June 30th, 2008 - by Golgotha

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?

14 Responses to “How Good Are You at JavaScript and CSS?”

1 blake

The thing that I despise the most about web design is cross browser compatibility. Fortunately, I’m not that bad at it with CSS. Unfortunately, I’m not that good at it with JavaScript. From my experience, I generally have no problems with CSS and JavaScript cross browser compatibility with Opera, Safari, and Firefox, but the IEs always give me headaches. I really wish that MS would just give up the browser game, and ship with all the free browsers installed and let the end user decide. I’m to the point that if the site looks OK in IE6, but still has a few glitches, I don’t even worry about it. However, I must have it looking nice in IE7. My only hope is that IE8 won’t suck. :)

2 Eran Galperin

For Javascript its best to use a framework that abstracts the pains of cross-browser compatibility. My personal favorite it jQuery but all the major ones should do a good job.

CSS is a different beast, but with enough experience you can avoid most of the cross-browser issues before you even begin to test your site on multiple browsers, and then using the different browser specific rules its easy to make everything work well on all of them.

3 Golgotha

@Eran – No doubt a JavaScript library is the way to go. I use YUI, but that’s not a good way to learn JavaScript…

4 Eran Galperin

Using an open-source library is a great way to learn how experienced and skilled practitioners write their code. I learned a lot from studying the jQuery source whenever I needed to know how/why something works in there.

5 blake

While JS libraries are nice, don’t people sometimes just want to write a small JavaScript function for a specific functionality without having to include an entire library? I do quite frequently.

6 Golgotha

@Eran – Point taken…

@blake – Yep, me too.

7 Jon Humphrey

I too find the inconsistencies between browsers an absolute nightmare, and have for the past 15 or so years I’ve been playing with them! Having to make them do what they need to instead of what they want to has led me down the path of utilising a library to make the hard work easier, i.e.jquery for me as well!

Although it does make it easier to get things to work across the screens, it too leads to a heavy dependency on the nuances of the specific library which could, and usually does, bog you down when you need to break out of the confines and “create your own from scratch”.

It takes time, and loads of patience, but eventually the light does go on and then you have the behaviors you need, and the separation from your chosen repository, to allow you to work through what ever issue you are facing!

Good luck to all, and maybe, someday, we will be free from the idiocrasies of these age old rant and we will have a wonderful place to work, and play!

8 Jim

I find the pain point for me to actually sittind down and really learning CSS or JavaScript is the cross browser problems.

9 out of 10 the web page / site was required yesterday, well that is not strictly true but the people I woork with EXPECT the site to be done as quickly as possible and tight deadlines are set.

I don’t have time to mess with CSS / JavaScript to make things beautiful from scratch, I do however have the time to take code from example sites and hope for the best, I have time to tweak what someone else has already written but this does not allow for a constructive learning session.

My point, I’m not a CSS guru, I’m not a JS guru, but I sure know where to find the best frameworks & resources to allow me to get what is needed done quickly.

9 Link Building Bible

These are definitely areas I need work in. I can kind of get around in CSS and make modifications that I need to make, but I am not too great at it.

10 Paul OB

If everyone could do it then I’d be out of a job :)

CSS cross browser issues can be a pain but most times the issues are because something was not done right in the first place and the issue could be avoided or side-stepped.

As we know most problems are with IE and it is easy to target IE versions to make the code work. However this weekend I’ve been working on a rendering issue a user has with Firefox 3 compared to Firefox 2 and there is no real cure for this as you can’t target the different versions.

I think we just have to accept that there will be differences because of the many platforms available and learning CSS or Javascript also means learning all the bugs and differences that go hand in hand with them.

It’s a pain but that’s life :)

[...] website designers ranging from students, hobbyists and companies. Lately I read an article titled; How Good Are You at JavaScript and CSS? I’ve seen someone in UK mentioning this and they too said Javascript was one of the website [...]

12 Robert K

Javascript is one of those things, that never felt really natural for me to pick up, as there were no from my generation of programming Integrated Development Enviornments that offered functioning auto-complete. Even now, most IDE’s which work for javascript don’t have proper auto-complete without special indexing comments in the javascript libraries. Essentially crap autocomplete, where as java, c/c++, C#, etc don’t need that but they are not dynamically typed langauges so..

13 Golgotha

Robert – that is a good point, but the IDEs are getting better (Visual Studio 2008 and IntelliJ).

[...] website designers ranging from students, hobbyists and companies. Lately I read an article titled; How Good Are You at JavaScript and CSS? I’ve seen someone in UK mentioning this and they too said Javascript was one of the website [...]

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