Well that was an experience. We just completed our first “composite week” in the program. These occur at the end of each module of courses we complete and require that we apply what we learned to complete and present a major assignment by the end of the week. This first assignment had us design and build a minimum five page website using HTML and CSS.
I’ve worked on some intense projects in my past work-life, but nothing like this. I’d get to my terminal at school in the early morning and not leave until late afternoon. When I left at 6:15 on Thursday night (only because an evening class was starting at 6:30), I realized I had gotten up only once all day.
And we were all very focused on our assignments. As usual, our instructors were in the computer lab with us from 10 until 2 each day to help with any questions or issues we had. But, for the most part, all you’d hear in the lab was the tapping of keyboards and clicking of mouses. I became aware of the click, click, click a few times, and each time I thought we were like the Borg, a collective of beings plugged into a machine, sharing the same purpose.
While intense though, I loved every minute of it. Okay, not every minute – using Illustrator is currently a no go and Photoshop is doable but awkward and inefficient. But coding feels like a happy place. I’ve never felt so absorbed in what I was doing as I felt writing the HTML and CSS for my pages. And the intensity of focus required to apply my new skills to the challenge of the assignment resulted in a rare and welcome sense of flow.
Over the week, I also became aware of a growing feeling of confidence. I saw myself becoming more adept at manipulating what my pages looked like. I had a clearer understanding of the DOM and syntax required to target elements. When something broke in a page I knew what coding errors to look for to fix it. I felt more in control over what my results would be as the hours of work passed and it felt really, really good.
A concern I had in making of go of a career in web development, was that it requires continuous learning. The need to learn and keep up with new languages and their inevitable evolution over time as technology changes is, of course, characteristic of the field. But after acquiring a working knowledge of two mark-up languages now, I’m eager to learn more. I want to know how to build an experience and not just have my pages look pretty. I want to know how to make them dance and interact with the user and do things and not just sit there. So, next up, programming languages and learning how to make those things happen.
We’re one third of the way through the program now, and I’m amazed at what I learned to produce in only five weeks. I chose to redesign my niece’s bakery website as my project. She’s attached to her logo so keeping that, I designed a website for her that is clean, simple and not visually overwhelming.
While, if she implemented the redesign now, I think its simplicity would improve the user experience for visitors to her site. But that simplicity extends to its functionality too. In fact, the order form I included is non-functional. I’ll be adding scripts to the website as I learn and will likely also fiddle with the design and add CSS tricks as I become more comfortable (and efficient). But I’m going to keep this original version of the site so I can compare back to it at the end of the program. If they’re anything like the first five, it’s going to be interesting to see what it evolves into from where it started after another ten weeks or so of learning.