Before Thursday, when I used a morning off from work to complete the introductory Codecademy marathon, I’d never even looked at a CSS page. It seemed like some kind of dark magic to me—how could a bunch of cryptic letters and symbols turn a blank page into a kind of art? Even though I only know the bare basics of CSS now, I feel like I’ve seen the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. It seems less magical to me, but also less daunting and more empowering.
When grappling with the CSS concept of “if this, then that”—e.g. if it’s a p nested under two divs, then it is cursive and red—I felt the mathematics part of my brain creaking open and shedding the dust it’s accumulated from seven years of neglect. It was easy enough to manage with Codecademy’s hand-holding, but I wonder how I’ll hold up when I’m trying to make my own original vision appear on the page.
I loved Codecademy’s step-by-step instructions—and self-affirming badges—but I think it would be more helpful if there were some kind of skill test at the end of each section to measure how much of the knowledge you’ve actually internalized from the lesson. I’d like to see a finished product of a (very simple) web page and attempt to recreate it on my own.
In “Get Started with Web Coding,” I was surprised and, honestly, a bit horrified to read the author’s recommendation that we never go two days without coding. For someone like me, who wants to learn enough to be a casual, competent coder but not necessarily a full-time programming master, that seems like a lot to ask. By this rule, programmers would never even get a weekend off. I understand the thinking here, and as an amateur guitar player, I know the ease with which skills decay after a period of inactivity, but now I’m scared I’ll never become semi-fluent in code without dedicating every other day to practicing.
The articles on responsive and adaptive web design were interesting to me because, at work, my team is constantly trying to convince our higher-ups that we need the time and resources to create mobile-friendly designs for all of our communications. Their proposed solution is always the same—“Don’t we need an app?”—which is frustrating, because apps are not the best or easiest way to promote our services in most cases, but apps are what everyone thinks of when they want a mobile-optimized user experience. I think as programmers and organizations become more adept at responsive designs, stand-alone apps will become less necessary and less common.
Ethan Marcotte’s “Responsive Web Design” proved to me the idea that, paradoxically, it’s often easier to solve a problem when you have limited resources and choices available to you. I think organizations have been slow to embrace responsive design because it’s so much simpler to design three different sites for three different screen sizes, rather than conceiving a fluid design that can shift to match whatever dimensions it’s given. Folks who work in journalism, especially, are used to seeing exactly how a layout will look in print, and the thought of freeing the elements of a layout to resize and shift in response to a screen size change is frightening. We want to control what the user sees as much as possible—and responsive design is, the thinking goes, a threat to that control.