I’ve been building websites and building apps since the early 1990’s. In that time, I’ve learned many different languages, and explored many different strategies when it comes to writing good code.
This is going to be my first blog post on the business of coding. In this series, I will not be getting into the finer details of writing code (I cover that easily in my courses,) instead, I will talking about things that only 20+ years of development experience can teach you. But if you follow this series, you will learn these useful tips much more quickly!
Tip #1: Giving time for your mind to rest will pay dividends in your coding and business career.
I am not a big fan of them because there is so much work out there. You could be getting paid to code (and learn) rather that doing a hackathon.
In addition, the only way you get coding chops, is by building real apps for real clients. One thing a lot of developers miss, is that being able to manage a project has a lot to do with managing non-nerd clients … you only get that experience in the real world.
I used to see the same sort of thing in martial arts, where certain styles are really big into drills and exercises. The problem is, that they put much less (if any) time into actual fighting.
… Then they take a beating when they are unlucky enough to mix it up with someone who spent his time sparring, rather than running through drills.
That said, the more code you write the better, so codathons will improve your abilities no doubt … but nothing compares to the real thing. Pick your analogy! 🙂
Killersites.com will be officially 20 yrs old this March. This makes it one of the first web design, and code training sites on the Web!
What’s it like to clean up a 20yr old website?
Cleaning up a 20yr old web site, is like cleaning up your (recently deceased) 93yr old aunt’s attic – it’s full of old junk!
Since Killersites.com falls into that ‘dead old aunt’s attic’ category, whenever I do a cleanup, I just do what Microsoft does with each new version of Office, I just create a new layer on top.
… Why do you think Office has gone from a hundreds megs, to a few gigs?
This reminds us why using a CMS makes sense:
These days, for content heavy sites, I would never NOT use a CMS. Besides being able to easily add new content to your site, a CMS will make it MUCH easier to keep the look and the feel of the website up to date. Just change the visual template (WordPress calls these ‘themes’,) and your whole site has the new look, and any new header and footer text you need.
I decided recently to dig into the Killersites website (on the directory level,) to see what I could clean up. It is one of the oldest web teaching sites in the world, it’s been online for over 19yrs now, and so it has had many changes over that time.
After 19yrs, you find yourself with a website directory structure that is deep and riddled with many nooks and crannies. So I went on the hunt and found some bugs down deep inside.
… 4-5 hrs later, I was able to clean house. I think! In the process, I gave Killersites a much needed spring-cleaning, if you will. I got rid of a bunch of pages and sections that might have some historical/sentimental value to me, but was filled with dated and irrelevant information. Besides, these are spots that hackers can leave their smelly eggs behind!
Some words of advice:
Keep your sites clean in terms of the directory structure.
Use a consistent naming convention for files and directories. This will make easier for you to spot malicious planted code.
Delete your cgi-bin if you are not using it. Malicious code can be dropped into those.
Don’t use PHP pages unless your site absolutely needs it. Each new PHP page is a potential attack point.
Once your site is up and running where you want it to be, create a clean copy of it on your computer and zip it. This backup might come in handy if you need to wipe out an infected site. Of course, backups after each change is a must do.
I started building websites in 1994, making 2015Â myÂ 21st year of web design. I’ve reached the web design drinking age!
In that time, much has changed in the web design world – both in terms of the technology and the way we build websites.
… It may be obvious to some of you, that the advancement in web design technology (and the Web itself) plays a major role with the web design conventions that come about. So what’s going to happen in 2015?
Web Design in 2015
The last big shift in web design happened a few years ago with the rise of HTML5 and the death of Flash. Another trend that continues to grow is the rise of the awareness of code.Â Today more than ever, people realize that all web professionals should learn to code. This movement started in the early 2000’s but it just keeps accelerating where code awareness is even being recognized for its’ importance outside of the web design and development fields – even elementary, middle and high schools are adopting coding as part of curriculum!
… I’ve even developed a system (studioweb.com) that makes teaching code easy, and is now being used by over 1500 schools.
TheÂ top 3 Web Design Tech Trends for 2015
Ok, enough with the preamble, what are the top 3 trends in web design for 2015:
Code is still king. Learn to code if you haven’t.
Web Frameworks. In modern web design, knowing how to use Bootstrap and Jquery are almost essential.
HTML5 and CSS3. As the last of the old crappy browsers disappear, the importance of HTML5 and CSS3 continues to grow. If I had to pick one thingÂ in HTML5/CSS3 to learn, it would be CSS3 web fonts.
In another article I will go over the top 3 design trends in web design.
I like to start my articles with the conclusion – saves you time:
Dreamweaver is not relevant in modern web design. Why?
To make good websites, you need to understand the code behind the sites. You need to learn code.
Dreamweaver does have a code editor but there are many more capable code editors out there that are free or at least much cheaper than Dreamweaver.
Because you need to understand code, Dreamweaver’s point-n-click tools are becoming relics of the 1990’s when web code was so bad, that tools like Dreamweaver were a godsend.
Let’s elaborate on the last point. Web design in the past, when the languages (HTML, CSS) were not as mature, the process of coding a website was rote; it was repetitious and mechanical. You had a lot of crappy tinkering to do, just to get a website up. In that environment, tools like Dreamweaver were welcome because they wrote the code for you.
These days, with the much better browsers (that read and process code properly) combined with highly effective web design frameworks like Twitter Bootstrap and JQuery, apps that try to hide the code from you (like Dreamweaver) are not that useful. In fact, they are counter productive because often times, the code they generate can get in the way of building a clean effective website or web application – it’s just too thick.
Browser Developer Tools Put another Nail in Dreamweaver’s Coffin
All the modern web browsers have a very powerful set of developer tools that allow you to see exactly what is going on in your pages codewise; you can even change (for example) your CSS on the fly and see how it effects the page without touching your underlying code. This makes for ultra fast development.
Dreamweaver has these sort of tools but you have to be in Dreamweaver to use them and they are not necessarily 100% accurate in terms of what the web browsers will display – you might as well test in the web browser since people visit sites with web browsers and not Dreamweaver!
There is nothing wrong with Dreamweaver if you largely ignore the point and click tools, and stick to the code editor. But if you do that, why bother forking out the big money for Dreamweaver, when you can find more effectively code editors like Sublime Text or Notepadd++ for free or for much much cheaper than Dreamweaver?
So I’ve cracked out my designers brush (mouse,) and started to work on a new website that we are setting up to log our adventures in Swift programming – Apple’s new programming language for both iOS and Mac OSX.
The Web Design Process is Iterative
You can watch the video below … but here’s the summary:
design/layout ideas should be explored by creating many versions and variations as quickly as possible.
don’t try to fine-tune your layouts when you are just working on basic themes and ideas.
once you’ve picked your basic style, then you can get into polishing it up.
Bonus tip: you want to leverage web frameworks like Twitter Bootstrap – it will make your life as a web designer or developer about 356.23 times easier!
Web development can be an exciting game but it is also all-consuming – you cannot casually code. You cannot casually write good software while listening to tunes. You must be 100% there or your code will suck. Burnt-out developers are not uncommon … and I was one.
How to Burn Yourself Out
I loved to write software, it was something I would do even on Friday nights! It sounds really bad now but at the time, exploring a new Java library or building out a new module to some app, was exciting to me. The weekdays were for writing commercial code and the weekend was for playing with new code.
I still remember seeing the first members on my dating site posting profiles and sending messages. It was great fun. You start with few messages here and there being exchanged, then hundreds and (to my amazement) soon thousands!
… I eventually shuttered that growing dating site because I was not interested in making big money with it; it was just a hobby site for me, a vehicle to learn with. Maybe I should have left it running!? I think all the swingers posting profiles on there made me shut it down … not sure now, it’s been 15yrs.
I could tell you about many other similar projects/sites … but I think you get the idea.
The burnout Formula
You get burnt-out when you go too deep, too long and too fast into something. After years of code, code and more code … I was burnt. So for several years after, I did everything/anything but technology. It was sometimes almost painful for me to even pay attention to KillerSites, KillerPHP or any of the other sites/communities/apps I developed. The people were great but I just didn’t care what was going on in the tech world.
Interest slowly builds again
I don’t know why but starting a few years ago, my interest in technology slowly started coming back. Slowly. Psychology is a strange thing and any number of hidden variables can play into your mood. So for whatever reason(s), my interest is coming back and for the first time in years, I find myself learning a new language … it just seems like fun to me again.