Becoming A Better Developer For 2011

It’s time for the New Year to begin so we all know what that means – an excuse to learn and become something better than we already are1 For the holiday months, I’ve spent a ton of time learning, reading and trying out new coding techniques to find out what works best. Every site I code, I always try to do something  a little bit different in order to constantly improve on what I’m doing.

Web technology is always evolving and it seems that every day there’s something new that’s come out. It’s enough to make a sane developer crazy – and unfortunately that means we can never take a rest from our world, or we risk being left behind. (Man that sounds like an awesome movie trailor…)

I’d love to share with you some of things I’ve been learning lately, as well as some new(or new to me) coding tricks.

HTML/HTML5

Frankly, I got so tired of hearing about HTML5, that I finally decided to try it. I now validate all of my sites in HTML5 and use all of the new shorten info in the head tag that comes along with it. However, I don’t use any of the hew HTML5 tags, as they require hacks to get them to work in Internet Explorer. We all know how I feel about hacks, and it’s isn’t good.

In order to help me learn and understand the updates to HTML, I’ve bought several books (and written reviews for you) on the subject:

Of course I have a TON of books on my wishlist for all of these categories!

CSS/CSS3

I’ve been using CSS3 for several months now and have been able to convince my clients to embrace the idea of progressive enhancement. CSS3 has sped up my coding noticeably, as I no longer have to take the time to slice and code up images for shadows, rounded corners and the like. Also, the new advanced selectors have made my code cleaner and more efficient. I think this is why I’m starting to enjoy mobile development more – because I don’t have to worry about IE at all and can pretty much use CSS3 to it’s fullest.

And the books I’ve read on the subject:

Improvements To Coding

All this book reading would be for nothing if I didn’t actually learn and implement any of it. In fact, I learned a ton and have made major revisions to the way I write CSS and a few to HTML as well.

CSS

I continue to prefer single line CSS, but I’ve now just started to put my declarations in alphabetical order. While I’m still getting used to this, it’s made it a lot easier to find what I’m looking for, especially on longer lines. I’ve also learned some nifty new selectors I never though to use before. The most helpful has been the use of:

 a > d {}

Which selects only the top level child of the element. This select has been so incredibly useful, I can’t believe I never used it before.

I’ve also started using shorter selectors and not chaining them as much. This makes the file smaller and quicker to implement on loading.

HTML

Besides switch over to the HTML5 doctype and using the new <head> elements, there’s not much I’ve changed in my HTML. I have stopped using containers as much as possible, and instead have started centering the divs, and putting backgrounds on the <html> and <body> tags. This lends to much cleaner code.

To see examples of all of these, you’re welcome to download my Hijinks WordPress theme, which is the exact same theme I use for all the WordPress sites I code.

Other Languages/Platforms

I’ve also been experiencing with other languages and CMS’s and here are some books on those topics as well:

WordPress

I actually didn’t start WordPress development until the very end of 2009, I can’t believe how far I’ve come in learning!

Objective C
I spent most of the spring, summer and beginning of the fall reading this book. I’m still no where near to making my own apps, but the foundation is there.

jQuery
This book has allowed me to start writing my own jQuery from scratch. No longer do I have to haggle with plugins or ask the fiance to do it for me.

What about you?

What are some of the things you’ve learned this year in order to make yourself better for the next?