Reflection on Week 3: Clients

Even as someone who’s been working in the field for a few years, there’s always stuff that either you didn’t know or just never got around to looking up – I think there’s a saying that goes something like “the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know”? Hearing HTML, CSS etc explained from the conceptual level down is a great introduction, taking a look at the forest before focusing on the trees – whereas I think a lot of people in the industry, having started as hobbyists, have learnt things in the opposite direction.

Same same but different

The increasing focus these days on standards-based development (especially on the client side) probably gives the impression to outsiders that there is ONE way of developing, at least at the granular level, for most problems. Whilst this is true at the absolute lowest detail, I find that even amongst the standards community, there are many different ways of tackling the same problem. As a result, if I take over a website from a developer with similar skills and experience to me, it will still take a fair bit of researching the code to find out how they structured their layout, folders, styles etc.

An example – take the layout of a three-column (X)HTML page, without using tables. Whilst tables are rightly frowned upon for page layouts these days, it’s worth pointing out that

s and CSS weren’t really designed for complicated graphic layouts either – hence this becoming the holy grail of the 3-column layout.

What program to use?

Another tough question: do I start with a visual (WYSIWYG) editor and hack into the code at the back, or start with the black-and-white slog of text editor to make sure I learn the syntax correctly?

Until I learned to code from scratch, I actually found Dreamweaver to be perfect for most updates, and in fact I’m not sure I agree with the assertion that it produces untidy code – this seems to have been cleaned up a lot in recent versions. For me, Alistair’s “productivity” argument works very well in terms of code hints and checking XHTML validity quickly.

The demonisation of Microsoft

Having done a couple of subjects in the Masters program now, it’s pretty apparent that Microsoft is a bit of a punching bag through UTS. Whilst I’m a standards zealot to the core, this still bothers me a little because …

  1. It’s not 100% fair. Opera and Firefox still have rendering issues, even if less; and whilst Frontpage was sometimes dire, I’d take it anyday over using, say, Arachnophilia.
  2. Being a large corporate, Microsoft has different rules to play within eg. ensuring compatibility with previous versions, and with the office suite. No, it doesn’t always play fairly, but how many multinationals do, and what obligation do they have to play fair anyway?
  3. Even if the first two arguments don’t convince, the reality is that Microsoft technologies are what you’ll be using in corporate development small and large for some years, unless you control the company. Get used to it.

That said, IE7 is an abomination … they did WHAT with the main navigation options?

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