Keeping up in an ever changing world
It seems that every day there is a new blog post explaining an innovative technique or a new tool and technology that is going to change web design. How do we keep up with it all?
The first thing to say is that you don't have to. Whilst all this new stuff is exciting, the techniques that you have been building with are still solid ways of constructing websites. The chances are that this new tool may never catch on or be as useful as first thought. The things that are really going to help up build and construct web projects will be talked about and referenced for years to come, and although a temptation, you don't need to go and try it out right now.
Cream always rises to the top
Sass which has really taken off in the last few years and is a much more efficient way of using CSS, it didn't spawn 2 years ago however - it was originally created in 2007. That's 7 years ago, yes it took that long to get into the mainstream! Whilst things move fast, the tools and techniques that are really useful can take a while to be adopted and talked about regularly. Proof that it's not always such an differing landscape in such a short period. The worthwhile tools will rise to to the top given time. Trying them out so quickly isn't needed.
Off course there are some methods and tools that are revolutionary, the important thing here to have a good grounding on how broadly it works and the advantages of it. When the next project comes along and in the right situation then you can experiment with it. Having this understanding of many new tools is more important than having explored deeply what only a few can do. Your long term aim in your web design / development career is to have a good understanding of technology and tools across the board yet be specialised in one or two main areas.
Still looking to fanatically keep up? Here are 4 ways to do just that.
If you are after breaking news in the web design world then Twitter really is real time. A Tweet can be Retweeted to thousands, if not millions of people in seconds. So then I have to follow thousands of web developers then? Anything that is worthwhile reading is likely to be retweeted by the main players in the industry. So following thousands is not necessary and it's likely your timeline will be so crowded you are going to miss a lot anyway. Follow well known web celebrities because the quality of Tweets and links, not of how many followers they have.
There are now a lot of podcast out there, each covering something a little different. Most of them will cover new topics though and are a great way of keeping up with all the developments, My personal favourites are BoagWorld, Unfinished Business and ShopTalk show. Each differing but all are great learning platforms with highly experienced hosts and guests. I even have my own podcast for anyone looking for short yet focused topics. It's in the early stages but can be listened to at Web Payload.
My favourite way of being kept 'in the loop'. RSS allows you to view the news and articles from chosen sites in one specific location. Imagine visiting thousands of websites individually to check out the latest articles? This is the power of RSS. Whilst Google Reader, which was a very popular tool, has been deprecated there are others that do a similar job. Feedly and Digg Reader being two of the popular replacements. .Net magazine + other publications
Offline is great for a little piece and quiet and a 'static' medium. I've personally read .Net magazine for over a decade and it's a great way to keep informed. Whilst a monthly publication, things don't move that fast! At only a few pounds (I'm from the UK) a month it's a good investment.
Personal and side projects are a great way of trying out something new that you have heard about from the other mediums. It's the perfect opportunity to get your feet wet. Rather than diving in head first with a live client project, it's a good idea to grasp the basics and see if the technique or tool is really going to be benefit you and your team. Side projects are a fantastic way of experimenting and learning with shiny stuff.
As I have set out you don't need to have every technique and tool tried out yourself. Time doesn’t allow that. What is important is to have a good grounding of tools that are catching on and are gaining traction as well as knowing the advantages of using each. To try and keep on top of it all, Twitter, RSS, Podcasts and traditional publications are good ways of that mounting mountain of innovation and information. Side projects are a great way of trying out something new whilst not committing to it on a live client project.