Up until about two weeks ago, I’d never had any interest in designing websites and apps myself. I can appreciate when things look professional and stylish, and even subscribe to the Design category in my favourite news app, Flipboard. I like to see things that are eye-catching, and consider other people’s work sloppy and careless when even tiniest of aesthetic details are not well thought out or as beautiful as they could be. This doesn’t just apply to technology either; seeing poorly designed tangible products really depresses me, and I wonder about the mentality of the person who designed them, carelessly throwing together ideas, having no desire for perfection or even basic good quality.
Doesn’t that make me a hypocrite though? The short answer – or the answer I tell myself, anyway – is no. I started out learning HTML and CSS when I was 11 years old. By no means was I creating Facebook equivalents then; I was just messing around making Pokémon fan pages that never even ended up online. I liked doing it, but it was very imprecise; something you made could look good to you but make others vomit. There was no definitive way of telling if you had made a great-looking website. The process was also a bit tedious, as cross-browser compatibility issues became clear as I aged and started making more websites (some of which even ended up online). Up until that point, HTML and CSS was all I really knew, and I enjoyed it.
That changed when I got to about 15, though. I was never very good at maths, but I’d always had a strong interest in computing. I remember being set a homework task to calculate the area of a sector of a circle, and although that sounds fascinating, it was actually pretty awful. By the end of the lesson, I was confident I could do it, and would remember the process for our upcoming exams. That didn’t stop the teacher from setting us around eighty questions, all requiring us to calculate the stupid area of those stupid circles, though. I knew I would be too bored sitting around and calculating the answer for each of these, so when I got home, I reached for a book I’d borrowed from a friend: Learning VB.NET.
VB.NET was my first programming language, and I really enjoyed it. Unlike design, my creations were either right or wrong; binary. Nobody would look at an application I’d made and tell me they didn’t like the way I’d done the calculations or other application code behind it if it worked. Learning VB.NET led me on the learning some other languages, like Java and C++, and then an older friend of mine told me about a scripting language called PHP. This combined my two interests of web and application design, and I’ve been writing PHP scripts ever since. I guess I have my maths teacher to thank for leading me to where I am, for giving me such detestable homework. (As a side note, I did make an application to calculate the area of a sector of a circle; that was my first ever application. It did, however, take me longer to learn VB.NET and code this application than it would have done to simply complete the homework. Now that’s determination.)
I swear that jQuery has changed my entire outlook on things (they can use that review on their site, if they like). It took me six hours to go through their documentation and tutorials, and now I’m a confident jQuery-er. jQuery has rekindled my love for designing things myself, and I find it exciting to make websites that are really dynamic and unusual. It has also led me to buy my first design book in around five years (HTML5 & CSS3 by Brian P. Hogan). So now I’m slowly becoming a rounded developer (in more ways than one – living in the city is encouraging me to eat a lot of fast food). My following blog posts will document my progress…