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Web Development

The giants of code

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There is a fascinating discussion, on the LinkedIn forum, “Web Designer and HTML/CSS Developer“, that I never noticed before and unusually, for such an interesting subject, haven’t participated in.LinkedIn logo

I’ve been very busy, lately, as can be witnessed by the lack of posting here, in recent times.

The discussion concerns replies to the initial posting “Just curious, but how many of you develop web sites from scratch (coding the HTML, CSS, JavaScript from scratch.)” from Tom Field.

Just to give my take – most of this discussion concerns templates (i.e. HTML, CSS & JS in some sort of framework). Well, I’ve been around for a long time. My first web site (all about me) was built in notepad, in the late 1980s.

I absolutely believe in the re-usability of code – and it doesn’t have to be written by me. I use CMS frameworks, such as Joomla and WordPress, so that I can pay homage to the wonderful coders who are building them. I use tools to create templates that are precisely to my clients’ tastes. I re-use HTML, CSS and JS that I have written myself, in the past or that have been created by others. I tweak PHP, so that it does exactly what I want it to do.

Having said that, I love coding and I do what I can, myself. Mostly I currently write extensions for existing frameworks, using PHP in an MVC framework, to neatly generate HTML/CSS/JS, so that special functionality, that does not exist already – or exists in an unacceptable form – may be tapped into.

Even when I do that, I am researching, copying, borrowing ideas, taking on board the work of the ‘giants’.

In the philosophical thinking of Bernard of Chartres, twelfth-century French Neo-Platonist philosopher, scholar, and administrator,  “we [the Moderns] are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants [the Ancients], and thus we are able to see more and farther than the latter. And this is not at all because of the acuteness of our sight or the stature of our body, but because we are carried aloft and elevated by the magnitude of the giants.”

Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton borrowed this concept, in a letter to Robert Hooke, saying: “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants.”

– or, in modern language,

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”.

This same principle applies to all walks of life, whether technical or artistic. Coding is no exception.

 

Free Software FoundationIt has also been used as the slogan of the Free Software Movement.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

In other words, if my code all works as it should do and does unique things that have never been done before, it is because I borrow from the coding giants of the past.

How indebted are we all to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, for example?

So, my opinion is that we should never shirk from using work that has been created for us, in the past, but we should never hesitate to re-write, create, re-code, re-use and to work with existing well-tried frameworks, libraries and snippets – and all in order to deliver fresh, smart, unique functionality. Don’t let us get hung up on templates and the cosmetic appearance of things. It’s the functionality that counts – although we must also not neglect the cosmetic appearance of a website or app, because hidden in there is also functionality.

User-friendliness is the key to giving our tools to the end users of our projects and offering them possibilities that they could not have achieved, in any other way.

Re-usable code is the key to reaching that goal in the most efficient, most useful and most cost-effective way possible.

3 comments to The giants of code

  • hello, Jennifer,

    Yes, I have been using Artisteer for some years, now.

    First, let’s talk about textures. This is from the Artisteer Help system:


    Texture refers to a special graphic that represents a type of design. In the gallery, there are many textures you can select from that are ‘colorless’. These are displayed in different shades of blue. Colorless textures acquire the color of the background fill color. For example, if your background is Red, when the texture is applied, the design will also appear in Red with the same saturation as the original thumbnail in the
    gallery.
    In the gallery, there are also several images and textures in color; some are designs and some are picture images. The color weight and saturation for colored images and textures may be modified in the Page Background Options (using the custom value dialog icon ).

    You can import a texture from a file, which should be a jpg, gif or png graphic, that you have previously prepared. We are also told that if we “insert custom images or textures.”, then ‘Before pasting the image, specify the image position and Blend Mode.”

    This also from the Help system:

    The effects you can apply depend on the texture or image. If you are using a colored image, you can apply a color effect to change or offset the pattern of colors in the image: e.g. tint, recolor, grayscale If you are using a non-colored texture, you may or may not be able to change the color effects. For example, if you select the ‘palm trees’ in the Horizontal Floral group, you can invert the colors in the texture (you are not really inverting the colors, as much as changing which shade of color should be assigned to each area). But if you choose the second horizontal bottom texture in the gallery, the ‘effects’ option is disabled; you cannot invert colors for this texture. With non-colored textures, you can invert the colors, or you choose a two color layout.

    As far as glares are concerned, much the same applies. We are told:


    The Light Effect Gallery offers various glares you can use to enhance your design. You can further customize the Light Effect by selecting ‘Options’ (see Glare in the Page Background Options below). Hint: you can visualize this better if you select no gradient and texture for the background, use a lighter color, and set the transparency to 0 for the background and glare.

    You can also select ‘From file’, as with textures:

    —to insert a custom light effect from a file. Hint: the light effect may also be an image, which may be useful if you want to overlay another image on the page background.

    and


    A ‘glare’ is a special type of texture pattern that emulates a lighting effect like the rays of the sun, or light reflected from a surface. Scale simply reduces the size of the graphic relative to the page background.

    For more information, just read the manual at http://files3.artisteer.com/Artisteer4_User_Manual.pdf .

    N.B The images that are supplied with Artisteer appear to be copy protected, so they cannot be opened with a normal graphics viewer. This does not mean that the images that you import via the ‘From file’ option cannot be normal graphic files.

  • Jennifer

    Hi Ray,
    This comment is not related to this post but to Artisteer. I saw a thread on linkedn about Artisteer. You seem to be someone who uses it often. I have been trying to find an answer to a question of mine. How can you create your own glares and textures like are built into the software.
    Thanks
    Jennifer

  • anoe

    interesting read Ray,

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