On the Edge: On ecotones, design and development.

Edges are exceptional places. The edge where two biomes meet is called an ecotone and it is an incredible place for life. Tide pools, estuaries, mountains: these ecotones are more diverse and productive places than either biome alone. This flourish of activity at the boundary is called the edge effect, and it extends beyond nature.
 My job title at Jacht is Web Developer. Really, I’m more of a web designer and front-end developer combination. It’s an ecotone in the workplace. I work with designers and creatives to build delicious user experiences. Then, I describe the design in logic that a computer can understand. Without sensitivity to subjective style and aesthetics, my designs will fail to excite the target audience. Without attention to the objective logic of markup and code, my designs will break on the internet.

Ecotones are dangerous places. Overlapping biomes mean twice as many hungry predators and natural disasters. In nature, constant threat drives evolution forward. It is the engine of the productivity in the ecotone and the workplace. It’s my edge effect. Exposure to both art and code arms me with twice as many resources with which to fight the constant threat of double failure. 
 Studying a disciplinary ecotone offers another challenge. Web design and front-end web development don’t really have a home in the typical university. You can find web design in graphic design concentrations in art degrees, or even in colleges of journalism. You can even find computer science classes that cover JavaScript. But you probably can’t find a collegiate program that covers the complete ecotone of web design and front-end development. For that reason, I would like to explain how this process works.

 The internet is part newspaper, TV channel and photo gallery. Many of the classic decision-making processes for these media still apply. For that reason, I integrate goal-setting and strategy lessons from marketing, branding and advertising to guide design and development decisions.

 Web design is constellation of many stars. The most easily forgotten is accessibility. Many people access the internet with screen readers, voice control, head wands and other assistive devices. Additionally, visual designs must fit any screen they might populate: desktops, phones and tablets of all sizes and orientations. This idea is called responsive web design, which is related to information architecture by way of distribution of content. These ideas are related in the discipline of user-experience design (known as UX, XD or UCD): creating design that cooperates with the user.

 Development is the final stage. At this point, the developer describes design in terms of HTML (a markup language that creates content), CSS (a stylesheet language that creates presentation) and JavaScript (a coding language that creates interaction). If the site is large enough, back-end development is necessary and is often coded in PHP, MySQL, Ruby or Ruby on Rails, or in content management systems (CMSs) such as WordPress.

At this point, developers must consider progressive enhancement. Code that is progressively enhanced works for the worst case scenario and becomes increasingly optimal in better cases. Progressive enhancement takes advantage of new technologies that optimize the goals set in the strategy phase while creating fallbacks written in older technologies for worse scenarios.