Responsibilities of a Web Person

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.