Here are the new toys I’m playing with right now

So, you might remember that I’m on a web design kick right now. Right now I’ve picked up two or three new things (edit after writing the rest of the post: hahahahahaha) and I’m learning them all at once, because that’s just kind of how I work. Though, this is more sensible than that time in high school I took my fourth year of French and my first year of German at the same time and kept mixing the two up until I forgot how to speak English because my thoughts were running the mutant child of the foreign languages I was learning, haha.

jQuery: About time I got around to some kind of JS framework. I don’t actually know much JavaScript yet but you don’t need to for the course, and anyway it’s not like picking up a new code language is that much of a stretch after your first one or two. Here’s the free video course I’ve been watching. You don’t need to know anything more than basic HTML/CSS as a prerequisite to that course, and the guy is friendly and not condescending, so go for it. It’s really light and easy, you can watch it while eating lunch or whatever.

CSS Grid: I’m. Fangirling. Over this code design. It’s so sensible. CSS has featured a distinct and glaring lack of any reasonable layout system for years. I am definitely not the only one who’s spent two hours trying to get floats to cooperate. Remember when people tried to use tables as layout structures? Ever try to develop on top of one of those? Hahahahahahaha. It was not fun.

Grid is basically the layout system from Kivy. You do most of your layout in CSS; the actual order of the elements you list in your HTML document can be completely overridden if you like (but there are some ways that Grid makes use of them if you let it). Every programmer who likes to prototype and redesign and tweak major design components in code, rather than designing in Mockplus or whatever first, is going to absolutely love Grid.

It’s supported almost everywhere. The holdout is of course Internet Exploder Microsoft Edge, but the dev team for that has announced they’re working on it. Oh, and apparently mobile Opera doesn’t like Grid either, but… I didn’t even know you could download Opera on a phone??? Who’s using that?

Anyway once it’s supported everywhere, the standards will solidify a bit and we can use it for important stuff. Betcha all the techie companies are going to immediately be after devs who can use it. There are probably some good jobs on the not so distant horizon, folks.

But even if not… the API is so beautiful it makes me want to cry. You should read it just for the soul soothing qualities of a sensible design.

Mockplus: I’m taking a course that’s about designing for web. An actual college course. Thing is, my classmates are all designers, not devs… next class we’re going over the basics of HTML. If we didn’t have a strict attendance policy I’d be tempted to skip. I’d probably still go though because I like teaching people stuff. Bluh, I sound so arrogant. You know what I mean, they just have different skill sets than I do. They can actually use Adobe products without the constant hiss-and-spit dynamics I’ve always enjoyed. But I digress.

Prof asked us to do some wireframes the other week, and I pulled up the free version of Mockplus and figured out how to use the basic stuff. I didn’t need the actual interactive design features it has, just the drag and drop bits, so this barely makes the “learning something” list. Feels like putting Microsoft Office on your resume. Prof freaked out over how detailed everything was, thinking it was going to take me forever… would have taken too long to explain that programmers are waaaaay too lazy to draw out vector graphics crap for the same basic design elements over and over, so it’s drag and drop software. She really didn’t want to hear about my weird nerd program, haha. It looks way more technical than it is though. Give it a shot, it’s a nice way to play with more complicated designs without fiddling around in the code, wasting loads of paper, or trying to get an Adobe product to behave.

Design For Hackers: I’m a couple chapters into this and so far it’s gone over kind of a lot of stuff I knew, but it’s still interesting. If you’re not already a weird designer/programmer hybrid like I am, it’d be a valuable book to have as a visual design guide. If you think visual design isn’t important, I’ll ask you: why did Windows take off and not Linux? Why is Linux becoming more popular now? Good visual design makes a better and friendlier user experience. Don’t sneer at designers. Their website designs may require someone with coding skills in order to exist meaningfully, but great code with an awful interface isn’t much better because no one wants to use it.

A Practical Guide To Designing For The Web: This is a free ebook and you can get it here. The bottom of that page hosts the ebook download links, or you can just read it in your browser. I imported it into the Kindle app on my Android phone for easier reading. I’m only 4% into it but I’d say that at the very least it’s worth flipping around in.

The Tangled Web: I was looking for a book that would discuss how to develop secure web sites, and this came up over and over and over again. Then I saw it was a No Starch book and I instantly wanted it. No Starch is up there with O’Reilly, for me. It’s slow reading and quite technical, but it’s interesting. It… hasn’t actually gone over much code yet, a lot of historical discussion of how the back end of the Internet developed (get your brain out of the gutter) and the inherent security issues caused by the old browser wars.

It was hard enough to find a book on “web security” that wasn’t about breaking into stuff -_- le sigh. So, I’m hoping No Starch won’t let me down here and there’ll be some practical advice on how to deal with security issues later on in the book.

 

Yeah, I know, I can’t stick to just one book at a time. I’d probably be farther into each of these if I were. And my old Clojure book is still calling to me, reminding me that it’s been well over a year and I still haven’t gotten into it… so tempting. But. I’ll curb my spacey, dabbler tendencies for now and wait until I’m more solid on my web stuff.

Also, yes, it’s 4AM as I’m writing this. My sleep pattern is kind of jacked up right now–I clocked out at 8PM yesterday and woke up at midnight. Then I read bits of DfH and PGtDFtW, wandered over to the computer and watched some jQuery videos, thought about compiling a list of resources for my designer classmates (a handful of my regular hacker readers might not have gotten into web stuff yet anyway, so it’d likely be useful for you folks too), wandered over here, answered a question in my typical long winded fashion, and wound up writing this bizarre list. To be honest this is the first time I realized I was reading/learning/using so many different things at once… whoops. When did that happen? Wait, has it been a month since I started really digging into this? When did that happen? (Spoiler alert: a month ago.)

Okay, uh, I’m getting tired and silly again so I should probably go back to bed. I’ll leave you with yet another list-of-resources post (are you guys getting tired of these? I think I do these a lot?) and say:

Happy hacking!

(And good night.)
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