Q and A with Lauren Soni, Janelia Research Campus Web Developer

Lauren Soni Fraino

Lauren Soni Fraino is a young web developer new on the scene after a career in science research. Her path to web development encompasses the movement toward powerful women, and her experiences with graduate school at Northwestern University, the National Academy of Sciences, and Janelia Research Campus have led her to encompass everything digital.

This interview and my interactions with Lauren make me appreciate web development and web developers more. It is crazy how much work goes into the successful development of a website and one that focuses not only on aesthetics, but also on the user experience. My conversations with Lauren, as a result of this midterm project, additionally, gave me hope for my future in coding and web development. She was able to express her trials with learning how to code and looking at websites in a different manner. One of the things that stayed with me after this interview was that being a “coder” does not happen overnight. It is a long journey of continuously refining your skills. But there is hope–she helped instill that hope in me. Not to mention, she admitted that she, too, scours the internet for code guidelines and examples. So, we are not alone!

The following is a Q&A interview with Lauren Soni Fraino about her experiences entering the world of web development and her experiences working in a digital world.

[Note: the interview below has been adapted for length and clarity]

You’ve had an interesting journey to becoming a web content specialist and web developer. How did you decide to move from science research to web development?

I started off as a biologist, and quickly realized that I was better fit for asking and answering questions quickly within my reach. While working at the National Academy of Science, I realized this newfound aspiration of mine, and began working closely with my team’s web designer and web developer. I had the knowledge and insight of what content would appeal to prospective users, but I wanted to build and design experiences that would meet the user’s needs. This realization is what led me to my current career path—designing and developing digital experiences for those interested in expanding upon their knowledge of basic research within the life sciences.

What advice do you have for new web developers looking to learn the ins and outs of coding in different languages? What’s your favorite language to code in?

As a designer, I thoroughly enjoy working within CSS. I enjoy being able to have content laid out in front of me, and the opportunity to creatively display that content in an engaging way. Often times, this means adding page specific—or even site-wide specific—content in front of me where I can apply styling that will engage a user’s attention and captivate them based upon how I have styled specific content. As a designer/developer, I strongly suggest continuous practice of a specific language, without becoming discouraged by immediate results, to ensure self-satisfaction throughout a project’s duration.

Where do you see the web development and user experience industry in five years? What about your own career?

I anticipate web developers and user experience professional working more and more closely together.  Nowadays, the two practices are disjointed, but in an ideal setting these types of professionals would work closely together. It is the responsibility of the user experience professional to gather and collect specific research to inform the user of a specific digital product, and for the web developer to produce this product. Without this harmonious approach, the two practices would have little contact with each other, and would result in unnecessary spending and product research.

To date, what has been the most interesting web and/or digital project that you’ve had the opportunity to work on?

The most interesting digital project I have worked on has been designing and developing a solution to help meet the needs of exposing our research institute’s advanced imaging center. Throughout this project I served as a designer, and lead digital project manager, to create a solution to pair those interested in working with Janelia Research Campus with a specific imaging tool, such as an advanced imaging microscope. This Buzzfeed-like quiz allowed us to create an engaging experience to pair users with the ideal imaging platform to meet their research needs.

What types of projects do you hope to work on in the future?

In the future, I hope to be a part of a project that focuses upon the user’s initials needs, and designing and developing a project with the user in mind. Often times, various political landscapes and organizational needs will cloud a project’s future. My ideal project would focus on a user-oriented product that would solve for a user’s needs with room for that solution to evolve as the user’s needs evolve in time.

What’s your most visited site? Do you ever get content and development ideas from it?

My most visited website it thenextweb.com. Because this website shares best practices as it relates to web design and development, I often get inspiration from this website to help shape the design and development of specific projects I am working on.

If you could be any superhero with any superpower, what would it be and why?

If I could be any superhero with any superpower, I would be Wonder Woman with her ability to use her Lasso of Truth to help inform my decision-making processes. If I had this ability, I would use [interviewees] to better inform my design-decision-making. It is a valuable practice to test assumptions on users before having developers devote time to producing a specific solution. If I were able to persuade users to provider their honest opinions of a particular product during initial user testing, I would be able to work more closely with the development team to produce a product that was more in-line with the needs of our users.

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