Tricks I’ve Learned from Past Projects

February 13th, 2009

Somehow, no matter much I know before a project starts, something will absolutely stump me during development. As frustrating as this is, it at least gives me an opportunity to learn things as I go and always leaves me feeling better prepared for my next project.

Effigy – The lesson here is that complicated, non-grid designs are best accomplished with a huge background image on the page body. Do this, then just position all the text on top of that and you have a really simple X/HTML page that looks really complicated.

The Washing Machine Man – Ah, my first truly independent web project. This was the first time I set up a MySQL database and a CMS. Doing that seemed so incredibly advanced at the time but now it’s something I casually do in a matter of 15 minutes.

Institute on Race and Ethnicity – The lesson learned here was to not wait until a project is completely finished before going live, especially if there is a current site to maintain. It’s better to avoid waiting for months and just put up a site that’s 95% done.

North Shore Presbyterian Church – A lesson in creating unique menus through absolute and relative positioning is what this site was. Check out the art exhibit page to see what I’m talking about.

Discover and Learn – Setting up this site showed me how incredibly easy PayPal can be to integrate into a website. The code for the buttons is created automatically for you and they host the cart on their servers. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

My Music Site – This site taught me a lot about transparent png files. Achieving a drop shadow around a content box on top of a gradient is only possible using pngs, as are a lot of other advanced layout techniques. Using pngs is always a problem with IE6, but the Unit labs fix was a great find to get around that.

Maybe one day I’ll get to the point where I can tackle an entire project without running into a wall at some point, but from what I’ve heard from developers who have been around since the early days of the internet, there’s no such thing as a project without a ridiculous, unique bug.