Don’t think about the walls before the foundation is complete. That was the main theme of my Web Standards Training for 30+ Web developers over 4 days in Chennai, India.
All along, I was billing these full day sessions of classroom instruction as Web Standards Training. But for one reason or another, people still wanted to think of it as being about CSS or tableless layout or how to use divs. So it was a good thing that the first half of each day was dedicated to the structural layer of HTML.
When it comes to building Web pages, I like to use the analogy of building a house (among others). So I always begin by asking the question,
“What is the first thing you construct when building a house?” The answer, of course, is the foundation. When it comes to building a Web page, I equate the structural layer that is HTML with the foundation of a house. And I kept driving home that point.
“When you’re building a foundation, you should focus on the foundation. Don’t think about what color the walls are going to be while building the foundation.” It all seemed to make sense to everyone and by the end of that first half everyone understood what semantic markup meant and how the structural layer is the single most important layer of the three-layer cake (there’s another) that is structure, presentation and behavior.
Of course, all structure and no presentation makes for a dull Web page (and a bland cake) so the rest of each day was spent teaching the basics of CSS. We covered the anatomy of a rule, selectors, pattern matching and specificity. It’s definitely the layer that has the most frosting and they ate it up. There is nothing more satisfying than watching people furiously scribbling notes when you touch upon something that they never knew.
All of this was topped off with a brief introduction to the behavorial layer and the magic of unobtrusive DOM scripting.
I’m going to call it a success. I think we all got something out this training. For me, it was realizing that I truly love to teach the stuff that I love. It really fills me up when I can share my knowledge and instill just a bit of the passion I have for Web standards in others. For them, it was opening a door to a new way of thinking about their work. It is my sincere desire that none of them will ever approach building a Web page the same way again and that they will always
…focus on the foundation first.
Disclaimer: While I am an eBay employee, these opinions are my own.