December 01, 2013
I've been playing around with all sorts of programming languages for the past couple of years but hadn't committed to any of them. I understood programming in principle but couldn't find it in myself to dig in. I'm not exactly sure what happened but, a couple of months ago, I finally chose a language to focus on: Python.
Even though I didn't know a single person who could help me, I dug in. I read Real Python then Real Python for the Web. And while I'm just getting started with these tools, I'm over my learning hurdle and starting to make some things that are pretty decent.
I suspect learning hurdles are unique for each person however, I'd bet that they all stem from the same place. Feeling like you don't know what you're doing is very unsettling. You might feel dumb for a while, but don't let that hold you back.
Here's the secret: get comfortable with the idea of being embarrassingly bad at what you're trying to learn, but set a goal and get it done. Don't worry about the elegance of your work — not yet — just get it done. You'll get good enough to know that you can do it better, then go ahead and figure that out. Before you know it, you'll know what you're doing and it'll feel really good.
July 09, 2013
If you know me, you've probably heard me talk lovingly about Build Guild. Today marks its fifth anniversary of existence and my third anniversary of attending. It's difficult to emphasize how much I owe to one meetup.
The good friends and connections Amy and I made in years one and two allowed us to go independent and co-found Height & Hands, our own tiny design shop which we ran successfully for over a year.
In year three, when the time was right, we said goodbye to Height & Hands and introduced The Outfit. Guess where I met my four new business partners for the first time? My first Build Guild.
Here's the deal: you may need to overcome a little social anxiety like I did. You're going to have to make an effort to say hello (not difficult with this affable group) and make new friends. Most importantly, you're going to have to show up consistently. But if you do, you'll be rewarded with a strong network and great friends that are always happy to lend a hand. Heck, you may even get a business (or two) out if it.
Sincere thanks go out to Build Guild co-founder, former co-host of Build Guild Salem and my current business partner, Marc Amos, and to current co-host Fred LeBlanc for making something great.
July 06, 2013
It's been a busy half year, not only for me and my team at The Outfit, but in the content management world as well. Recently I put Statamic through its paces and, while it's definitely worth a look, now it's Craft's turn with it's recently released 1.0 version.
I like Craft a lot. The Pixel & Tonic team has taken the opportunity of a clean slate to make an unburdened and modern content management system. It comes with features out of the box that make it powerful enough for developers to love, but with a simple yet feature-packed control panel to make clients swoon. They probably won't swoon, but they should. Here are my favorite bits:
The base of Craft is free, which is plenty for you to get a sense of what the software can do. Need more features? Pay only for what you need. This freemium model was a wise move to boost developer adoption – it worked on me. Upgrades for multiple content sections, users and more are individual "packages" which can be activated from the Craft control panel.
One Click Updating
I don't understand why this feature is so hard to come by. When I heard that Craft had it, my heart fluttered. For me, giving a client (or myself) the ability to keep their CMS up-to-date is key. Up-to-date sites are more secure for the client and make it easier for developers to pick up old projects with confidence.
There hasn't been a project I've worked on where this question doesn't pop up: "How do I preview my page before it goes live?" And it always breaks my heart to say: "Well it's possible, but it's going to take more time and money."
This is one of those features that is typically underrated by developers and adored and/or expected by clients who are not as confident about web publishing. Craft's implementation of Live Preview is incredibly elegant and beautifully executed.
It's customizable, responsive and beautifully designed. There's very little to learn and it's eminently approachable. I know that this is sounding a little gushy at this point but, hey, credit where credit is due.
Glorious Field Types!
Craft comes with a bundle of field types to help you make a great CMS experience for your client. Each field type is like a tool in your toolbox and they're fairly intuitive to use.
Twig for Templating
Craft uses Twig to handle templating which is by far the biggest learning curve I experienced while getting to know the CMS. I've only scratched the surface of Twig but the power is obvious. The slide out panel on this blog for example, which requires a custom plugin in Statamic or ExpressionEngine, is achievable in Twig with no extra plugins.
The only drawback that I can see at the moment is the lack of a robust library of plugins. Straight up Craft is off to a decent start but it's hardly comprehensive... for now.
Where to start
While the docs are well organized and definitely helpful, I found Mijingo's tutorial videos very helpful to get started. We're spoiled rotten with good CMS choices these days but Craft is definitely worth a shot.