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Conceptual Problem in need of a practical solution

  • # November 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Hi all!

    Having started t learn web programming but a semester ago, I am as newbie as it gets. I’m coding my portfolio website. Here are the requirements:

    **1. Display my portfolio in a meticulously handcrafted UX.** I’m obsessed with even the most minute details, and this was one of the reasons I went with coding the site myself.

    **2. Serve as a storefront for selected pieces,** purchasable via Paypal .

    **3. Host a biweekly blog.** The blog will not allow comments nor provide search functionality. Since it’ll simply be a chronological chain of posts and I want nanoscopic control over design, free from any extraneous elements such as adds or alien logos, I chose to forsake WordPress and similar CMS and code it myself.

    **4. Collect data form a contact us form and automatically send back a notification email.**

    I have made my arduous way through HTML5 and CSS3. I should also point out that I do not intend to pursue a career in web programming. This is just a side project, a one-time challenge. Here’s my question:

    **In order to implement all of the above functionality will I have to learn JavaScript – which I have yet to learn – or will learning PHP be required, as well or solely**?

    I do thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

    Kind Regards,

    PLNR

    __
    # November 26, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Coding a complex site yourself is not a “newbie” project. Please don’t take offense – *experienced* coders often find themselves in “over their heads.” While your site can benefit from “nanoscopic control over design,” it will also feel every last oversight. I’m not trying to discourage you, or to imply that you are incapable, but I don’t think you’re aware of just *how many* details there actually are.

    To answer your question about javascript vs. PHP, what you’re doing will likely require both. However, the simple fact that you had to ask indicates that you’re not aware of what is involved in the task.

    If you want to be meticulous with your design, you need to start now. Make an outline of every single detail that needs to be implemented, and how you will implement it. Look at other sites to find features you need. If your list is short, it’s not complete. : )

    # November 26, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    …I chose to forsake WordPress and similar CMS and code it myself.

    It was tough to pick a winner, but this line wins the “most ridiculous part” award about this thread.

    @traq is on point regarding Javascript vs. PHP. If you’re building your own CMS, you’ll definitely need both.

    Having said that, don’t build your own CMS.

    # November 27, 2012 at 5:14 am

    Let me clarify:

    1. It’s a lean website. 7 pages, static but for the Blog. Even the storefront will only feature a – one – item at any given time. It’s a simple website.

    2. I don’t want to, see no need to, hardly have the knowledge to build my own CMS. The blog will not allow comments and does not provide search functionality. It’s just a chain of biweekly posts. I don’t think the infrastructure to handle this qualifies as full blown CMS. Does it? Why shouldn’t it be done by hand?

    3. After having visited countless portfolio sites / blogs, gone through tenths of lists of Top portfolio sites, Top one page sites and what not, I have come to believe you can’t have complete design control in WordPress and other CMS. There always seems to be some dreadful vestige of the CMS crawling up the page. Am I mistaken?

    Again, I am most thankful for your input.

    # November 27, 2012 at 7:09 am

    > I have come to believe you can’t have complete design control in WordPress and other CMS. There always seems to be some dreadful vestige of the CMS crawling up the page. Am I mistaken?

    Yes. You are mistaken. Certainly if you want to take advantage of many features CMSs offer, the source code is likely to show that you are using the CMS, but that can be avoided and doesn’t impact on design regardless.

    # November 27, 2012 at 7:35 am

    @BenWalker,

    Thank you for your reply.

    Which CMS that afford me full control over which elements are displayed, how and when they are displayed , would you recommend?

    Another question, since the blog won’t allow comments, search nor have social features built in , which do you believe are the advantages of adopting a CMS versus hand coding in a simple chain of pages?

    Your help is much appreciated.

    __
    # November 27, 2012 at 10:04 am

    > Which CMS that afford me full control over which elements are displayed, how and when they are displayed …?

    Most of them. Almost any CMS allows you to create your own templates. I can’t think of one offhand that doesn’t – it’s one of their most basic purposes.

    since the blog won’t allow comments, search nor have social features built in , which do you believe are the advantages of adopting a CMS versus hand coding in a simple chain of pages?

    It’s just a chain of biweekly posts.

    There are many, many things a blog needs beyond those “extras.” How are you going to write the blog in the first place? How will you store the content? How will you manage your images? How will you retrieve your blogs in the proper order? How will you display and format them? How will you edit them? How will you handle metadata (publishing date, etc.)? How will you handle pagination?

    > 7 pages, static but for the Blog.

    What about your contact page? Unless it’s “just for show,” you’re going to have quite a bit of dynamic processing going on there also. It doesn’t happen automatically. You also have security to worry about when you allow people to compose messages and send them from your site.

    I can’t imagine that your product page and portfolio wouldn’t have some degree of dynamic scripting also.

    > There always seems to be some dreadful vestige of the CMS crawling up the page. Am I mistaken?

    As I said above, yes, you *can* have the kind of control over layout that you want using a CMS. The reason so many sites have “that look” to them is twofold: 1) that “look” is popular and functional, and 2) it’s easy to accomplish.

    Also (and again, I mean no offense), if you still consider HTML and CSS an “arduous” task, then you need to spend more time practicing with them before moving on to scripting languages. Javascript (in the *useful* sense) is very tightly coupled with the DOM. Likewise, PHP is very clunky, frustrating, and error-prone **if** *you don’t understand how to assemble the HTML you want*.

    # November 27, 2012 at 11:05 am

    @traq,

    Thank you very much. Very informative. And rest assured, no offense, none taken. Self-proclaimed newbie with an open chest: bring it on.

    I have browsed around WordPress homepage, and it seems to me they charge some hefty yearly 30 bucks in order for one to have complete control over the design.

    Is it possible – advisable – to code your site for the static bits and integrate and customize to your liking via CMS the dynamic parts – blog, contact forms, etc. -?

    Can you do that with Squarespace? Can you edit the underlying HTML/CSS/JS/PHP files? These questions may sound or indeed be absurd. I’m just trying to figure out which turn to make at the crossroad.

    Thanks a bunch.

    # November 27, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Aahhhh. I think you’re looking at WordPress.COM instead of WordPress.ORG. There is a massive difference between the two that unfortunately ins’t distinguished on either site enough. When you go to WordPress.org you’ll be able to download and install WordPress onto your own server for free. You won’t be required to show *any* WordPress logos anywhere, it’s just a platform to build off of.

    WordPress might be overkill for what you’re trying to do, but it’s my weapon of choice.

    Squarespace could be good for you. It’s tough to say how much control you *really* get from them at this point in time. If you are going to be really nitpicky about design elements, it’s probably not for you.

    # November 27, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    @TheDoc

    Beat me to it. I have just realized that. After some research on the matter, I think I’m going with WordPress. After all, CSS tricks is built upon it , isn’t it? What I need to get straight is the workflow, given my main concern is absolute design control.

    Say I go with WordPress, I build the infrastructure. It generates some code. Do I get to edit the output, the HTML/CSS/JS/PHP files it generates? How easy is this to do?

    I can give you a specific example. I have been designing the nav bar in HTML5/CSS3. The whole site is built around a dual harmonic scale, meaning measurements fit somewhere along that scale. Additionally, they are expressed in REMs. I’m writing things like

    letter-spacing: 0.146rem;

    Can I achieve this kind of precision while using WP? In a way, I’m asking how transparent is WP? Is it just a backbone which you can render invisible to the end user?

    Warm regards to you!

    # November 27, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    > Is it just a backbone which you can render invisible to the end user?

    Yes.

    What you can do to start is just build out all of the different templates you are going to need in pure HTML/CSS/JS and *then* migrate them over to WordPress. You’ll likely have a few templates: Home, Regular Page, Any Custom Pages, Contact Page, Blog Listing, Single Blog Post, etc.

    Make sure you code all of those up and then you can turn it into a WordPress ‘theme’.

    # November 28, 2012 at 9:26 am

    @DOC, I think I may have seen The Light.

    Hi guys!

    This is what I have in mind:

    1. The entire site loads upfront but for the notable exception of the blog, so that when the user clicks on a link the appropriate new content is shown without the user being actually moved to a new page.

    2. Common structural components like the nav bar behave like modules shared by every page.

    3. Content is pulled from different pages and assembled via WP. This allows users to directly access secondary pages without first visiting the homepage, i.e., typing in myportfolio.com/paintings will display the appropriate content.

    **Does this model sound reasonable? What do you see as potential challenges? Does it in any way compromise SEO**?

    Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.

    Warmest regards,

    PLNR

    # November 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Well, if you are just getting into development this is going to be a massive undertaking that will likely lead to many sleepless nights. I’d get comfortable building a single static website before trying to tackle an AJAX driven WordPress site.

    # November 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    AHh *sigh*
    Darn.

    “I have the simplest taste. I am always satisfied with the best”- Oscar Wilde

    Ok.
    Baby steps.
    I reckon I have at least a full year ahead before launch. Just out of curiosity, how much would a pro charge for coding such a site?

    # November 28, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    All depends on the pro. Anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000, likely.

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