The making of a website

2018-12-19 23:36. Keywords:  codingwebsite

As academic researcher, the precarious nature of my continued employment is frequently at the back of my mind. Basically, I'm just about always always looking for my job. In doing so most recently, I have been checking out a lot of other departments, and I noticed many people who are at comparable tiers on the academic ladder have their own personal/professional websites. This got me thinking that I should make one too.

As per usual, I decided to do it my own way, rather than rely on some more common/user friendly/pre-constructed/possibly constraining/possibly proprietary software routes for making the site. I decided I wanted to go at it from the bottom up — from scratch. I considered it to be a stepping stone in my own personal technical (r)evolution (this will possibly be the topic of my next blog post). So, I set out last week to learn enough of the web development trio — HTML-CSS-JavaScript — to get my own site up and running.

I had some previous experience with XML, Latex, R, and Python, so I wasn't completely in the dark in terms of how computers and scripting read, process, and render text. I had no illusion that making a website would be "easy", but I figured it must be at least manageable — and it was. The basics of HTML were simple enough to learn, though it took a few tries to get the document structure right; bad structures became especially apparent when I started adding style to the HTML with CSS.
Me making my website (dramatic reenactment).

Some aspects of the process were quite frustrating — the "stickiness" of top and side navigation menus, as well as trying to make Java tell the header to resize itself to accommodate an image (I gave up on that one), are a couple things that come to mind. Generally speaking, though, the whole thing was almost addicting. It's super satisfying to watch all your efforts come to life in the browser before you.

In the end, it was a fun little project, but I certainly don't envy web developers. Nevertheless, I'm grateful to have experienced making a website and I'm very satisfied with the end result. I want to use the opportunity to advocate the learn-by-doing approach to getting stuff done, which is generally in-line with my teaching philosophy and to say (esp. to all my humanities people) embrace technology, make it work for you, and do great things!

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