A couple of roadblocks this week…
This week was the hardest for me yet, and I found myself hitting the wall and reaching out to message boards more than I ever have before. Codecademy, where I had been breezing through in HTML and CSS, started to become more vague and confusing for me. In more and more cases, instead of saying, “type this,” the instructions were “do this.” I found myself looking back through past lessons and trying to find links to what I had learned and what they were asking me to do, but — no matter what — the code didn’t work. (In one case I think that there was an actual bug on the page, when I deleted all of my code and submitted it the display still came up with type as if there was code present). What I ended up having to do was go to the Codecademy forums and look line for line a code that did work, finally finding out how to structure something seemingly out of thin air.
I also had a lot of trouble with the captions, and figuring out how to attach them to the images so they wouldn’t be on the same page. Once again, I went to the message boards (and Google) to help me solve my problems.
What I learned was that I’m always going to have to rely on a community of experienced coders if I’m going to keep experimenting with new tricks. There are times when I’m going to get stumped and the instructions aren’t going to help me anymore, and I’m going to need to keep an open dialogue with others. Fortunately, the coding community is very responsive and friendly, and there is always someone who is able to look over your code and provide a fresh set of eyes.
I recently started working at a small granola company. And when I say small, I mean I’m basically the only employee and we make the granola in the woman who started the company’s garage. Anyway, she wanted to know if I wanted to do more at the company than just mix, bake, and package the granola, and talked about how she wanted to send out a fancy HTML email like other professionals do. At the time I had just started learning HTML, but I’m a strong Googler and figured I could look anything up.
What I found was that there is no easy way to mock up an HTML email template that can be used over and over again (say, in Photoshop) and them import it into a mail client for use. In every case, HTML, and consequently CSS, needed to be used. Everyone was coding. There’s no “save as” HTML function, and the slicing that some people do is complicated and not always terribly effective, leading to lots of bugs.
The email that I first drew up was easy enough to do in Photoshop, but positioning boxes and images all seemed really complicated. With the lessons I just took, however, I’m confident I could build it from scratch, (once I look up the hex colors). I can use margins, div positioning, clear functions, all to put every image, background color, or text box anywhere I want.
Then next step will be making it into a template so that anyone can edit it with and email client. Given that all of the templates that you can download are HTML files, I’m sure there is a way to do that. I’m just going to have to learn an few more steps in order to make my skills translate into something that others who are less computer-literate can use for their business.
I’m beginning to learn that code can be layered, and that different languages will allow us to do different things. Some languages provide the basic structures of a site, while others are markup languages and allow us to “dress up” the structure. Understanding what language is appropriate for what I’m trying to do will be key. I’m also starting to learn that coding, even with a markup language is going to require a lot of memorization and exercises in order to keep myself familiar. Responsive web design is becoming more and more important, as I am almost more likely to view a website on my iPhone than on my computer. And someone else might view it on their HTC phone, or a tablet of any size, or any variety of devices. A website, not just an app built for a specific operating systems, has to be able to adapt to any device now, and look like it was designed for just that screen size, width, and length. At first I’m probably going to have more success working with adaptive layouts, as these are going to be easier to make and more foolproof from the start. But once I become more comfortable, responsive layouts are going to be my goal. It will be way easier to design for for just a few different layouts than hundreds, and I’ll be happy if I can make my website look great on and iPad and and iPhone to start, as these are the devices I see most people using these days.
The web inspector has been interesting to use thus far, but is showing me that I have a lot of work to do understanding what each type of code is capable of. It really is like reading a foreign language at this point, and every type of content seems like it written in one that is different than the previous one. I’m looking forward to be able to understand what I am reading soon.
The pre-class readings and videos made me realize that this class could provide me with a lot of new abilities and ways to expand my reach and amplify my voice. While I feel like I had a pretty good idea of how the internet works, I realized that I’m going to have to keep up with new developments, and that computing is always evolving after seeing the timeline of computation. I realized that more and more journalists are going to have to rely on programming and learn to do more on their own in order to be a successful part of their office, and they will definitely need these skills if they wish to strike out on their own.
Although WordPress is something I have used in other classes and experimented with in the past, and it can be used for the masses, I can have much more freedom if I learn how to used coding and programming to make my blog more dynamic and useful for my content. This can be done more cheaply if I am using the free, dot org version of WordPress and work without the constraints of paid templates. I am also realizing that putting in the legwork in early is going to pay large dividends in the end.
If I can make code as simple as I can early on, my building blocks will be stronger and more secure, and I will save myself a lot of time in the end. If I make sure I understand the concepts completely, in their simplest form, they will be much easier to use. The zen philosophy is simple, and encourages simplicity and tackling problems head on, early on, as “sparse is better than dense,” and “simple is better than complex.” Not letting things go until the last minute will be very helpful, as “now is better than never.”