Web Design Tangent: Bells and Whistles

Screen shot of lopera shmopera site
Screen shot of L’opera Shmopera site

Last monday, the class was instructed by Erik Fadiman on jquery slideshows and audio in html 5. I was a bit defeated by all the code that seemed to melt between my fingers. I still can’t fathom how there is not really an undo button.

So, what happened? I had made a foundation of code that was like quicksand. Firstly, it was quick, indeed. When I started coding, I was making tags where I should have been making classes, headers when I should have been making tags… you get the idea. What’s worse is that when I was trying to streamline my code, I was deleting rules left and right (with my unsystematic way of naming things, it seemed like everything was obsolete). And like an ocean with my back turned, I made a monster. A website that gave out errors like a happy-go-lucky pamphleteer. I felt utterly doomed. How do you debug something like that? And, so when I started to input the jquery slideshow code, I was way in over my head. So, I did what any newb web designer would do. I started over… but not really.

This is the fun part. My instructor keeps giving us these files that have all of the code that we’re supposed to have already in it. So, I took my image file with me and moved my rootsite, to so-to-speak live in a tent built by someone else’s code. I think that’s as the biz put it “black hat.” Am I using that correctly?

I restyled some of the boxes, imput my own images and background patterns, googlefonts, media, etc. At this point you can see the skeleton that I put my meat on to when you make the window smaller because I didn’t restyle the rest of the modes– tablet and phone. See what I did here. I’m flabbergasted at my emotional response to what I’ve done. The thing with code is that when coders provide it for you, they are “open sourcing” it. They abide by this new kind of model where you share what you know and build on other people’s work. As Wikipedia says, “In production and development, open source is a philosophy or pragmatic methodology.”

Lately, I’ve been a little frustrated with the web design bootcamp. I added over states using different background images, only a week later to learn about CSS sprites. The week after that, I learned that file size can be an issue and I should cut back on some things (ooh… perhaps the CSS sprites). That and also, what coders do anyway is google tutorials with the thing they want to do (that has the code attached) so it becomes a copy-paste job. So, when is copy-paste too much? My instructor provided a website with connected js (javascript), css, and media queries. All I have to do is style it to my liking and now, I have a site with bells and whistles and I didn’t have to adjust long complicated strings of code. Does that mean that I am a supporter of the open source movement or a jerk?

What I am learning about learning when it comes to technology that it’s best to have a temporary file. What I mean is that things keep changing and it feels like I have to keep up.  I have to admit to myself that all the “books” are written with disappearing ink (that’s a thing actually) and now I am wondering why did I learn that other thing?

It’s about history. It’s about this grand tradition of coders and how every coder started with basic html. It’s worth knowing how much hard work has been streamlined by the Open Source movement. The fact that students like me don’t have to invent the wheel every time. But, it makes me curious about the grand scheme of things. I feel like I’ve learned a lot in this Web Design Bootcamp. However, it raises as many questions about ethics. When is it too much copy-paste work? Who’s going to know? Does it matter? If I am not going to be a developer, just a graphic designer with a crutch is it okay? At this point, developing feels more like those player pianos. The ones where the keys light up and I press them and with enough practice, I can learn the song, but not with sheet music. Not with music theory. With muscle memory. Just following.

Then, I think it becomes more like cooking. Does the fact that I use Betty Crocker’s recipe to the letter somehow defeat the fact that my pie is delicious? But, what about my integrity as a chef/ designer/ coder? I don’t know these answers, but food for thought.

(Earlier Post Relating to This Project)

Update 7-31-12: An excerpt from a conversation with Erik Fadiman

KC: quick question: as reflected in my last blog post (https://katarinacountiss.com/2012/07/25/web-design-process-bells-and-whistles/), is it a proper approach to have a template and merely plug in the right data and re-stylize rather than link up new media queries/js etc. every time?
EF: both are good ways of working and a matter of preference. Most professionals use some sort of ‘framework’ to speed up development time. but every project is different so you need to be able to adapt a framework and or build your own.

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