Adventures in Front End Web Development

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My webdev adventure.


My love of web development started in middle school. I remember spending hours upon hours toiling away on my dell dimension trying to build a place on the web. First I used the top wysiwyg editors of the day like geocities and homestead then I eventually moved to raw HTML. The first major website I built was michael-web, for some reason I wanted to build a yahoo clone. It was never any good, but I learned a lot from it. I have no idea where that website went, revisiting it would be embarrassing. My largest project back then was my small school’s website. I built the design and all the code from scratch. I was really proud of that website. I stopped developing it when I left the school.

Starting Over

When I went to college, for some reason, I stopped web development all together. I’ve built the occasional squarespace site for friends and family but never really jumped back in the webdev pool headfirst. So it has been a while since I have done serious web development. In the last six months, I decided to dive in. I started with a VTC course(a online video learning site) that was supposed to teach web development completely. It fell way short.
Since then I have attacked webdev piece by piece. Re-familiarizing myself with HTML was my first goal, that was pretty easy, though I’m still working through all the awesome HTML5 features. I then moved on CSS, which I didn’t use much when I developed webpages. Parts of CSS can be incredibly simple others really hard. The book I used to learn CSS is Beginning CSS by Ian Pouncey and Richard York. Excellent book, clear examples with test at the end of each chapter. The examples go through each line of code. I’ve used some excellent sites for CSS including CSS Tricks by Chris Coyier. This is the definitive site for learning CSS. I would also recommend his excellent podcast Shop Talk with Dave Rupert, it’s funny and informative.

Now I am focusing on Javascript. Programming is entirely alien to me. It’s like learning another language, I’m having a hard time with recursion and understanding how functions, variables, objects etc. connect. I know that overtime it will get easier, but right now it’s pretty frustrating. I’ve tried a few books, including Beginning Javascript by Paul Wilton and Jeremy McPeak, I didn’t finished this one because it seemed be really out of date. For instance, it uses document.write, which I know now is a big no no. I then read Eloquent Javascript by Marijn Haverbeake, which had multiple recommendations including the inventor Javascript. This book was incredibly challenging. Completely different from the Beginning.. Books. No clear examples and a lot of concepts are introduced without explanation. I left this book more confused then when I started it. I think it is aimed at those who have previous programming experience. While reading the amazon comments for Eloquent Javascript I found a suggestion for The Javascript Pocket Guide by Lenny Burdette. This booked was excellent, it’s small but all the concepts are explained clearly. I’ve heard that having a good base in Javascript is important before moving to a framework like jQuery. That’s why I started with those other books. Now I’m working through Jeffery Way’s – 30 days to learn jQuery. Very good tutorial. I now understand why everyone loves jQuery, it saves tons of time and makes complicated javascript actions easier.

Where to from here?

Chris Coyier in the Shop Talk Podcast constantly reiterates that building websites is the most important part of learning web programming. Though I’ve been playing around all along I intend on trying to build a new website every two weeks or less. I also need to finish watching Doulgas  Crockfords excellent Javascript the good parts series on YUI. I will also read Javascript : The Good Parts book. Chris also recommends the Learning jQuery by Jonathan Chaffer and Jonathan Swedberg. I intend on reading this after I finish Jeffrey Way’s tutorial. Hopefully, this will pound both jQuery and Javascript in to my brain. Rebuilding this website is next on the list, using a wordpress theme isn’t good enough. I also want to move on to CMS’s like drupal and wordpress. Then maybe I’ll learn python and django. Web Development is a continuing learning experience, and I’m excited to continue.

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