Back to school(ish)

Many years ago (1997) I was pretty competent writing HTML from scratch in Notepad. The sites were basic but I kept up with the standards and was pretty proud to have taught myself how to contribute to the web. A couple of years later I added some basic CSS knowledge to the mix and some early Javascript and again was pretty pleased with myself. Then it all changed – first I became reliant on tools like (cough)Frontpage(cough) and Dreamweaver to create sites, then I became entwined in the world of the CMS and my skillset fell even further to the wayside. The only time I looked at the code view was to fix the WYSIWYG craziness in the CMS.

The last couple of years I have been a fan of WordPress and so have become familiar with plug-ins and themes and all manner of WP eccentricities but I haven’t done any more than reuse the work of others. To be honest I’ve always found a plug-in close enough to what I wanted or a theme I liked enough to use.

This hasn’t really bothered me – I do have my own set of skills these days and believe I do contribute to the (open) web today in my own way. My theoretical understanding of the web has never been better (apart from the semantic web!).

All that said I’ve been thinking alot lately about revisiting that early set of skills and bringing them up to a reasonable modern standard (well basically learning it all again from the start I think). It is clear that there isn’t going to be much (if any) money to produce new digital projects at my new gig and so if I want to keep doing interesting things I’m going to have to get my hands dirty and do them myself. Or at least, and this is more likely, produce the prototypes myself that convince people to invest the small amounts of cash available into the ideas I come up with. Also I want to stop relying on friends and favors to get things done – obviously alot of stuff is going to be beyond me. I have not intention of trying to learn Ruby on Rails, PHP or Django so if I want anything clever done it is going to be out of my league but I out to be able to mock up a demo site with a bit of interactivity thrown in I reckon.

So the plan is to (re)learn xHTML and CSS in the first place and then try and get my head around some basic Javascript (particularly jQuery stuff). I’m not looking to do any of the clever HTML5 or CSS3 stuff – just try to learn enough to be dangerous 🙂

I’m going to sign up to a couple of P2PU/Mozilla Drumbeat School of Webcraft courses and see what are the recommended sites to teach ‘muppets’ these days. I might also – because I’m of that age – buy a book or two to help with the learning. Wish me luck!


  1. Hi Matt,

    If you are looking at html/css books then the following have been lifesavers over the past few years : by Andy Budd – Basics of layout (essential) – Chapter 6 on layout is worth the cost of the book alone and has some helpful intros to jquery (DVD is helpful too) – great primer for html5 – html5 and CSS3 taming (this book will make you jump to using using some simple but great techniques once you master the books above)

    I would say the above are all you need to get right back into it – css mastery being the #1 if you have to choose just one, then they are in order of what I would suggest you get.

    I have them so you can borrow any to see what you think

  2. Cheers mate – will give CSS Mastery a look for sure..and then look at the others depending on how I get on!

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