From Idea to Webpage: The Web Designer’s Experience

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by Sarah Henriksson

Knowing that you will build a website and actually doing it are two completely different things. How do I know? From experience that I gained during my time in Derek Christiansen’s LIBR 240 “Information Technology Tools and Applications” class—which, by the way, I highly recommend. To be honest, I had put together rudimentary websites in the past, but looking back at these attempts, I know them to be crude in code, user-UNfriendly, and rather unwieldy pieces of work.

So, it was with some anticipation that I began 240. My goal was to leave the class better prepared to create and maintain a website that is, well, great. And what’s the best way to do that? Make one yourself, of course!

A very important step in website design is the planning process, which begins with two very basic questions: “What is your website about?” and “What will it do?” With the entire world and all the subjects that the human experience encompasses, determining the answers to these two seemingly simple questions can be surprisingly difficult. Even with the limitations that Derek gave us—LIS-related topics only—it was still a challenge to find a topic that would be not only interesting but would also fulfill the requirements of this, our final course project. My initial topic proposal centered on a pathfinder-type idea, but it wasn’t something I felt passionate about; I wanted a topic that would inspire me, not make me want to go “ho-hum.”

The website I finally chose was a new site and style for the Progressive Librarian’s Guild, an organization in the profession that one of my previous instructors has close ties with. Up to this point, I had been doing very basic web editing for them, and I realized that their website could benefit from an upgrade—something that would make it more attractive, and be user-friendly to both organization members and other website visitors. I proposed my idea to both Derek and my previous instructor (to make sure that PLG would want a site upgrade in the first place), and got approval on both fronts. My project was a go!

I won’t go into detail about the actual coding process; I fear I would lose half my audience to boredom and the other half to confusion. But I will share some things I learned that I feel are important to keep in mind when working on a website, or any library project really, for someone else.

1. Your concept and their concept are two different things. When designing any website, you need to keep in mind whom you are making it for. I ended up making two versions of the website—one to submit for my final project, and one to replace the PLG site—because there were differing ideas on the organization of information, the use of graphics and the banner, and even the color scheme. I understood that for the upgraded site, I had to cater to the desires of those making decisions for the PLG, no matter how much I liked the colors or the graphics that I used. I satisfied myself by putting the elements I wanted into the website I submitted for my final project.

2. Decisions will not always be made quickly. Designers don’t work in complete isolation (unless they have full control of their project). You may be in the throes of your project, working feverishly to make your ideas concrete, but at some point you will need to get feedback from them, and they may not provide it right away (especially if there isn’t a set deadline). Patience, grasshopper. The feedback will come, but on their schedule not yours. The best thing you can do for yourself is accept it and turn to something else until you get feedback.

3. Plan for things to go wrong. You know that saying that if something can go wrong, it will? Well that seems to be especially true when creating webpages or websites. That snippet of code that you thought would be awesome to include won’t work right, and now you have to come up with something else. Don’t be afraid to be flexible, and try to keep a couple of other options handy. It will really help your frustration levels to be able to substitute something else in. Trust me, back-up plans save lives (and minds!).

4. Check everything—at least three times. Chances are that you will make mistakes. Sadly, we are imperfect creatures, and no matter how well you know how to code (or do anything else, for that matter), you will still mess up sometimes. When designing websites, those mistakes can be incredibly obvious as those pages you spent so much time on show error messages when you try to view them online. The code used in websites can be very unforgiving to mistakes, either by showing an error message or quietly refusing to work the way it’s supposed to. Check your work, then check it two more times to help prevent those silly mistakes that will cause you to tear your hair out when you can’t find the cause.

5. You can find help for anything online. Everything you do (at least when it comes to web design) has a guide for it somewhere. The Internet is a great resource for help when it comes to creating webpages and sites. A simple search can provide a lot of quality resources to help you through your quandaries. W3C Schools ( is one of my favorites because it has help for every kind of coding language one might use on a website. Color scheme generators, community forums, and code validators are a few of the other types of help you can find as well.

That is all I have in the way of words of wisdom. The final product of the Progressive Librarians Guild website can be seen at


Sarah is a SLIS student who is currently halfway through her program. She balances school with her full-time job as a librarian at a trade school in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s a gardener, a cook, and an avid reader. You can connect with her on Twitter (@shlibrarian) or on her blog, Cooking Librarian.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Bob Lucore

    Congratulations Sarah! I have visited the PLG web site many times since entering SLIS, and always thought it could use a serious upgrade. But you didn’t just think about it, you did something about it. The new site is much better than the old. Great job!
    Bob Lucore

  2. Kiri

    This was my first introduction to PLG, so I’m delighted that you tackled it for your project, and that you shared your experience in this venue. Now I want to see the version you submitted for your course project, to compare the two!

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