What I Learned From Building A Website From Scratch

Back when I was applying for jobs, I found using the phrase “I’m a super nerdy marketer” was a concise way to articulate my professional background. I now do Paid Search Marketing (those ads you see when you google or bing something) for a living, but I at most glance at HTML and JavaScript code and leave the programming to the professionals at the office. In college, I studied marketing and information systems but my computer science friends clearly knew so much more about the ins and outs of development. I was one of the “web dev guys” at my last job but there are still so many aspects to web development that I know little to nothing about.

On the flipside, there’s an entire can of worms to digital marketing that I don’t have a lot of hands on experience with. So as a fun mental exercise, I thought it would be fun to start with a blank text editor and make a site line of code by line of code. Some of you may be asking...

Why Not Use Something Like Squarespace or Wordpress?

I have messed around with Squarespace and Wordpress and while I think they’re fantastic tools, I never fully enjoyed the process. Granted, I never gave these web platforms enough time to prove themselves but I simply enjoy the process of making a custom website more. To be fair, not using a web platform has made a lot of aspects to develop tedious, but I decided it was worth that major con for the pros of learning how to make a site from scratch.

Okay So I Still Don’t Fully Get Not Using A Platform, But Why Not Use A Free Web Template?

Previous versions of FluffyDogMedia.com were made thanks to w3layouts and while using those templates are incredibly rewarding, my lack of experience with CSS became a more glaring issue the more I tried to experiment. This would result in situations where I could have easily tweaked a few lines of CSS code, but would instead brute forced a “solution” with some poorly made HTML code as a work around that maybe five percent of the time kinda worked all the time. It was time for me to finally acknowledge the elephant in the room, and look everything up on w3schools.

So with all that out of the way, here are the biggest things I learned while making my own website. Thousands of people have preached the exact same pearls of wisdom but I think it’s important to see how that applies to a web context. There’s still an absurd amount I need to learn but I’m really excited with the foundation that I have created.

html and css code

Lessons:

Start Small Then Large, Not The Otherway Around

When I had sleepovers as a little kid, we would be up till the wee hours of the night talking about what would be the perfect video game. “What if you had the giant open world of Grand Theft Auto, but instead you were Mario and there were goombas everywhere” one of us would yell with excitement as they woke up any poor parent who slept a few rooms away. Conceptually, this may sound cool but developing something like this would be a nightmare. Many failed kickstarter campaigns have proven that having a great idea isn’t the problem, it’s coming up with an idea that’s actually achievable.

For me, it’s very easy to get swept up during the planning phase and get excited from clever but very lofty goals. Since I am the idea guy and the “get it done” guy for FluffyDogMedia, I have to have an honest outlook on what I can and can’t do. To be clear, just because I don’t have the ability to make something now doesn’t mean I won’t have the ability to accomplish that feat later. The only way I can accomplish more ambitious projects is by starting off with smaller projects that offer me a foundation for trying bigger projects.

If you were to time travel to a year ago and visit FluffyDogMedia, you would have seen an excessively long Choose Your Own Adventure story I almost finished. I knew coming in that this would be a difficult project and it would test me as a developer, marketer, writer, designer, and even my aptitude. I trudged through even when I started to disdain my own work, but after writing chapter after chapter, coding web page after web page, and making illustrations I couldn’t stand to look at, I decided to can the project which I’m honestly so glad I did. That particular Choose Your Own Adventure weas never meant to actually make money off but was almost a way for me to learn and enjoy the ups and downs the process of learning. I learned what not to do which helped me learn what to do in the future.

Fast forward back to the present, and the projects I am working on have a significantly smaller scale, and I no longer cringe everytime I look at my work. My game Gridiron Games is a much more conscise and quality version of my previous work and it was actually enjoyable to make. Launching a completed project that I am happy to have spent time working on has allowed me to be consistently motivated in expanding upon my endeavors.

Anyone Can Code

programming motivational

My only exposure to programming before college was from these online modules our math classes had called Khan Academy. I was bored in a study hall class, and rather than spend the next 45 minutes being productive like I should have been, my friends and I noticed one of the lessons was all about video games. Considering how many bus rides to school were spent playing Mario Kart, we were instantly hooked on this lesson and had a blast messing around with a Space Invader-like clone. We had no idea what we were doing, but we just changed random numbers around in the program, causing the spaceship to move around like Usain Bolt with bullets so fast it was beginning to glitch out the game. The absurdity of the game we were modifying was a blast to make and for some reason, I never put to and to together than what I was doing was programming; something a lot of people do professionally.

I was never the best student. Trust me, no one ever said I was some kind of “math wiz” or freaky smart genius. You don’t have to be a 400 IQ prodigy to be a programmer. Heck, I’m not even a programmer; I’m just doing this for giggles. All you need is a bit of curiosity and patience and you’re already ahead of the curve.

With All That Said...

While there is a ton to my website that needs improvement, that’s kind of the point of how I plan to structure my future content. I plan to make more blog content later that further tackles what I’m learning from making this website and other projects in the future. I’m overwhelmed by how much there is to learn but excited by the opportunity. Now let’s see if I can make an if then statement without crashing the entire site.

Thank you for your time,

Adam