Staying Relevant in the Digital Age: Learning Coding for the Web

To put it simply, the web is the future. If there’s one essential skill that employees will need to set themselves apart in the digital age, it’s a strong familiarity with the way the internet works and at least a basic understanding of how to code for the web.

Virtually every legitimate company has some form of a website these days, and customers have come to expect it. Without one, a company has slim chances for success, so if you’re an entrepreneur, it’s a good idea to have a grasp of HTML and CSS.

Intelligent.ly to the rescue! Join us HTML/CSS 101: Getting to Know the Face of the Web, taught by the one and only Tom Boates (@tomboates), Vice President of User Experience at RunKeeper.

Tom has a ton of experience in all things web design. He began coding for the web by starting off in Flash to create animated intros for sites in high school, moving on to freelancing for a number of projects including AJM Architects, Oedipus, and more, and now heads the development of the RunKeeper user interface.

In addition to being a design guru, Tom also has a passion for music and is the official DJ of the Patriots Cheerleaders. But how did he land that job? Tom told us how he got involved with the Pats and let us in on a few web design tips. Read on below.

I.LY: How did you become the official DJ of the Patriots Cheerleaders? Where did your passion for music come from?

TB: One of my great friends Robyn Glaser works with the Patriots organization and passed my mashups around to friends and it spread throughout the team offices.  I’m told the cheerleaders would listen to my mashups sometimes around practices before the director actually reached out to me to do their music.

My passion for music came from a very musical family–my mother was a vocalist and pianist, and my father was my HS band director and plays trombone professionally all over the country.  I used to compose 4 part versions of childrens songs in MarioPaint for Super nintendo and eventually graduated to professional notation software Finale arranging video game themes.  After playing trombone through grade school I picked up quite a few more instruments (guitar, bass, drums, etc.) and started writing songs, producing recordings, and eventually making the mashups I focus mostly on today.

I.LY: What are the differences between the three web coding languages HTML, Javascript, and CSS?

To me, HTML is the language that defines the structure of the content on your page, Javascript is a client side language that makes your web page more dynamic, allowing you to retrieve information from a database or manipulate elements of the page in real-time, and CSS is the language that merely defines how the content on your page looks.  There are actually some blurry lines there, but that’s probably the simplest way to break it down.

I.LY: What, in your opinion is the best way to go about starting to design for the web?

TB: In my opinion, learning how to code was probably the biggest asset to me when designing for the web.  Any graphic artist can make a beautiful design in a standalone package (like for print), but it takes a different perspective when designing a functional UI that lives and breathes like a web app.  In addition, there are little design choices that could translate to days of work.  Several years ago, designing something with rounded corners or shadows meant you had to tack on days or sometimes weeks to a design.  Knowing how something you design gets translated to code can help you make the best design decisions for both beauty and speed.

I.LY: What’s the easiest way to learn coding?

TB: Practice! While I definitely started from books to learn the specific syntax I needed to know to write code, it really wasn’t until I actually started writing code and bringing some creative visions I had to life that I started to really feel like I knew what I was doing.  Knowing what tools you need to use is a great start, but you won’t be a master of your craft until you’ve spent some time actually building things (and likely royally messing up several times along the way).

I.LY: If you could be an expert in one skill by tomorrow, what would it be?

TB: Flying a plane. I grew up near an air force base and have always been fascinated with planes and would love to be able to fly one some day.  My favorite plane is an A-10 Warthog and if I could somehow de-weaponize one and fly it recreationally I would!

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Learn about HTML and CSS! Sign up for this class today!

HTML/CSS 101: Getting to Know the Face of the Web
Thursday, June 21, 2012
6:00 – 7:30 pm
500 Harrison Ave, 3R

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