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Interweb Idol: Stephanie Sullivan

by Saul Colt | March 20/2008 | stephanie-sullivan, ui, ux, w3conversions, web-accessibility

Interweb Idols: FreshBooks connects with some of the Web's brightest stars

Back in December we asked our customers, “who inspires you?” Armed with that information, we set out to ask those people a few questions.

Third in our series: Web accessibility expert Stephanie Sullivan.


What initially got you interested in the Web?

Photo of Stephanie SullivanHonestly? It wasn’t the Web that interested me. It was code. I wanted to write C++ because, after doing some brain studies/testing, I arrived at the fact that my brain loves puzzles/research/detective work… and code seemed like it might be in that ballpark. My friend, Stuart Nealy, warned me away from C++ though — and told me I should check out HTML, the language of the Internet, instead. That’s what got me interested in the Web.

When I first started out, I had a lot of fun with graphics and design as well as code, since in my previous life I enjoyed drawing and painting. But in time, after dabbling in a bit of everything, I decided that the best way for me to be successful was to focus. And that focus ended up being in the area of client-side development.

I’ve read many references to your speaking style. How would you describe it?

Well, I’m a pretty high-energy person by nature — and I’m also a big goof with a quirky sense of humour. I get great feedback from my presentations and I try to keep things fun. But sometimes my passion for Web standards and for helping people really “get it” can make me seem a bit serious. And, well — that’s serious stuff!

What do you like most about speaking at conferences and other events?

That would definitely have to be connecting with other geeks. I really, really love getting an opportunity to converse with other people who do what I do. Sadly, I find that at home, most of my friends really don’t grok what I do. So if I start babbling on about something work-related, their eyes glaze over and I instantly lose them. At a conference, I love the opportunity to talk with such geeky people that I can be “lost” myself on occasion. The other reason for speaking is the enjoyment of the “aha moment” — helping people understand a core concept that perhaps never quite made sense before. That’s extremely rewarding.

You have inspired many people with your work, but who inspires you — either in the Web 2.0 world, or just in general?

Oh gosh — there have been many inspirations over the years (most of which are now friends)… everyone from Molly Holzschlag and Eric Meyer to Al Sparber, Mark Wubben and Ray West. It totally depends on the subject at hand. Anyone who’s doing something they’re passionate about is inspiring to me. And let’s face it — the Web is a wonderful melting pot. We share with each other, learn from each other and give back where we can — that helps the next “generation” of the Web get where they need to go as well. I just hope in time, we can attract some younger women — and help them realize this is a rockin’ cool job to have and way more fun than they thought. I mean, what’s better than workin’ and hangin’ with cool, smart people?

Since we are an online invoicing service I feel the need to ask: how do you bill for your services?

I usually bid by the project, but keep track of the hours. Meaning, I figure out the approximate number of hours I think it will take — and then double it so I might be closer to reality (though early on, I found tripling my estimate to be closer to the actual time it took), and that’s my bid. But I then keep track of scope and time so if it gets too far outside the realm of my bid, we can adjust.

I once had a program that recorded the time on each project. Only, I’m so freakin’ ADD, and I bounce around so much, it wasn’t very helpful. So I actually use either a text file (per project), or a notepad (yes, the kind you write on with a pen) and then do my billing from that. Not a very technical way I’m afraid.

Anything else our readers should know about you?

Sure. I love to meet people when I’m speaking so please come introduce yourself if you’re at an event I’m attending. Don’t be shy. (You can check my Web site for my schedule.) The book Greg Rewis and I have been writing for the past year, “Mastering CSS with Dreamweaver CS3”, is finally going to be released in late March. It’s a project-based book that utilizes the CSS layouts I wrote for Adobe that are included in Dreamweaver CS3 (the book teaches DW and CSS together which is unusual). I’m also currently a developer for a company called Miskeeto, building Web sites for socially conscious companies that want to make a difference. And we’re green (though I guess I complicate that with all my travel!).

On a personal note, I love playing beach volleyball — but I only get to play when I’m in town and can drag myself away from the little people inside my computer. I’m not real great with that work/life balance thing and tend to work 24/7.

Thanks for having me, Saul!

Thanks for having us!


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