Author Archives: Savannah Stephens

Throwback Sunday: What class looked like on week 3

This weeks’s introduction to JavaScript felt like a dumpster fire. After reading some of the blog post entries it seemed like I wasn’t the only person who felt overwhelmed so that was helpful.
Codecademy is a great learning platform to a point. At the beginning of the JavaScript lessons I felt like I was getting all the concepts, but it quickly escalated to concepts that I felt needed more explaining. Especially on some of the directions for control flow and functions, I felt like the “hints” were information that I would have liked to have before I gave my first attempt. Other than that, its still wildly annoying that Codecademy gives you ALL the code when you’re just stuck on one specific thing. It really makes its hard to absorb all the information, especially when you have a 3 or 4 step activity.
Beyond that, I also had some issues with the interface. The Codecademy interface had some really weird bugs this time around. Either it would say things were wrong before I began, or it would say things were wrong after I ran something even if it was correct. Perhaps the most alarming thing was it would give me all the code at different steps before I even began. That made it really hard to learn things, and it makes me considerably stressed that I don’t have a good foundation to move forward in the class.
Overall I have a lot of concerns about my performance in class. With how fast things are moving, I feel like I have questions about CSS, let alone JavaScript. So, moving forward and doing things on my own, like a gallery or something really concerns me. I want to be able to do good work but I just feel incredibly behind. Hopefully things will level out soon, because I do want to learn these concepts its just taking a little but more time than the class is allowing, it seems. But, hopefully things will look up soon!

Where to go from here

Its been a wild ride. Our last class was a really nice way to end the semester, and talking to Emily Chow helped to distill how far we’ve collectively come in this course.

Looking ahead, there are some things that I want to accomplish in the near future. While I don’t think I’ll become a web developer, I do know that I want to finish out my portfolio site with the comments I’ve received from a few people in the class. I definitely will add a PDF viewer for my resume, but I also want to populate my site with clips I’ve written. Currently, the blog portion only has things I’ve written for graduate school. I’d like to make my site a well-rounded reflection of the things I’ve done, and what I’ve written.

To do that, I want to restructure a few things with my website. I’d like to add a page that explains how and why I made the site, and silo written items by graduate coursework and published stories. I also want to make my final project template smaller portion of my blog, and explain what it was designed specifically for. To do that, I’ll  need to to a little more coding.

As for a timeline, I’d like to get this all squared away within the next few months.

As early as this week, I want to add the explainer page to showcase my web development skills, and also to explain where my clips come from.

In the next few weeks I want to work on manipulating the page structure more so I can add explainer pages that go before my graduate school work, published articles, and final project template so people visiting the site have a seamless transition between different parts of my site.

Finally, while I’m working on my capstone this upcoming semester, I want to add a blog about my reporting process and showcase the photojournalism that I’m going to have as a focal point of my piece. I’ll need to create a slideshow, similar to Molly’s, where I can post updates about my reporting. I’ll also want to make this a much more prominent part of my website. The build out for that will have to come in about a month or to, when I start going out in the field.

Overall, while I won’t be diving into teaching myself Python or Ruby, I will use my portfolio website as more of a living document. I’m going to make sure it stays fresh, and will update the content with my best work.

I’m really thankful to now have these additional tools that I’ve learned from class, and will be excited to see where by skills will take me.

Feedback on the class

When looking back on this summer course, there are definitely things that I wish I knew better before I started. When I signed up for this class, I knew it would probably be challenging but I didn’t fully realize how time consuming it would be. I feel like some expectations were levied that I didn’t fully recognize, or understand. And given the past few weeks I have some suggestions for making the class better.

First and foremost, this should not be a summer course. There’s too much in the syllabus alone to justify the course being taught on a shortened scale. Either the objectives of the class need to be simplified, like taking out the project management week and extending the time spent learning JavaScript, or it need to be a longer course.

Second, the class needs a TA. Like the other technical classes I’ve taken, it’s paramount to have someone go through and make sure you’re actually clicking the right buttons and understanding the concepts before the class moves on. Only having one person there makes it really hard to do that, so a teaching assistant needs to be in the class if we aren’t going to go over the nuts and bolts.

Finally, I think expectations need to be managed on both sides more before this class is taught again. I know many people in the class, like myself, felt like things moved too quickly and not enough time was spent actually going through concepts we learned. For the most part it just seemed like a sprint to touch on any possible thing that could exist in web development. Instead, I think the course should correct and only teach more of the basics. Codecademy was useful for some things, like CSS and PHP, but it wasn’t a good use of time to work multiple hours on something that we then never really touched again, like jQuery.

Overall, I was able to learn some things in this class, but oftentimes I was more frustrated than excited about what I was learning. The class needs to be essentialized for PR professionals and journalists. While I appreciate that there were good intentions to get everyone familiar with web development, it needs to be scaled back before I could honestly recommend it to a classmate, especially one with a full-time job.

Seeing the end

This week I was able to suss out where I am in the class as opposed to what needs to be done. This class has been challenging, and I think that I see the rewards of where I am from where I started.

When I came into this class I knew nothing about web development, and now we’re working on our final projects. I know the things I’ve set out to do are hard, and that I might need to consult people to make sure I’m on the right track, but seeing where I’ve come from has really made me feel better about where I need to go.

I’m excited to talk about project management this week in class. I’ve had some experience with project management, but seeing it applied to web development is something I didn’t expect, but it now makes a lot of sense.

I’m excited to get the hosting figured out on my computer and see where the final takes me. On to another week of web development!

Final push

It took a lot of work to get to the finish line, but we’re here!

After many additional calls with Filezilla and consulting two people I work with, Nick McEvoy and Jake Crump, I was able to convert my local site to my live site.

But, that didn’t mean everything was easy peasy. I lost things like the final project template and had to re-find the number that Word Press gave it. When looking to figure out how to isolate the pages, it took a lot of trial and error isolate the things that I wanted.

As I mentioned last week, the 404 page was really my saving grace in figuring out how to manipulate the rest of the items on my list. Once I saw how things could be changed I was able to move things around.

I’m really proud of what I was able to accomplish, and besides adding the 404 page to my final pitch I was able to do a lot of what I set out to do.

Now that we’re about to see presentations I’m very interested to see how people approached their finals. At some point I can’t imagine how other people did their projects, but that’s because I’m so in the weeds with mine. Very excited for Wednesday!

Much busier week

This week my final project went into high gear. I was able to get a good portion of the child theme done, as well as do some additional customizations that I’m excited about.

I initially threw a lot of work into the child theme, and my custom template thinking that would be my main final project. While most of it is done, I also made a custom 404 page, and it was really fun to do.

404 pages have really taken a life of their own on the internet, with funny pictures or good puns about pages not being found. I added to this with a particular embarrassing childhood photo that I am excited to debut in class next week.

As for the more serious parts of the project, I found my custom template a lot more involved than I expected. It took a lot of sleuthing to figure out how I could make it look like how I imagined, and a ton of trial and error. Over 2 hours was devoted to just figuring out how to make the background image fit onto the page.

While it was rewarding to finally see things come together, its been a difficult final project. I’m planning on tackling Filezilla soon, so fingers crossed I come away relatively unscathed with that.

Until next week!

A quiet week

This week was one of the quieter ones we’ve had because now its just the final push to the end. For me, this week was trying to put a lot of things into place for the final project, and there were some setbacks.

Overall I have a few things I need to set up before I can get into the meat of coding. Since I’m making a personal site I need to have some good photos of myself, and I also need to get the lines for my designed template made. I’ve reached out to friends to take photos and get some of the background images designed, so until then I’ve been retooling just the basics.

I hope to have the other stuff done this week, but life tends to get in the way. The deadline is approaching pretty quickly so I’m beginning to get nervous about puling everything off. But I’m sure I’lll have a better idea about things this time next week.

As for the readings, I’ve really grown to enjoy the stuff we’re looking at. The video about API‘s was informative and really synthesized what we’re going to talk about this week. However, at this point it seems like we’re in the nuts and bolts of our final so its hard to really pay attention to new information.

PHP and Final Projects

It’s hard to believe that we’re already past the halfway point with this class. This week I was unable to be in class, but worked on adding PHP to my homepage and set up servers for the final project. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible week, but I definitely missed class time.

One thing that I’ve realized is how important class time is. While I was able to listen to the class after the fact, it didn’t make up for the personal time with our projects. I would have really benefited from class time this week, but it shows how quickly this class moves.

While this week wasn’t as stressful as others, I still felt a little lost. But that was easily because I wasn’t in class while everyone set up their servers. Otherwise I feel pretty good going into the final project and the rest of this semester.

I’m going to be interested in seeing how hard my final project plans are. It would be really cool to pull off a new template for the Fine Arts team, but I’m not sure how much time or manpower that will take. Looks like I’m about to find out.

I might love PHP

This week was a very pleasant change of course. PHP is awesome! I really enjoyed the Codecademy lessons, and I’m excited to implement my final project.

I never thought I would care about back-end development. But this week proved me wrong.

Overall, PHP on Codecademy was much more digestible than JavaScript. I felt like I was able to understand all the concepts, which usually doesn’t happen in the lessons we have.

I’ve said before that I thought I’d like front-end development more, I’ve found that PHP really explains the “why” of what’s going on. I thought front-end stuff would be easier to pick up, but PHP was clear and concise.

This class has been hard. I’ve grown a lot in the last couple of weeks and I cannot explain how nice it felt to understand what was happening. I feel like I was carrying a boulder up a mountain and finally was able to stop and see the view.

I’m looking forward to what we have coming up in the next few weeks. While JavaScript was challenging, and the slide show gave me a panic, this is a much nicer process.

God bless PHP. And God bless America.

New template for the Fine Arts Team

I’ve had a lot of fun learning how I can use tools in web development in my line of work. While this class has been challenging, I have definitely learned things that I will continue to use in my career That being said, I would like to design a special template for the Fine Arts section of The Washington Post.

Currently I work with the Classical Music and Dance critics, who often produce opinion pieces called ‘critic’s notebook.’ This long running feature is a really neat way to see the arts from their perspective, but not a lot of treatment is given to the pieces, or the Fine Arts team in general.

Since there’s such a gap between its print and digital existence I would like to step in and bridge the gap. Buy making a template that shows a critics notebook in a fun and engaging way we can begin to set our team apart from the rest of the Features section.

While this is an untested idea, I think it would be really cool to make the web page look like a notebook, and perhaps so some special touches to make the photos and illustrations more pronounced on the page. This way, when the reader is on the page, they’ll know its a different and more special piece, apart from their traditional reviews. I’ll probably integrate this into my personal website, that I’ll use an updated WordPress template on, as a place to showcase it.


My goals for this project are twofold.

  • First, I would like to create a personal website that showcases what I’ve learned in this class
  • Second, I want to create a digital “look” for the Fine Arts Team


My audience for the Critic’s Notebook template will be the people who often read The Post’s entertainment blog. We have a very strong following, especially in the classical music and dance world, so creating a cohesive design will only help bolster that following. It will also help set apart a Critic’s Notebook from a general review, so it will help people who aren’t familiar with this type of coverage to know they’re looking at something both different and special.

The audience for classical music skews a little older, so most still have a print edition. More often, however many reviews are only published online. The Fine Arts team has spoken about making an effort to showcase strong design skills for our very engaged base, but that hasn’t come to fruition yet. By creating a custom template for the Critic’s Notebook-style reviews, I hope to show that an audience who doesn’t necessarily get their news online can be coaxed there if something is presented in a new and interesting way. I also doubt that many of them will ever look at something on mobile, so the focus of this template is for a desktop.

How I’ll achieve my goals 

  • I’ll start with my personal website by making a landing page with a few of my in-depth assignments from graduate school
  • I’ll have an about page that explains how I got to the Post
  • I’ll use a page to showcase the final project template
  • Create a website that shows my work as a grad school student and media professional
  • I’ll create a funny 404 page, because that’s become a space where people can be creative.

Theme: Twenty Seventeen

Track: Mostly front-end design, with some back-end modifications if necessary.

Planned modifications: 

  • Changed fonts and colors on the Twenty Seventeen theme
  • An area to show some of my video journalism work
  • a stylized page to show a new-and-improved Critic’s Notebook template
  • A 404 page that’s lighthearted and funny
  • A cohesive design that shows a funny and serious side