The Learning Process – Slow and Steady is Key

The Learning Process – Slow and Steady is Key

The job of web professional requires constant learning. It seems that more than any other industry of the modern era, ours is not only comprised of numerous technologies, specialities and areas of focus; these technologies evolve at a pace unmatched certainly by the other design disciplines. Both novice and experienced web designers/developers alike should have some sense of a learning track and goals both short term and long term.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed, but it is important to remember that our knowledge in any area is accumulative, developed over time with repetition. With that in mind, realize that with dedication and focus, concepts that seem obtuse now will eventually click on in those treasured “a-ha” moments. By continually working with these technologies, I gradually gained knowledge overtime – but it was always task or project based. While I am intellectually curious about it all, I understand that I simply can not absorb it all instantly.

For me, it was invaluable that I began my self taught education by learning how to hand code HTML in a simple text editor. I was able to learn the very basic building blocks of the markup language in a way that I simply would not have had I relied on an HTML builder like Dreamweaver or Frontpage (remember that program? UUgh I shudder to think…). I did the same thing when diving into CSS – I made sure to take my time and read as much material and practice as many concepts as I could in order to fully grasp the concepts. It took more time initially, but as I spent more time working with the languages, the knowledge sank in.

I take the same tack with javascript or WordPress – if there is something I am trying to achieve, I will search first for solutions to the problem that rely primarily on direct code as opposed to looking for a plugin to solve the problem. This way I learn the building blocks of the technology I am working with, and if I do eventually use a plugin, I at least know the abstraction or mechanics behind the functionality.

Many times we add to our knowledge base by searching out solutions for projects that do not immediately fall within our direct experience. Of course, these are most often for clients and can at times be stressful – if we are under tight deadlines for example – but sometimes the old adage “necessity is the mother of invention” proves true and we are forced to learn by the circumstances at hand.

I am also a big fan of self motivated projects with a specific goal in mind; examples might be converting your static website into a WordPress driven one in order to learn about setting up a database driven, PHP based CMS; migrating your site’s style sheets from plain CSS to a LESS or SASS preprocessor based CSS; converting simple hover events in a site to CSS3 based animations; or even something more ambitious like redesigning your site to feature responsive design etc is worthwhile. Jotting down simple goals and then logically thinking through the steps necessary to achieve the goals help with logical problem solving, and the process of learning a new skill can be accomplished in bite sized chunks at your own leisure.

Remember, Google is your friend here. But I also love these sites for learning new techniques:

http://blog.teamtreehouse.com/
(Technology education site)
http://www.smashingmagazine.com/
(One of the most prominent sites on design/development)
http://wp.tutsplus.com/
(WordPress specific tutorials)
http://net.tutsplus.com/
(General web design/development tutorials)
http://css-tricks.com/
(CSS useful tricks and resources)
http://stackoverflow.com/
(Coding forum – ask/answer code specification questions)

These are just a few that I look to regularly. In truth, there is so much great information out there for the dedicated individual that wants to get started learning or increase their knowledge. Just remember, take it slow and steady, keep at it and soon enough you will be surprised at how much you have learned.

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