WordPress Lab is likely quite different from your typical class. You’ll be learning to code, learning to use WordPress, and learning more about the Internet than you ever thought you would. The things you’re going to learn are very different from what you’re used to so you’re going to have to go about learning them in a very different way. This post will outline a few best practices to help you do well in this class.

Stay Organized

We can’t stress this point enough. You will be creating and downloading more files in the first three weeks of this course than you will in all your other classes combined. This will cause you a lot of confusion and you will lose a lot of work IF you don’t take steps to stay organized.

Stop Saving Files to Your Desktop

Just stop. Don’t do it. You will have 10 different files called “index.html”, “index(1).html”, and so forth. You won’t know what’s what, and what happened to the webpage that you have due in 15 minutes.

Please, for your own sanity, create a folder called “Web Design”, then create a new folder for each homework assignment. If you create some webpages for practice, put them in their own folders and give them descriptive names.

Use Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive

You’re hardcore now, and hardcore people don’t email themselves their own homework. It’s time, if you haven’t already, to start using cloud sharing (free)services. You don’t want to have your files stuck on your home computer or on your laptop after its battery dies. These cloud services create a folder on your desktop that syncs with an online account. In other words, I put a picture of my cat in my Dropbox folder on my laptop, and it gets automatically synced to my dropbox.com account.

Use Keyboard Shortcuts

It might take some getting used to at first, but you will be amazed at how much easier this class and class work in general get because of it. Consider the following workflows:

I want to 1) save a webpage I’m coding in Text Wrangler, 2) switch to my browser, 3)refresh the page to see the changes I made, 4) go back to Text Wrangler 

Using the Mouse

I take my hand off the keyboard and move it to the mouse, move the cursor over to File>Save. I then move the Text Wrangler window out of the way so I can get to my browser window. I drag the browser to where I can see it, move my cursor to the refresh button and click it. I then move the browser window out of the way and move Text Wrangler back in front of me, click to where I want to place the cursor, and start coding again.

Estimated time: 12-15 seconds

Using Keyboard Shortcuts

I hit ⌘ + S to save
I hit ⌘ + Tab to switch to the last application I used (the browser)
I hit ⌘ + R to refresh the page
I hit ⌘ + Tab to switch back to Text Wrangler and start coding again

Estimated time: 2 seconds

That workflow I just described will happen a few dozen times when you’re creating a webpage and thousands of times over the course of some coding marathons. 12-15 seconds might not sound like much but it adds up. Not only does it waste time, but it’s a pain in the rear to do. It takes you out of the creative mindset and forces you to focus on something that should’t take any of your attention at all.

Use Browser Tabs

Tabbed browsing is one of the best design evolutions in browser history. Get used to clicking links with your scroll wheel to open them in new tabs. The nature of web design is that you need to have a lot of tabs open at once. You need to do one thing in one tab and then see how it affects something in another tab. Clicking back and forth through menus and such will slow you down and make you lose your place. Simply have things open in various tabs and then refresh windows (using ⌘ + R 0f course).

Use the Website

The internet is full of great stuff, but until you get the method of finding that information down you should get well acquainted with the resources we provide to you.

Pay Attention to Class Announcements

We’re not just emailing you for no reason. If you get an email from your instructor in the middle of the week or over the weekend, there’s probably a really good reason for it. There may be a correction in the homework, or clarification of something that’s really confusing you.

If You’re Having Trouble With Something (and you will) Email the Instructor

Do it sooner than 5:00 on a Thursday too. The instructors are here to help you learn this and don’t volunteer to be teachers out of masochism. They really want to help you succeed and are naturally inclined to teach. They have office hours so utilize them. You’de be amazed at how much difference some one-on-one direction makes in this class. If you can’t come to office hours, email the instructors and try and set up another time. Also, don’t be afraid to contact any of the other fellows. They’ve all taken this class too and can most likely help you.

Relax

We know you’re not engineers and we don’t want you to be. What we do want is for you to test yourself. Step out of your comfort zone and really try something new. Over the years we hear this again and again: “Until I took this class I didn’t think I was a “techy” person but now I know more about computers than I learned in 5 years.”

You are much, much more capable than you think you are. You’ve been taught to fear these inscrutable machines sitting atop our desks and laps, their inner workings are for the scientists and engineers to divine, but not us. GIIP’s mission is to empower you. On day one of Web Design, you will code a webpage from scratch. On the final day, you’ll have a website you coded from scratch, as well as your own hosted professional looking website for all the world to see.

There will be ups and downs, challenges and triumphs. But at the end of it all, you’re going to be happy that you took this class. You pushed yourself out of your comfort zone and the rewards will be great.