When my family and I moved to the United States from a country in Eastern Europe shortly after the fall of Communism, we had a few suitcases, several hundred dollars, and no command of the English language. It was instilled in me at a young age that if I was going to make it in this life, I would have to learn English and work hard at a paying job.
I entered the workforce immediately after turning 16 and saved everything I earned to pay for college; my parents couldn’t afford to help.
I went on to study English literature. I would teach it. I would get paid in a teaching position and my family supported the idea, but my heart wasn’t in it.
After college I started working a customer service position, where I listened to the patrons’ frustrations with the organization’s website.
“I can’t find the information that I’m looking for…” “I don’t know how to reset my password…” The complaints were constant.
To assist with the website, I developed boilerplate responses that included step-by-step instructions along with screenshots. I also kept a log of feedback and areas of the website that needed improvement, and shared my notes with the Web Manager at the time. My superiors took notice, then when the position opened up, they recommended me for it.
I knew very little about website architecture and design, but I learned. I ordered and read books from front to back, absorbing every bit of helpful information that I could. And I wrote. I wrote and edited pages of information about the services that the organization offered. I held meetings with stakeholders where I shared feedback and analytics. I butted heads with individuals who, while initially were against implementing any changes to the site, realized that my work was creating positive changes.
After some time, I went on to pursue other leadership and web opportunities, and in doing so, I learned more and accomplished more.
I fell in love with my line of work.
Now they call me the Web Guru.
I’m the one that companies and organizations call in to help “fix” their websites.
“Your website isn’t broken, it just needs better organization, graphics, content, layout, usability tests…”
Website challenges vary, much like the objectives and structure of the companies they represent. Some websites contain robust amounts of information on thousands of pages, but lack cohesiveness and are poorly organized. Others are in their infancy with little valuable content and an undetermined focus. Still others have not had their aesthetics updated since the ’90s and could badly use a face-lift.
Website architecture is what I eat and breathe every day. I gorge on research about latest trends, studies, successes, and faux pas. I immerse myself in a healthy debate with my employers on why certain changes on their websites should be made. I know what I know and what I don’t know I explore eagerly. “This is how we’ve always done it” is a rebuttal that I have learned to brush aside, as it has neither benefit nor merit. Then, when my work produces measurable success, whether revealed in analytics or positive feedback, I embrace the respect earned from my fellow colleagues.
Their respect gives me more opportunities to improve the website.
Improving websites isn’t just about the websites themselves. The process involves a deep examination of the organization’s culture, goals, and strategies. A team of collaborators must be able to engage in an open dialogue while bringing to the table their own levels of expertise. At the head of the table you’ll find me, the Web Guru, prepared to tackle this week’s website challenges, armed with a toolbox of experience, resources, and an appetite for change.