Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gareth’s Course in Wed Development: Text Books

I mentioned in the previous post that I was treating this endeavour as a course. I think that this is the best way to get into the correct frame of mind and it also provides me with structure to my learning.

In taking this approach I have sourced some books that I feel will help me. Let’s call them my text books. In the past I have dabbled with online tutorials and have found some degree of success with them. But for this to work I need something that has a start, middle and end and as such I think books are the way to go.

In sourcing these books I posted a request on the .net forum for information regarding the best books for the various areas that I wanted to focus upon. Typically enough many posters responded with links to web sites focusing on one of my four targeted areas. However due to the approach I have taken I have decided not to use these links but have instead bookmarked them for future reference.

Some posters did get back with valid suggestions which I cross-checked with the ever ‘reliable’ reviews at Amazon. Using the usual take-with-a-grain-of-salt attitude one must apply to Amazon reviews I have compiled my list of text books for this semester:

Accessibility \ CSS

I have decided to bundle these two together as the CSS books I have focus on creating accessible web sites.

CSS Mastery by Andy Budd

Beginning CSS: Web Development: From Novice to Professional

Php & MySQL

How to do Everything with PHP & MySql

Practical PHP & MySQL: Building Eight Dynamic Web Applications


DOM Scripting


Well that's it for this post. It's a shorty but for me it's the next step in moving toward my goals. From this point on I should be posting on my progress and might even have some samples online for your viewing pleasure.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gareth’s Course in Wed Development: Course Structure

For this post I have decided to highlight my own personal plan toward achieving my goals in web design.

Actually it isn't so much a plan as it is four areas where I feel if I focus my energies that I will be rewarded.

This is my four-pronged attack as I like to call it.

1: Accessibility

Accessibility is a word that is often used in circles of web designers where the aim is to provide professional and standards compliant web sites that are accessible to a wider range of visitors regardless of disabilities. Being a reader of .net magazine and a frequent visitor to their excellent web forum I am seeing this as being a particular area of concern for people.

It is my hope to build web sites that, as best as possible, adhere to accessibility guidelines. I will be using this document to help me develop accessibility within my web sites and then submitting my work for review to this thread at the .net forum to see how well I have done.

2: CSS - Cascading Style Sheets

I learned how to design web sites from tutorials dating back to the glorious days of table-based layouts! These days such design conventions are frowned upon by the web development community. Tables should only be used for displaying tablature data and using them for anything else contradicts the very thing I am trying to achieve in creating accessible websites.

I have dabbled with CSS web design but have always been put off by the inconsistency of support for it across the various web browsers out there. What looks good in one might not look good in another. The thing is there are work arounds and bug-fixes for such issues and these are all well documented. So I figure if I’m going to take on this web development endeavour with any kind of seriousness then I need to take the time to learn CSS and be able to create fully cross-platform compatible websites.

3: PHP & MySQL

This one is a bit of a reach for me. Some might say that I should focus on the above 2 points before moving onto anything else and that there is enough in accessibility and CSS to keep me busy.

The thing is I have a genuine itch to develop! A number of years back I did a masters degree in computer science wherein we worked with Java. At first I found the whole concept of development to be tricky and struggled to get my head round it. By the time I had finished I felt I had reached a stage with Java where I could do practically anything with the language (within reason) that I put my mind to.

Unfortunately I graduated, discovered the real world and realised that my dream of being a developer would never happen. I ended up working in a support role, then project management and account management and only once have I had the slightest glimmer of getting involved in development work. At one stage I was promised that I would be given development work to do but got told a number of months later that this wouldn't happen. Much to the surprise of me and the lead developer, who was fighting in my corner.

So I've dabbled in a bit of java in my free time and looked at C# but ultimately there's not much you can do with these if it's a hobby! This is why I have a soft spot for PHP and MySQL as these are development tools that I can put to practical use. As a matter of fact I’ve just completed my first database driven content management system which, despite its simplistic nature, has worked in every way I had imagined.

4: Javascript

Back when I did my Masters part of the course touched upon web design and one area we looked at was javascript. I know that for a while there javascript was considered to be incompatible with standards compliant web design but that this is now no longer the case. Javascript can be implemented in web sites and still be compliant and this is something that I wish to learn. More specifically I will be looking at DOM Scripting.


So that’s it really. I’m hoping that by focusing on these areas and approaching them as if they were a course I am taking that in time I will be able to create the kinds of web sites that I can picture in my head, that is dynamic, accessible and standards compliant database driven websites with front-end client-side functionality.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

New blog sensation starts with a popping loud silence

So this is it.

My first post to my new blog.

Why am i blogging? What do I have to offer people? Who is my audience?

These are all valid questions but ultimately I am writing this blog for me and me alone!

That's a bit selfish you might say. But the way i see it is with the millions of blogs already doing the rounds on the ol' super information highway mines not really likely to register as a blip on anyones radar!

So what's the point?

Well for me this blog is a means of documenting an endeavor that I am about to undertake. Nothing major like. We're not talking scaling mountains, or parachute jumps or anything like that. We're not talking major exams or life changing surgery.

You see for a number of years I have dabbled with designing websites. But that's all it's ever been is a hobby and I think and I feel that it could be something more for me. So I have made a decision to start down a path that will hopefully end with web design being far more than a simple hobby for me.

For a while I have been reading a very reliable and competent publication called '.Net'. It's a fantastic magazine that highlights current trends in web design. It adapts a more business-like mentality and as such is a little strong perhaps for casual dabblers within web design. But since buying the magazine I have found myself more and more getting intrigued by what can be achieved through web design.

So over the course of the next year or so I am throwing myself into web design just to see what happens. It'll be a tricky endeavor I'm sure as I already work full time in a demanding job and am preparing to get married in September which will involve about a month where I'm not at a computer due to the honeymoon. But I'll cross that bridge as and when i get there.

So with that i bring this opening post to a close. I'll be posting again soon no doubt. I need to keep updating this thing to keep myself motivated and in the right state of mind.