I had every intention of getting my Day 3 take-aways up on the day of, but after a great talk with two other awesome AEA attendees after the show; a four hour drive home (featuring a minor fender bender—not my fault); I was too burned up to even start it. I still want to give a summary though. It helps me cement what I learned, and I apparently have a reader or two now. Neat!
Chris was back for “A Day Apart: Let’s Build A Website”. The more I look back on it, the more I’m convinced this was, hands-down, my new favorite Day-Apart. And that took some doing considering the competition from previous presenters such as Brad Frost, Luke Wroblewski, Ethan Marcotte & Karen McGrane. Why was it so great? Because it was like having a one-on-one conversation with someone you admire, who answers a whole raft of questions your would never dare ask, or didn’t know you needed to ask. And in the process, they untangle a huge knot of stress that had been coiling tighter with each passing year.
It goes without saying that our industry is extremely susceptible to having way to many tools to do the job, way to many ways to use them, and way the hell too many strongly held opinions about the “right” mix of those tools and techniques. If you are like me, and are learning all of this ad-hoc, you may have also found yourself paralyzed by wanting to do everything. And do it all correctly. And efficiently. And, with the right tools. And you convince yourself that if you don’t make the right choices, then you obviously don’t have what it takes to make it in this business.
Over the course of his talk, Chris casually, humorously, and re-reassuringly explained that all of that is bullshit. The tools that work for you are the right tools. The way you like to design and code is the right way. It’s okay to not know every single coding language. The world will not end if you use a few extra <div>s. Use a short cut to make your life easier. Or, even (gasp) use only classes in your markup! (People were genuinely shocked on that one, myself included.) It’s not about perfection. It’s about shipping.
As someone who is isolated from the greater development community (i.e. the actual people, groups, and meet-ups), and relies on RSS and Twitter to keep up on the industry—it is all too easy to be overwhelmed by the relentless pace of change in this industry. I don’t think it gets talked about enough, so it was great to have Chris validate the little voice in the back of my head that was trying to convince me none of that noise mattered.
Coyier framed all of this stress relief in a build out of a basic site, which was immensely educational from a practical standpoint as well. I had been building my own shortcuts in Coda until Chris introduced us to emmet.io. I was an instant convert and can not wait to get that muscle memory built up. He also shared a raft of other tricks and techniques, across the entire design and development process, to quickly toss together a workable site. No frameworks required. It can be “all you”, and you can get an amazing amount of work done in a few hours.
He tempered all of this with the philosophy that, yes, it’s all important, but don’t get weighted down by the idea you have to do it all. You’re human. Do everything you can. Ship it! Then make it better.
I’ve got notes that run the gamut of single lines of code, to links to image optimizing apps, and general concepts to explore. As I re-read them it’s cooking up ideas of how I want to re-work my own code base; update my CSS naming; test image optimzers; and, learn new stuff. This is what I love about AEA. Every year (four years running) I leave excited to get back to work and to work better. (Take a closer look at that hero image and you’ll get a better idea of how it feels.) What feels different about this year though is that that sense of dread about wondering if I’m doing things right, or not sure about where (or how) to begin is gone.
I’m not worried about the bullshit.
I just want to make cool stuff and ship it.