another series of Web design contests as Director of Education for WebProfessionals.org, I thought it might be appropriate to reflect on why our organization is heavily involved with helping aspiring web designers and developers.

It is 2015, yet, there are a number of issues still being resolved. I encounter practicing professionals who have a limited view of web design and development (perhaps overlooking areas like mobile, accessibility or security). We aim to reinforce “best practices” in the next generation of web professionals and to encourage continuous learning. This is why we focus on a number of areas.

These include:

• Industry best practices in coding and documentation (this includes HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and server side code and the inter-relationships between these technologies),
• Making web pages accessible for all visitors to the site,
• Understanding search engine optimization and why it is important,
• Understanding emerging technologies (and their impact on our current practices),
• Understanding security vulnerabilities and how to best defend against them,
• Understanding current trends in design, workflow and more.

For purposes of this article, I want to focus on the first area – best practices in coding and documentation. In my opinion, every page should either be self-documenting and include necessary comments so I know what the original purpose of the page was, when it was created and when it was modified, who made the changes, and what the specific changes were at a minimum. Whether tools are used in the creation of pages or they are hand coded, there should never be any title of “untitled document.” Where possible, modern semantic markup relying on HTML5 should be employed. It is 2015, yet I see so many pages created with XHTML or older versions in mind.

Once the pages have been developed, they should be tested across multiple browsers and multiple devices. Whether we develop for mobile first or not is debatable, but we should test our work on mobile devices. We should understand that an exact look to all pages across browsers and devices is not possible, but we can code in a manner that we understand the limitations of some screen resolutions. We should focus on providing the best user experience regardless of platform.

I intend to provide a series of articles covering many of these topics in depth (and recruit others to include their perspectives and contribute articles as well). While they will be aimed at aspiring web professionals, I am hoping practicing web professionals will also find value.

From my perspective, I have run the state of Illinois Web Design contest for the past 15 years; I have helped with the national web design contest for 12 years and am also now involved with the international web design contest later this year in Brazil. There is a lot to each of these (including creating materials, coordinating and recruiting many individuals to serve in a variety of roles and being actively engaged during these competitions). At a minimum, my efforts alone have amounted to months’ worth of preparation. I believe that it is important to have a solid foundation and to keep abreast of emerging trends. I hope you now know why we focus on these areas in our web design contests and why I think this is worthwhile.

For additional information about the Web Design Contest visit the contest website.

I look forward to your comments.

Mark

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