‘Was that Summer ?’


Well it’s almost like summer is over and it’s not even really begun ! Seriously I’ve been out and about in the sunshine over the last few weeks, doing plenty of walking. With my ipod and courses converted to audio books the New Forest has become my classroom ! I’ve even dusted down the Mountain bike and have done a couple of long rides over easter, it’s been really busy here in the Forest. Alas no such nice weather on the horizon for now, so catching up at  the gym and currently  sat here staring out my office window at grey over cast skies.


I really can’t think of any thing else to really learn about with regards to Web development at the moment. I started learning the basics of Java a couple of years ago, however it’s sort of been on the back burner a bit. Clearly Android programming is where it’s all at these days though so it’s time to dig out those old notes and brush up on Java again 🙂

I read most of ‘Java how to program’ by Dietel  way back in 2011. This  really is a thorough book however it’s a bit on the wordy side. I think it’s intended to be used as part of a college course or something. The problem I had really was a lack of incentive to stick with it ! It all seemed rather academic, surely Web development skills would be easier to pick up and more relevant ?

Well, like I say, I’m sort of slowing down on Web development and pushing my horizons a bit to keep interested. Currently I’m working through ‘Android Application Development for Dummies’ which has a step by step tutorial showing how to  build basic Apps.  ‘Learn Java for Android Programming. ‘ is an up to date book that focuses on the Java that you need to know for Android. Android does not support the latest Java features so it’s good to know you’re not learning stuff that is not neaded.  I got bored reading yesterday and found a load of great Java tutorials on YouTube as well 😉

The thing with Android programming seems to be that it’s all pretty straight forward until you come across something you don’t understand. You need to be OK with how the API uses concepts central to Java or you go off on a massive side track research mission and loose track of what you were doing !. That’s why I’ve embarked on reading another hefty tome  about Java:-)  The trick really is to know when you can just get by with following examples and when you really need to dig deeper and invest the time to  understand what it happening to get a better idea of what you are doing.


I was thinking the other day on the difference between having a clearly defined set of goals, outcomes if you will and well, not having a plan. ‘If you don’t have a plan you are planning to fail’ so they say. I guess central to this is the idea of managing your time effectively too. I’ve done some ‘career management’ courses from Pluralsight recently , which talk a bit about this. It’s amazing to think that when you have a full time job you really don’t have enough spare time to have to worry about it.  The courses also talk about ‘personal brands’ and networking and all the stuff. I like the idea of being ‘CEO’ of me incorporated.. Well CxO as he goes on about…  what’s he’s saying is that it’s no longer possible to just keep your head down and do a good job for a company, you need to think beyond ‘job security’ to ‘income security’ which I guess is true.

I think there is quite a lot of over lap between Web development and Mobile, the skills gained in design and coding for example are quite transferable.


The journey Continues.

Design secrets, Grids, Ideas and things.

I’m still managing to find new stuff to learn about Web development. These days it’s getting a bit harder to find completely new topics that I have not already read up about though. I’m interested in learning more about the backbone.js SPA framework and the Greensock animation library for example. I’ve mainly been trying to get some more motivation and inspiration to be more productive, so trying to be a bit more focussed !


Since my last update to this Blog I’ve covered responsive web designs, reviewed the essentials of Web design aesthetics and looked more in depth into how designers  use Photoshop for Web design.

I recently spent the day at a Print design agency were they  were some what less than enthusiastic about learning to code for the Web. The company has its own printing press and they are starting to see less and less print related work. Apparently companies making  the switch to HTML Emails for their marketing  has been one of their hardest hits.

It just makes we wonder though, is it easier for a designer to learn to code or for a IT Techie interested in Coding, to learn how to design ? Photoshop is the de-facto standard tool, however it has not really caught up with the responsive ‘mobile first’ design paradigm. Instead Adobe have created a whole suite of ‘Edge’ tools, including an interesting looking HTML5/CSS3 animation authoring thing.

Clearly Adobe is betting on a big future for HTML5/ CSS3 . Indeed who wouldn’t prefer to have a write once and run any where technology like that ? Why do you want to spend out on developing separate Android, IOS, Windows apps, when increasingly the Web is providing rich and performant API’s that offer instant cross platform compatability.


Design Aesthetics for the Web.

This is course on Can I just get one thing off my chest before I go on. Why do Lynda reserve access to the Example code only for Premium Members ? This in my opinion is kind of like Ford trying to charge you extra to get an engine with you car !

Anyhow, having got that out of the way… I would have to say that this is indeed a great course. It takes a   a true professional to cover so much detail all in just over 2 hours. I’ve read a few books on design theory relating to the Web before. It’s interesting to learn about such things as Colour theory, Typography and the elements and principles of design.

It does go to show that design is a skill that can be taught and learned like any thing else. I guess  some people consider that it takes a certain type of ‘creative’ person to do this kind of stuff. It’s really interesting to learn the ‘language’ that designers use to talk about their designs.

The goal has to be  to create something that the viewer instantly attaches to and that they feel compelled to explorer further. The elements and principles covered here are the tools in the toolbox, which when combined with trends and fashions  can be used to ‘solve’ design problems.

The take home message is that when designing for the Web you need  to be a bit original and really believe in what you are doing.  I also see quite a bit of overlap with Photography which is another passion of mine. Many of the concepts photographers use in creating visual appeal are applicable to the Web also. It’s what attracts me to Web development though, the mixing of IT and creativity, enabling access to technology and leveraging advances. I really believe  that learning all this stuff about the Web means being at the ‘bleeding edge’ of IT and will be for some time to come.



Photoshop for Web Design

This is another Lnyda cause that shows how Photoshop can be used for mocking up Web pages. Many designers ‘design in the browser’ these days, but PS still has its uses and the latest CC version has some neat new features for auto-generating Web assets etc. You can’t get away from the fact that mocking stuff up in PS does lead to a lot of duplicated effort, as more and more effects can be done using CSS.


Jumpstart Responsive Web Design

Wow, I converted this book to a (4 hour long) audio book and took it out on a hike around the New Forest ! It’s a great way to learn, especially when the Sun is shining, if a little intense . I find I am still absorbing the details two day later !

The fundamentals of RWD:  fluid grids, Flexible Images, Media Queries and Dynamic Content.

Responsive web pages are the natural successor to fluid layouts. They differ from adaptive layouts in that they do not aim to target single specific devices. More over RWD uses different CSS depending on the width of the screen ( basically) .

To cut a rather long story short… Learn how to use the ‘responsive grid’ in the latest version of the Bootstrap frame work  and you are most of the way there !



Change is the norm, the skills curve

Which CMS ?

I’ve done a little bit of investigation into the pro’s and cons’s to consider when choosing between WordPress, Joomla and Drupal as your development platform. There are plenty of job adverts for Drupal developers despite WordPress being the hot favourite. I’ve started   a book about Drupal to get a bit more of an overview. It started with a great chapter about what a  CMS system is and how we have come to rely on them so much. CMS’s  have come to be popular in modern day Web development. Very interesting !

Use the JQuery Luke !

I’m still working through the excellent , free JQuery course at tuts+ ,  which comes complete with down-loadable source  to play with 🙂 These tutorials offer a great way to get up to speed with skills. Technical books often seem to focus in on the details whereas video training offers a glimpse into real world development practices. Some people just learn better from hearing and seeing things explained. I think everyone learns more when they actually try to code an example them selves though.

The Bug

You know when you’ve caught the Web Developer bug , when you find your self firing up  the Web Inspector (OPT+CMD+I on Mac LOL)   on random pages you visit, because you have to to see how they tick. For example  I’ve just been to myschoolholidays to check out when the schools break up for easter ( I definitely think i’ve earned a camping trip to the Lakes some time soon !) Any how, myschoolholidays has a rather neat ‘Click to Zoom’ feature which I have never seen before.

A little bit of inspecting and digging through the resources panel reveals that they are making use of the excellent  zoomooz JQuery plugin. I can only begin to think how this all works under the hood, it’s only 6kB worth of code though ! The basic principle of zooming on a page must somehow make use of CSS3 transformations and all sorts of clever tricks I guess.

This is real the beauty of JQuery in general though, I mean, I’ve spent hours studying  ‘JavaScript the Definitive Guide’ but in practice, most  developers probably get by with just learning JQuery .  As the documentation page for zoomooz says ‘ Have a look at the Examples and start Hacking !’ 🙂 In fact if you insist on using ‘vanilla’ Javascript, most of the time you will be re-inventing the wheel or worse, running into cross browser compatibility issues now or in the future.

My current project is to  add a Bootstrap front-end to my Hills Database. The next step is to move the ‘Loading…’ graphic and the configuration settings into their own modal windows. After that I could perhaps add some funky background textures, a relevant colour scheme and so on to make it look even nicer.

Having read the Docs. I have a clearer understanding of how the responsive grid classes work in Bootstrap, so now I can also add some more classes to the form controls. The components of the form ought to still line up properly on smaller displays like the iPad etc. Bootstrap does all this for you, once you understand how to use it that is.

The Curve

I think I’m starting to realise that there is always going to be new stuff to learn about in Web Development. ‘Learning’ Web Coding is  like chasing a moving target. When I started reading about HTML in 2010  we were just getting used to XHTML and I knew there was a hell of a lot of stuff to learn about. Now we are firmly in the HTML5 Era. and it’s as exciting a time as ever to be a Web developer.

What’s  amazing really is to see how things evolve, even whilst you learn about them .   It’s critical to make use of the best available technologies and working practices, since things constantly evolve and at a very rapid pace on the Web.

I’m starting to find that actually creating web pages is perhaps the best way of all to learn about all this stuff , whilst discovering and adapting to the pace of change along the way. It’s essential to focus on being creative and productive  but  you definitely should be keeping your finger on the pulse of change.

IT has always been like this really, there is always something new to learn, a new product, something faster, better, cheaper, more efficient, easier, more automated…  Never a dull moment 🙂