Respon­si­bil­i­ties of a Web Person

Publisher: TJ Fogarty

Modified: 2018-03-13

This post is about what I think it means to be a web per­son. I’m using per­son’ here because that’s what you get when you strip away all the titles. We’re peo­ple first. 

Work­ing with com­put­ers is a large part of our dai­ly lives, so it’s easy to get lost in those titles. Job post­ings start look­ing like we’re look­ing for this thing that has these features”. 

It’s all per­son-to-per­son. I’m just try­ing to pare it back and look at the com­mon­al­i­ties in what we’re all doing here.

Respon­si­bil­i­ties #

We all got into the web for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, and it doesn’t mat­ter what they are. What mat­ters are the respon­si­bil­i­ties we then inher­it, whether we acknowl­edge them or not.

Serv­ing Our­selves #

These are the most obvi­ous respon­si­bil­i­ties. We want to be hap­py, so we do the things we like. If we’re not hap­py we try to alter our pat­terns or exert some kind of con­trol over our situation.

Skills atro­phy on the web. Every­day we wake up to some­thing new and excit­ing so we need to learn a lit­tle bit about it. We need to keep iter­at­ing on our process­es, or con­sid­er throw­ing them out com­plete­ly. It can be a gru­elling pace, but when some­thing clicks, it’s an incred­i­ble expe­ri­ence. You share it, and oth­ers might get excit­ed. It’s an inspir­ing chain-reaction.

Serv­ing Users #

These ones are a bit more nuanced. Our work is out there in the open, sub­ject to every kind of user imag­in­able. This can be both excit­ing and terrifying. 

Users expect things to work a cer­tain way. These expec­ta­tions are shaped by pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ences. These exist in many forms in the myr­i­ad of devices avail­able. You should know, you’re a user! You have every right to expect a pleas­ant, usable experience.

Con­flicts #

So, we’re a hap­py bunch of users. Why? We’re hap­py because we usu­al­ly have the lat­est browsers or smartphones.

We can also be unhap­py users when some­thing doesn’t work the way expect. We might know how it was imple­ment­ed, so we become more focused on the accessibility/​usability/​technical imple­men­ta­tion of it.

What if the user doesn’t work on the web like some of us? How might our respon­si­bil­i­ties to our­selves clash with our duty to serve the people?

We know already how quick­ly the web evolves. We might feel pres­sure to use the lat­est tools to keep up. This pres­sure can blind-side us to the peo­ple we’re exclud­ing. Are we using this tool because it gen­uine­ly helps us help oth­ers? Or is it because it’s fun and we’re all talk­ing about it?

Res­o­lu­tion #

It’s not about sham­ing. It’s about think­ing of the choic­es we make that make us feel good. Those choic­es may not feel good for a user who doesn’t have the same set­up as us. We don’t con­scious­ly exclude peo­ple, and it can be impos­si­ble to avoid. We just need to think before we bower install sometimes.