Understanding the Web

In 1986, I took computer programming in high school.  We worked on old Apple computers  and used DOS operating systems.  Monitors displayed only in green.  I remember programming a smiley face that would appear on the monitor.  That big black grin on that green face still haunts me today.

My first experience with digital communication was with Country General Stores in 1994.  They utilized ConAgra’s internal e-mail system.  Simple text messages could be sent back and forth among users. However, monitors were still  utilized monochromatic dot matrix projection.  There was no capacity to connect outside of ConAgra’s organizations and messages contained no images or enriched elements.

My experience with and knowled of computers, the internet and the world wide web has grown little by little ever since but not nearly as rapidly as the technology itself.  I opened my first e-mail account in 2000.  Today, I have three active e-mails, two blogs, and a social networking account.  Banking, bill paying, shopping, research, communication, recreation, and so much more is all done via the World Wide Web.  Computers are a part of the daily routine and it is hard to imagine life without them.

However, my return to academia and focus on web related studies over the past couple of months have really given me a greater understanding of and appreciation for web development and design.  I would like to take an opportunity to discuss these new perspectives from the vantage point of this semesters course work.

AHT 101 — Two-Dimensioanl Design — The principles of design and art are so prevalent today that we rarely take the time to stop and think about them.  Value, color, the design process, unity, emphasis, focal points, size proportion, balance, patterns, texture, rhythm, lines, shape, volume, space, and motion are all simple concepts readily available to our vocabulary.  From an artistic or web design perspective, we typically know what is appealing to us, but we don’t always know why.  The study of these principles give me a much fuller understanding of why some sites provide so much appeal and others just don’t quite seem to relay that same effect.  Understanding and being able to implement these principles are essential to web design.

CSC 210 — Introduction to Computer Science — I took the opportunity to go see The Social Network this past weekend.  In this movie, Mark Zuckerberg created a web site called FaceMash.  I found myself running the code through my head that would be necessary to recreate this site.  Onclick … call the function …. conditional statement … Math.random() …  database of <img> tags.  In fact, during the entire movie, while the rest of the audience follows the plot, the dynamics between the characters, and the impact of social networking on society, I’m thinking about code.

A good deal of time in this introductory course is spent on learning both the syntax and logic of web coding.  While Web Fundamentals focuses on design, art, process and style, Computer Science focuses on logic, function, math and syntax.  In my opinion, comparing Web Fundamentals to Computer Science is as simple as comparing the art of a subject to the science of that subject.

CMA 230 — Web Fundamentals — Although my head is starting to wrap itself around code and syntax and logic, at this point in my studies, I still struggle with the style and process of web development.  All the work that goes into web development is overwhelming.  The process includes the customer request, market research, focus groups, audience analysis,  process analysis, content plans, wire frames, mock-ups, design, production, coding, testing, launch, maintenance, evaluation, project management, information management, database management, marketing, copy writing, content management, graphic design, network management and so much more.  I have a new found respect for the whole process and the professionals who provide value to our virtual lives.

SOC 351 — Organizational Behavior —  A fundamental component of the understanding of organizational behavior is examination of how they communicate.  The web and electronic communication have fundamentally altered organizational communication.  It is flattening organizational hierarchies, reducing communication and computing costs, increasing communication bandwidth, and transforming organizations in ways we still don’t understand.  Technology continues to rapidly change organizational and societal dynamics.

ACC 100 — Financial Accounting — I have become way too dependent on Peachtree and Quickbooks.  In this introductory accounting course, we step back to the days of manual accounting.  It is a great exercise in organization and logic and provides a tremendous appreciation for today’s computing capabilities.

Despite these new insights, my use of the web is still quite functional.  I still use it for communication, education, information gathering, bill paying, occasionally shopping, social networking and recreation.

As a college football fan, I am a regular visitor to ESPN’s website.  I check scores, schedules, rankings, standings, news, bowl projections and much more.  The ESPN site is simple enough for the user.  It is easily navigable, uses images adequately and provides the information that ESPN’s target audience members (sports fans) are seeking.  As simple as this page is, it requires over 1400 lines of code including 7 external references, five of which are external style sheets.

The middle of the three navigation bars provides drop down menus with images and graphics on mouse-over.  The MyESPN element allows users to customize their ESPN experience by selecting their favorite sports, teams, players and columnists.  From an artistic perspective it lacks that wow factor that I get from many other sites, but from a functional and usability perspective, its at the top of the class.

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About Jesse Alber

Jesse Alber attained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Speech Communications with an Athletic Coaching Endorsement from Hastings College in May, 1993. From 1994 - 2000, Alber served in leadership roles in human resources, retail, and production. Alber enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2000. He served as a Armored Cavalry Scout and Troop Training Manager with A 3/7 CAV 3d ID until 2004. Alber deployed to Bosnia in 2001 and Kwait / Iraq in 2003. Alber served in the Army Reserves from 2005 - 2008. From 2004 - 2010 Alber served as the Adult Education Coordinator for Central Community College and Executive Director for the Hastings Literacy Program. Alber returned to Hastings College in 2010 to study Computer Science and Web Design. He is currently emploed as a Programming and Web Development Intern with Servi-Tech Industries. Alber will complete his program of study in the summer of 2012.
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