Author Archives: Victoria Kinnealey

What’s Next?

Given all that we have learned in this class, there is no doubt we have a strong base for our web development knowledge and now it is our responsibility to continue growing, learning, and developing our skills. My plan is three-fold:

First, I plan to continue working with WordPress to better understand the different available plugins, updates, minor coding edits, etc. that can make a generic site more personalized. Even though I don’t have a specific site I hope to create, I have no doubt that at some point in my career it will benefit me to have a strong understanding of WordPress and site development so I am starting at level 4 or 5 as opposed to level 1.

Secondly, I plan to continue using Codecademy to learn more about PHP and jQuery. It is clear that there will always be more to learn and more to do, especially since coding and web based products are continuously growing and changing, but I think staying up-to-date on where these languages stand will be extremely beneficial. Additionally, as sites like Codecademy come out with new lessons, I will follow those classes so I maintain a basic knowledge of coding.

Lastly, I plan to register for a Python training class, as many colleagues and friends have mentioned that Python is widely used in the business world and is one of the most beneficial languages to know. I am glad that we learned PHP and jQuery in class, as I think my understanding of those languages will make the learning curve with Python much easier.

My timetable is slightly fluid, as I will be working full time while continuing my master’s degree and was recently told by new employer that I may have to apply for business school as soon as I finish my MPS degree (yay). Thus, being realistic, I don’t know if I will have time to commit 5 to 10 hours a week to maintaining my coding. Rather, my goal is to keep a continued drumbeat of coding in my life – not necessarily learning a new skill every month, but when I have an hour or so, taking that time to follow a Codecademy class. Similarly, when I have a slow week at work, or during winter break at Georgetown, signing up for a Python training when I really have some time to commit to focusing on the language and giving it the necessary attention.

Continued (Slow) Progress on the Site & Lots of Trial and Error

This week I was so enthralled in writing my code I forgot to write an analysis post! I spent most of my day Saturday and Sunday working on my code and, although we are getting closer to a working product, I am definitely not as far along with my assignment as I usually am a week out for the due date. I have spent hours researching, testing code, trying new approaches, and reading about different WordPress features that may serve a helpful purpose, but there are still a few pieces of my site that I can’t get functioning properly!

Specifically, on my “Request a Recipe” form, I was able to get it working perfectly on my local site (woohoo!) but now the form is not appearing on my live site. I have downloaded the necessary plug-in, triple checked the theme I created, ensured the permalink is accurately linked, and yet the form will not appear on the site. I am sure I will dance around the room when I finally figure out how to make this work, but at the moment it is very frustrating and disheartening because after hours of work, I am no closer to a solution. On the slideshow front, I have found a great tutorial on the code that I am currently working through (the four previous tutorials I tried to follow lost me half way through the programming) and although I have not finalized the slideshow, I am hopeful I will be able to achieve my goal! I am proud of what I have accomplished thus far and do feel like I have learned a LOT through trial and error, I just wish the hours I have put into the site were more apparent in the final product.

I think one of the frustrating things for me was realizing that some of the work I did on my home site did not function properly on my live site due to technical changes (e.g. I wrote my child theme based on the theme my local site was using, not the updated theme I picked for my live site) this meant I had to update all the content and repeat a lot of work I had already done, which made sense logically once I realized the issue, but was frustrating in the moment. I think this project has been a steep learning curve, but it has forced me to learn a lot about WordPress layout, functionality, local sites versus live sites, plugins, bugs and site testing, and several other odds and ends that I did not expect to understand in such a short period of time. Hopefully I will have a fabulously functioning website by this time next week, but if not, at least I’ve learned a lot!

Final Reflection

As our time together comes to an end and I begin to reflect upon this semester, I must say that although this course has been difficult, I would highly recommend it to any fellow student.

This class is not easy. It takes up more time than any other course I have taken at Georgetown thus far. It is confusing, frustrating, overwhelming at times, and intense.

But, at the same time I will leave this class with more knowledge than any other course I have taken over the past year. The skills I have learned are practical, rare within my professional community, and set me apart as an asset to the team.

I think my personal struggle is that I look at things as a big picture – in my professional work, I can determine what small steps need to be taken to achieve a larger goal and that has served me very well thus far. With coding, however, I am so focused on the end result I struggle to understand the small pieces that add up to the larger project. I think this is partially due to the fact that I don’t fully understand the smaller steps – I don’t fully understand how a website or app works to a point where I can say “I want my final product to be X, and must do A, B, and C to achieve that.”

Although this course has not taught me how to learn X, A, B, and C (I think that will take years) it has helped me realize that I am too focused on the big picture and need to take more time learning the smaller steps.

Reviewing everyone’s final projects during class last week helped me see that there were lots of small, yet important steps that could be taken to improve our sites. When I took on my final project, I was so focused on the final “update” or “addition” that I did not even consider smaller changes, yet I think the people who took on smaller projects had the most impressive final products.

Overall I know this class was an invaluable addition to my coursework. I still have a lot to learn and plan to practice via Codecademy and other sites so I can better understand the baby steps that will one day lead to the overarching objectives I hope to achieve in both my personal and professional work.

Final Project Recap

As the deadline for our final projects drew close I have to say I had mixed emotions about my site and the progress I had made. On the one hand, I did not complete one of the customizations I set out to achieve. No matter how many articles I read, plugins I studied, tutorials I followed, or videos I watched, I could not get my slideshow plugin to function properly. This caused frustration, disappointment, and left me feeling quite defeated.

On the flip-side, however, as I sat there wracking my brains for ways to fix the plugin, I realized I had learned more than I ever thought possible in a 10 week window as relates to web development and coding. I knew how to check the connection between my local files and FileZilla to ensure things were transferring properly; I figured out how to create a Site Manager connection that automatically logged me into my page each time I opened FileZilla; I learned to understand the error messages that popped up on both my local and live site – what do these messages actually mean and what do I need to do to solve the problems; I figured out how to create a child theme and get it to work properly; I created a functioning form that emailed data to my personal email; I knew how to download Plugins and get them working; I was comfortable with all aspects of WordPress and site layout, from posts, to pages, and categories, to media, and pretty much anything in between; I figured out when something wasn’t work how to check for bugs in my software and, although I have yet to fix the code, I have identified that my slideshow plugin is somehow impacting the ‘featured image’ section of my posts, making it impossible for me to link photographs to the slideshow; and lastly, although I did not fix the problem, I was able to read tutorials and understand the basics of what they were saying, whereas at the beginning of this class I truly felt as though I was reading a different language.

I think, in retrospect, I may have bitten off a bit more than I could chew with trying to create a customized slideshow plugin that would connect to each of my posts as this involves so many different and complex (at least complex for me) pieces of code. Nevertheless, I can say without a doubt I gave this project my all – I spent hours upon hours over the past month reading, practicing, researching, and occasionally screaming at my computer and I am proud of all that I have accomplished and learned through this course.

Attempting to Build Custom Form, No Success… Yet

This week I spent a lot of time trying to create a custom form for my site and thus far have not been able to get the form to function properly. One struggle I keep running into is that I update the code in Sublime, but given that it is not showing on my site, I can’t figure out where the errors are or what the right next step would be to fix the plugin. I’m not in total panic mode (yet) as we still have time to research, update, and problem solve, but after reading numerous articles on the topic I will say it is a bit overwhelming to try to understand what the problem is and how to fix it. I think this is partially because, first, as a newbie to the coding world, I really don’t know what the problem is I just know the content is not working. Second, there are many different solutions to a problem with code so when I find one solution, I use that as a jumping off point, but then find myself reading other solutions and recommendations that muddle my code and make it ineffective.

I’m really glad we are spending next class working on our sites, as I will be a lot more productive once I can get through some of these hurdles and on to the next phase of updating my code.

As for the reading, I thought the first video that compared Application Programming Interface (API) to a restaurant, with the waiter (or the API) serving as a ‘messenger’ was a very easy way to explain the program. The other readings, however, were a bit more in depth and lost me. For example, I wasn’t sure what this article meant when it said that “if your website’s server is making the API request, then your website’s server is the client” – isn’t the client the one interacting with your API? Is an API , for example, a separate, private page that hosts the content we acquire from visitors filling out a public form? Or is it more something that visitors interact with directly? Also, is an API something we should build on our own, or more a term/concept to be familiar with, but not necessarily something we would create?

First Week of Coding My Personal Site

This week was the first time I started work on my personal site and I have to say, it was fun! It took many hours, and I have yet to see any serious progress, but the act of collecting my materials, selecting my website template, layout the basic building blocks of the site, beginning to research my code additions, and taking a first step at coding a slideshow, were all exciting endeavors.

When I first began my work this week, I was unsure where to start, so I began with our readings, which I think was an excellent first step. Specifically, the story about the stone soup helped me to realize that I was my job to see the big and solve problems one step at a time, as opposed to getting caught up in the ‘magic’ (and overwhelming nature) of WordPress. I also thought it was helpful to hear the authors insights on “design thinking” because I think this is something I was struggling with internally. When we spoke last week, you mentioned that we should not focus so much on ‘design’ at this stage of the game and more on process. After reading Shh! Don’t Tell Them There’s No Magic In Design Thinking I realized that you meant don’t focus on the pretty buttons and colors that will make our site visually pretty, but do focus on the design layout and practical reasoning for design that will make the site function. This helped me organize my thoughts and led me to my first step in the creation process.

I selected my WordPress template and narrowed down the two tabs I will use on my site, ‘Recipes’ and ‘Request a Recipe!’. Then, I choose the recipes and pictures I would use for my site and got those organized into posts so I could see the basic functionality – the home page will host all of the recipes as ‘posts’ each with an individualize slideshow and recipe instructions and the Request a Recipe! page will house the personalized form for visitors to fill out. I think began trying to code the slideshow feature and, I believe I made some progress as I got the slideshow management function added to WordPress, but have not yet figured out how to make the Widget fully functional.

Regardless – I enjoyed working on the code and enjoyed seeing little wins each time I got my code to sync correctly with the WordPress software, so I’m excited to continue my work!

Final project pitch post

Goals: For my final project I plan to build a recipe site with rotating pictures, cooking instructions, and a Q&A section for recipe requests. Based on our in-class discussion, I think I will use a WordPress theme for the design, layout, fonts, colors, etc.

I envision the layout of the site being relatively simple and clutter free. Given that this isn’t really a ‘personal site’ I don’t feel the need to have a homepage introducing myself, why I made the site, etc. Instead I would like the main page to get right into the heart of the content – food. I will have header tabs that break up the recipes by “breakfast” “lunch” and “dinner,” but the homepage will house the most recent recipes posted to the site. I will then have a fourth tab that allows for house the “Request a Recipe!” portion of the site.

Audience: This site would be intended for anyone that enjoys cooking and is searching for new, fun recipes. I have always enjoyed cooking and, although I don’t claim to be an expert, I have a ton of good recipes that family and friends are always asking for. I think this site will be a fun project for me and something I would be proud to share and continue working on once our class is finished.

Planned Modifications:

1. A customized slideshow for each recipe (jQuery plugin)

2. A customized “Request a Recipe!” section where visitors can submit questions or requested recipes that are emailed directly to my account and then I can either choose to respond, post the recipe, etc. (PHP plugin)

3. I will also use HTML and CSS to build out the cooking instructions, ingredients, tips and tricks, etc. although I think a lot of this will be done directly in the WordPress site. I would be curious to hear your feedback (Greg or fellow classmates) on whether there are certain HTML/CSS designs I should consider outside of WordPress, or if it’s best to add plugins that focus more on jQuery and PHP.


Questions from Week 7 Readings

I thought out readings this week were very helpful, especially because I actually understood some of the concepts on first glance without having to Google search every other word in the document. A few terms that I did struggle with a bit were as follows:

  1. WP_DEBUG – When I first read through the instructions, I understood how to turn this on and off the debugging feature from the instructions provided, but did not understand what that would show on the site? Does this show you errors in your code on Sublime or in WordPress? I know we’ve spoken about debugging and checking errors in your code before, but I’m still a bit confused about how you open the code, check the code, understand the error messages, etc. I really appreciate the second portion of the document that explained how to display the error message in a clear, director manner. Although I still struggle a bit to understand what the bug lingo means (e.g. “call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be valid” is not a clear description of the problem to me, whereas something like “the code is missing a bracket” would be very helpful).
  2. The section on WordPress templates was a bit confusing to me. Based on our discussion last week, I thought we should only be adding content to the “wp-content” folder and then if we having something that is functional (e.g. PHP or jQuery) it should go in the plugins folder but then something that is more design based should go into themes. According to the reading, however, the header, footer, sidebar, etc. themes that you may want to add should end in .php – so wouldn’t that mean they belong in the plug-in folder? If it’s a template, it’s a design feature, but when why is it built with a function code?
  3. Was the “Custom Fields” reading basically describing when you scroll over an “email” form on a website and it drops down the 3 or 4 emails you have used on that account? And in that scenario, the “key” would be the email field and then the value, or values, is the 3 or 4 email addresses the computer has saved from previous entries? The example made sense, but I was struggling to understand when you would use it in a practical sense as you are likely not going to put “Currently Reading” and “Today’s Mood” into custom fields on a regular basis.
  4. Lastly, if we have time I would like to go over how to “enqueue the parent and child theme stylesheets.” I read through the description several times, and if it’s simply copying the code, as with adding a link to a style.css sheet in HTML, then I can copy the code, but I was unclear if there are certain labels/titles/lines that need to match the code I write.

Final Pitch – Recipe Blog

For my final project I plan to build a recipe site with rotating pictures, cooking instructions, a Q&A section for recipe requests, a search function, and (potentially) a rating button.

This would be a niche interest page intended for anyone that enjoys cooking and is searching for new, fun recipes. I have always enjoyed cooking and, although I don’t claim to be an expert, I have a ton of good recipes that family and friends are always asking for. I think this site will be a fun project for me and something I would be proud to share and continue working on once our class is finished.

PHP as compared to jQuery

When completing this week’s assignment, I have to say I was constantly waiting for the tough PHP lessons to role around and, to my pleasant surprise, all four Codecademy sessions were pretty straightforward and easy to complete. Similar to something I mentioned in some of my JavaScript/jQuery lessons, the concepts and logic behind PHP coding made sense to me. If you have the term “array” and then list several objects, items, numbers, etc. that list makes up the array – logical. Similarly, an “if” “else” statement is pretty direct. Depending on the first variable, the computer should execute the code behind “if,” otherwise do “else”. What I liked even more about PHP as compared to JavaScript/jQuery is that the actual execution of the code is also relatively simple (thus far). I think the loop content was especially easy to execute as compared to jQuery coding. It has clear variables linked to clear actions (e.g. the first in line is the starting point, second in line is the end point, and third in line is how much you should add or subtract each time to move from start to end).

I think the one piece of PHP I hope to gain a better understanding of is how, exactly, it differs from jQuery and in what instances we should use one as opposed to the other. I understand that PHP is meant for the server, whereas jQuery works with the web browser, but I am still unsure when we should use each in our coding. Is one preferable for a larger piece of code? Is it a matter of the coder’s preference to use once versus another? What are the pros and cons to each if they, ultimately, achieve the same task just in different languages? I think this will become clearer as the class goes on, but at the moment that is my biggest outstanding question as relates to PHP.

I am also pretty excited to start work on our final assignment! Originally I wasn’t sure what type of website I would want to build, which made the task feel daunting and uninspiring as building a website just for the sake of it seems like a lot of work. Once I thought of a recipe blog, however, I realized that is something I would enjoy updating, maintaining, and potentially sharing with others one day, which makes the project much more fun.