My Heroes of the Web

close-up of child's action figure toy

This an homage of the many people that inspired me throughout my digital journey. I started off like many of us, making crude, poorly coded websites. I made many atrocious design mistakes along the way. But thankfully I had people along the way to guide me. In this article I delve into those persons that imparted wisdom. Some wrote books, many produced podcasts. Yet each motivated me to jump into the world of user experience. And each deserves recognition as well as your attention as well. No matter where you are, there is still a lot more to learn!

Note that I introduce these people in the order in which I discovered them. There is no order of priority or importance.

Steve Krug

If you are in the web industry and never read Don’t Make Me Think, you are doing it wrong. I first encountered it back in 2001, and it changed my perspective on website design forever. It introduced me to user-centric design. One of his many ideas is that websites need the recognition speed of a highway billboard. Also, he advocates for regular small-scale usability testing. This book has many examples and nonexamples of good website design. It was my first introduction to looking at website from a user’s perspective. It changed my worldview of websites forever.

Paul Boag

In 2007 I purchased my first iPod. This was the gateway drug for my discovering podcasts. When I searched for podcasts on web design, Paul’s show was the first to come up. His wit and insights made me want to learn more about this field. The show’s co-star/sidekick Marcus Lillington also inspired me. His moving from pop music into the tech industry encouraged me. I wanted to move from project management into UX. The show has morphed a bit over the years. Yet they continue to publish great content that anyone in church tech would find interesting.

Jared Spool

The User Interface Engineering podcast was one of the other hallmark shows I discovered. Jared was involved with software usability testing since the 1980’s. When the web showed up, he quickly established himself as a clear leader. His shows and presentations are top notch. He provides plenty of wit, insights, and research to back everything up. Jared has even gone on to pioneer training programs to help create “UX unicorns”. His efforts sought to create people with so many great skillsets, they were nearly mythical in nature.

Gerry McGovern

If you used the Microsoft Office help site and found it at all useful, you need to thank Gerry. He worked with companies such as Microsoft in promoting the idea of top tasks. This was the practice of building navigation elements from what people want to do most. Many sections of your church websites can benefit from this technique. His book, The Stranger’s Long Neck, and many podcast interviews are great for getting your minds churning. They were key in helping me solve several navigation issues I encountered over the years.

Luke Wroblewski

The worst part of online stores is the checkout process. Why? Web forms. Luke wrote one of the best books on fixing this obstacle. His desire to tackle the most boring but necessary obstacles is amazing. The only thing more interesting is his body of articles. He has a knack for pulling out the most important pieces of a presentation. I have seen conference-related articles pop up within minutes of a lecture finishing. These summaries are insightful, and demonstrate his grasp of the space. I hope to one day match Luke’s comprehension of the simplicity of design.

Jeffrey Zeldman

Jeffery is dubbed the godfather of modern web design. He is credited with starting the web standards movement. He was one of the first people to show the world that good design can come from standards-compliant HTML code. His web design company and later spin-offs have influenced the web tremendously. Lastly, his interviews on The Big Web Show have given the world an inside view to the web industry. Industry leaders talk about how they wound their way to high-profile positions. The show lets me know that my own winding path is not so different from theirs.

Action Item

Find inspiration. Check out my heroes and see if their books and podcasts get you excited. Explore their work and see what you can glean for your own career and church. I hope this article honors those that have poured into me. I also pray that my articles have done the same for some of you out there. If so, please comment or contact me with your story. Then check back next week for my list of church communications heroes.

Photo courtesy of A Ka

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.