Gold pan

Today the World Wide Web is 30 years old. I’ve worked on it since 1997 or so and I saw a lot of technologies and design trends come and go. I’ve also seen a lot of “this is much better and will replace the web” solutions come and go. What remained is the web with its “dumb” technologies HTTP, HTML and CSS. Each of them are forgiving in their nature. They allow developers to make mistakes without punishing the end user. Many people sing the praise of this approach and architecture, so I’m not going to repeat it.

Enter JavaScript…

Scrabble board spelling publish

Over the course of my career I’ve seen a lot of excellent accessibility presentations and learned a lot. That’s because I worked in the accessibility space and went to specialist conferences. Web development conferences also have accessibility talks and their number is rising. But often these don’t go past the 101 stage or repeat things that should be obvious. Alas, many of these things aren’t obvious to the average designer/developer. The reason could be a thing I’m calling the accessibility stalemate.

What do I mean by that?

A lot of excellent accessibility advice never gets distributed beyond the initial audience…

The other day, I mulled over the problem of bad user experience resulting in more usage of products.

And I followed up with wondering how we could get to a “happy user” metric.

When measuring the success of software products, data is king. When I moved from DevRel to program management, my world got a lot more dashboards and charts. I found myself spending more time looking at user feedback. I learned about asking questions to find the real issue that caused dismay in users instead of adding a feature satisfying their request. I started feeling despair looking…

A few days ago I posted a graph I found some time ago that jokingly explained the benefits of subtitles in movies and tweeted about it.

The tweet went wild and so far has 35 answers, 290 retweets, 1,500 likes and 150,000 impressions. I love that the answers are all about people’s experiences with subtitles and why they choose to turn them on. …

Old man on phone looking grumpy (Rich Evans of Redlettermedia as Mr. Plinkett)

Often you will be part of meetings where people show demos of what your product could look like in the future. These are brain-storming, visionary meetings that can have great outcomes. The idea is to not think in boundaries but in benefits for your users and customers. The longer you work in a certain company and the higher you climb on the career ladder, the more of these meetings will be yours to attend and organise. I am currently a Principal Program Manager. This means my gaze should be a few years down the line. …

I have a new class on Skillshare where I am teaching how to be a developer that is easy to work with in a world of home office, geographical and temporal distribution and how to communicate across departments.

You can check the introduction video here:

Here’s what I am covering in the video:

Our world has changed. We are working differently right now and a lot of engineers have a problem getting their information heard and getting their output documented.

I’m Chris and I’m a Principal Program Manager, but I used to be a developer for over 20 years…

Testing your products for accessibility issues is a tricky thing. Your users have all kind of different needs and setups. They use computers in ways that appear daunting to you and hard to replicate. Any sighted person that used a screen reader to test their products can verify this. Often we turn off the sound and rely on a text log of the screen reader or an on-screen display.

The problem is that we’re not used to interacting with our products in others ways than our own. …

Examples of Geocities Pages

The other day I had a friend come to my place with the request to “learn HTML and how web sites work”. We spent a few hours playing with the topic and she got excited and quite far into it. The whole thing reminded me about a real problem when it comes to teaching people HTML. We keep fast-tracking the learning to the fun part of building visual things with it.

People who started early with the web had platforms that allowed them to quickly publish things. Geocities, Neopets and many others. For many these were the only accessible ways…

Often you find things in web sites that annoy you. And — as a web developer — you’re even asked to fix some problems in web sites without getting access to the source.

Using developer tools in browsers you can change a lot of things and you can even fix some issues. You get visual tools to tweak colours, dimensions and more without having to know CSS.

The problem is that the changes aren’t persistent — once you reload the page, they are gone. …

About eight years ago Bret Victor tried to change the way developer tools work by providing a faster and simpler way from creation to consumption. He also followed it up with a Learnable Programming Course asking for simpler development teaching courses.

The presentation “Inventing on Principle” was a smash hit, despite its deplorable video quality. Many people in the field set out to create more visual development tools. Tools that invite users to play with values and see the immediate effects. Tools that disrupt the “code, deploy, test and debug” cycle. …

Christian Heilmann

Maker of web things. Ponderer of new technology. Lover of simplicity. Portfolio: http://christianheilmann.com

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