Jun
6
2011

6 tools, YOU, as a web developer, must TAME

6 tools, YOU, as a web developer, must TAME

When you are struck with an idea, don’t just wait for Christmas to give it a kick start. Because, by then someone would have already converted your idea into a “million dollar” enterprise or set the bars so high that you can do nothing but be daunted. Absolutely no pun intended.

I am making this entry in my blog to point out major tools essential for developing not only websites/web apps ranging from a single static page to a community based web site (e.g. Facebook, MySpace) but also designing the so called phat graphics.

In the list of essential web developers tools, first position is given to HTML. Many neophyte have an opinion about HTML, that it is very simple and dull and requires no brain. Let me tell you one thing my friend, if you really think HTML is that simple and dry then either you have mastered HTML exhaustively and desperately need to brag about it or you are just one of many who just after learning  some tags get euphoric. Honestly, I used to come in the second category, fortunately not for long. After exploring HTML thoroughly and exploiting its offering I realized its true worth. For instance, iframes, object, frameset, are features which not only makes HTML suave but also endow designers with great control over layout and aides in dynamic generation of content. If you have been neglecting HTML and abusing WYSIWYG(what you see is what you get e.g. Adobe Dreamweaver, Frontpage, Expressions) editors till now, you can start off with best online tutorials at W3Schools. And once you think you have realized true potential of HTML you can go back to Dreamweaver, as typing tags seems routine when you get into developing real projects. What’s the take away here? Having thorough knowledge of HTML will leave you empowered with all the features which it has at its disposal, so, when you know you can implement something with adding a simple HTML tag why bother with relatively complex alternatives.

You have added the content using HTML, now the question is how are you going to make it appealing so that your visitors don’t find you website vapid and have no idea where to click? This is where CSS comes to play. Hence I rank it second in the list of essential tools for web Developers. CSS has revolutionized the way websites are designed. It allows room for HTML to breathe and accommodate data with ease by outsourcing the styling factors to an external file or simply a separate portion of the code. All browsers support CSS and it is simple to learn. It not only makes a site look attractive, it also allows smooth animations, which, once was possible only with Flash.

Okay, now you have your data, you have got desired look, do you think something is missing? No? Yes? May be? If you wanted a simple page which looked nice and people had the option only to view different pages more like a personal page with contact information and pictures, then HTML and CSS would’ve sufficed. But this is 2010. And you don’t waste thousands of bucks for hosting just so that your friends can see your phone number. You also want them to be able to leave message for you, you want them to be able to play some games which you have created using geeky ideas, and ultimately you want them to come back to your site when you have posted photos of your Granny’s garden. So, you would provide some sort of interactive features. And “client-side” interactivity comes from JavaScript, which, according to me is the third most important in the list of web developers tools. For those who have worked with C or Java, JavaScript would be easy to grasp as it uses more or less similar constructs and allows embedding of programs in a website. You must note that you can’t run JavaScript alone, you need some sort of carrier for it and HTML is the suitable one. JavaScript is mostly used for form validation which is widely used on all major websites. If you are developing a website where you want visitors to be able to fill in some sort of form so that you can get that information, JavaScript is what you should turn to. It not only allows your site to be interactive, it also allows you to practice defensive coding. Remember, every field you leave for the visitor to provide data you are incurring a risk of some sort of attack. So it is better to check what the user has given as input before it goes to server and JavaScript is more than eligible to serve the purpose.

Now, you have made your site interactive and you need people to be able to send you some information about them. For instance, you want your friends to be able to comment on the photographs which you have taken. In order to be able to accommodate such a functionality you need to have firm grasp over “server-side” scripting language such as PHP, JSP, ASP, etc. And finally to be able to store those comments you need to employ some sort of storage. When it comes to storage, you are entering a domain called Database Management System(DBMS). Of course, you are not expected to know all the features and implementation of DBMS thoroughly, but you should be able to implement basic functions using queries to insert, update, delete, and modify. Oracle, MySQL and PostgreSQL databases are popular ones, to name a few. I prefer using MySQL for two reasons, it’s simple and cheapest. Almost all hosting sites provide MySQL at very cheap price. So, if you have some clients and you want to do classic job at reasonable price MySQL is you should turn to. Hence, PHP and MySQL are fourth and fifth, respectively, in the essential tools.

Last on the list is Photoshop at number six. Actually, I am being unfair by placing it this low. Because,  Photoshop is the ultimate tool which can expedite any electronic work. Be it designing a logo for a MNC or developing a template for a CMS, or what not. It is a panacea for photographers and those who end up with bad pictures due to poor light. Whether you are a freelancer or a professional photographer working for a fashion house, Adobe Photoshop plays an essential role in your work. Therefore, if you still haven’t befriended it, don’t wait till next Christmas. For, of you do, you are only depriving yourself of the fruits it offers.

Saurav Kumar, www.sauravkumar.com

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