Dropping MAMP for a Better Web Development Environment on macOS

I have been a MAMP user for a long, long time—ever since I started developing with WordPress back when it was really just a blogging platform. MAMP is a breeze. It’s easy to setup new test sites, and the behind-the-scenes configuration of Apache, MySQL, and PHP made life simple.

I realized I had a problem when my MAMP Pro software started to become severely incompatible with my projects. Rather than shell out for a new license, I decided it was a good time to re-evaluate my local development setup.Keep Reading

Getting Started with Front-end 508 Compliance

In my current role as a front-end engineer, Section 508 has become a driving force in some of my work. Since my company does business with the U.S. government, we’re required to meet a level of accessibility that ensures users with visual disabilities can interact with our web properties.

Most, if not all, developers and designers dread Section 508 compliance. Oftentimes, it means combing through our interfaces using unfamiliar tools to make sure people we’re not even sure exist can use our software.

This is a cynical mindset, of course—because those users do exist and they have real disabilities that developers and designers must take into consideration. Can you imagine if buildings were not required to support wheelchair-bound patrons or if crosswalk signals did not incorporate auditory features?

The web is not dissimilar to the physical world. Websites must operate in a fashion where people of any ability can achieve critical tasks. For me, this meant ensuring users could access online verification tied to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ new Vets.gov services portal.

In implementing and improving the 508 compliance of our technology, I learned a few good lessons, which I share below.Keep Reading

How Front-end Developers Can Make a Bigger Organizational Impact

I have been a front-end developer my entire career. Beginning as an owner of a small web agency, I moved on to join other companies, where I was often the only front-end guy. These were and are great gigs. I’ve contributed to product interfaces, team frameworks, and marketing campaigns.

In being the “only guy” to do front-end, I’ve realized it’s not so great after all. I’ve experienced the Mulder syndrome at times (which isn’t an actual syndrome, but a nerdy reference to The X-Files, where the eccentric protagonist Fox Mulder is exiled to the FBI basement). In other words, I sometimes have felt people don’t care about or respect front-end. It’s a department they realize is necessary, but it’s also a department they don’t want to see.

I think we all know front-end is a valuable role—just as back-end is essential, as well as design, project management, quality assurance, devops, and so on.

But I’ve always been left with that sense that I’m not a real coder, I’m not a real designer, and my job responsibilities fall somewhere between “code this email” and “make this button look pretty.”

How can we make front-end development’s importance more accepted?

It’s not easy. But with a bit of proactive effort on your part, you can turn the front-end department into a valuable resource that has a direct impact on your organization’s goals.Keep Reading

Developing with an Evidence-based Mindset

In my senior year of college, I enrolled in a course on evidence-based management. With only five other students in my class, the course proved to be quite the immersive experience into the scientific model. We focused theoretical business decision-making on creating hypotheses, observing our environment, gathering data, and refining our initial guesswork.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what to think of the class. Evidence and business seemed like two very distinct disciplines; one very scientific and formulaic, and the other entrenched in creativity and agility.

The idea clicked with me after I left school. Operating from an evidence mindset is not strictly for science geeks—evidence is critical to every aspect of life, from our personal goals to our job performance.

Evidence-based front-end development (quite a mouthful) has played a huge role in my career. Performing my engineering tasks with a logical thought process that encourages best practices and optimized results has allowed me to execute more precisely at greater speeds.

Below I walk through some of my takeaways from adhering to an evidence-based approach to front-end development.Keep Reading

Life Like a Government

I think of life like the government. I know, that sounds like an oxymoron. Since humans organized into tribes, there’s always been a clash between individualism and collectivism. So how can I can possibly equate life to that of a government?

It’s simple. I, myself, am the government/nation, and I organize my thoughts, actions, and plans into different “departments.”

Most governments are divided into smaller entities. Within the executive branch of the U.S. government, we have multiple departments. Each of these groups carry out different missions to achieve goals that impact the health and continuation of the government and nation. Individual life is not much different. We serve ourselves—the government and nation—and to achieve that purpose we must organize our thoughts and actions into logical bureaus of internal interests and outside relations.Keep Reading

Involving QA with the Front-End Development Process

Building interfaces is a touchy area. Behind the scenes, you have ever-changing JavaScript libraries and naming schemes that can ripple throughout your application’s architecture. Then you must take into account the multitude of operating environments and the way they render your interface. A user on Windows looking at your application on Internet Explorer 10 must have the same experience as the user on a Mac with Google Chrome.

With all of these variables to manage, implementing a sane quality assurance process can quickly become a nightmare.

To maintain the sanity and to keep our QA folks from skipping town, my company has adopted a number of processes that streamlines software testing.

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Giving Meetings a Little Structure

Most people I know hate meetings. They’re long, boring and often unrelated to the tasks at hand. And we’ve all been in that environment where every decision requires a meeting. Meetings just suck the energy and motivation from the office.

But what if I told you meetings don’t have to be so cumbersome?Keep Reading

Increasing Web Project Efficiency with Time Tracking

Everyone wishes they could have more time. With extra time, we could get so much more done—finish those long-delayed projects, get more sleep, learn new career skills, read Lord of the Rings backwards (or forwards). But we don’t have the ability to create time. We’re stuck with those finite number of hours per day and nothing’s every going to change with that.

Given how much we value time, why do we allow it to pass so casually? Shouldn’t we track and understand where it’s going?

The obvious answer: yes. Especially for our web projects.Keep Reading

Building a Pub-Style Dining Table

My house has a unique dining area. Situated between the kitchen and front door, it’s a small alcove where not much can fit. My original dining table was far too large for the area, and most of the tables for sale online either didn’t match the decor or were the wrong dimensions. I also wanted a table that was less formal—somewhere where you could just pull out a stool and enjoy a morning cup of coffee.

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Forcing Myself to Write

I’m sitting on the couch, staring at an empty screen. I set out to write something—anything. But my mind went blank. All thoughts circled around the idea of watching YouTube videos or perusing the web. Writing was desired but not necessarily expected.

I want to write more. I used to write a ton—books’ worth of content, actually. However, I’ve found myself in a perpetual state of writer’s disdain.Keep Reading