Speaker Spotlight: Jonathan Snook

Next in our series of interviews where we get up close and personal with our speakers is Jonathan Snook!

jonathan-snook.jpgJonathan is a freelance web developer living in Ontario, Canada. He has been a technical architect, project manager, developer, and designer on hundreds (maybe thousands!) of web projects such as JPG Magazine, Red Bull, the Canadian Red Cross, Apple Canada, and FedEx Canada. He writes on various web development topics here and as a columnist at Digital Web Magazine.

Q. You class yourself as a designer/developer, with experience in a range of different disciplines. What do you think about the debate that often goes on in the industry about how to describe exactly what you do? Do you think it matters to anyone other than the web community if you’re a front-end developer, a web designer or other?

A. We always look for ways to accurately and succinctly categorize what it is that we do. But web development is a huge spectrum that is constantly expanding. We often find ourselves wearing so many hats that a succinct title can never truly do what we do justice.

When dealing with clients, it’s mostly irrelevant. Most clients don’t know enough about the web development industry to realize the difference. They come to us — the people that build the sites — because we understand and know what’s involved and I doubt a job title would be the deciding factor in landing a new client.

Q. You’re going to be talking about AJAX and design in your session. Do you think there’s alot still to be understood about rational use of AJAX, and what do you hope people will take away from your talk?

A. I do think there is a lot to understand when it comes to the rational use of AJAX. We, as designers and developers, are problem solvers. All the buzz about AJAX has presented us with a plethora of solutions. We see a problem pop up and think, “Oh, Ajax can solve this!” And it may be the right solution to the problem but it’s important that we think beyond the specific problem and consider the correlated problems. It is these correlated problems that tend to get missed and, often times, it is the solution itself that ends up creating these problems.

I hope people walk away with perspective on the types of problems that AJAX *should* solve while also considering the problems that AJAX itself can introduce.

Q. Whose work do you admire – whether in terms of design, development, or simply as a blogger?

A. This is probably going to sound cheesy but I admire a lot of people in this industry for a lot of different reasons. Cameron Adams, Joe Hewitt, and Derek Featherstone are just the tip of the iceberg of talented individuals out there.

Q. You’ve been working with the web since back in the day – 1995 to be precise. Things happen so quickly in this business that it’s easy to not stop and reflect on how it’s changing: what do you perceive to be the most important changes in that time as a designer/developer?

A. I’m a pragmatist and I see everything that happens as very evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. Ecommerce, though, is one of those major shifts that helped bring millions of people to the web. More recently, creating new ways of analyzing the wealth of data we have, such as with mashups, show great potential for looking at information in new ways. The more we understand, the more readily we can solve problems at hand.

Q. Finally, we’re really thrilled to have you speaking at this event, and we know you’ve attended a lot of web conferences in the past. What would be your advice to anyone thinking of attending – what do you get out of conferences like this?

A. For me personally, it’s an opportunity to connect with the colleagues one-on-one. That’s something, especially as a freelancer working from home, that I just don’t get the opportunity for on a regular basis. To me, that’s invaluable. Beyond that, it’s a great barometer of the industry. What are people talking about, what are the issues that are important, and what are the expert opinions on those issues?

One of the common things you’ll tend to hear is the rejuvenation of spirit that you get after attending a conference like the “Future of Web Design”. You feel energized to do what you love to do every day. And that’s a really great feeling to have.

Many thanks to Jonathan

Next speaker coming soon! 🙂

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