My journey so far in writing a web development blog – tips for newbies

What is your reason for starting one?

I started this blog, at least seriously, back in January of this year. Yes, I wrote posts before that, but I was in the middle of redesigning my site, then designing this one, and who knows what else came up. Really though, it all began at the beginning of this year. If you are thinking of starting one of your own, let me tell you first hand, it is hard as hell. The best piece of advice I can give you is, you better have a reason that is important to you, because if you don’t, you will lose interest and the amount of posts you are doing dwindles to nothing.

So what is mine? Glad you asked, or this post would go nowhere. I am a senior web developer where I am employed, and I usually have to do a lot of helping with others that are not as advanced in web development yet. A while back we decided to have a sort of CSS class, where the the senior web devs showed the others how to do basic things, why things acted the way they did in certain browsers, and just basically build a page from scratch. One of the guys I was teaching, was at a lower level than normal, but he was extremely willing to learn, which made me want to show him more. He seemed truly interested in what I had to show. It was then that I realized I really like teaching people things and helping them through the problems they are having in development. What is even more awesome, is I am not the only one who noticed that this particular person got a lot better at what he was doing. I feel a certain kind of pride in that.

That was when I really started writing seriously here at what I call The Web Machine. I started out in print design, and made my way into development because I was getting burned out in print. Everything I have learned is because I read a LOT, have done and still do an insane amount of tutorials, and push my self to learn as much as I can. Every freakin’ day. Why is that little bit important? Because I didn’t have anyone telling me or pointing out how to do things. I had to learn it alone, and by doing it this way, I found out how to do things the right way…the very hard way. It is all of the crap that I had to do, that I want others to see and learn from quickly. A passing along knowledge that was gained through a lot of hard work and sweat. To me, that is the fun in it. The bonus is, I have learned so much more because I blog about it, which adds a second piece to my motivation in doing so.

What is YOUR reason?

Little things can make you happy

I have a few crowning achievements that have come along the way. They won’t seem that important to you because they aren’t as personal, but to me they just added to the fuel. You need to be able to find the happiness in the little things if you are going to be successful, mainly because it will keep you writing to see what comes next. What were my “crowning achievements”? Damn, you are just fully of questions tonight. Well, one was because of my “HTML5, CSS3 and Apple’s push to kill Flash video” post, because an Adobe forum troll came on and commented. I felt I was getting somewhere if I could piss off an Adobe employee.

The second one, which really meant a lot, was when Nathan Weizenbaum commented on my “Test driving Sass 3…a second look at Sass” article. He is the lead designer of Sass now, and when he posted, I felt that I had become a somebody in the web development world. It is for things like that, that make me happy. You need to find your own little things that make you happy, otherwise boredom will set in, and you won’t have the drive to continue for long. So take what you can from things like that. It’s important.

Oh, and just thought of a third, but I’ll talk about that some other time!

If you are looking to be a design/development star – get the hell out now

Good little heading. I remember thinking, man I really want to get well known and have some respect from my peers in the development community. How do I get people here? Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. If that is why you are starting a web development blog, you will fail. It is beyond hard enough to write a blog, you have other things to worry about than that. This goes along with my other points: reason and the little happies. You want to fail quickly, then go ahead with trying to be that design start. If it is going to happen, it won’t be quick. Much like I’ve read on other blogs that are successful. I consider mine successful because it makes me happy.

It’s a very, very long process before you start to see your blog get noticed

Blog statsIf you want to see how slow it actually is, take a look at the stats in the image. It takes time to build up subscribers and regular comments. It took a long time just to get my first comment here. Talk about happy times! What makes it better though is watching it happen. The number of unique visitors (those stats do NOT include bots/robots and other crap) here has steadily gone up every month, and I look at them every day, excited to see what they will be.

The point is though, look how long I’ve been doing this so far, and those numbers are not by any means large. I think it is better this way. I feel I am getting better at writing and people are actually caring about what I have to write about now. If everyone came in at the start, I’m afraid they would just think I was an idiot. Not that you don’t, I just don’t feel that way about it. And really, if you do, I am not all that concerned anymore. Some of you don’t, that is all that matters to me.

Content – write what YOU care about…otherwise you won’t care at all

Take your time and write good content. That is what will drive people to your blog. I know that “content is key” is driven home in our heads, but its true. I think what all the other blogs fail to tell you is that you should write what is important to you, not the readers. I know that sounds nuts, but if you are not a blog that counts on making money, but it is important. If you are not writing about what you want to write about, then you will most likely go the way of the other million or so dead blogs.

I have a fair idea of what posts are more popular here, and most are about jQuery. Which I do love to write about, but if that was all I wrote about, just to get people here, I would get bored really quickly. Plus for me, I wouldn’t be learning as much. So don’t trap yourself into a corner, or you will not be happy.

What else can you do to get your blog posts noticed?

Not that I have seen anything come of it, but the idea behind this is sound. Get accounts set up with sites like The Web Blend and Design Float. There are more out there, but these are the two I’ve started using. Once you are set up, start posting your articles there so people see them that wouldn’t normally find your blog. Then, I’m sure you have a twitter account, but if not get one, and set it up with Twitter Feed. That will post your blog post to your twitter account, which will then alert your followers to new posts.

So far, the best thing that has been working for me, has been posting on other blogs. People will click on your name and see your blog because of some interesting comment you left there. This has actually gained me a friend/fellow blogger over at Do It By Hand. It was because of his article “Using Relationships to Help Your Blog” that made me start doing it.

Where does that leave us?

Simple really. If you are starting a web development blog, do it because you have a reason other than gaining popularity, that is important to you personally. Do it because you want to help others or hand out knowledge you think others will be interested in. I don’t think a lot of people actually know how much work it actually is. I spend roughly two hours every night here on The Web Machine. That is a lot of time and effort and research and a lot of craziness. But it has helped me learn a lot and become a better writer.

Let me know why you are doing it? Anything you are worried about? Something you are curious about? Ask away.

Coupon Code: webmachine

jQuery junkBox

This binds an event handler to the error Javascript event. Below, let’s say the image is missing, it will toss out an alert because the element isn’t loaded correctly. See…I didn’t know about this one. Learned something new because of the jQuery junkBox!

$('#imgName').error(function() {
alert('This image is not where it freaking should be!');


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