WordPress

More Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

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So, yeah...I haven't written anything on my blog in a while. Really, really need to change that. Anyways...

A couple of big changes so far this year as well as a few new experiences.

First, I've switched back to Sublime Text as my primary code editor. Atom is good but, unfortunately, it's a bit of a dog when it comes to performance. I've been working more on a 2010 MacBook Pro and I've noticed that Atom has a tendency to really make the processor work a bit too hard to the point where the fan kicks in. Plus, it's just slow to start and, at times, can lag quite a bit. By comparison, Sublime Text is a speed demon! I mean, it's fast...REALLY fast! Basically, the performance of Sublime Text is such where I'm willing to ignore its various little idiosyncracies.

Biggest concern about Sublime Text is the updates. One of the biggest reasons I switched was due to the fact that updats to the software seemed to be lacking. Good news is that it looks like the developers of Sublime Text are stepping it up when it comes to updates. So, for now, I'm sticking with Sublime Text.

I looked at other alternatives like Microsoft's Visual Studio Code. Just couldn't get into that one. Performance of VS Code is a bit better than Atom but, even then, Sublime is still way faster. Plus, I feel like I can shape the environment better to my liking.

Another big change is the adoption of Vue.js. For a little while now, I felt like I've leaned a bit too heavily on jQuery. It just got to a point where I felt like I needed to take a more modern approach with how I handle Javascript with the websites I build. Out of all the various new libraries and frameworks, Vue.js just felt like the most natural replacement for much of what I use jQuery for. So, with a recent project, I dove in head first and used nothing but Vue.js along with a few plugins. The results were stunning! Performance seems to be better and the total amount of Javascript used was significantly reduced. I'm a happy camper!

Along with that, I retired my 4th generation iPad. Turns out that, with the release of iOS 11, I can't upgrade my iPad anymore. I think the issue is that the 4th generation iPad was the last 32-bit version with all future processors being 64-bit which are the only ones that will run on iOS 11. So...I now have a brand spanking new 12.9" iPad Pro! Been running it through its paces and, man, I have to say it's the best iPad I've ever used! Great machine! No doubt it'll be handy with my work! Looking forward to finding new ways to increase my productivity with it!

Lastly, I've been dabbling a bit with Wordpress. Not by choice mind you. I have one client with a Wordpress blog that needed some maintenance plus a project with one of my partners that requires Wordpress. Suffice to say that the experience has cemented my feelings about why other CMS platforms like SilverStripe and Statamic are so much better. Man...Wordpress is just painful to work with! Ugg!!

More to come soon! Hoping I'll be able to rework this site a bit and refresh it for the new year!

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Happy New Year 2016!

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So, here we are with a new year upon us. Time to reflect on the previous year, what we've learned, and what has changed. As a web designer and developer, quite a bit has changed since the beginning of last year.

For starters, I've adopted a new CMS platform called Statamic and have made it my go-to CMS for smaller sites that don't have a ton of complex content requirements and relationships. The interesting thing about Statamic is that it's a flat-file system, meaning that it doesn't use a database. This makes Statamic inherently more secure compared to the likes of <ahem!> WordPress. Granted, there are other flat-file systems out there that are worth considering (ie. Grav, Kirby, Pico, and others) but I ended up coming back to Statamic, especially after the version 2 beta was announced. I'm looking forward to seeing how I can leverage Statamic as a worthwhile alternative to more popular platforms. I have ideas on how to do it. Just a matter of putting a plan in place and going for it.

I continue to use SilverStripe as one of my CMS platforms of choice, especially for projects that have complex content requirements with lots of relationships. SilverStripe closed out the year by released a stable 3.2 version of the CMS and framework. Like Statamic, I'm looking forward to finding better ways to leverage how I market SilverStripe to my clients.

For front-end design, I still continue to use Bourbon as my go-to Sass library for projects that require a heavy amount of design customization. I still use Twitter Bootstrap for some projects but I'm also looking forward to checking out the new version of Foundation (version 6). I built a few sites on previous versions of Foundation and found Bootstrap to be easier to deal with. However, I'm very curious about this new version so I'll be checking it out to see if they improved some of the quirks that made previous versions weird to work with.

I've also adopted the use of Pattern Lab on one project. So far, the experience has been quite positive and my partners seem to really like it as well. It was a little weird and quirky to work with at first but, once I found my groove, I found that it can really improve your workflow and process. The whole Atomic Design methodology is quite interesting and presents a better way to approaching the whole content-first/mobile-first way of thinking. Creating a whole design system with modular components feels like a much better approach compared to what I had been doing for sure.

Another big change is switching from Sublime Text to Atom as my code editor of choice. This wasn't an easy choice. I've been using Sublime Text for some time now and really liked it for it's speed and flexibility. Honestly, there was really no need to switch. The main reason I switched is...well...I was greatly concerned with the lack of progress with the Sublime Text 3 Beta. I had been using the version 3 beta for nearly two years and, in that time, it just felt like new versions were being released at less and less frequency. At the time of this writing, the last beta 3 release was released in March 2015. I'm not the only one with concerns about the longevity of Sublime Text. Reading the posts on the Sublime Forum reveals that a lot of developers are just as concerned as I am. As such, I felt it was time to jump ship and find another text editor that is similar to Sublime Text but offers more support and more frequent updates. Atom most certainly fits that bill and, while it's not a 100% carbon copy of Sublime Text, it definitely gets the job done.

Last year was certainly an interesting year for continued learning and reading.

I started learning more about different javascript frameworks and libraries, completed one project using Knockout and started some online learning on Ember. This year, I plan on learning more about React which I think will be a good alternative to Knockout for projects that don't need a heavy handed framework like Ember but a simple library that can snap into any page on a website.

I've read some of the books by A Book Apart and plan on finishing all of them in the first quarter of this year. I'll also be revisiting a few books that have received new editions: Hardboiled Web Design: Fifth Anniversary Edition and Adaptive Web Design Second Edition. Also, after seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens (If you haven't seen the movie...shame on you! What's wrong with you?), I have a renewed interest in reading more novels and plan on catching up on all the latest Star Wars books. Hope to read at least one book every two weeks.

Perhaps the biggest change for me is realizing that I have to take my business to the next level. 2015 was an interesting year for Soulcraft Group. I'm continuing to work with some great partners and establish more relationships with wonderful clients. But with that comes change in terms of how I approach my business. I started off wanting Soulcraft Group to be more or less a network of different companies and people all coming together to accomplish the same goal: to design and build online solutions for small to mid-sized businesses with an emphasis on quality. While that is still true, I've also come to the conclusion that I need to market Soulcraft Group for what it really is, namely me. Once I came to that realization, it became clear how I need to market my little company: as a full-blown marketing and design agency. My partners will continue to be a part of the way I market my company. While I'm good at web design and development, I'm terrible in other areas like online marketing, social media, video production, and other things that I suck at. You can expect a modest update to my site and how I market my services.

So, that's it for the year! Looking forward to the new year with exciting things to come! :)

Why we don’t use WordPress anymore

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Interesting post on Medium that sums up my top reasons for not using WordPress. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the popularity of WordPress. It’s by far the most popular CMS platform on the web, which makes it a big target for hackers. Seems like lately I've been seeing more and more and more stories about XSS (cross-site scripting) vulnerabilities with WordPress. For the types of sites most web designers and developer use WordPress for, I wonder how much interest there is for more modern, more secure alternatives. Modern platforms like SilverStripe, Statamic, and October offer far more flexibility while maintaining security.