WordCamp Philly: A bit of a follow up

In the gentle words of an aging pop star: “If I could turn back time.”

Due to technical issues (stupid 1st-generation MacBook Air and its esoteric video out) the presentation I was able to give only amounted to about half of what I had hoped to do. The goal was to demonstrate with live code the way a WordPress theme folder’s different files affect the browser output. The goal was to demonstrate how, armed with this knowledge, a designer can make it easier for themselves and the developers who will slice their layouts.

You can see the slides at the end of this post. A few colleagues and they have commented that the use of labeled overlays was a good way to demostrate the relationship between the theme files and the Photoshop layers. When I came to that point in my talk and kept the slides up for a bit, I scanned the audience. Most of them had a look of realization. Not all, but most, and that was what I was looking for, ultimately: that moment where everything clicks into place.

I had left out a demonstration of the reusability and modularity of theme files using get_template_part, which was a segue into DRY not just for developers but also for designers. We all have our base templates in Photoshop with which to create comps, right? I had left out a demonstration of the use of conditionals in the theme, and how it can be shown in comping.

Basically, my favorite bits, the parts that blur the line between digital graphic design (a medium of pixels) and web design (a medium of HTML, CSS, Javascript, and related technologies) were lost. But I do have other opportunities to expand on this, on this here blog and also in future talks. So, here are my slides. Hopefully they help.


Posted on: November 17, 2011 at 7:19 pm under: WordCamp

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WordCamp Philly 2011 Presentation Resources

I did that way too quickly.

Hi everyone, thanks for attending my talk at WordCamp Philly. This zip file has the PSD, an HTML folder, and a WordPress theme folder. You can install that theme folder into your local WP install and test it out, or you can explore the files using your favourite text editor so you can see the relationship between PSD layers and theme files.

Thank you and see you around.

Posted on: November 5, 2011 at 11:34 am under: WordCamp

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WordCamp Raleigh 2011 Presentation: Bridging the Designer-Developer Gap

Well, that was nerve-wracking.

Here are the slides


And some additional commentary

I suppose, if I’m out to talk in a manner that challenges folks to leave their comfort zones, I’ll be bound to have someone in the audience who won’t like what they hear. The whole aim of the talk was to challenge folks to expand their skills to stay relevant in the medium. For print designers, it means that designing for the web is not just a matter of pixels but HTML, CSS and JS (and I admit that I am largely ignorant of Javascript).

After speaking with my colleagues and friends who were there, the consensus is that anyone designated “web designer” is one who implements a graphic design into the language of the web itself; this means that a graphic design education that ignores these languages is deficient for this medium.

If you think that finding the easiest, purchaseable solution will be enough for even the shadow of a career in a design consultancy, you are sorely mistaken. I’ve seen plenty of tweets from programmers (or in common parlance, developers)—self-taught, school educated or both—who sneer the idea that someone who can implement plugins is considered a “developer,” and for the same reason, any designer who thinks they can slap a logo on a prepackaged theme and call it a day is…eh.

I guess they can keep the title. Just as false prophets, we will know them by their work.

I was happy with the open discussion from the audience towards the end of my session; I was not expecting that. When I spoke last year, I had an audience that didn’t have to feel the need for commiseration. They were looking for direction, and my talk last year was a very gentle nudge. This year, I could see that the talk encouraged discussion from that has been bubbling under the surface.

One takeaway that seemed to stick was it was a matter of communication. Yes, but it’s only the first step. You can’t communicate clearly the concepts that you have little to no grasp of, so, yes, by all means, be a better communicator by knowing what you’re talking about.

Reception was far more positive than I expected, and I am very thankful for each and every one who thanked me for my presentation. I was worried that the message would be lost in the midst of the discussion at the end; that people would walk away thinking it was a whole lot of nothing. Judging by the responses from everyone, I’m glad that it wasn’t.

Perhaps the best part was after the talk when someone approached me, saying she knew HTML and CSS and has a background in writing, and just wanted to know how to make a WordPress theme. I tried explaining the hierarchy to her and realized she needed even more basic information, so when I had the chance I sat with her for fifteen minutes and explained the concept of template tags and how WordPress prevents designers from repeating themselves. Yes, Virginia, there are such people who have such a need to learn even this most basic of concepts. Contrast her willingness to learn, cf. the flippant attitude of merely leveraging money to meet a goal, and you see the diversity in my audience.

Maybe I could’ve handled it better. When I was asked, “why should I learn HTML when I could just buy a theme,” I imagined I had a look of sheer disbelief. I wasn’t thinking “how dare you,” but rather, “sir, it is this very attitude that I aim to combat,” because relying on buying your way through a craft doesn’t make you a better craftsman. I believe in craftsmanship. It’s the philosophy behind the cryptic “code is poetry” dictum surrounding WordPress. And I will be spreading the word: we can always, always do better.

Posted on: May 24, 2011 at 2:46 am under: WordCamp
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I’m speaking at WordCamp Raleigh

“Bridging The Designer/Developer Gap” is aimed at helping attendees learn a bit more about each other, themselves and the wid and wacky skill set that we all need when working with WordPress.

Do you call yourself a designer, or a developer, or perhaps a hybrid of both, in varied proportions? What has led you to say so? Most of us have been self-taught in WordPress, but most designers carry some formal education in their field and developers are also likely to have had classes in computer science and other programming-related courses.

Whether you call yourself a designer or developer, you’ve probably had to learn a bit of The Other Side’s skills in order to progress with a project. That, or you’ve subcontracted  work out to others. If you’re a designer, have you ever had the developer you’re working with come back to you and say, “this solution may not be the best”? If you’re a developer, have you ever been handed a comprehensive layout and thought to yourself, “if only this designer knew a little bit of what I had to do to make this design work“?

If any of these teaser questions apply to you, then you may want to come to my talk. I can’t promise I’ll have the answers, but I’ll be encouraging some lively discussion and hopefully we can share with each other how we’ve dealt with challenges like this.

And if you’re not at Raleigh, I’ll try to post video after the event.

Posted on: May 19, 2011 at 9:00 am under: WordCamp

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