Web International Awards

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AUG 2006 1

Behind Standards Reboot with P.J. Onori

Who are you and what do you do? Tell us something about yourself that we cannot learn by reading your portfolio.

My name is P.J. Onori and I am a design technologist - in other words, I am a hybrid designer/developer for the web medium. By spending so much time sitting on the fence of both worlds, I have really come to appreciate the importance for both the visual and the functional. Because of that, I have lately taken a deep interest in user experience design - something that is not particularly pervasive in my current portfolio.

What is your specialization (Flash / XHTML / PHP / SEO etc)? Why have you chosen this particular domain.

At this point, I would have to say that Flash/Actionscript is my technical area of expertise. I have recently been working in Flex as well. However, running your own blog really forces you to expand you horizons in order to bring more visitors to your site. I have begun to study up quite a bit on SEO and put a lot of thought into community-building techniques which definitely falls closer to the realm of where my current interests are.

Of your favorite hobbies, which one has a chance of eclipsing your web design career and why?

I have a huge passion for photography, more specifically manual film photography. I hold this dream that my photography will improve to the point to where I could make a living on it. I feel that dream subconsciously drives me to go out so often to take photos.

Don`t you think flash is disadvantaged because in most cases it requires high speed internet?

Less and less everyday. Additionally, I think that question may be better suited for high-end Javascript front-end programmers. Many of the Javascript libraries nowadays are 50 to 100 Kb alone. I have developed high-end Flash video players that were in the range of 40 to 50 Kb. Many very poorly crafted flash sites/applications created a very bad reputation for Flash as being heavy in terms of file size, but a good Flash app is going to be very small with a more on-demand model for requesting assets. I think there are many reasons to refrain from Flash, but I'm not so sure that file size is one of them.

What is more crucial in design - professional look or usability?

I think a lot of it depends on who your target audience is, although I would strongly lean towards usability. If you look at the big winners on the internet (Google, Craigslist, Amazon and most recently YouTube) their UI visual design ranges from uninspired to sub-par. However, each of these sites could be used as a model for making the user's experience through the site very easy. My philosophy is that the 'needs' of the audience should be met before their 'wants' are.

What sort of attention has your online portfolio brought you? Would you say it's profitable to have one if you're a web designer / web development company?

Actually, the articles on my blog have been a much greater attention-getter than my portfolio. I really do feel many people, including myself, are just as interested in the thought-process of a designer as they are the final designs. Just because someone can create visually aesthetic work does not automatically translate into successful designs. Showing that you can think both critically and creatively is just as important if not more.

Where do you see the development of your business? Any future projects in mind?

I personally would like to move much further towards information architecture and experience design. I feel very fortunate that I have the opportunity to use my blog as a testbed for ideas running through my head. I have recently put a lot of thought into projects that can engage readers of my blog and promote various forms of interaction. When it all boils down, we make sites so that users can interact with them. I feel much more interested in spending greater time directly considering how users interact with a particular site.

What do you think about web 2.0?

I think the functional foundation of web 2.0, where information and content is shared more freely across sites and applications, is a great step for the web as a whole and will continue to move the web towards a more open model. I have integrated quite a lot of content from various web 2.0 services (Flickr, Google Maps, etc.) because it makes publishing content easier and the end result richer.

Of the projects listed on your site, which one was the most challenging and why?

I actually consider my site to be the most challenging project I have taken on yet. Engaging your readers, attracting new visitors, working in new features for a site and keeping up a steady stream of content coming takes a tremendous amount of effort and time. With projects for clients, I would meet the specifications by a certain date and I was done - the rest of the responsibility for its success rested on them. With my blog, the design really was just the beginning.

Do you have any information or career advice to offer to our reading audience?

Get away from the computer.

You are a judge over Standards Reboot. Tell us what do you think about the concept, judging, challenges of it.

I definitely like the idea of treating standards-based web design as a genre to be judged in and of itself. Just like web design cannot be compared to print design, the same goes for standards-based web design. There are different problems to be solved and different methods of crafting a site in a standards-centric manner. Flash offers so many more interactive and visual possibilities, but usually at the price of less accessibility. I would like to see more sites built with standards and accessibility in mind, my hope is things like this will help promote just that.

What's your opinion on standards? Would you say it is better to have a valid website or an invalid one with more features that do not validate.

I would once again say that it depends on the audience and the type of site that it is catering to. I am a very large advocate of web standards, but I understand that the time and money it takes to create a XHTML/CSS standard and fully accessible site could sometimes be better used elsewhere. For a video site such as YouTube, making a site that can be viewed with a screen-reader is not going to make as much sense as, say a governmental department for the disabled. In a perfect world, all sites would be standards compliant and fully accessible to all. Until then, I think we need to strike a healthy balance between user accessibility and user experience.

Thank you for you time P.J. It was a great pleasure to talk to you. P.J. Onori is owner of Some Random Dude, and he is one of the judges over Standards Reboot.

Published on Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006 at 1:47 am in 2006.

About Bogdan Pop

Bogdan Pop is a young Romanian entrepreneur who runs WebRaptor. He is a web developer with awesome design skills, who enjoys writing about everyday's work and usability. He relaxes by taking photos every once in a while and by mixing french electronic music. Connect with him via Twitter.
  1. Past interviews round-up says: April 12th, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    […] Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006 Published in 2006 | No Comments » […]

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