Staying Ahead of the Web Tech Curve -and- How Not to Drown in the Tidal Wave of Info

SurfingLet’s take a moment to look again at the big picture of the redesign process. Having gone through the various initial steps, you should be nearing the end of the planning phase.

Soon you’ll be facing some tough choices. What will the redesign include? And what won’t make the cut? No worries. It will be much more obvious thanks to all of your preparation. You’ll be making informed choices.

Thus far, however, the information we’ve gathered has had an inward focus. I’ve set it up that way for two reasons. First, over the years I’ve noticed that the most frequently skipped redesign tasks are the introspective ones. Many people in charge of redesigns make assumptions without even realizing it. The classic is to think that most of your site users are a lot like you, with the same needs and understanding.

How can you possibly create a good website if you don’t really know what its users most need? But looking inward, you not only understand your congregation better, you’ve also flushed out your own personal hopes and desires, and can tune these against what others have said.

Second, with this growing understanding of what your site really needs, you’ll find more meaningful books, websites, videos, newsletters, etc. You’ll have a much sharper lens with which to analyze this otherwise overwhelming input. So this is the first of three short posts on external resources.

Staying Current Enough

There’s an enormous, groaning smorgasbord of tech news resources out there begging for your time and attention. Worse, many of them are first rate. It’s drinking water from a fire hose. How do you keep from downing? The key is simple: find the ones you enjoy the most. And be incredibly selective.

Periodically I have to put myself on a tech news crash diet. I’m doing pretty well at the moment — down to one blog, one news service, one e-newsletter and an assortment of podcasts. And here are my top picks.

  • E-newsletters: Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox.
    Very high signal to noise, this weekly email is a shortcut to substantive research on improving websites.
  • Blogs: Mashable. (AKA “Social Media News and Web Tips”)
    Sometimes I wish I didn’t like Mashable so much. There’s always too much good info to read. Their mission is “to empower and inspire people by spreading knowledge of social media and technology” and my heavens do they succeed.
  • News Services: Techmeme.
    Techmeme is none-too-attractive, but you can tell at a glance what’s happening at this moment in the tech world. It’s compiled using a computer algorithm with (as they put it) “direct human editorial input.”
  • Podcasts: The Big Web Show.
    It’s co-hosted by Jeffrey Zeldman, a leading light since the dawn of Web time in design and standards, who happens to have a lovely, growly voice. While it’s in-depth interviews with all kinds of people, what they choose to focus on will give you a good sense of leading (as opposed to bleeding) edge in Web tech.

I’m religious (so to speak) about reviewing the first three. For podcasts, however, I’m unabashedly whimsical. I do actually listen to the first part of Tech News Today several mornings each week while exercising. But the rest are catch-as-catch can. That said, soon (hopefully today) I’ll be trading in my 1996 MomMobile (a mini-van) for a new car that can stream podcasts from my phone. It’s my number one criterion after safety and reliability. If all goes according to plan, my podcast listening will soon skyrocket.

But back to you…. Just look around and try different tech news services on for size. My hope for you is that you’ll find ones that give you as much pleasure as mine do me. It’s such fun. May it be the same for you. Life is short.

One Response

  1. Paul Martin says:

    I have asked Santa for an RF transmitter for my iPod. In the mean time, I am burning CDs for the car, which can get expensive. I have a very small list of feeds under “Technology” on my RSS feed reader. Here goes:

    John Gruber’s Daring Fireball is a must read. It is a
    Mac oriented blog, and I don’t own a Mac, so this is a testament to the quality of the bog. John keeps me up to date on tech in general, and the Mac stuff tells me where the PC world will be headed eventually.

    Oreilly Radar is a collection of blogs from Tim O’Reilly’s publishing company. O’Reilly is a technical publishing house and the home of some very good minds on tech trends. Tim Oreilly was an early publisher of manuals on Unix, and covers the open source world very thoroughly.

    A List Apart is an online magazine, of which Jeffery Zeldman is a founder and frequent contributor. They publish longish article on web design issues.

    And finally, one that isn’t a tech blog. On Being is an NPR show by Krista Tippett which is available by podcast on iTunes. Formerly titled “Speaking of Faith”, this is a broad ranging podcast on matters of faith. One of their favorite topics is the intersection of faith and science. The blog is not at all sectarian, but speaks respectfully about a broad range of faith traditions. I discovered this on the radio while in Mississippi. The local NPR station doesn’t carry the show, so the podcast keeps me in touch.