This is a WordPress blog turned into a website by a mostly self-taught “web developer”.
The Long of It
Buy at own risk!
I created some long forgotten template website in 1995 or 1996. Then I made an expage website, again mostly from a template. Around 1997 I started messing with HTML and made a Geocities website that I would tinker with from time to time, hilighting my interest in the film Zardoz and trying to do some early social networking of keeping in touch with friends.
I guess you could say that things got kind of serious when I started sincitymusic.com in 2000. It was a website about the Las Vegas music scene “updated daily”. I took some direction from Raymond Pirouz in terms of some basic site design elements. While a lot of Pirouz’s site construction in HTML Web Magic goes against modern practices, his writing and examples were so accessible that I bought the book after browsing at a book store. Thank you, Raymond.
At some point I realized that what I was really after with that website was a way of bands and fans to enter information themselves and thus began my delve into PHP and mySQL. My MyDummies PHP and mySQL is well worn, dog-eared, and falling apart. I had the back 20 pages of the index in my hand and was heading towards the paper recycling, but stopped myself, because it could be important. Now Janet Valade has a much newer version of what, for me, is a classic. My other MySQL book has not proven as useful despite its more commanding presence. sincitymusic.com became dynamic, with musicians able to enter their own shows and some other features that I’ve largely forgotten. This was long overdue though. A competitor had had this sort of access for years. What I was really after was starting a Las Vegas music social networking site. I was just beating about the bush with it. An enterprising teenager started an actual music networking software company a year or two later. I had a lot of content I had created myself and we were not in direct competition, but lvpunk.net had a lot of potential. The website makeoutclub.com (where I met my wife) was also going for the sort of experience I wanted to give my users. Then Friendster happened (remember that?) and then Myspace and then… yeah, they all exploded.
This is getting long, but I really do want to be in-depth here. I love talking about myself. In part due to sincitymusic.com I got a job at a local internet service provider. Part of the work I did was assisting our Web Designer with coding. He left and I oversaw the rest of fixing any websites, doing new work, but I don’t think I designed a new website. He had a flair for the stuff. I am more of a coder and not even a good one at that.
When I say that I am “mostly” self-taught I mean that I never took a class on HTML or PHP, for example. I did take AP Pascal in high school (and did very poorly in it). I have also taken computer programming in college working with Java and VisualBasic. Everything else I learned I learned from books, web tutorials, trial and error with code, and some help from other web developers.
At the tail end of working for the ISP and after shutting down sincitymusic.com, I noticed these things called Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). This had escaped me when I was running my own site. Or rather I had been passed by. We used them at work for some clients, not every client, but some users had them. I must have read some web articles about CSS and then started browsing at Barnes and Noble and happened across Jeffrey Zeldman’s designing with web standards.
I think I bought it and brought it on vacation with me. When I returned I was raring to go! Structure must be divided from style! Content from form! Essentially Zeldman evangelizes very effectively in the book for why things like line breaks and tables have no business in the style of a website. I was hooked. His book is not a how-to. It really is a why-you-should. So as I write this in WordPress’s HTML editor I take some pride in my naked paragraph tags. Basically the platform that Zeldman advocated was XHTML mixed with CSS.
One guru whom Zeldman referred to again and again was Eric Meyer. Like Pirouz, he also happens to be published by New Riders (I just notice now). I am actually using some of Eric Meyer’s code on this site because the WordPress team took it and now I’m reusing it. I bought “Eric Meyer on CSS”. It is an undisputed expert of his craft showing examples of how to use CSS and explaining problems and how to avoid them. It is also not very helpful. I would compare it to Will Eisner’s Storytelling. Beloved by the professionals, but really you should stick to Scott McCloud if you want useful information on telling comic book stories.
The helpful book besides Zeldman’s has been CSS The Missing Manual by David Saywer McFarland. It’s fairly accessible, there are plenty of textual examples to learn from (and just copy). I imagine there is a better book out there about CSS, because I still don’t get inheritance and some of the other concepts in the book, but overall as something of an amateur, CSS The Missing Manual has helped me a good deal. I have an older version and not this newer 2009 one.
At the same time or shortly after reading Designing with Web Standards I read Joe Clark’s Building Accessible Websites. I would love to say that I have incorporated Clark’s suggestions; I have not really. It is something I want to do though. I can tell that the WordPress team have thought of accessibility issues. Even if I have not implemented the codes, I think the message is there. If you find yourself into web design or computer science, you may want to give it a read. Here is how it has impacted me in a very real way. Youtube. Youtube has a nice Closed Captions ability. A program actually transcribes videos. Sometimes it works really well, sometimes it humorously doesn’t. A user though can transcribe his or her own videos though. So the hearing impaired or just quiet browsers can watch your YouTube channel and derive all your content. One of my goals is to have all of my video content CC’d. To do so I just have to listen to myself talk, which if you’ve been paying attention, I love to do.