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By admin Category Uncategorized, Posted November 13th, 2015
Switching from programming to mark-up (And the challenges that come with it)

Having basic proficiency with HTML and CSS, I was under the impression that further developing my skills in this area was going to be easy. I had learned everything in secondary school; ultimately <html /> and css { } are really just light-weight mark-up languages that anyone can pick up, right?

I could not have been more wrong. Yes, programming is more difficult than front-end development. A lot. Not feeling your smartest today? Here’s a segfault, and please remember to clean up that dangling pointer you have there (C). Happily writing your code with five cups of coffee down, when a NullReferenceException is raised (C#). Or even forgetting your return statement and getting a StackOverflowError (Java).

This contributed to me wanting to try front-end. No more programming. No more forgetting your using or import statements or even forgetting to #include a header file. Just straight up Javascript. As for HTML and CSS, a child could learn the basics right?

The week was off to a good start. Got my laptop set up, feeling highly motivated, only to find out git wasn’t working. Being the typical developer, I thought it would be no problem. Just add a variable path so the git command would function properly.
My PC disagreed. Two hours later, I gave up and booted my PC up in Linux (not quite sure why I hadn’t from the start). Don’t tell me to sit in the corner wearing a tin foil hat, but I was starting to feel Linux and Windows were forming some sort of conspiracy against me. Neither the keyboard nor mouse on my laptop were regocnised by Linux, resulting in a PC that could not accept any input.

I took a seperate keyboard and mouse and plugged them in. Just set up Node and Grunt and I should be ready to go, right? Well yes, after spending another five hours trying to debug. Four days passed, with a minimal amount of work actually getting done, when miraculously, my computer gave in and started doing as I told it to. With everything working fine, I happily continued work. That’s when the real headaches started.

I read up on SASS and immediately knew I was going to love it. DRY (Don’t repeat yourself), nesting, control statements and variables. The big ideas of programming and scripting finding their way into a markup language. All these things went really well (how could they not; if you can make your way through a stacktrace in Java, a bit of SASS should be easy. No data types, no pointers, no ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsExceptions, just plain variables and control statements.

I wrote some HTML, which was, as expected, extremely easy. There is no real way to mess up your HTML. I started wondering how quickly I would be done with this bootcamp. Surely at the rate I was going, I should be able to learn everything in under a month, yes?

No.

CSS is awesome

That’s where the real pain began. Finish the styling for one element, only to find out it broke all the styling for another! So I started over. Twice. Each time, having changed the structure of my code, there was always this one thing that wasn’t quite right. Being the lone wolf I am, I was determined to figure it out on my own. The only way to learn, right?
Not the right attitude in a team, I know, but sometimes one just has to be able to figure something out on their own.

I finally gave in and asked for help, to be told that the structure of my code was still wrong. We set up the HTML together, so I had a good representation of which classes in should have in CSS. That did it. That really did it. The only thing that ended up being wrong, was the structure of my HTML, not even the CSS. With DuckDuckGo and the always helpful guys at StackOverflow, I managed to get the work done. Not very quickly, mind you, but still at a reasonable speed.

It was a hectic week. I almost think the word fiasco would fit in well. The only reason it doesn’t, is that despite all the problems, I was still having a blast. It was too much fun to be called a fiasco and I am glad I joined in. I still do programming on the side, but having a solid understanding of how teeth-grindingly hard some HTML and CSS can be, I look forward to getting new skill sets.

The one thing I learned? Never underestimate a language or tool just because it looks easy.

Posted by Luka van Kampen

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