I live in the Chugach Mountains almost at the end of Eagle River Road. It’s gorgeous. It follows the river on one side and the mountains on the other. Side roads mostly go up! Many of them have signs that warn, “Do not drive without 4 wheel drive or chains.” After many, many years of a narrow windy road up through the valley (and many bicycle/car/moose accidents) it was decided that we finally needed a new wider, straighter, flat road. I was sad. I really liked the old road.
As it is with most things…..bigger, newer, better, but it’s come with a painful price: 2 years of road construction and they still might have to continue next summer! Through it all I’ve had to spend countless hours waiting, watching, learning new patterns, and following the darned pilot car.
So it is with my experience with web design. I can get by with what I’ve been doing. It works just fine. It’s slow. It sometimes has pot holes. It takes a while to get where I have been going, but I know that if I would go through the pain of constructing a new road to follow, I would be able to get places much faster and it would look a lot bigger, newer and better.
This fall I’ve started my own construction process—ugh. I’d like to take you through what I’ve done so far: picked out my favorite tool to use. To do that you’ll have to follow me: the pilot car!
To start, I didn’t even know which tool to use. I remembered an old tool I used back in the late 90s: Netscape Communicator. I would type up what I wanted, push a button to show me the HTML code, copied it and pasted it into my web page. So even though my instructor told me to begin with TEXT EDIT, I went looking on the interwebs for my good old friend, Netscape Communicator. It was no where to be found.
With saddness, I went back to the instructions and started with TEXT EDIT, which is what came with my Mac. It was painful. I typed in the box, saved it as an HTML file, opened my browser, found the saved file and opened it to see if it worked. WAY TOO MANY STEPS–especially since it took me several times to get it right. I did it, but TEXT EDIT was not bigger, better, newer. I knew technology couldn’t have gone backwards in the 14 years I was away.
I went back to the interwebs and discovered what I wanted was something called a “WYSIWYG” (what you see is what you get). I found Sea Monkey. It’s actually a free web browser. You can go up to the top, pull down on NEW and get a composer page. At the bottom, there are tabs to show you what the code looks like, where the tags are, previews, etc. That was going to be MUCH faster than TEXT EDIT. I was relieved. It was much like my old friend Netscape. I now felt better about having a tool I felt comfortable with.
With Sea Monkey in my back pocket, I continued following the path my instructor put me on in order to discover the best tools I needed for the construction of my web page. It was suggested I try TEXT WRANGLER. So I downloaded that one and I quickly knew it was important for something, but it certainly wasn’t what I needed to get started. I know that back in the 90s I was using FTP for something, but I couldn’t remember what. So I quickly ditched that tool. Maybe I’ll need it later in construction.
Moving on……I was flagged down by my instructor to check out the best WYSIWYG softwares on her favorite blog: lifehaker.com. DreamWeaver and others were on the list, but the only free one was KOMPOZER. I downloaded it. Just like Sea Monkey, my computer warned me not to download it, but I did anyway. It MAY be a good thing, but until I figured it out, I didn’t like it. KOMPOZER won’t let you restart your computer unless you force quit it. I suppose that protects you from losing everything, but it was annoying until I figured it out. KOMPOZER acted a lot like
Sea Monkey. I clicked the tabs at the bottom and got to see what the code that I wrote looked like right away. It really helps when you can correct your mistakes right away and check it again. I think that side bar on the left might come in handy as well.
I pulled over and took a break from choosing my construction tools and just started doing the assignment. It may be that I skipped something last week, because this week I found W3SCHOOL’s “Try it yourself” button. Now that was even better! I could put in code on the left and then see it happen on the right. NICE! I played with that tool a long time, until I had to start googling things I wanted to learn, like how to turn the language into German. I know……it was a rabbit hole. I discoveredthat you can put a code saying that it’s in German, but it doesn’t translate it for you. So I’m not sure why you need that code. So far, for ease of use, I liked W3Schools.
The last tool I checked out was JSFiddle. I liked that one too. Since I don’t know CSS yet, I decided it was a Cadillac, when I only need a Ford right now. So I played with it some and it MAY come in useful in the future, but for now…..while I’m just learning, I really like the side by side W3School’s tool. Trial and Error is a pretty good teaching tool (as long as no one is hitting you with a ruler for getting it wrong.) So, I’ve picked out my bulldozer. As the refining process continues, I’m sure I will need some of the other more fancy tools. But right now…..I’m just bulldozing. By the end of the course, I hope to be doing the finish work like they are doing on my road right now. It will be nice when both my website and my road are bigger, newer, and better.