Becoming A Developer Is A Process

Version Control Added to My List!

Today I started seriously learning Git. Why? I’m tired to manual version control, and I enjoy adding new skills to the list of things I’ve learned to become a developer.

Becoming a developer is a process

No one seems to tell you that there are many great ways to manage your code that don’t involve making tons of backup directories manually in Finder. Well, no one told me anyway. As with many things in the world of development, version control seems to be a simple concept that everyone is already familiar with, so no one talks about it. I’m not complaining, just pointing it out. Putting this mental note down on my blog for later reference.

So much to learn

I take the time to note this stuff because I want to stay consciously aware of all the seemingly minor things that I learn as I continue to improve my development skills. I was talking to my friend Nick recently about this and he said something along the lines of:

Welcome to your new life. You will have epiphanies about every three months.

Becoming a developer means continually learning, and so far I love it.

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Victory! The realization of a goal.

Today I met the goal I set a month ago of making money as a freelancer. Well, that was a two week goal so I didn’t exactly meet it. But the work I did during those weeks working towards this goal was the foundation for success, and now the benefits of my work have become tangible. This is just the beginning though. One goal should lead to another, so tomorrow I will figure out what that next goal shall be.

The Wonders of CSS Frameworks

Today was my first dive into CSS frameworks. Creating layout from scratch is perfectly doable but also perfectly tedious. I have yet to meet a developer who enjoys that aspect of it. We like the stages where we get to build shiny things on a site. So here is what I got into today:

The first one has been around for quite some time. The original developer actually stopped updating it because after creating it he learned so much that it lost it’s use. That’s awesome, but for a ton of developers it’s still a great tool. I would say it’s best feature is simplicity. It’s not the most robust framework but if you want something really light and simple to set up try it out.

The second, Kube, is another fully responsive grid system. I didn’t really look into Kube’s layout features because I was already using 1140, but I’m sure it’s good. I really like Kube’s design elements that make it super simple to add very sophisticated styling to elements in a few seconds. The one drawback to me was that it is built with LESS instead of Sass. I actually run into this fairly often. It seems as though the majority of the well known frameworks are built with LESS.

So, instead of sit around and pout I converted a number of Kube’s features into Sass. Now I’m developing with a mix of these two grid systems. Kube mainly for UI elements and 1140 for layout. I’m considering actually rolling these together into something usable and Sass based (finally) so that anyone else can enjoy it without switching to LESS. I’ll post an update with that is finished.

WordPress Theming From Scratch

When I first started my exploration of WP I did so one small step at a time. When I look back on those initial stages of learning I think about how much quicker the process could have been if I had just dove in and conquered obstacles as they arose.

For beginner WP developers it may be tempting to stick with theme modification. By this I mean just taking a theme, whether premium or free, and simply modifying bits of it’s code (or child theming) to get the desired results. This can be great in some cases and well warranted. However, in the end this leaves you or your client with a pile of code you may or may not fully understand (seriously, open up functions.php on a theme you didn’t create and witness how much excess code your theme ships with).

I was in the same boat initially, child-theming and theme-editing my way to early victories. This was important, but it wasn’t until after I built my first theme from scratch that I felt fully in control of my theme. Building a theme from scratch also gives you a nice sense of accomplishment in the end that you may not get from editing an existing theme: everything you see in the final design was your own doing. So what is starting from scratch? An empty folder in wp-content/themes/ on your local dev server. Then just add index.php and style.css and get coding.

Of course you will want to use JavaScript plugins and other premade assets as you would normally, but by starting from scratch you will teach yourself some very essential WP basics like registering/enqueing scripts and customizing the loop.

So if you’re looking to get some good hands on practice with WP just open up a new folder on your dev server and get started. If you’re not the type to craft all site assets by hand then just Google free website PSD templates. Find a template you like and then theme it up. PSD templates are great because they often come pre-sliced so you get to spend most of the time in the code editor and in the browser.

Happy coding.

Custom Post Types: A Great Article

Justin Tadlock is a boss

I just read an article (link below) of his on custom post types in WordPress that was illuminating. Also, it turns out he is another developer that jumped ship for Asia (he’s in Seoul).

So where was I. Ah, custom posts. Custom posts provide great flexibility for WP developers and a simple user experience for the client. This article is the primary reason I decided to use this feature for my latest client project. I’ll be using custom posts to handle addresses for company that has about 20 branches spread over three cities. Nothing too exciting but this will allow simple edits and updates as the company expands. That’s all for now, must sleep…

Oh and here’s the link for anyone interested. Enjoy.