June, 2008 Results

How Good Are You at JavaScript and CSS?

Monday, June 30th, 2008

This year I have found myself looking for jobs on two separate occasions. As a result I have had a good number of interviews. One question that I found harder to answer than I had anticipated was when asked how good I am at JavaScript and CSS.

Why was this question that hard to answer? I actually feel that I am quite knowledgeable about both CSS and JavaScript. I’ve built probably close to a dozen websites using entirely CSS-based layouts over the last few years. In addition, I have used JavaScript quite often to enhance those websites, usually with Ajax and spiffy web widgets like the Comment Info Tip Plugin. I may not be as knowledgeable as Paul O’Brien when it comes to CSS or Jonathan Snook when it comes to JavaScript, but I certainly am competent. So again, what’s the problem?

The problem is the damn cross-browser problems that still trip a person up from time to time. Almost every time I ask Paul for his help with CSS it has to do with a cross-browser issue: something works in Firefox, but not in IE or vice versa. Same with JavaScript; think addEventListener method in Firefox and attachEvent for Internet Explorer. This is a bloody mess for the developer and I suppose makes me question my abilities at times.

Such cross-browser issues make it hard for a developer. I don’t know about you, but I’ve often spent more time trying to make a site work across all browsers than on the actual design of the site.

There are people that I know and respect that have chosen not to learn JavaScript at all because they were so put off by such difficulties. Also consider how difficult it’s been to get people to leave HTML table-based designs behind in favor of CSS layouts. It’s been slow at best. No doubt due much to the differences across browsers.

What’s your take? How has the difficulties in trying to achieve all browser support effected your attitude of CSS and JavaScipt?

Links for the Weekend, 6-28-2008

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

10 Things Any Web Developer Worth Their Spit Should Know

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008
  1. DOCTYPE Declaration

    DOCTYPE (short for “document type declaration”) informs the browser of which HTML or XHTML standards you would like your code to be checked against. You’re essentially declaring to the browser that these are the rules that you have used to create this page and in return you are expecting that it will render accordingly. Failure to specify a DOCTYPE can lead to unexpected rendering — a developers worst nightmare.

    [ further reading ]

  2. Navigation

    A website’s navigation plays a key role in the success or failure of a site. It allows humans and search engines alike to easily locate the desired information. Or it doesn’t. Navigations made up of Flash or JavaScript/DHTML may seem attractive at first, but ultimately can cripple a website by not allowing search engines to crawl and index the entire site. In addition, viewers that choose not to partake in these technologies can be left with no means to move within the site.

    Most experienced webmasters have left such navigations back in the 90’s with all those AOL discs.

  3. CSS is Not an Option

    In the past webmasters could choose to ignore CSS if they so desired. Those days are gone. CSS is no longer an option, it’s part of the trifecta (see The Separation of Concerns for the trifecta) that makes up a quality website. A good webmaster will use CSS exclusively to define the look and layout of a website.

  4. The Separation of Concerns

    In days gone by web developers would meld HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code all into a single page; like a web page jambalaya. Inexperienced web developers may still do this, but the experienced ones took notice that the make up of any given page is defined by three elements: the content of the page, the presentation of that content and the behavior of that content.

    Realizing this, competent developers have made an effort to keep these three layers separate from one another. Kevin Yank does a fine job explaining our three layers in his article: Simply JavaScript: The Three Layers of the Web

    When building a site, we work through these layers from the bottom up:

    1. We start by producing the content in HTML format. This is the base layer, which any visitor using any kind of browser should be able to view.

    2. With that done, we can focus on making the site look better, by adding a layer of presentation information using CSS. The site will now look good to users able to display CSS styles.

    3. Lastly, we can use JavaScript to introduce an added layer of interactivity and dynamic behavior, which will make the site easier to use in browsers equipped with JavaScript.

  5. Cross-Browser Support

    Any developer that has been building websites for awhile has the battle scars that you get when you try and make your website work on all browsers. Each browser has it’s own idiosyncrasies (some more than others) and designing and redesigning your site to function under each can be a battle; but it’s a battle that must be fought and won.

    [ for more help with cross-browser CSS read this ]

  6. (more…)

Links for the Weekend, 6-21-2008

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Nicely-Fitting Background Images

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

In recent thread over at the SitePoint forums, someone asked how to have any sized image fit nicely into the viewport while maintaining its aspect ratio. The assumption is that all the content can fit in the viewport and no scrollbars are needed. While CSS is wonderful and magical, it doesn’t know the sizes of images and let us play with them to pixel perfection, so we must turn to good old JavaScript to maintain aspect ratio.

(more…)

Firefox 3 Opens Tomorrow

Monday, June 16th, 2008

“Just more than 10 years ago, Mozilla threw its open-source code into the public domain. Today, its browser — Firefox — is preparing to launch its third major release in hopes of continuing to eat away at Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

Firefox already has more than 18 percent of the global market, according to Net Applications. With the release of Firefox 3, Mozilla could see a boost in downloads and market share. Microsoft’s next version of Internet Explorer won’t come to market until later this year.

Tomorrow, Mozilla will release Firefox 3. After more than 34 months of active development and the contributions of thousands of people, Firefox 3 will be downloadable free from the Mozilla Web site. Mozilla is promising this is the best browser — period.”

[ more here and here]

3 C# 3.0 Shortcuts

Monday, June 16th, 2008

1. Automatic Properties

Automatic properties provide you with a shorthand for defining a new property. No more do we have to create the private property and then use Getters and Setters to access and set that property. Here’s the old code:
[ASP]
private string _Name;

public string Name
{
get {return _Name;}
set {_Name = value;}
}
[/ASP]

Now here’s the code using automatic properties:
[ASP]
public string Name {get; set;}
[/ASP]

Oh my! How nice is that? The C# compiler creates the Getters and Setters and the private fields for you automagically!

(more…)

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