Benjamin Read's code garden.

2016 Review / 2017 Aims

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This article is about: personal

2016 as a year was as unconventional as they come. Globally there have been some massive shifts politically, socially and in other ways. My life too has taken some pretty interesting turns. I’m following suit here by posting a quick review of my year and what I hope I can achieve in 2017 from a professional perspective.

When I look back at the start of 2016 it is with a huge amount of mixed feelings. Hannah and I were still getting used to the sleepless nights with Morgan, who was just then a year old. We’d also recently got told to move out of our house with 4 weeks notice. That proved to be incredibly stressful.

The Summit Media project #

From a professional perspective, I was doing some of the best work of my career for Ech Design on the Summit website, a monster Wordpress build with multiple custom post types, and some pretty involved animations. The deployment process was also a bit of a minefield for a team that had only just started using git.

That build nearly killed the 4 of us, especially Neil and Phil, the project leads, but it’s something we are all incredibly proud of even today. It was nice to have the confidence and gratitude of the Summit team after a very intense 4 / 5 month design and build period.

It was also my first introduction to using a slew of new technologies, including Composer, Atlassian JIRA, a range of new animation techniques and git branching & deployment strategies.

Moving on from Ech #

Until late in October I was still contracting at Ech, a great team with some exciting ambitions. I’m looking forward to hearing what they achieve in the future. I was sad to say farewell after almost a year there to go and work at an agency, a move which was conducive to a better work / life balance (because it’s a much shorter commute).

Looking back, I certainly was pushed to move my skills forwards, at times much further than I believed I could. I also was able to leave Ech having imparted to them some useful processes that I had acquired already (kanban boards for project management, git for version control, and working locally instead of via ftp).

I also moved to an agency for the chance to work with the current team and their excellent in-house Wordpress theme. This theme has many fantastic features, including the fact that it uses OO PHP and has command-line interface similar to Laravel’s Artisan tool for making meta fields, widgets and custom settings area.

$ origin make:metabox mymetabox

The one thing that really got to me about it’s nearest competitor, Elliot Condon’s Advanced Custom Fields, is that you can create everything in the theme in code. This speeds up my development time exponentially, to the point that I can create an entire theme in as few as 3 days.

Aims for 2017 #

A few things I had in my goals list which are underway already include the following:

1. Build a home web server #

After a few false starts (I initially used Debian, but struggled without the support as a beginner at this), my home server is up and running . The main reasons for wanting to do this is because we currently maxed out on iCloud storage and don’t want to pay increasing amounts ad infinitum to store & share our stuff.

It was also a good task to help me discover more about servers and the LAMP stack in general, which will help me understand my role and how it connects to other roles in the workplace.

2. Get to grips with SVGs and SVG animations #

I really believe SVGs and animations are the future of the web. There’s an insane amount going on with these at the moment, and I’ve built sites using some rudimentary animations. Unfortunately, none of them have gone live yet. I would really like to showcase some of what I’ve done and find out new ways of using animations to tell stories on websites.

3. Graduate to Laravel #

I’ve already had the opportunity at an agency to start learning Laravel, and already love it. I think this could quickly develop into a standalone blog post (umm, yep, it probably will) so I won’t say anything more about it, other than I know I’m going to love the framework. A colleague has already told me “learning laravel will make you a better Wordpress developer”. I can already see the truth of that statement.

4. Design More #

This one is a bit more of a vague idea than a concrete goal:- I only designed one website in 2016 and think I’m losing my sensitivity to design a bit. I want to get that back a little so that I can continue to break down the siloed approach to building websites which is sadly so prevalent still.”

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“Wisest are they who know they do not know.”

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