Front-end Web Development/Notes/Archive

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Series 2

Class for 2012-09-10: Preprocessors

This class expanded upon the topic of web frameworks by talking about preprocessor languages - languages which compile into HTML, CSS, or JS. We'd taken a look at PHP and ERB, but we also walked through languages that look nothing like HTML (HAML), and languages that compile into CSS (Less, Sass + Compass) and JS (CoffeeScript). These languages can make your life much easier as they help keep you from repeating yourself (DRY!).

Lecture video
Lecture materials

Class for 2012-08-27: Backend web development

This class was all about the seedy underbelly of web development: the backend! We talked about HTTP, web servers (like Apache), preprocessor languages (like PHP and ERB), web frameworks (like Rails), and databases (like SQLite). Sound daunting? Well, it kind of is, but this 2-hour session might have alleviated a small portion of your fears!

To prepare for this class, you could either set up a PHP-powered web server on your laptop (Mac instructions), or get an account at NearlyFreeSpeech.NET.

Lecture video
Lecture materials

Class for 2012-08-20: Progressive enhancement

We talked about progressive enhancement - a practice where websites are created in a layered way that makes them accessible and cross-browser friendly. We looked at an example site and demonstrated how it adheres to these principles. We've touched on these concepts throughout the whole class, but in this class we focused on why they're important, and what could happen if you DON'T adhere to them.

As part of the class, we used a Chrome extension called ChromeVox, which is a free screen reader for the web. We also used virtual machines to run older versions of Internet Explorer on my Mac.

Lecture video

Class for 2012-08-13: CSS3 and CSS4

We've covered CSS3 before, but in the context of a mockup. We went further into CSS3 and CSS4 with a demonstration of what the new technologies are, how to make the most of them, and how to make sites using them look good in less capable browsers.

Lecture video
Lecture materials

Class for 2012-08-06: Mobile websites

We worked on this blog and turn it into a mobile-accessible website. We also talked about user agent strings, frameworks like jQuery Mobile and Sencha Touch, and the future of HTML5/CSS3 in mobile website development.

Class for 2012-07-30: HTML5 elements

We took a look through this page containing every currently valid HTML element. Many of them are considered "HTML5", but that's just because they're new.

Class for 2012-07-23: Other jQuery plugins

Our final jQuery-focused class touched on a number of other common plugins that are found in the wild:

We created this page that uses all of the plugins.

Class for 2012-07-16: Sign-up forms

We continued working on our site, and added a sign-up form, with validation, inside the modal. We used the jQuery Validation plugin. This is a very common request from clients and it comes in handy to know all the tips and tricks of forms and validation, and what new HTML5 elements can provide.

Class for 2012-07-09: Modals and menus using Twitter Bootstrap

We went back to the "professional" site we'd put together a number of weeks ago and added more functionality to it with some JavaScript. We first made a dialog box - or a "modal" - pop up when you click the sign up buttons. We did this by introducing Bootstrap, a suite of code developed by Twitter to make common web development tasks easier. We also add some dropdown functionality to our menus using pure CSS, but this can be done using Bootstrap as well.

This class was not an exhaustive look at Bootstrap - there is a lot to cover. Look for a more comprehensive talk on Bootstrap later down the line.

Class for 2012-07-02: Guest speaker - HTML5

John Freddy Vega of Cristalab and delivered a presentation on the basics of HTML5, CSS3, and new JavaScript developments. It's a great talk for those starting out on new web technologies, or just wondering what the big difference is from HTML 4.01 and below.

Class for 2012-06-25: AJAX

We talked about Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, a technology that allows us to talk to a server without leaving the page. jQuery makes this extremely easy. We added AJAX functionality to our app we've been building on and uploaded a PHP file to a web host to test it out.

Class for 2012-06-18: jQuery, cont'd

We built upon the existing Noisetwitter app, using jQuery functions to add the UI for retweeting, favoriting, and replying, and here was our result.

Class for 2012-06-11: jQuery

We included jQuery into a file and took a look at some of the functions that are available to us, as well as attempting to explain how an object can call a function with itself as the scope (this). We used the Noisetwitter client as an example of simple but powerful things you can do with jQuery.

Class for 2012-06-04: JavaScript

We talked about JavaScript: making webpages interactive through client-side code. We used the console to demonstrate the basics of the language, and we created a file and include it on an existing HTML page, downloadable here.

Class for 2012-05-21: File transfer

We talked about file transfer - not only uploading files using FTP, but using the web browser to get and send information via forms and other methods (an overall talk about HTTP GET/POST).

We downloaded and installed FileZilla and signed up for a NearlyFreeSpeech.NET hosting account - some had to use my personal hosting due to timing reasons.

Class for 2012-05-14: Working from mockups (CSS3 edition)

We worked on last week's site, talking about inline versus block, and applied CSS3 features such as shadows, rounded corners, gradients, and semi-transparency. We didn't have time to talk about CSS3 more in-depth, so we'll have another class on it in the future.

Class for 2012-05-07: Working from mockups

We worked off of this mockup and the annotated version. Assets were found here.

We took all of this and turned it into this work-in-progress site. We'll be completing it next week.

Class for 2012-04-30: CSS floats

Floating is the secret sauce behind creating websites with multiple columns, navigation menus, and basically any block element that's aligned to the left or right. We learned about floats by taking a look at some examples (inspect the page). We then took a mockup and created a site from it.

Class for 2012-04-23: CSS positioning

We focused on positioning of elements: spacing them out from other elements using margins, positioning them absolutely on the page, positioning them relatively, fixed and more. Lecture materials can be downloaded here.

Class for 2012-04-16: CSS selectors and the box model

We expanded on last week's site to make this site, which added complex selectors and margin rules.

Class for 2012-04-09: the basics

We created this simple site to demonstrate HTML and CSS basics.

Series 1

Class for 2012-03-26

Download the site we walked through. It's a responsive site with slight jQuery magic and a bunch of semantic HTML and CSS trickery. A good rollup of all the stuff we've learned in the class.

Class for 2012-03-12

Verbatim notes for my personal use:

What to do:

  • Always start with HTML
  • Add presentation and behavior next
  • Assume nothing about your audience
  • Be as semantic as possible
  • Use

What not to do:

  • Use inline style tags
  • Implement security on the frontend
  • Expect links to work only with JS - modals, AJAX, etc.
  • Tell users to upgrade
  • Start with a rich site and then work backward


  • Starting with the basics makes cross-browser testing easier
  • Makes your site more modular - can switch stylesheets or remove behavior on-the-fly
  • Makes development in teams easier


  • App- or game-like sites might be hard to support
  • Supporting all browsers off-the-bat might slow down productivity
  • Can't use cool new CSS3/HTML5 stuff in production yet


  • Create a simple site with an HTML5 sectioning elements
  • Add CSS
  • Add JS
  • Show site without CSS and JS added on
  • Show site in IE6
  • Install ChromeVox and read through site
  • Explain browser "hacks"
  • Explain JS feature testing (modernizr)
  • Show what not to do
  • Show HTML5 Boilerplate

Class for 2012-03-05

Download the CSS3 examples I created in-class.

Other great resources:

Class for 2012-02-27

We worked on this blog and turned it into a mobile-accessible website. We also talked about user agent strings, frameworks like jQuery Mobile and Sencha Touch, and talked about the future of HTML5/CSS3 in mobile website development.

Class for 2012-02-20

We took a look at a page containing every currently valid HTML element. Many of them are considered "HTML5", but that's just because they're new.

Class for 2012-02-13

We added to the site from last class and added a sign-up form with validation to it.

Class for 2012-02-06

We added to the site from last class and added modals/submenus to it.

Class for 2012-01-30

We worked off of this mockup and the annotated version. Assets were found here.

We took all of this and turned it into this site.

Class for 2012-01-23

I made accounts on my web hosting, but I suggested students get web hosting space at NearlyFreeSpeech.Net, which will set you up with a pay-as-you-go site. It's free until you start getting a significant amount of traffic.

Here is the source for the previous class's Twitter client, and a PHP file to respond to AJAX requests.

Class for 2012-01-16

Highly-commented source for the slideshow and Twitter client we worked on.

Class for 2011-12-19

We modified this document to become an interactive web application: download the full web application here.

Class for 2011-12-12

Consider downloading FileZilla for a head start.

Here's a simpler mockup we used for the 7:30 recap:

Frontend Web Mockup 2.png

Class for 2011-12-05

We turned a mockup into HTML and CSS. This is the mockup we used:

Frontend Web Mockup 1.png

Please consider downloading the GNU Image Manipulation Tool (GIMP), as we might be opening it up to work with this mockup. Photoshop or Fireworks will work swimmingly if you have them, though.

Here is the "answer sheet" for the above mockup.

Class for 2011-11-22

Two articles worth reading for a thorough understanding of CSS positioning:

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