Giving up on web design
I am not a web designer, so why do I keep acting like one?
Over the past few days I gave myself the luxury of a few unbroken half days to try and get to grips with the machinery underneath this website and to try and revive the Vaviblog. In the process, I've learned a bit about Grav and a lot about me and how I tackle this sort of thing.
The biggest single problem is how easy it is to simply suck it and see. Try something; save it; refresh the browser. Rinse and repeat. I've made a lot of progress that way, but I wouldn't say I have really deepened my understanding too much. I get some of the principles of programming; after all, I started been doing it around 45 years ago, with FORTRAN on an IBM370. The rot set in with my first personal computer, an Apple ][e, a dozen or so years later. Working in BASIC, it just became easier to try things rather than go through all the stages.
That's why I'm not a developer, nothing like. I know enough to get myself in trouble but not nearly enough to get out of it, and languages have become so powerful and so complex that even if I put my mind to it, I wouldn't know where to begin.
Take Grav. I need to understand both how the CMS itself works, which is one thing, and Twig, the templating system, which looks vaguely familiar but is well beyond me. Then there are hordes of other things: CSS, SCSS, responsive design and all of that.
Inevitably, as I tinker with some things, other things break and then I need to tinker with them. It's frustrating. Very frustrating. But also very rewarding.
I was talking all this through with The Main Squeeze, who is an artist, and in search of an analogy I said, "It's like messing around with the frame before you've done the painting."
And she shot back "No. It's like grinding your own pigments."
She's righter than she knows. If I had any ideas of becoming a hot-shot web designer, then the way to do it would be to apply myself conscientiously to all these technologies and really learn how they work and how to work with them. But I am not trying to become a web designer, I am just trying to recapture some of the feeling of those times when I did design websites because there was noone I could pay to do it for me.
Now, to avoid the frustration (and the rewards?), I have resolved to stop messing around and tinkering and just use someone else's design. And maybe not even try to do it with my new favourite CMS but go back to a vanilla installation of WordPress.
I'm forever telling other people that content is much more important than presentation. Time to take my own advice.
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