In my quest for knowledge I’ve learned that there is no better teacher than experience. Allow me to explain…
I’m giving a few presentations this spring on navigation in responsive design. I first gave this talk at CSS Dev Conf in December 2012. RWD is still a pretty hot topic right now as we see more and more large websites move to responsive design. I love the challenge of building a responsive site, especially when it comes to navigation patterns and content flow. That’s why I like speaking about this topic.
I made a website for my talk back in December - responsivenavigation.net (the .com was already taken). This site has a bunch of demos and examples of responsive navigation patterns. I built the site rather quickly in my spare time since I was placing more effort into the actual slides for my talk. But now I realize that the site needs more beef - it’s gotta get redesigned.
While originally building that website I realized that I was learning a lot - like a lot about what I was going to speak on. Having to build that site made me learn more about my topic and therefore gave me a more intimate knowledge of what I was going to talk about. So I basically learned by doing.
Learn By Doing
The experience I gathered from building that site made be better at building responsive navigation as well as an overall better developer. It taught me way more than reading a bunch of books and blog articles could have ever taught me.
I realize that when it comes to web development this not only the best way to learn, sometimes it’s the only way to learn. But what about everything else in life? What about learning a new language or building a deck in your backyard? Actually doing something and jumping right into it is sometimes much more effective than learning about it first.
I’ve found that reading books is great, but you need to quickly apply the knowledge from books to real life situations if you ever want to truly absorb that information.
And learning something new really isn’t that hard if you have an end goal in mind. If I want to learn a new web technology, I’ll give myself a small goal of trying build a small app or website with that new technology. Then I have something to work towards. I have an actual measurable goal and end-point. Once I reach that goal I can apply everything I just learned into something new - a bigger and better project.
I personally don’t see a lot of people with the balls to go out there and learn something that they’ve always wanted to try. They think, “oh I can’t do that” or “wouldn’t it be nice to do that - I just (insert lame excuse here)”. You get the point. So stop making excuses and get out there and learn something new - do work.
Speaking at any kind of conference is usually a big deal. But when you get the chance to speak at a conference with the industry’s best and brightest, seasoned veterans, highly esteemed colleagues, and people that are generally way smarter than you - it’s an even bigger deal.
At least that’s how I felt when I was chosen to give this presentation - I was pretty jazzed.
CSS Dev Conf featured speakers from all over the world and converged in Honolulu, HI. It was a one-day conference that consisted of a series of hour-long talks on everything CSS. The content presented was nothing short of awesome - responsive design, flexbox, adaptive images, media queries… the list goes on. But honestly, no single presentation stuck out for me. I loved the opening and closing keynotes, but what I came away with, more-so than anything else, was inspiration.
Of course, I always come away from tech conferences with some new technical knowledge, but what I love the most is the inspiration that I get. It’s inspiring to be around like-minded people with new ways of doing things that maybe just launched the coolest website you’ve ever seen. It’s the success stories - and sometimes the big failure stories - that inspire me to want to do better and make awesome things. It’s tough to put into words, but the small things that you learn along the way seem to make the biggest difference in my everyday workflow. These intangible pieces of knowledge are what make me a better web developer and what make me love web conferences. So when I say that no single presentation stuck out to me - maybe I mean that no single presentation gave me the most inspiration - it was the sum of all the parts.
A Tidbit of Knowledge
Chris Coyier had a great closing keynote and talked about how to make big decisions. His first thing to do was to get a good night’s sleep. I love that. Get a good night’s sleep. Most people don’t do that anyway, let alone before they make a big decision. And it’s so true - you always feel better after a good night’s sleep. I thought this piece of advice was almost profound.
The conference was terrific and I left feeling very inspired. Although I ended up catching a cold on my last day there, at least I got to enjoy the conference and catch some sun.
“Do work son”
-Christopher “Big Black” Boykin
In case you haven’t guessed by now, I love the phrase “do work”. Although I can’t just slap that on my website since Big Black technically coined that phrase first. But I digress. More on “doing work” in a later blog post.
So this is my first blog since 2008. Welcome back me! My old blog was focused on stories about what I was doing at the time and just random posts on life in general. But since then, my business (and life) has changed focus and direction. Back in 2008 it used to be just me freelancing as Avenue 3 Media. Now I’m a partner at a small web shop called AO Studios. Our sibling company, Golf Web Design, is our pride and joy as we have taken the golf industry by storm since 2009.
Back when I first started my blog I was working on all kinds of projects - mostly WordPress themes and static HTML sites. And was still getting over the use of tables (OMG). I know, right?
But now I’m much more mature and have some experience under my belt. I recently gave a presentation about navigation in responsive web design at CSS Dev Conf in December. I’ve built a few mobile apps and I’ve got a nice portfolio of work to show. I have learned a lot along the way and I love sharing my experiences. And I’m also very lucky that I get to work on fun projects for a living.
So this time I decided to start a different type of blog. This one is built on a fancy CMS called Statamic (I’m sure that I will write a blog post or two about it). And I figured that I should write some more sophisticated stuff this time. Maybe. Either way, this time around I’m going to solve all the world’s problems. I figured that would be more fun.