Built From Scratch
I built a website a few weeks ago: What the Fuck has Lebron James Done?
1. A pain in the ass.
2. Totally worth it.
At the start of this year, I decided that I wanted to learn how to make things for the web. I figured that if I’m consuming so much content and entertainment via my devices, why not learn how to be on the other end of things?
But the real nagging problem was that I was learning without context. Yes, I watched the videos and typed in my sample text and went on to experiment with the code. But it all felt very disjointed.
I knew I needed an idea that tie all of this together.
So this whole thing just kind of sat in the back of my head for a few months, nagging at me.
In the interim, to fuel my desire to “make” something I decided to “make” a website for Niki as a birthday gift. Why the quotation marks? Well, all of the content for the site was from family and friends and Tumblr provide the infrastructure for the site.
So…maybe I should say I project managed a website as a gift for Niki.
Anyway, my wife’s birthday couldn’t motivate me to get moving on this website creation, but you know who did?
People hate him, people love him. People care. A lot of people. So, I decided to build something – a simple website – where people could learn things about LeBron James.
If they hate LeBron, they could get facts to fuel their hatred. If they love LeBron James, they could get facts about how great he actually is at basketball. A very simple site: Header, footer, images, buttons, text that randomly refreshes.
But, boy, it was tough putting it together.
After drawing out a basic wireframe and understanding how the site should function, I got to work on putting the pieces together. Getting the site 75% of the way was pretty simple – maybe a 5 day process (of course, someone talented could have done this in an afternoon).
But that last 25% was brutal.
When you’re learning from a book you learn a discrete solution for a discrete problem that is most probably different from the problems that you’re going to encounter when you actually start building. And I ran into a lot of those types of problems.
But, here’s the thing. There are answers everywhere.
I hit Google and Stack Overflow hard. Anytime I hit a roadblock I just asked a question. And I got an answer every time. And it worked. And I was ecstatic. But I’m afraid that it might not have completely stuck (practice makes perfect, I guess). I mean, I would have a problem, search for the solution, implement, and then switch to the next problem. I’m not sure how much of the solution embedded its way into my brain. I felt like I was using tools before I had the full skill set to master them. But the only way to master them is to start using them…
But, anyway, after a few late nights I figured things out. And it was glorious. The text was refreshing, the buttons were working and in the right place, the images loaded. I could type in a URL and see what I had made. It was pretty cool. It was a great learning process.
I learned how writing some text on the note pad of your computer can turn into something that a thousand people click on and visit the next day (and then 100 people click on it the day after, and then 50, and then it’s just you refreshing the website…). I learned how the internet actually works (in a very narrow sense). I learned that web design and computer programming are about precision, patience, and practice. I learned that people hate LeBron James about as much as they love him (seriously, I looked at the Google analytics and the clicks on hating/loving LBJ were about the same). I learned that finding a project that you’re passionate about is the best way to learn. I learned that building something is terrifying. That you put a lot of effort into something and then can be petrified by the thought that people will hate it or mock you or, even worse, not care. I learned that answers are everywhere and that there are communities all around the web that you can use to learn and make yourself better. I learned that being wrong and naive and new at something is nothing to be ashamed of. I learned that making things is more fun that consuming them.
I learned that I want to learn more about this stuff.
So, be on the lookout for what I make next.