December is PHP Month

I have decided that my studying needs more structure to it, and that I should concentrate on one particular language, framework or general area each month.

Granted it is now the 18th day of this month, with the Christmas period to come so there isn’t necessarily a huge amount of time, though I am still unemployed and there will be plenty more hours to fill until this changes.

I chose PHP as it is something that I am keen to solidify my current basic learning of, and expand to a level where it could definitely be classed as a skill to a potential employer.

I know the basics fine, if statements, loops, building my own functions, etc – I know that from JavaScript and the principles apply albeit the syntax is slightly different.

Two things that I am particularly keen to learn is how PHP works with MySQL databases, and how to structure a registration/log-in system. I do also feel that I should learn how to use classes and how Object Orientated Programming is reflected in PHP.

There are two courses which will teach me all of this in Lynda – PHP with MySQL Essential Training and PHP with MySQL Beyond the Basics. Totaling a whopping 25 hours of video, not to mention the additional time it will take me to code along with the videos, it would be quite a feat if I completed both by the end of the month.


Not to mention that I have my own projects to finish too, including My Website Is Shit, where I will present the user with a horrendous-looking website to begin, and a button to fix it – it will then animate into a nice, finished state. I have only done the finished state so far, and I am not yet overly happy with it. It may well undergo a new iteration not long after it is finished. Its just something fun I’m playing with and who knows, maybe it will get me one or two projects, especially if I can integrate my sense of humour into it.

I’ve also promised a friend that I will do something for him – basically mock up a preview of a website. I’m sworn to secrecy though.

Then I do also have a PHP project that I’d like to do once I know how to use databases and log-ins. Hopefully I will get time to start it next month. It is something I want on the internet and it will fix an issue I have if nothing else.

Finally, in properly exciting news, I had an e-mail on Friday from a potential employer that included the words, “I had a read of your blog”, my first thoughts were “oh crap what have I written” but all positive and he has set me a coding challenge to do. Which I should probably start to do now.

I would give it the whole, its such an amazing opportunity, I’ve truly love to work there thing but he has already read my blog once and I don’t think that would be overly subtle.

But it would be perfect and not only that, they are ethically right up my street. I’ll say no more, I don’t want to get excited. I just need to prove that I can be their perfect junior web developer now.

I best get a shower and some food, and get cracking. Although I have a date with a crazy Cumbrian and a plate of gravy at 2pm.

It Was Never Going To Be Easy

Becoming a junior web developer was never going to be easy.  Getting the job was relatively easy compared to the studying required for it.

Keeping the job, and passing my probationary period is going to be tough too.

Last week started easily enough.  One of my main tasks was to ensure that print stylesheets of the main websites that I have been amending, were transformed from relative abominations to clean and legible print stylesheets – with necessary information only.

I had some frustration as page-break-inside was not stopping Chrome from splitting images as it should – I spent hours trying to research how to ensure elements didn’t print over two pages, and in the end had to settle for the less than optimal solution of manually positioning said elements.

Then I was set an SEO-related task, which had some PHP coding requirements involved – not my strong point. Ironically though the PHP was straight-forward and it was the CSS that caused issues, as it ended up requiring the carousel to be implemented on mobile devices too to stop the header appearing twice on SEO.  I’m no SEO expert but I’m assuming that having a header twice may cause Google to penalise you.

This was fun and games to sort out the carousel, as it took me quite a while to realise that it was Bootstrap (not my choice to use it!) that was over-riding my mobile carousel settings – Bootstrap apparently doesn’t want a mobile carousel, but that was the only way (I knew of) to fix the SEO issue.

Eventually I completed it, tested it on all kinds of different screen widths and device types, and it was pushed live.

Except I hadn’t tested the actual menu by clicking it, of which I had changed to the same colour as the menu text.  Shit, shit, shit.  Panic ensued to correct it.

Not my finest moment.  Why did I not think to test the menu button?  Absolutely fucking obvious and I am still frustrated with myself now.

Then on Friday i was set a tough challenge to re-code the archive pages so that they had their own SEO meta data, as opposed to automatically taking the meta data from the first link on the page.

I spent pretty much all day trying to work it out and could not find an answer.  I tried various functions, discovered various things and did a hell of a lot of reading.  I didn’t even get down-voted on Stack Overflow for asking the question.

So frustrating as I really wanted to fix this, especially after my cock-up on Wednesday.  I still feel that I need to prove myself – after all, I have a 3 month probationary period to pass.

On the bright side, I have been set a project which will take me until around Christmas, to redevelop the company website, along with the very impressive designer that we have, and new account manager/content writer.

I have two new colleagues, and a further one starting tomorrow who is a mid-weight PHP developer so he will be able to help me when I get stuck.


I’ve done plenty of good work too and am really enjoying it, despite the occasional day-long frustrations.

Just need to double-down on my efforts, particularly learning PHP and make sure I pass my probationary period.  I should do – but I am taking nothing for granted.

My First Ever Meet-Up

I read plenty of advice along my journey to becoming a web developer. Some of it stating the obvious. Plenty of it repeating what I’ve already read. Some of it surprising – some of it conflicting. In fact, I read far too much advice.

Probably the best bit of advice I read was code more, study less. But that’s the topic for another blog.

One suggestion that I’ve seen repeatedly advised is to join a meet-up ground with other web developers.

There is nothing in my town, Bracknell. Well, it isn’t my town but I happen to live here temporarily. Actually there is one meet-up group called Bracknell Web Development Meetup, but when you click on it, it then asks you to create it. So a phantom group that doesn’t really exist.

I’ve also searched the nearest local town, Reading, for meet-ups for front-end developers – there are some developer groups but none seem appropriate to the languages/frameworks I am learning – mostly for very developed developers.

I was invited last night to a PHP meet-up in Reading. I’ve never touched PHP, other than nervously amending something in footer.php on a WordPress-based blog that I run. I know nothing about servers. I know nothing about back-end development whatsoever.

So I went. A strange choice, perhaps, but a good friend was giving a presentation on some websites that he runs, including TheAudioDB, which is a very successful site, plus they offered free pizza and beer. Albeit I’m on detox.

And the second presentation was on Drupal 8 – and I’ve used Drupal 7.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of it went over my head. I do have a keen interest in what all of my friends do in their spare time, so the generalities of running successful open-source websites that my friend runs was interesting and impressive.

The technical side was wooooooooooooooooooo la la la la la la la la let’s play with my hair for a while.

It was a good presentation with enough for the technical-minded and the newbies alike – which could not so much be said about the presentation on Drupal, which used so many terms I had not heard of, and was for an audience…well it was for the majority of the audience.  It was aimed squarely at back-end developers.  I should not be surprised.

I wanted to ask a question at the end about the poor theme choice available for Drupal 7, and whether this improved in Drupal 8, but I decided that I might look a bit out of place asking a front-end question, so I left it.

I did get chatting to someone on the way out who had also used Drupal, albeit briefly, and concurred with my thoughts on the basic Drupal themes.

Not a wasted evening but clearly, going to a PHP meet-up when I’m learning HTML, CSS & JavaScript is not the way forward.

But I will go to one again. I’ve found some in London – not ideal given the travelling and cost involved but it’s an investment into my future.

Those I’m now registered with include London Web, London Digital Design And Technology User Group, ShoreditchJS, Pencil Web Development Training, Find A Tech Job In London (could be very useful in the future!) and, curiously, Developers Who DJ. Yes, I am also a DJ.

Maybe I’ll try them all out and have the subject of my next blog post.

I’ve also found a meet-up for Spanish-speaking lesbians.  Not sure if I’ll get approved despite the long hair.