Articles

CSS4 isn't the right way to go

I recently came across a post by Peter-Paul Koch on his blog called CSS4 is here!. I see people using CSS4 as a way to get clicks from time to time and it really irks me, so I tend to ignore them, but for some reason I decided to click through and see what he was talking about.

As I read, I realized that he was making an excellent point, CSS needs to be marketed a little better.

I remember when HTML5 and CSS3 became things. They had their own logos and it was a big thing. It was pretty exciting and I think did a lot of good overall.

So I see the appeal of trying to do the same with CSS4 again. As he says:

I think that announcing a new CSS version will bring desperately-needed attention to CSS, and will help the people evangelising CSS in the field make an impression on web developers who are otherwise not very interested in it.

I don’t think it’s the right idea though.

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CSS is the code of graphic designers

I recently started reading the book Inclusive Components by Heydon Pickering. I haven’t got too far into it, but it’s been interested so far.

Before he gets into the nitty gritty though, there was a line that really stood out to me:

But the code of the web is not all the code of classical computer science, and should not be judged on the same terms. HTML is the code of writers, and CSS the code of graphic designers. Writers and designers are best positioned to write those kinds of code.

I love this so much.

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You're worrying about the wrong thing if you're trying to learn it all

There are a million and one things that we need to learn in order to be a front-end developer, and it seems like every 30 seconds there is another new thing that we need to add to our arsenal.

Learning new things can be fun, but when it seems like the list of new things we need to learn just keeps on growing, it can be overwhelming.

And there is another big issue. While we’re off learning all this new stuff, how the hell can we remember all the things we’ve already learned?

I often get asked, either through a DM or email from a follower, or sometimes as a YouTube comment, asking the best strategy to memorize everything.

The truth is, I don’t memorize anything. I remember things because I use them all the time, and because I get to focus primarily on CSS. The more I use them, the better I get with them and the more fun I have with them. But I don’t remember everything.

Actually, it’s not even close.

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Never stop asking why

There are two different times that we look things up:

When we’re students* we’re all in on learning. This is when we can take the time to learn things on a deeper level.

by students, I mean anyone who is actively trying to learn something new, be them actual students, or learning something new on the side

Then there are times when reality sets in. We’re working on a project that has a deadline and something isn’t working. We need to find a solution, and it doesn’t matter how it works, all that matters is that it works!

One problem I see with students who are learning something new is that they’re often happy when something works. It doesn’t matter if they don’t know why it works, but they are happy that it works and that means it’s time to move on.

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Why I decided not to put my courses on Udemy

When I made my first course, a deep dive into advanced web design and Sass (which is currently closed as I try to fix it up), I looked into a ton of ways I could host my course.

And since that course and my Responsive Web Design Bootcamp were released, I get tons of people asking me to put my content on Udemy as well.

I understand why people would like me to do that, but unless their platform has a major shift, I never will use them. In this post, I’ll explain why.

I realize for a lot of people this might go into too much detail, but hopefully, it can help anyone who is thinking about making their own course at one point in the future.

There were a lot of reasons that I didn’t go with Udemy

I looked into self-hosting it by building it out of a WordPress theme. I looked at platforms such as Teachable, Teachery, Thinkific, Podia, and more (in the end I went with Podia, but that could be a discussion for another day! Also, that is an affiliate link 😊).

One of the first ones I looked into was Udemy. I’d purchased a few courses on Udemy in the past, so I already knew about it.

When you’re looking at putting together a course, you do think about things a little differently than as a student though.

The main reasons I didn’t go with them were:

Throughout the rest of this post, I’ll be diving into each of those, and I’ll wrap it up with why I was willing to make a few concessions of the above when I partnered with Scrimba to make a course with them.

Discounts!

Udemy is great for students because you know that you can get any course for $15-$20. Sure, they say they are $200, but everything is effectively permanently on sale.

As a student, that’s fantastic. As a course creator, knowing my courses are probably going to be on sale for $20 (or less) takes away my desire to make a longer, more in-depth course.

But you get access to a larger audience and can make a lot more sales!

This is true. Udemy has a massive audience. One problem is that unless you purchase through a coupon that I provide you with (which will probably be a discount coupon, taking it down from the $20 it’s already on sale for), the course creator gets between 25% - 50% of the sale.

If they use my coupon, I’d get 97% of the sale. That’s great! But there is a catch. If the student clicked an ad to Udemy at any point in the last 7 days then I get 25%, even though they used my coupon.

I also talked to a few people who have courses on Udemy. A lot of the sales numbers you see are inflated because of people getting the courses for free.

This is a very popular technique where people give the course away to thousands of people to boost the enrolled student numbers and make it look popular and also to get reviews of the course early on.

So yes, it looks exciting like “oh wow, I can get 30,000 sales on a course like all these other people”! But when 28,000 of those were free, it takes some of the luster away.

But you get 97% of the sale if I use your coupon!

That’s true, and it works for someone like me who’s managed to build up an audience of my own.

But I basically get the same thing if I sell a course on my own platform as well.

If someone is buying the course from me, they’ll buy it on my platform or Udemy. That appeal of the giant audience of theirs, who will only buy my course when Udemy puts it on a super sale and limits my income from those sales… it becomes a much smaller incentive than it could be.

I also know that some people put a smaller part of a larger course on Udemy, knowing that it will be discounted to oblivion and that they’ll only get a part sale.

The idea is to give people a solid but short course and hopefully be able to upsell them at the end to go and see your other content. I like this in theory and even thought about doing it as well!

The problem is, reading comments on courses like that, a lot of people feel like they were ripped off. So while I’m sure some students do end up actually purchasing more content from that creator in other places, it also does enough to anger people and put them off that creator because they feel like they didn’t know it wasn’t a “full” course.

I’d rather avoid that, as I do think that, as an online entrepreneur, reputation matters, both of myself and of the platform. And actually, that leads to my next point.

Reputation matters!

One of the things that bothered me the most with putting a course on Udemy was my impression of the platform.

While I’d purchased courses there—and a few that I really liked—I see it as a discount course platform.

I go there when I want something cheap and I cross my fingers that the quality will be good. Tons of people purchase a lot of content on there and never even watch any of it because they’ve bought too many courses. Getting students to the end of a course can be hard enough, I’d at least want a good chance that they’d start it!

Anyone can make a course on Udemy

There is no barrier of entry on Udemy and while some courses are fantastic, others are… not very fantastic, to say the least.

So on top of having low prices, the fact that I’m associated with all the other courses on there (for better and worse) was something that I wasn’t so keen on as well.

I’m not a branding expert and I don’t go out of my way to brand myself in any specific way, but I do go a long way to try and associate myself with companies I really like, and only companies I really like.

I get asked to do sponsored videos for hosting companies on an almost weekly basis. If I haven’t used the company (or, in some cases, I have used them and didn’t like the experience), I’m not about to promote them.

By putting a course of Udemy, I feel, in one respect, that I’d be promoting that platform to my audience. That’s something I’m not comfortable with doing.

Staying in touch with customers

When students enroll in a course on Udemy the course creator doesn’t get access to their email addresses. Udemy does give you the ability to email your customers, which is nice, but it doesn’t allow you to have external links.

I get that they don’t want someone building up a huge customer base through their platform only to turn around and push a course somewhere else, but for me, this is a major deal-breaker.

One of the most important things someone can do to build up an online business is to be able to properly stay in touch with their customers, whether it’s giving them freebie downloads, linking to YT videos or articles I write or linking to another course that I do, I need the ability to stay in touch!

But you made a course on Scrimba!

I did! And I’m really proud of that course and how it’s worked out.

There were several reasons that I was willing to sacrifice a few of the above to create my course on Scrimba:

The biggest thing for me is that they were a brand that I would be happy to be associated with. They are nice people running it and their focus on high-quality, web development tutorials made it a great fit.

What’s next

I have a few plans for future courses:

Other than the Scrimba course, everything will be on my platform.

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The evolving state of CSS

Recentyl, I was listening to an episode of the Shop Talk Show podcast where they were talking about the recent State of CSS survey (if you haven’t seen this site, even if you’re not interested in the results, it’s worth checking out because it’s so fun!).

It was a fun episode, but on top of that, it made me realize how much CSS has grown up in a short period of time.

It’s still not that old of a language, but it seemed to be a little stagnant for awhile, and then suddenly we had all these new features.

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You'd be better at CSS if you knew how it worked

CSS looks so simple. It gives off that impression because the syntax is so basic and easy to understand.

Show the following snippet to someone who has never seen CSS and I bet they can get at least a rough idea of what is going on.

.textbox {
  background: pink;
  border-width: 5px;
  border-color: red;
  border-style: solid;
}

One of the problems with the syntax being so basic is that it gives off the impression that it is a simple language. It’s simple in how it’s written, but it can be downright complex in how it actually works.

Man sitting at his laptop, clearly frustrated with what is on the screen

People are tricked into thinking it’s simple and then, when it doesn’t work they expect it to, they say it’s broken.

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Initial, Unset and Revert

CSS is an interesting language. It’s fun to see how different solutions arrive to deal with certain situations, and how those solutions sometimes evolve — something like grip-gap evolving into gap and making it’s way into flexbox, for example.

One interesting set of values has always been initial and the much lesser known unset. Both of these don’t exactly work how you think they would though, often giving you unexpected results. It would seem that revert is here to help with that.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at all three, exploring their similarities and differences, and we’ll wrap it up with when revert might come in handy.

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5 awesome DevTool features to help you debug your CSS

When I started created websites for fun in the late 90s, we didn’t have many tools that would help us solve our CSS problems. There was probably some validator out there I didn’t know about (it was just a hobby for me at the time), but it was a lot of simply figuring out what was wrong with your file. Luckily for all of us, it’s so much easier now.

The big shift was in 2005 with the release of Firebug, which was an extension for Firefox which has since turned into the official Firefox devtools.

The reason Firebug was huge is it opened up a new way for us to be able to debug our CSS. Devtools have evolved a lot since then (as has CSS!), so in this post, we’ll be taking a look at 5 awesome devtool features, from ones that make your life so much better and easier to ones that are just really cool.

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The <wbr> tag and when you might want to use it

The <wbr> tag is the type of thing that I originally created my articles for in the first place: An obscure HTML/CSS thing that, while it might not come up often, can really come in handy!

In this post, I’ll be exploring what <wbr> does, but more important, a few use cases where you might find it being useful.

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