Sandra Clark Rocked My World
Posted July 11, 2007 at 7:50 AM by Ben Nadel
I'm not just a web developer, I'm a ColdFusion applications developer. I'm also a graphic designer, a user interface designer, and I try to keep a constant view of the overall user experience in mind. Just like the lot of you, I have to employ many different skill sets to get work done on a daily basis. As such, there's always about a thousand different things rattling around in my head.
To help cope with this, I pretty much take it for granted that I have a very strong grasp on the basics of web development; that way, I don't have to think about the little things, thereby allowing me to concentrate on the higher level aspects of web development (not to mention all the effort it takes just to stay current in our field). Of course, this only works if my premise about the basics are correct.
As it turns out, my premise is dead wrong. At the recent CFUNITED ColdFusion conference, Sandra Clark rocked my world with her session titled, "CSS Back To Basics." In it, she completely shook my believe that I had any handle on the basic building blocks of web development. Whereas before, I thought my thorough understanding of H tags, P tags and DIV tags was enough to cover the basics, Sandra Clark opened my eyes to a whole world of standard XHTML tags that I had never used before, or at least, may not have used correctly.
Definition Lists for intake forms - but forms have nothing to do with definitions? Block level Label elements - that seems so weird. Grouping navigation into an unordered list - doesn't that just add more noise? An Address tag - what the heck is that?!? To sum it up, what Sandra Clark helped me to realize was that while I can make a web page appear to be valid visually, from an informational standpoint, I have no idea what I'm doing.
If you think you know a lot about HTML - the very building blocks of what we do every day - I would highly recommend that you check out her presentation (if it's available). You might be shocked, both by what you don't know as well as how backwards you might be looking at page data. How do I even go about fixing this huge gap in knowledge? I guess I can just read through an XHTML manual to see all the tags that I never use? It feels so weird to go back and really learn something that I thought I already knew. I'm telling you though, I'd love to addend one of her [Sandra Clark's] seminars in the not-so-distant future; hopefully she can fill my knowledge gaps.
I love me some label. It's amazing how many people don't know about that one... I'm always clicking on the Gmail login text "remember me on this computer" ... no label :(
I am also a huge fan of label. I agree, all text next to checkboxes / radio buttons SHOULD be clickable. It just makes sense.
But, what Sandra was doing was actually creating block-level labels that float left and then block level form elements that also float left. She was building a table-like structure (two columns) for intake forms. It was cool stuff.
She's good - really good. Once in a while she offers workshops. If there's one in your town and have the cash, take it. I haven't done so yet, unfortunately, due to a negative cash flow.
Yeah, I have seen her workshops posted occasionally on the House of Fusion CF-Talk mailing list. Next time it comes up, I am definitely paying attention to it.
Ben, I read your blog all the time. If you ever find a list of where she will be giving workshops could you blog about it so the rest of us might be able to jump on board?
I've been using CSS and ColdFusion for 7 years but I'd love to take a workshop on either just as an eye opener to see what others are doing and better ways to do it. Unfortunately I've never been able to find a workshop on either.
Yeah - I'll have to keep my eye out. Maybe she'll make her presentation available. I've really been diving into jQuery (book comes tomorrow!) and using it to manipulate my CSS. Good stuff.
She has her presentation available on here site! http://www.shayna.com/
There goes my lunch break! :)
Definitely check it out. I have to tell you that we had a lot of A/V problems in that room so I am sure some of what I am talking about came up in conversation (and might not be in the slides). But, definitely, it's worth a look.
Couple of things.
First, thanks for the nice write up Ben.
In reference to your comments regarding using a <dl> list for intake forms, I need to correct you. labels and inputs should be used for intak forms. I tend to use a definition list when it comes to doing a display only version of the form. the <dtgt; taking the place of the label and the <dd> taking place of the actual input item.
I did post my slides and sample applications on my site, you can find it at my blog at http://www.shayna.com. I had a lot of technical issues in both my talks that day, but most of what I talked about can be found in the presentation and the samples.
I'm looking into doing another CSS class, but my experience has shown that when I do offer it, the response hasn't been that great. I need a minimum of 6 people to do a 4 day (hands on) and 10-12 to do a 1-2 day (no hands on). Mainly to compensate me for the time I take off from my day job without pay and to rent a space to hold the class. At those number of people I make no extra money.
Thanks for the DL correction. Now that you correct me, I am remembering it properly. Either way, it's simply something that would never have occurred to me. That's the kind of stuff that I really need to learn how to leverage.
That's too bad about the class response. I will keep my eyes open on CF-Talk if anything does come up. In the mean time, I will cracking open some HTML books (for the first time in like a decade ;)).
@Sandy: If you do an online course that's very reasonably priced and perhaps spread over a 2 week period in the evenings, I think you'll get a hell of a response and much larger attendance. Use PayPal for the means of registration payment and course material can be a download.
If you did that, i know I would certainly attend.
Ditto! An online course would be ideal.
We're doing a complete redesign of our company's website. I need to brush up on my XHTML and CSS skills. So if you do an online class, I'd attend it.
@Sandy: Looks like my suggestion has some takers. I'll expect a commission check in the mail accordingly! ;)
Re the online class. Its sounds intriguing. I take it that this would be basically via something like Adobe Connect?
I can see doing my non hands on class that way. Unfortunately, one of the benefits of the in person hands on is my ability to work with each student individually. not sure how that could be accomplished.
While the individual hands-on experience might not be there, there is still a chat-feature where everyone can ask questions. It will be like a class room where other people ask the questions you are too shy to ask yourself and then everyone involved gets the benefits.
If you'd like to learn some of the more advanced features of CSS, and brush up on your XHTML, check out CSS Mastery:
Advanced Web Standards Solutions - http://www.friendsofed.com/book.html?isbn=1590596145
I looks like I can take a look at that at my local Barnes & Noble. Thanks, I will check it out.