Recently, I celebrated my year anniversary at King Design and purely by happenstance I had to do some website updates to the very first website I developed at King. If you haven’t looked over your code from an old project, you should. Now, don’t be scared, I know what you think you’ll find;
Alright, it won’t be THAT scary but I’m sure it will definitely make you question what you were thinking at the time. This moment of reflection should be an enlightening one. Now, in my moment of reflection, nothing in my code was necessarily wrong, but I’ve learned a lot since then. Some of the technology and the tools I use have changed in just a year. That is the nature of technology though, when something’s new, it’s old in a week. Other than the technology, I also have been continuing my education online. Yes, you may be an expert in your field now but there’s always new additions that you need to keep up on and be aware of. Education is important but so is experience. Learning things is only half the battle. Actually going out there and doing is an absolute necessity you can’t forget about.
The biggest change to my workflow has been using build tools. Build tools automate common tasks like:
- compiling CSS pre-processors like SASS or LESS
- compressing images
Build tools have sped up my development time and helped with error detection. I can’t go back to not using them even on a small microsite! Personally I use Grunt, while I also hear Gulp is very good as well. I’m not going to get into which one you should use since there’s already a lot of posts written like Gulp vs Grunt and Choosing A Build Tool. The most common Grunt plugins I use are:
- grunt-autoprefixer (parse CSS and add vendor-prefixed CSS properties using the Can I Use database)
- grunt-contrib-concat (concatenate files)
- grunt-contrib-sass (compile SASS to CSS)
- grunt-contrib-uglify (minify files)
- grunt-contrib-watch (run tasks when watched file patterns are added, changed or deleted)
- grunt-notify (desktop notifications for Grunt errors and warnings using Growl)
We’re only as good as what we know, right? We have to continue to learn or we won’t keep up with new technology and current trends. I’m lucky in this respect because, I admit, I have an addiction. An addiction to blogs. I am constantly reading web design and development blogs. Some of my current favorites are: Smashing Magazine, TutsPlus, Web Designer Depot, Web Design Ledger and Abduzeedo. Once you find a couple you like you’ll most likely need a quick and easy way to view all of them. I’ve been using Feedly for while now and love it. Apple has recently released their new News app, which looks promising too.
I also like to listen to Podcasts during my commute. My favorite one about the industry is ShopTalkShow by Chris Coyier and Dave Rupert. They give valuable insights and knowledge into the world of front-end development as well as inviting real-world experts on the show. Their mix of information and humor is refreshing while making sure the discussions aren’t overly analytical.
It’s also important to continue to learn new skills and languages. To help with this I use Code School as well as Code Academy and have been going through their courses whenever I have some free time. Another great online education service I’ve heard great things about is Treehouse.
From the wise words of Shia Labeouf, “DO IT!” All of your education and skills mean nothing unless you’re actually building something. If you currently work full-time, try to work in some new technologies little by little or start a side project where you can explore new approaches. If you don’t work full-time, make up some fictitious companies that need a website or find some small freelance projects to practice on. The more you code, the better you’ll get!
Hopefully my recent reflection can help show that nostalgia is important. In seeing how far we’ve come we can look forward to where we want to go. I found that the biggest things that have helped me grow are new technologies, like build tools, furthering my education through blog posts and online courses, and just coding as much as I can. I love talking about the industry so if you have other Grunt plugins you love or any other blogs you follow, let me know in the comments below!