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Howto: Become a Web Developer

Howto: Become a Web Developer

Root recently wrote a post answering a question I’ve started hearing with increasing frequency since I started working with Blueprint: “How do you become a web designer/developer?”
This is usually followed immediately with “I’ve got a copy of Dreamweaver, will that help?” Root’s answers, most of which I agree with, are a great start on a means to answer both questions, although they point out the flaws in both questions. Here are some higlights, with my own additions:

  1. Without a really good understanding of HTML I wouldn’t be able to build integrated interfaces for Content Management Systems
  2. I made no progress at all until I got my head around CSS positioning (layouts) Here’s a great gallery of layouts that nearly everything I work on comes from. These are the essential building blocks, which can be stacked, nested, and remixed to form any layout.
  3. If I used a code generator I would never have learnt html as I need to know it today
  4. Separating style and content is not achieved simply by using CSS. It needs semantic markup hand in hand to unlock the power.
  5. Good web pages are built on well understood scientific principles. There is nothing arty about usability or accessibility.
  6. Choose a forum and become a teacher / student. Be good at both roles
  7. Read the experts. Follow their work. Open dialogue
  8. Reuse your code, and follow consistent nomenclature eg: I now always call my outer container #page my menu is #sidebar and so on. Think about how to best uses classes. I use a few that I reuse. Other than that go with descendant selectors
  9. Understand the global reset
  10. Since I started sectioning my CSS my life got a whole lot simpler.
  11. Build your bookmarks. Throw out the junk. Find the very best solution to each and every challenge in web construction and use it consistently.
  12. Challenge yourself. Learn new stuff every day. Move outside your comfort zone
  13. Do not use hacks, do not use Conditional CSS. It is the road to madness (CSS 101: there’s always another way)
  14. Avoid defining the width of anything if it can be avoided. Ditto for height.
  15. Understand Richard Rutter’s stuff on vertical spacing for fonts
  16. Be a blogger – use social media to move among the community that you aspire to join. This is the most priceless facility the internet has given us. We can learn directly from our industry leaders.

I think that I’m probably less qualified than Root to answer such a question, but the answers he gives are certainly true in my experience. The moral of the story, specifically #3, is that Dreamweaver my be a useful tool to those who already know how to design and develop for the web, but it will not teach you to be a web developer – It will always be a shortcut around the things you have not yet learned.

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