I’m currently plundering the torrent search engines for wallpapers. I cannot do graphics at all, and I would really like the new css design to actually look half decent. My plan is for one large image with different elements of the blog in different areas – but it’s just a plan, and it may well change. In fact it would be better if that did change wouldn’t it – after all, image placement is pretty cool too.
I can’t win. I could have a blog up and on display within an hour with everything positioned absolutely (cross-browser issues aside) but then some stupid bastard would just whinge that it’s crap because it looks bad, or the colours are wrong, or I didn’t make enough use of the z-index property or whatever. But winning isn’t the issue.
Take 3 people. Matt, Carthik and Mark. Each of these guys can program in PHP, they can no doubt write code in other languages, but did they just wake up one morning having had the contents of www.php.net magically assimilated into their minds ?
I’ll bet you whatever you want that each guy wrote <? print("Hello World") ?>, grinned, changed it to say his name and grinned some more. And I’ll bet they moved on to how to make text go down a line inside PHP, how to add numbers, how to make a number into a string, do something with that string, make the string back into what was now a different number and then print it out. It’s called learning and all learning is best done is small, manageable chunks. All learning. (And before someone talks about “In at the deep end learning”, that is a fallacy. The real name for that situation is “In at the deep end coping”).
Matt links to many ‘movers and shakers’ across the internet, but none of them will have learned how to do something in any other way than bit by bit, trial and error, sweating hours to try and get one thing right – something that may seem trivial to others, but for them it’s important, it’s a challenge.
On a course I did, I had the job of teaching someone how to prepare an injection. He was an accountant – he was scared to death of handling syringes and needles. So I broke the task down to the smallest component parts, and then demonstrated, talked and praised him through the task. In the end, this guy did a perfect job surrounded by a bunch of nurses with over 100 years experience between them. A testament to him and my teachings skills.
People learn in different ways, at different speeds, so if you are trying to help a diverse bunch of people, the very best thing you can do is use all available methods. If you can read a book and take it all in, good for you. If you prefer diagrams / pictures, then there is nothing wrong with that either. We are all different. We ‘work’ differently. In an industry, you might want to compare who is better at a job, who is more efficient, but with the internet – and blogging in particular – that just can’t be the case.
Blogs are promoted as a way to get yourself on the internet, to have your own webpage to communicate with others, to ‘join in’. When you are in any sort of crowd, you still want to be an individual, to ‘stand out’ that little bit, to be you – and blogs are no different. Now let’s say there were 20 blogging tools only (I have no idea of the real number), then those 20 tools have to cater to the needs of a huge number of bloggers. Skins may abound, but in essence they won’t change that much. A link I saw somewhere recently had an article about guessing the blogging tool from the page design – doesn’t say a whole bunch for blogging individuality does it ?
So … to get back to learning. Changing your blog design is, for most people, quite a challenge. You need a design (that’s where I stop!), you need flexibility in how your blog client can present the information and you need to know how to alter what you want to change. I can – to an extent – do 2 and 3 there. Others can do 1 and use WordPress, so all they need to know is 3, but simply pointing them at a book on CSS, or csszengarden just isn’t going to work for the majority. That isn’t how people learn. That’s how people get dazzled, overawed and very possibly discouraged – if you aspire to be a web designer that site may be nirvana for you, but if all you want to do is make your blog look nicer you will end up confused and frustrated.
I’m not going to pretend that the work I have done is definitive in any way, that it will revolutionise anything or that Eric Meyer should pass the mantle of CSS progression to me – far far far from it. But if looking at that work, and using what is there in conjunction with other CSS and WordPress help, means that someone can see how to do something they had wanted to, if they look at the css, use it and gain some confidence that every time they play with their code it won’t break, then it is doing it’s job.