Amber Weinberg: Freelance Web Developer specializing in semantic WordPress, Mobile, CSS and HTML5 Development

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Overcoming The Fear of HTML5, CSS3 & New Things

Posted on 07/14/10 in blog, development about , , , ,

I’ll let you in on a little secret – I’m afraid of learning and using HTML5. And you know what? I bet you are too.

Why would a professional developer be afraid of a much needed upgrade to her favorite language? It seems that fear of the unknown is common among humans and none of us ever like change. Change is scary. Change is bad.

The Development World Is Changing

But then I remembered that eight months ago, I was afraid of letting IE6 go. I was afraid that if I stopped packaging IE6 as a browser I natively supported, that I would lose business. No one would come to me for web development. but I knew the choice I was making was the right one. IE6 usage is not common anymore. We spend too much time developing for it, and continued dev support would only prolong the life of the browser. It was time to move on.

Then around 5 months ago, I was afraid of learning CSS3. Just looking at some of the new features was proof enough that CSS3 was very different from CSS2. There were tons of new selectors to learn, new graphical effects to memorize and practice with. Plus, although most of the main browsers supported the main CSS3 features, you were (and are) forced to learn browser prefixes. Not fun.

But I’ve been using CSS3 regularly now, and what has it done? It’s sped up my development time. It means less slicing, less divs and cleaner, leaner, quicker development.

I find it funny when people tell me that they “don’t want to use CSS3 because IE doesn’t support it”. But you know what? No one notices that rounded corners or shadows are missing from my websites in IE. Basically, no one who would use IE would care anyways. I think these developers are just scared to use something new. Of course, if the rounded corner or effect was pivotal to the design, then sure, use images. Otherwise, what’s the point?

I’m really in love with progressive enhancement, you know?

The Price of Standing Still

Of course we don’t have to learn CSS3 or HTML5 or any other “new” thing in the web development world. You know, there are still developers out there coding unsemantically, with 100 validation errors per page and in tables. Who needs CSS, right? I remember when CSS first came out, developers thought it was going to be a fad! Now look at us.

You don’t have to learn anything new than what you know right now to make some money. But if you want to be anything more than mediocre in the web world, you need to keep up. And keep up daily.

The web changes everyday, which is why it’s important to follow several different blogs, news sources and social media sites. You should always have several books on hand to read from. You should always read about areas related to your field. If you’re a web developer that means design, marketing and UX. Learning from these different mediums will fundamentally change the way you structure and layout your code. It also helps you to understand the web in general. Believe me, you can certainly tell the difference between the developer who only pays attention to code, and the one is who pays attention to everything.

Starting Something New

So what do we do now that we’re ready to start learning? Take a deep breath, relax and start slow. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was HTML5.

The way I learned CSS3 was to start with something simple – say the rounded corners. I tried that, learned it as well as I could. Then I tried text-shadows, then some advanced selectors, then some box-shadows. Pretty soon, I was using almost everything regularly, and know the spec of CSS3 well.

That’s how I’m going to start HTML5. My HTML5 for Web Designers book FINALLY came in and it’s pretty small. As soon as I finish reading and reviewing this other web dev book, I’ll be starting this one (and a review to come I promise!). Then I might use it on a site or two (I’m  honestly in love with XHTML though).

Your Thoughts

How do you approach the “new” in the web world? With anticipation? Apprehension? How do you get over your fear?

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Amber Weinberg specializes in clean and semantic HTML5, CSS3, responsive and WordPress development. She has over 15 years of coding experience and is super cool to work with. Amber is available for freelance work, so why not hire her for your next project?

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  • first time to the site. just wanted to say thank you for the article, i totally agree with the price of standing still. we have to push forward both for the good of the bigger movement but also for the health of our respective careers. the future is what our fingertips dictate it to be (with our codes and designs).

  • Change is good. Most of the time.

    I, too, tend to want to stay stuck in my own little rut. But the first rule of getting out of a rut is to “Stop digging”. I guess I need to put the shovel down and embrace CSS3 and HTML5. I suspect they are here for the long haul, eh?

  • I don’t see any good reason why people shouldn’t be using some of the ‘decorative’ features of CSS3 (border-radius, text-shadow, etc) that degrade nicely in IE like you suggest. There is also an awesome sounding new solution to get them working in IE using a .htc file: Haven’t tried it out fully yet, and guess it will break if JS is disabled, but then you just get the default square boxes and no shadows, so no real problems anyway.

    Less convinced about HTML5 however. It seems like I have to do a lot of extra work to get it to play with IE for a few semantic benefits. Yes, there is HTML5shiv, but anything that is structural and reliant on client-side scripting makes me nervous… think I’ll stick with XHTML for now.

  • I would’nt say I have a fear of learning new things, BUT, I have to learn to stay up to date. Over the past 2 years it’s just been work, work, work and no staying up to date with the new stuff. Now I find myself in a position where I HAVE to learn the new things but I’m still busy. What to do :/

  • amber please share a nice tutorial on html5 and css3….

  • My copy of HTML5 For Web Designers just came yesterday, I’m so excited to finally read it.

    I agree, I think the improvements CSS3 bring to the table are worth leaving IE in the dark over. The only bummer is when a client insists on having rounded corners on their site that work in every browser, and then I have to scrap the CSS3.

  • Thx for a great blog post, Amber 🙂

    I’ve just read the book, HTML5 For Web Designers. Its so easy and also a bit fun reading. Every book about the web should be this way. Luckyli they have more books in the same format on the way 😀

  • I guess it depends on what the ‘new’ can do. Both for me and for clients. When it came to CSS3, I was apprehensive, but only for the same reasons we’ve been apprehensive about anything that isn’t natively supported across all browsers immediately. Once I delved into the technology and used it, I loved it! And continue to love it more and more.

    I’ve recently been playing around with 3D transformations in CSS3 and what you can do with them actually amazes me! (Shameless plug to follow): – check that out in Safari 5 (or a webkit nightly) to see what I mean

    I think HTML5 will be the same thing. I’m apprehensive now, but what it can do… or more, what it means as a very pedantic developer, is certainly exciting!

  • I’m completely with you on HTML5 & CSS3! I’ve used a few CSS3 features such as rounded corners and drop shadows, but have been putting off fully understanding both CSS3 & HTML5. This post has just given me the kick up the *** I need to start!

  • Leonardo

    This one is totally out of context, but I have to ask. Where dou you get all those great stock photos?

  • Glenn Glerum

    For some developers it’s not fear holding them back but their clients. At the company i work for we have clients that want everything to look the same in every browser (including ie6 & 7) and actually check if we fulfilled these requirements. I could use css3 in these cases, but wouldn’t it be a waste of effort when i need to use other techniques to get it to look the same in older browsers?.

  • Tuncay Demirtepe

    change is mostly good but trashing out our old skills are not.

    I have used asp before .net for 5 years. I did great projects with it. Now I’m using c# and I just trashed out asp and my 5 years experience on it.

    things are changing so fast and our knowledge is getting out of date faster than our learning speed. that is the worst part of our job..

  • Thanks Sam for visiting the blog! ^_^

  • Yes it is kinda sad that I can no longer use that tabled code I learned so well in middle school 😉

  • Have you tried talking to them about Progressive Enhancement?

  • flickr

  • nice! I’ll have to check it out 🙂

  • I’m going to start mine took 3 weeks for them to ship it to me, which kinda ticked me off, but I’m glad I have it now and can’t wait to start 🙂

  • I’ve done several tutorials on CSS3, you can find them by using the search box 🙂

  • Glenn Glerum

    Where working on it =), but it is a very slow process =/

  • Tuncay Demirtepe

    I’m still using table structure 🙂

    i was waiting for html5 to change it..

  • Another great article Amber 🙂

    And truth be told, it is sometimes a necessary evil to stop coding for one platform and move onto the next, reason being that if you didn’t you would stagnate on the current and never develop as a developer 😉

    Actually, quite a couple of clients have already approached me and asked if I do HTML5 and CSS3 coding as that is what they want for their site. And this is the best part, they really don’t care if it doesn’t show the same on IE 🙂 They just went to client number #1 on my favourites 🙂

  • I really hope that’s a joke…

  • With Amber on this one… Tables are for representing data, not structuring your site. Please tell us you are kidding??

  • Tuncay Demirtepe

    nope.. i think i’m dinasour 🙂

    I was improving myself on server side codes and application coding in last couple of years. I could not find a change to learn xHtml.

    i’m good now about c# and I can work on html5 now..

  • Tuncay Demirtepe

    no i’m not kidding but this is not mean i’m not using divs or other features of xhtml..

    i m using ul-li structure for my menu items, divs for placement of objects, etc.

    I just could not find enough time to work on xHtml..

    I feel myself as antique 🙂

  • I’m looking forward to learning new languages, I’ve been doing web development for a little over a year now and things like jquery, wordpress, css and xhtml make it so easy it’s no even fun anymore. Even PHP which is the back-end language for dummies considering it’s so insanely absolutely easy to learn and code in it. I have a feeling HTML 5 and CSS3 won’t really be that hard either.

  • Just promise not to be too sad when you’ve finished it in one day 😉

  • Tom

    I have also read the HTML 5 for designer very good and one thing i like about it that it shows ways of backing up the code for browsers that do not support that feature.

    HTML 5 and CSS 3 are very promising, with new technology and codes i tend to review it a lot and play with it a bit, then if i think it is good i intergrate it where i can with back up as compatability is never uniform.

    Although this time round the odd ball browser IE they will (so they say) have more support for HTML5 and CSS 3 than most of the others.

    I have been helping a friend with wedding arrangements and found so many website in tables and frames. Sad to see..

  • This post is quite reassuring Amber, thanks for sharing with us. I’ve ordered my HTML5 book and look forward to checking it out. I like that it’s not a massive encyclopedia, seems like something I can get through and let sink in. Fingers crossed!

  • Excellent article, Amy. I am afraid still, more from spending (some would say “wasting”) time learning than from the actual fact to learn something new and different. You have to be in the loop, but sometimes there just isn’t time to learn. It’s all work. I think it’s time to reorganize. The examples you point out are quite true and definitive. Thank you.

  • I remember we had a little talk on that topic on Twitter :).

    I really like how you ended this post. When I was reading through it, I thought you’ll decide to postpone learning of HTML5.

    As for me, I’m very excited about HTML5. I use it already in some projects – and to be honest, I can’t wait to drop using XHTML entirely.

    Why I like it so much you probably remember from out little Twitter discussion.