A New Thing

I’ve been actually getting some views on this little blog, so rather than only writing myself notes I though I might try to add some content others might find useful. Beginning today you should start seeing some posts tagged as “Tutorial.” These will be posts aiming at teaching how to use some of the tools I’ve found helpful in my journey, many of which I still use today.

My Introduction to Bootstrap

As I discussed in my first post, First Steps in Web Development, I’m currently studying Front End Development through Free Code Camp.

The first exercises covered basic HTML and CSS, something I felt fairly comfortable with already, but there were some things that added to my knowledge. Prior to this course I had never heard of Bootstrap and I never knew that building responsive websites could be so simple. In just a few hours my web pages went from basic styling reminiscent of the old days of GeoCities, to relatively modern, sleek and stylish.

So What Is Bootstrap?

Much of the reference material I’ve read refers to Bootstrap as Twitter Bootstrap but I never really knew why. According to this article on Wikipedia Bootstrap was developed at Twitter as a framework to be used internally which would provide consistency throughout the company. In 2011 it was released as an open source project and began being picked up by web designers everywhere.

I am sure that I’ve only scratched the surface of Bootstrap’s capabilities, however there are a few functionalities I’ve used that now I can’t imagine doing without. One of the big things Bootstrap is known for is simplifying website layout by implementing a grid-like system of rows and columns. This makes it easy to put things where you want them, and choose how they will appear on smaller screens as well. But of all the functionality I’ve tried my favorite so far is a navigation header, or ‘navbar’, which is easily customized and implemented. With just a few simple lines of code you get results very similar to the navbar at the top of this page.

One of my favorite things about this navbar is the scaling. As the screen size is reduced, the buttons on the right side of the bar get rolled up into a drop-down menu. Here’s a Fiddle showing it in action. The example code navbar is set up for a single page where you would want to navigate up and down to different sections, but can easily be adapted to multiple pages by changing the href attributes to urls. If you were using the navbar to navigate a single page, consider building your body tag similar to:

<body data-spy="scroll" data-target="#navbar">
Or
<body data-spy="scroll" data-target="#navbar" data-offset='100'>

This will change the highlighting on the navbar items as you scroll, making it easy to identify where you’re at on the page at a glance. Of course, this is not necessary if you choose not to have the navbar stick to the top of the screen.

So That’s Bootstrap?

Well, yes and no. This is just a sample of one of the built-in items Bootstrap has to offer. As I continue my education in web development, I’m sure I’ll begin to run into some of the limitations of Bootstrap and maybe will eventually move away from it altogether. Until then, I will enjoy the ease of use and great results it provides.

A New Contender

There is a feature of CSS3 called <grid> which could be an interesting alternative to Bootstrap, or at the very least a viable option to replace some of Bootstrap’s alignment/positioning functionality. This feature is not widely supported by any browsers yet, but I believe it will start to gain traction as browsers are updated.

First steps in web development

As the sidebar says, I am an aspiring web developer.  At time of writing I’ve nearly completed the front-end portion of the full stack certification I’m seeking.  This has been an interesting journey for me.

post

This blog is not a place for me to showcase my talents, or to show off to prospective clients. That’s not to say that I don’t intend to post examples of the projects I’m working on, but that is not the intended focus of this blog. As a matter of fact, I’m not entirely certain that posting content to a pre-built WordPress site is really the route to take if you’re looking impress potential clients looking for a web developer.

So what is the point of all this?

In a nutshell, I’m a 36 year old man who has been working in the Communications and Public Relations field for nearly 10 years who is now working towards changing industries entirely and setting out in a brand-new direction. I know this is not very uncommon nowadays, but perhaps someone out there is thinking of trying the same thing themselves. I do not know if I will be successful, but perhaps those reading this will be able to avoid the many mistakes I will undoubtedly make.  And worst case, we can all laugh together at the outcome.

There are a wealth of avenues available to anyone wanting to learn how to code, especially when compared to even 10 years ago.  Some years ago I bought a shiny new HTC G1 and after using it for about a month I decided I was going to teach myself Java and develop Android apps.  Smartphones were the next big thing and I wanted my piece.  After purchasing a book the size of a phone book (remember those?) it soon became clear that teaching myself Java was not going to be an afternoon project.  I recall installing Eclipse JDE and even getting to the point that I had some rudimentary project apps completed, but it soon fizzled out.  At that time there weren’t nearly the number of online resources available to a would-be self-taught developer as there are today, and that six-pound book seemed to be geared towards someone who already knew Java.  So I quit.

Fast forward a few years and I still had the desire to learn to write code, but I figured the only way to really go about it was to take college courses.  Fortunately I was able to pick up some skills on-the-job doing tasks too small to trouble IT with, or with too narrow a scope.  During this time I was able to locate quite a bit of reference material online and had been able to complete some fairly substantial projects utilizing VBA, MySQL, VBScript, HTML, and CSS.  I think back on this time as the happiest I’ve been at work and a few months ago I decided that maybe that’s what I’m meant to be doing.

Choosing A Path.

Close to my house is a state university.  Naturally, this was the first place to look after deciding to make a serious effort to work as a full-time coder.  This university offers all sorts of Bachelors degrees in computer science, several with emphasis on programming.  Current cost of tuition: somewhere in the neighborhood of $7,000 a semester with an estimated 10 semesters needed to graduate.  True, this will amount to roughly one year’s pay after graduation, but student loan debt did not seem attractive.

While browsing Reddit one day, (I believe it was /r/financialindependence) I came across a thread asking about side gigs people engaged in to pad their income.  I was amazed by the number of people who suggested using a website such as Free Code Camp to learn web development.  A few clicks later and I was sold.  I signed up that night and have been plugging away ever since.

What Happens Next?

While I still have a ways to go before I get my first certification, it’s only natural to think about the next steps.  Of course the biggest question is, “Will I be employable when I finish?”  To tell the truth, I do not know the answer to that question.  I do believe that this course will give me the necessary tools for working as a web developer, but my concern is potential employers and/or clients will not be impressed by online certification.  I will be making an effort to market myself, but I admit I’m worried about what will happen.

I have a fallback plan, though.  Not too far from where I live there is a DevMountain campus. I’ve been looking over their reviews on CourseReport and other similar websites and it seems their students have been very pleased with the results of their education. Most attractive for me is the hiring events and coaching they provide as part of their courses. Combine all of this with a total cost of $4,500 and only a 12-16 week commitment and I think it would be a great opportunity.

I’m really loving the learning process, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.