gu·ru (gŏŏr’ōō, gŏŏ-rōō’)
n. pl. gu·rus

  1. A trusted counselor and adviser; a mentor.
  2. A recognized leader in a field: the guru of high finance.

There is a definitive line between the skill set of a front-end (what you see and do on a web page) and a back-end (what happens behind the scenes.. think e-commerce). Depending on the size of the development team, the same person may or may not fill the shoes of both roles. You can always spot the front-end developers of a company because of their rhino Javascript O’Reilly book and at least one or two CSS books for reference. Additionally these developers will have at least two browsers installed on their machine for testing purposes.

Some gurus prefer to be considered designers, some call themselves developers while in actuality you really should have a little bit of both skills to become efficient at the trade. There is certainly an art to designing a usable yet visually appealing website. Although looks don’t always equal a usable design, we try to make it as nice as possible anyways. Many times the page markup itself will be a work of art in its own right as this sample from css zen garden demonstrates:

<div id="container">
	<div id="intro">
		<div id="pageHeader">
			<h1><span>css Zen Garden</span></h1>
			<h2><span>The Beauty of <acronym title="Cascading Style Sheets">CSS</acronym> Design</span></h2>
		</div>

		<div id="quickSummary">
			<p class="p1"><span>A demonstration of what can be accomplished visually through <acronym title="Cascading Style Sheets">CSS</acronym>-based design. Select any style sheet from the list to load it into this page.</span></p>
			<p class="p2"><span>Download the sample <a href="/zengarden-sample.html" title="This page's source HTML code, not to be modified.">html file</a> and <a href="/zengarden-sample.css" title="This page's sample CSS, the file you may modify.">css file</a></span></p>
		</div>

		<div id="preamble">
			<h3><span>The Road to Enlightenment</span></h3>
			<p class="p1"><span>Littering a dark and dreary road lay the past relics of browser-specific tags, incompatible <acronym title="Document Object Model">DOM</acronym>s, and broken <acronym title="Cascading Style Sheets">CSS</acronym> support.</span></p>
			<p class="p2"><span>Today, we must clear the mind of past practices. Web enlightenment has been achieved thanks to the tireless efforts of folk like the <acronym title="World Wide Web Consortium">W3C</acronym>, <acronym title="Web Standards Project">WaSP</acronym> and the major browser creators.</span></p>
			<p class="p3"><span>The css Zen Garden invites you to relax and meditate on the important lessons of the masters. Begin to see with clarity. Learn to use the (yet to be) time-honored techniques in new and invigorating fashion. Become one with the web.</span></p>
		</div>
	</div>
</div>

If your web page markup at all resembles this then you are well on your way to being a UI guru. Gurus go to extreme lengths to ensure that their sites both function and appear identical to the most users as possible and in today’s Internet is is no small feat. If you think this is an accomplishment, consider the fact that beyond the basic concepts many gurus are self taught. While schools teach the fundamentals of making a functional website they likely won’t get into the facets of designing a quality site that appeals to everyone. Web standards, usability, search optimization are all topics that I myself have had to lean independently of college. What’s so nice about the web platform is that markup is open for any software or technology to develop on, this is most apparent when it comes to the type of application to develop with. While not always the case, these applications are encouraged to abide by the standards put in place by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In time you will learn not to rely on the application to format your markup and be able to write code with just about anything.

For all of those aspiring UI gurus out there, perhaps the best way to learn UI is through trial and error. We learn new concepts and solutions to problems by talking with colleagues and by spiking out through web searches for ways to improve our skills. We also learn by closely following websites authored by industry leaders and finding ways to add our own unique twist to those concepts. Books and websites alone aren’t enough to become proficient, just like anything, the more you practice the better you become.

Recommended books

JavaScript: The Definitive Guide, Fifth Edition
CSS Mastery
Bulletproof Web Design

Recommended Websites

Nettuts.com
A List Apart
Think Vitamin

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