What can you do in seven weeks?

This seems to be the motto for my graduate courses that I have taken since this summer. We are given seven weeks to learn and apply as much information as possible. During the seven weeks in May/June, I taught myself a brand new concept – 3D modelling – and a software I have never used before – Blender – in order to make a two minute animatic.

You can read all about the finished product here.

In the past seven weeks throughout July/August, I have completed a 3-in-1: I’ve researched the importance of web design and practices, customized and edited my own website through a CMS editor, and built my own webpage from scratch with code.

As an aspiring filmmaker, messing with web design and code may not be a part of my daily tasks, but because I have not yet entered the industry, obtaining this skillset may be vital to making me stand out from the crowd of other filmmakers looking to break through. As you continue reading, you will have an overview of the three components to this course, what I learned throughout each of them, and how they can help me as I continue finding my place in life.

Researching about Web Design and Practice

My first informational blog post (CSS vs Hand Coding) vs. my last (All About SEO)

Throughout the past seven weeks, I have researched a lot of information about topics relating to web design and certain practices you should do in order to make your site appealing to everyone.

What I learned

The first post I typed was about the differences between CSS and hand-coding. This was a good post to start off with because not only can it be useful for people who need to build a website and want to know which method suits them best, but it also gave me a good idea as to what I was getting myself into before officially starting to code. Next, I researched about HTML semantics which will be very helpful as I get ready to tackle my final project. Using semantics will make the code a lot easier for me to distinguish content instead of having to scrub through all of the <div> classes in my code to find what I’m looking for. I then researched about responsive design and why it’s useful to consider your website’s mobile design just as much as its desktop counterpart. Then I capped off the semester with posts on practices to drive more traffic to your site and how to use SEO to your advantage. Researching about these two topics gave me a deeper understanding on how web developers manage to spark and maintain engagement with their audience through an underatanding of internet algorithms.

How this will Benefit My Future

Considering how rapid technology changes nowadays, whenever I researched articles for this course, I wanted to make sure they were no more than a year old. I wanted to gain a solid understanding of today’s digital culture so I can take the information I learned, apply it towards any web design opportunities I may receive and adapt to any changes that the tech industry introduces.

Customizing my Website Through a CMS

My website before this course vs. my website at the end of this course.

The next major component of this course was customizing and refining my WordPress site. WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) which means I can focus on the design elements of my website while WordPress does all of the code for me. This is very neat because I can get a clean and professional looking website in minutes without knowing anything about code, but at the same time, it is a little restrictive as opposed to coding something yourself entirely.

What I learned

As I mentioned earlier, CMS’s can be quite restrictive because of how finicky the template is with organizing everything. Thankfully, I bought a premium subscription to WordPress which gave me access to a customizable CSS tab. This enabled me to change the color and font of my text (black text to blue text) and, most importantly, change the background of my entire site from white to black! It’s so much easier on the eyes and I love how it turned out. I also got rid of the “VIrtual Atmosphere” title below my logo which makes my header skinnier now when scrolling.

Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned (and have taken advantage of) is the potential of the footer. Normally, the footer is used for contact info and social links, but because my website template encourages scrolling rather than clicking, I wanted to place all of my important media and accessibility features on the footer so anyone who wants to find them can access them easily.

How this will Benefit My Future

As I have also mentioned earlier, I am looking to go into the filmmaking industry, and am hoping that within five years I can have a professional reel and portfolio ready to show to potential studio employers. If I am too busy shooting and editing content to contribute to my reel, I may not have the time to single-handedly code my own website. If I pay WordPress a business subscription so I can make my site without any WordPress branding on it, then I will be all set. While customizing a CMS may be restrictive as opposed to hand-coding, using one to house my portfolio material may be the most efficient move if I want to keep working on creating content while designing a website.

Coding With HTML

First week of code vs. Penultimate week of code.

For those of you who have followed me through my entire journey of learning code, you may recall that this is actually not my first time messing with code. Two years ago, I took an undergraduate course on game design, and we spent half of the course coding our own portfolio website. That being said, I had all but lost any coding knowledge I had from that class, and thus decided to take these exercises step-by-step so I can surely get a feel for each tag, attribute, and style I was adding in and understanding each of their effects.

What I learned

Coding is kind of fun! Well, I don’t think I’d be able to handle doing this all day, every day (especially considering the examples I’m showing above are amateur at best), but it is really satisfying to see a line of code make the proper effect on your website. I’ve learned the basic format and structures to both HTML and CSS, and I am ready to tackle the final template assignment.

Once I finish the final website, click here to see the completed project, which would not have been possible without the module activities and various coding tutorials.

I also have to give a lot of credit to W3Schools. Their site has been extremely helpful in teaching me all things HTML and CSS, from semantics and proper line structure to correct color values and various types of styles.

As you can see, I’ve learned quite a bit between the first week and the week leading up to the final project. At the beginning of the semester, my website (left image above) consisted of a header, a few paragraphs of text and an image. As of the second to last week of the semester, my website (right image above) now consists of a different background color, emojis, a navigation bar, buttons, an embedded YouTube video, lists, and various text CSS styles.

This is only scratching the surface of what is possible with code, and I am looking forward to spending a lot of time on this template assignment and showing the full potential of the coding knowledge I’ve gained over the past seven weeks.

How this will Benefit My Future

You never know when I will be thrown onto a set for a film dealing with computer simulations and code is set to appear on screen. With my coding knowledge, I can take a look at this code and see if it is correct and realistic enough for the desired effect.

In all seriousness, though, I do not see code being much more than a hobby for me going forward. Unless a client already owns a domain that is not affiliated with a CMS, I would most likely use a CMS to code their sites. With that being said, I would still be able to use various CSS techniques I’ve learned in this course to affect any CMS site to a client’s liking.

Despite the immense satisfaction I feel whenever I code successfully, I do not think it is going to play a major role in my life moving forward. There is something to be said, however, for continuing to expand your skill set, and being able to tell people that you can code is not only a conversation starter, but can turn a lot of eyes your way and may provide you with some unexpected opportunities.

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