I was going to write about making efficient use of client-generated requirements today, but there's really only one subject on my mind. I think it's entirely appropriate to devote some words to the man who, more than any other, made my job and our work possible: Steve Jobs.
I grew up around computers. My father completed his computer science degree in 1974, and I would sit under his desk making dinosaur noises as a toddler when he took me to his job at the Stanford research labs. He bought a MacIntosh in 1984, and my earliest memories of it were that it just made sense - before that, computers were something you would TALK to, entering commands, but after the Mac computers were something you interacted with. The mouse was an extension of your hand, and the desktop was a whole separate world in which you played games, wrote books, made art, and, eventually, reached out through to the world at large.
When I graduated from college in 1995, I fell into working on the web - I hadn't studied computer science in college, but the web made sense to me as the natural extension of the world that I had grown up with on the Mac, and the industry was in its infancy and could accomodate learning on the job. The web design and development industry was founded by people who came into it from disparate fields - programming, print design, CD-ROM development, game development, architecture, liberal arts - but all of them had grown up experiencing computers as a permeable membrane between themselves and a digital world that the web suddenly and shockingly expanded exponentially. They saw the web and said "here is a place where I can build things that have never been built before."
Our world continues to be shaped by Steve Jobs. We used to experience the web from our homes and offices, tethered to a desk or laptop, but it's everywhere we go, now. It's become ubiquitous. Steve Jobs' legacy may end with the iPad, but his shoulders will provide the base on which the next generation of giants will stand.
As the world becomes more permeable to the information flowing through it, the ways in which we deal with it must become more flexible. We can't assume that the way that information is consumed today will be same tomorrow. Agility becomes paramount; we write a lot on this blog about the virtues of agile development and responsive design, and our hope is that this philosophy gives us the means to create tools and applications that remain performant as the world around them changes. My job, in many ways, is to guide the development of a product that is responsive to the evolving needs of the user - I have to assume that our clients have an eye on the future, that they are just as interested as I am in what comes next. Our hope is that giving people the tools to do more will keep them inspired and excited about the technology that they use.
Our world is one where the walls between us and our tools have been broken down, and we have Steve Jobs to thank for that. He did not invent the mouse, he did not invent the desktop, and he could not have created the Mac without an able and creative team of engineers and designers, but he understood that the user is as important as the technology. He knew that a well-designed tool becomes an extension of the person, allowing them to do things that they couldn't do before, and that this is liberating and revolutionary. Our world is a very different world because of Steve Jobs, but on a much smaller scale, it simply makes our jobs creative and exciting, and that may be Steve Jobs' longest lasting legacy.