Jeff Bridgforth :: Webcraftsman

Crafting Web sites since 1999

I am a Front-end Developer passionate about creating elegant, inspiring, and usable Web experiences that connect with an audience and fulfill business objectives.

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Learning Craft

Posted 4 days ago

craft_2x

Recently I decided to level up my skills by learning Craft CMS. I first heard of it after it was first released a couple of years ago. I had been interested in learning it after having a good experience with ExpressionEngine, which we used at Easy Designs.

Craft is made by the guys at Pixel & Tonic. They had been very active in developing EE plugins. From what I understood, Craft was similar to EE. But the guys at Pixel & Tonic were not happy with the slower development cycle of EE. Craft was their solution.

Last Fall, I had asked on Twitter about the best resources to learn Craft. Several people came back to me and recommended a screencast from Mijingo, Learning Craft, taught by Ryan Irelan. I was familiar with Mijingo’s training and had used Ryan’s book to learn ExpressionEngine.

I would highly recommend the course. He walks you through building a site in Craft. Along the way, you learn the key things you need to know about creating content in the software and getting up to speed with templating in Craft. Craft uses the Twig templating engine, which I was not familiar with. The screencast helped me to get a solid foundation to using Craft.

The best way to really learn something is to “just build websites.”  (As I write that, I hear the sound byte that The Shop Talk Show recorded several years ago at Front End Design Conference.) I had a chance to put that into practice this week as I got the okay to build a new project in Craft. It is a Career Builder site that will include many localizations in different languages. I have learned even more as I have dived in and really gotten to know Craft much better.

I think of all the CMS I have used, Craft is my favorite. WordPress was my first CMS I worked with. Then I worked with Drupal for over 2 years. And most recently with ExpressionEngine. WordPress was a great one to cut my teeth on. Drupal was a bit more robust. But I never was a big fan of the user interface. ExpressionEngine was more robust than WordPress, and the interface was a lot better experience than Drupal. And for the most part, EE was much better out of the box as a CMS than WordPress.

I have found Craft an improvement upon ExpressionEngine because there is some better functionality out of the box. Many of the popular EE plugins that Pixel & Tonic created are part of the core of Craft. The interface is clean and it is very easy to build sections for whatever your project needs. I also found it easier to create listings of content and then link to the individual pages.

Similar to ExpressionEngine, Craft requires you to buy a license. The great thing is that you can use it locally by using yoursite.craft.dev and test out the Client and Pro versions. I think the license is well worth it because you get a quality product that has a lot of functionality out of the box.

Here are resources that I have found helpful in leveling up with Craft:

Sidenote: Drupal had been another option for the career site I just started building. As I was doing some research, I was surprised that Drupal 8 has not been released yet. When I left Bonnier a couple of years ago, I thought Drupal 8 was going to be out within the year. So I was surprised to find that it still has not been “released.”

Correction: In my original post, I attributed the Structure plugin for EE to Pixel & Tonic, the creators of Craft CMS. I think the similar domain names for Structure (buildwithstructure.com) and Craft (buildwithcraft.com) fed my confusion. Thanks to Erwin (in the comments) and Pixel & Tonic (on Twitter) for the correction.

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Twenty Years on the Web

March 8, 2015

Last night, I watched the documentary, Jeffrey Zeldman: 20 years of Web Design and Community. In a lot of ways, a look at Jeffrey’s life is to look at the history of the Web industry. I realized as I was watching it that I have now been using the Internet for 20 years.

It was in February of 1995 that I got my first email account through Kansas State University. My wife and I had just moved to Manhattan to work in campus ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ. And because of our relationship with the university, we were able to enjoy the privilege of getting an email account through them.

For that first year, we could only access our email by using a computer in one of the many computer labs on campus. Later, I spent some time looking at websites in Netscape Navigator. Of course, there were always people waiting to use the computers so I always felt under pressure to not spend too much time on the computer. So Web surfing in those days was a lot different experience than when I could access the Web through my own personal computer, which did not happen until the summer of 1997.

It was during that summer that I learned how to write HTML and make a website. HTML was at version 3.2 and I was introduced to the other major browser at the time, Internet Explorer 3. I learned how to build websites through Dave Taylor’s book, Creating Cool HTML4 Web Pages. Little did I know that what started as a hobby and creative outlet would intersect with my career path and bring me to where I am today.

So I enjoyed watching the video because I remember a lot of the things that Jeffrey talks about of how our industry evolved. I also came away with a greater appreciation for the contributions that Jeffrey has made over the years. I think he is one of those pioneers that set the tone and value of sharing what he was learning with others which has been invaluable to so many of us learning and growing together as we share our knowledge with one another. It is something that really sets our industry apart.

I am grateful to Jeffrey for giving us:

  • Web Standards – Everyday I am affected by the work that Jeffrey first gave a voice to around the time that I started making websites. I made websites before Web standards really took hold in the industry. I appreciate how standards changed the landscape and direction of Web development that has allowed me to make a career of something that I enjoy doing so much. I had the privilege of working on Web Standards Sherpa for over a year. Sherpa continues the mission of educating and equipping Web practitioners to implement standard friendly solutions.
  • A List Apart – Over the years it has been an invaluable resource to me as I have read articles on technique and craft in my earlier days. Now I am inspired more by their pieces that help shape overall thinking and philosophy of the work we do.
  • A Book Apart – Short books that address emerging trends or techniques in the industry. Some of the most influential ideas in our industry have been addressed by their authors.
  • An Event Apart – I have never had the privilege of attending one of these events but I have attended other conferences that I am sure were inspired by these events. I have also benefitted from emerging ideas in our industry that started off as An Event Apart talk.

Thanks Jeffrey for all that you have contributed to our community. Thank you for the talented people that you gave a voice to that have shaped and continue to shape our community. Thanks for sharing what you were learning and helping to create a culture of openness and shared knowledge that sets our industry apart from so many others.

Related post: My history with the Web and making websites

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I am Jeff Bridgforth. I’m a front end developer, which means I build Websites.

My Christian faith informs every area of my life. I am husband and father of three. I love baseball and my team is the Tampa Bay Rays.