O'Toole discusses holistic approach to Web design in new book

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Greg O’Toole, a lecturer and senior Web UI engineer at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), plays a dual role in the college as a Web media technologist and educator. His new book, “Sustainable Web Ecosystem Design” (Springer, 2013), is intended to serve as both a resource for Web professionals and a learning guide for his IST students.

“(The book) very much evolved out of 15 years of Web development practice and witnessing how things change but also pinning down the consistent elements,” said O’Toole, who teaches the “Introduction to Web Design and Development (New Media and the Web)” course at the College of IST.

“Sustainable Web Ecosystem Design” is about the process of creating Web-based systems (i.e. Websites, content, etc.) that consider each of the parts, modules and organisms — binary or otherwise — that make up a balanced, sustainable Web ecosystem. In the past 15 years, O’Toole said, websites have evolved from “static html to dynamic, data-driven sites.” In addition, Web browsers have become much more advanced, and mobile devices and operating systems have become far more widespread.

The biggest challenge that Web designers face, O’Toole said, is the “unlimited combination of screens, devices, platforms, browsers, locations, versions, users and exabytes of data with which to interact.” The sheer variety of options has also created higher user expectations. A key part of the solution that O’Toole proposes is to focus on “responsive Web design” by creating “one instance of a Website” that can accommodate different types of browsers and operating systems.

“Sustainable Web Ecosystem Design” was written with the intention of providing a contribution to the field of Web science, O’Toole said, while also serving as educational material for his course. The book will be updated annually to ensure that the information is current and relevant.

“Essentially, (the book) is a design and development methodology, but it’s also very practical,” he said. “It’s not a how-to code book, but it is a theoretical and development model.”

O’Toole, who has a doctorate in media and communication from the European Graduate School, Saas-fee, Switzerland, works in front end, open source Web development, research and education at the College of IST. He is also a research cyber specialist in the Penn State Earth and Environmental Systems Institute and the Penn State Institute for Energy and the Environment; and is an affiliated researcher with the Social Science Research Institute and an adjunct faculty member in the College of Arts and Architecture. In addition, he is an assistant professor at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division in the Web Design and Interactive Media department and is a visiting lecturer at Ochanomizu University in Tokyo.

“Sustainable Web Ecosystem Design,” which is available in paperback and several ebook formats, is published by Springer as part of their SpringerBriefs in Computer Science Series and can be purchased at http://www.springer.com/computer/swe/book/978-1-4614-7713-6.

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Last Updated June 06, 2013