Nicolas Steenhout

Joomla! looks set to improve its Standards, Usability and Accessibility (SUA) with the appointment of Nicolas Steenhout to the development team as the SUA Team Leader.

Nic, 37, of New Zealand, brings a wealth of talent and experience in web standards and compliance. Nic's role with the development team will accelerate the process of Joomla's framework meeting accepted standards.

Nic is currently a disability advisor to a New Zealand hospital board and runs his own consultancy services, with a focus on disability. In his "spare time", he operates his web design and hosting company.

His passion for web standards is revealed in a question and answer session with Peter Russell this week.

Getting to know Nic

1. Nic, you turn 37 this month and live in the North Island of New Zealand. Give us a quick summary of where you’ve lived and worked in this time?

Hmmm. I'm a bit of a mongrel, and proud of that heritage :)

Born in Greece from a French Canadian mother and Belgian father, I grew up between Belgium, Québec, Sénégal (West Africa), and Greece. I lived/worked in Québec, Ontario, Australia and the United States (Chicago, IL, and Savannah, GA). I now live and work in New Zealand.

2. Do you consider yourself a New Zealander now?

That's a hard question to answer. Having been in so many places from such a young age, I don't really identify with any one location. The world is my oyster as they say. That said, New Zealand very much feels like home now.

3. You are passionate about accessibility and web standards. When did this first become important to you and why?

As a person with a disability myself, I have long been interested in physical accessibility issues. In the mid 1990's, after doing websites for a couple years, I started hearing from friends, who had vision disabilities, about how difficult it was for them to use the vast majority of websites out there at the time. That sent me looking for what made sites accessible.

From there to looking at, and getting enthused with, standards was a quick "hop". The thing with web standards is that they usually increase websites' usability and accessibility for everyone, not just those of us with a disability.

4. You've been strong voice on the Mambo and Joomla forums. What’s your take on the past month of happenings within the community?

I'm saddened this split happened. I wish the situation had been different, and that communications had been more honest. But it's all done now, and we must move forward. I feel the community is behind the core team, and seeing that support certainly made me proud to be part of the Mambo/Joomla! community.

5. Do you think Joomla has a different feel to Mambo — even after this sort period of time? Will this be for the better?

I think the main difference at this point is that there is a feeling of self-direction and empowerment that didn't exist when Miro was in the background. The differences can only grow and the characteristics of the project, and the community, can only become more marked as time passes.

6. You're now a member of the core dev team at Joomla. What will you be bringing to the project?

  • A decade of experience with web accessibility and usability.
  • An understanding of different disability types, and their needs, which means I know why the requirements were created.
  • A decade of management in the non-profit world.
  • The ability to talk "human" and "geek" and do the translation between the two.

7. Do you use Joomla as a solution for business or for recreation?

Yes :)

The majority of the sites I work on are for businesses, but I also have "fun" sites up my sleeve.

8. Having been on the "inside" (of the development team) for a while, has this insight changed any of your strongly held views about the development process?

I don't know that I had any strongly held views. I've only recently joined, so I can't say I "know the ropes" quite yet.  I'm discovering that there are many more issues to think about than may appear to those not directly involved. And the amount of information going back and forth is mind-boggling. Between email, forum, IM, Skype and IRC, a lot is happening each day.

What quickly became obvious is that we have a relatively large group of individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, languages and experience.

We are all working together to improve an already good project. Not everyone agrees on everything, but it appears the willingness to "work things out" is on everyone's agenda.