I began doing web development in 1996, at a time where most people were first learning about the “World Wide Web”. Not my primary job function, I simply taught myself HTML so that I could post documentation and experiment results to avoid being interrupted at work with the same question 20 times a day.
Having experience with these fundamental building blocks of websites affords me a deeper understanding of the workings of web pages and scripts than many. It enables me to fix issues that others might not be able. It also affords me the freedom to create nearly anything someone can imagine rather than being at the mercy of what is available for me to cut and paste into a site.
Similar to my beginnings with HTML, I taught myself Perl in my early days at TI, in order to not have to rely on designers having time to fix issues with various deliverables that were needed to complete the various tasks that were the responislility of product engineers. You see, it’s not that hard to find the place in a text file where hex data in columns 88-92 are equal to “A996” and change the hex data in the same columns of the following line to “4C4C”, but it does take some time to complete this exercise on 500+ files. Rather than wait on designers to rerun simulations, I spent 10 minutes to write command-line scripts to perform the task in a matter of seconds.
Later in my career, as my scripts found wide-spread utilization across the company, I discovered that for certain tasks, it was much easier to convert scripts to be used in a web-browser, rather than field questions all day about scripts, especially when such questions were arose due to the fact that users were employing out-dated versions of scripts. And even later, I discovered PHP, which, being so closely related to Perl both, semantically and syntactically, took me a mere 3 weeks to learn.
When I first started doing web development, CSS was by far my weakest skill. More concerned with reducing tasks that would normally take an engineer hours of time to do manually into tasks that a web-server could do in mere seconds, the appearance of many of the applications I wrote was downright pathetic. The applications still saved the company thousands to millions of dollars though, which is really all i cared about at the time.
After leaving Texas Instruments, I quickly found out that selling apps that didn’t look very good to relative strangers was much more difficult that it was selling apps to a bunch of engineers that already understood what the tools would buy them. And so, I forced myself to spend some time concentrating on this paradigm, and eventually became quite competent with regards to the skill.
Now, although I don’t have all the latest CSS 2 & 3 constructs committed to memory, I can do front-end UI development with the best of them. When applicable, I utilize the latest CSS frameworks such as 960 grid system and YUI, and I always employ the most favorable practices such as table-less design. This allows me to easily guarantee that “PSD-to-ANY” conversions are pixel perfect and that the interfaces I design will are cross-browser compatible, no longer having to rely on the old addage that “Friends don’t let Friends user IE”.
As for AJAX, it’s my new thing. While it’s nothing difficult, the need for it in brochure sites and sites that are to be optimized for SEO, is very rare. However, my recent dedication to WP plugin development has brought to light a wide array of applications, and I utilize it more and more each day.
I’ve been using wordpress for the last 10 years as my CMS of choice. I’ve worked with WordPress in nearly every capacity, from bulding numerouse sites, some of them large scale, building pixel-perfect themes from PSD files, writing plugins, debugging 3rd party themes and plugins, performance optimization, large scale data migrations, system integration, etc.