Workflow Evolution

by cdwise 15. October 2008 10:30

I don't know about you but I have a tendency to form workflow habits for each program I use that I carry over from one version of a program to another. True there well be same changes as I discover new features but sometimes I well miss out on a better workflow because sticking with my ingrained workflow causes me to miss how a new feature could improve my workflow.

I have been playing with the Dreamweaver CS4 beta and realized that the time has come to rethink the workflow I use when working in Dreamweaver. Part of the reason is clear to anyone who has downloaded and tried out the publics beta from http://labs.adobe.com . (Note to use for more than one day you need to generate an install key which requires the key from any CS program.)

The new Live View and massive changes to the CSS tools clearly call for a new workflow. Smaller changes like splitting the Property Inspector into two views, HTML and CSS, might  or night not have causal me to re-evaluate my workflow but the combination of new features and changes to the interface are forcing a workflow review. (Personally I really wish they had not gone to the black interface far too hard to read in my opinion, I've changed the Expression Web interface to blue instead of the default black for be same reason.)

The Challenge of Change

You would think that those of us who work in the fast changing world of the web would be constantly adapting my our workflow as the web changes but in many cases even though we expand our repertoire of skills our fundamental workflow changes little.

Instead we shoehorn into our existing workflow. Where we would once have dragged out a code snippet for reuse we now pop a jQuery, YUI or Moo tools library into our site and use it just like we would a piece of code we created for reuse stored in the snippets panel. After all few of us have the luxury of setting down and thoroughly exploring all paths and features available in the software we use daily.

I remember once hearing that most of the feature requests Microsoft gets for Word were already there just not discovered by the user making the request. I know that there are things in any program I use that would improve my workflow if I just spent the time exploring menus I have never look at but like most people my time is limited. Plus familiarity with parts I use all the time of a program tends to keep me in my comfort zone.

So just how do you go about changing well established habits?

Books: Get a good book on the subject but if you are anything like me you will adapt a ignore the book's workflow and use your own. If you do get a book make sure you do the exercises as prescribed if you are trying  to improve your workflow.

Live events: Go to events sponsored by software vendor. Many launch events are good for this if try have breakout sessions. Attend industry conferences whether sponsored by one company like Adobe MAX or Microsoft MIX or events like South  x Southwest and Webmaster Jam Session. You may be fortunate enough  to have a user group for web design, web development or a local Refresh group in your area. Attend the meetings, get involved.

Reworded events: If there are no live in-person events near you many of the launches are recorded and available as Webcasts.

Webcasts:-Such as Adobe TV, Channel 9 (Microsoft) though many of these are more marketing oriented bit there are many thus will help you learn how to use their program effectively.

Training videos: These can be free or paid. For example I have several free training videos on by-expression.com  but this blog post was inspired by watching the Dreamweaver CS4 ideas on lynda.com (note other than as a satisfied user I have no affiliation with Lynda.com but as an Adobe Community Expert for Dreamweaver I can provides you an user group discount code for Lynda.com training use the  the lynda.com user group partner logo link for more info.

Attend classes: ones with instructors available to answer your questions. These can be live in person such as through a training center ($$$) usually up to date but tend to stile to the vendor prescribed curriculum. Community college classes, just make sure they one teaching a modern standards based curriculum too many are stuck in slice and dice tables of last century. Online classes such as chose we offer at Start to Web or the HTML Writer's Guild. As someone who has both taken classes

and taught them online I am constantly amazed at the people who pay for a class yet don't post a single word during the entire class. If you take a class - DO YOUR ASSIGNMENTS - ask questions and participate. You have no idea what it is like to be an instructor and have students who paid money to take the class not participate.

Time for me to shake up and improve my workflow. I will be doing that with Jim Babbage's new Fireworks CS4 book, watching videos and attending conferences.

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Dreamweaver | Expression Web | Training

Milan or San Francisco - Adobe MAX

by cdwise 12. October 2008 12:13

Even though I have taken the year off from speaking at conferences and events after talking with my partner it looks like I will be able to go to Adobe MAX this year. I've never been to MAX but heard lots of stories about what I was missing. (Seems plenty of folks can't resist putting up video over on youtube either)  Not only will there be great activities Adobe will also be showing off all the new stuff in CS 4. (If you tried the Dreamweaver CS 4 and Fireworks CS 4 betas available on Adobe Labs you know about the exciting changes to those programs.) Heck, I've used the betas and still don't know all there is to know about the two programs that concern me most so I want to learn more.

Okay, so now I have to choose which MAX to attend.

My first thought was San Francisco, November 16-19 here I come. After all I live in the US and Adobe headquarters is just down a short drive south of San Francisco in San Jose so naturally that is the first of the three locations I considered. I check airfare and hotel, decided that in San Francisco getting a car would be a waste (BART means you don't really need one to get in from the airport and San Francisco is a walking city) and while I haven't been there all that often it is easy to get around in. So off to the travel sites to look at airfare and hotels.

Then today on a whim I though I'd check those same travel sites  just to see how much more it would cost me to go to Milan instead (after all I haven't been to Milan in years since I was at university) image my surprise when I discovered that the costs were almost the same - within $100. Oh dear, I love European travel and here's a great excuse to hop on a flight to Italy. Heck, even the dates, December 1-4, fit my schedule slightly better than the San Francisco MAX. 

So what should I do? Go to San Francisco where I will know more people, be assured that all the sessions I would want to attend would be held in a language I understand (my Italian is of the tourist variety - food, hotels, transportation - not design or technical at all) or go to Milan and expand my horizons (after checking that there will be session in English) and enjoying the lovely food and atmosphere if being in Italy while I recover from jet lag  a couple of days before MAX begins.

Decisions

What should it be San Francisco or Milan?

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Dreamweaver

Test Your HTML Knowledge

by cdwise 11. October 2008 10:11

Molly tweeted about how well she did on the HTML quiz missing only two HTML4 elements. So I decided to try it the other day and ended up with 20 elements I couldn't name.

I waited a couple of days and tried it again to get:

81

Created by OnePlusYou

So I remembered 10 more two days after looking at the list of my "missed" items. In case you are curious the ones I missed today were:

DFN, FORM, INS, ISINDEX, KBD, OPTION, SAMP, SELECT, TT, VAR

Yeah, I know I should hang my head in shame at missing <form> but I got it right along with option and select the first time. Too busy trying to remember the stuff that I never really used. Missed the first time were:

AREA, BASEFONT, BDO, BIG, DEL, DIF, DIR, INS, ISINDEX, KBD, MAP, MENU, PARAM, SAMP, SMALL, STRIKE, SUB, SUP, TT,  VAR

I will admit that there were a few I got more or less because I was typing another element such as: B, I, S and U.

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Web Design

XMALFest

by cdwise 7. October 2008 01:30

Friday and Saturday I was over in Atlanta for Webmaster Jam and today I'm sitting at the Microsoft office back home in Houston for XAMLFest. Talk about different types of events.

Last week it was all about design and front-end developement. Today it is about creating WPF/Silverlight where almost everyone in the room is a developer - specifically a dotnet developer.

True to form the morning starts off with Visual Studio and code. The second session moved into some of the vision behind WPF. I think the two might should have ben reversed but given the primarily asp.net development background of the majority the order is probably correct. Hot

One thread that was in common in both presentations was that while you can do "programmatically" using dotnet (C# or VB.net)  that in most cases it is better to use lookless controls  so that the person with graphics skills (aka a designer) can control the display. It was a pleasant change from most of the developer oriented training I have attended from Microsoft where putting presentation elements into the c# or vb.net is a given. Congratulations to Microsoft, they are starting to get it.

Sitting in a Microsoft event and seeing slides on Typography and a discussion of kerning. Scalable interfaces with portrait orientation tablet pc specifically mentioned, discussion of benefits of vector graphics with transforms and effects (brushes). I feeling slightly disoriented since this is so unlike any MS developer event I have ever attended. Amazing and vey welcoming. Gotta pay attention now and quit typing here.

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Events

Microsoft Article on Migrating to Standards

by cdwise 4. October 2008 23:54

Yesterday on the Microsoft Expression Web Team Blog something that reads closer to  what I consider article or possibly a tutorial on migrating from legacy code to web standards.

I am going to start by saying I do not like blogs as a publishing media for articles and tutorials from software vendors. One reason I prefer tutorials to be in articles on a section of a site is that blog entries wd off andcan be more difficult * discover. Another reason is that typically articles include more screenshots and detailed instructions.To my mind this article starts off fairly well in explaining what a doctype in and why your should use one.

From there I find the rest of the explanations to be on the sparse almost shorthand which is would be difficult to follow for someone who is truly new to web standards, secmantic monk-up and css.

Take a look and let we know if you agree with me or not.

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Expression Web | Web Design



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