Today I am printing out two copies of about 300 lines of color-coded source code. This is the html framework for the whole page, with the if/else bits that call includes depending on what’s happening where in the site, but not the includes themselves. I’ll tape all 19 pages together, end-to-end, like Jack Kerouac’s original “scroll” for his novel On the Road, but with nested code and numbered lines. Then, I’ll use a red pen to mark where the big chunks open and close, fold the paper to hide what I’m not working on and clip that part shut. Sometimes (often,) if I want to move around design elements, I’ll cut out the part I’m moving and tape it into the new location. The whole thing gets draped or hung on a copy holder, where I reference it while typing.
Well… my short term memory sort of sucks, to the extent that I’ve been asked if I have a head injury. This is a logistical problem that can really screw with productivity and self esteem, but it isn’t the end of the world. I could make notes in the code to say “PASTE PART X HERE,” go to copy and cut part X, and, as soon as it’s not in front of me I have no idea what it was that I cut, where I want to put it or why. With a hands-on piece of paper in front of me, I have reference points that don’t go away. That last sentence is the important part, the hope-and-solution part: creativity rocks.
And, though WYSIWYG editors are good enough now to let me drag stuff around without causing too much crippling chaos in the code, I want to keep a relationship between code and visual. Separating design and code seems as artificial to me as separating creativity and science — if scientists were not creative, why would we have new questions?
Don’t underestimate the Little Engine that Could factor. If I’m not intimidated by coding in Notepad++, I’m not intimidated by curly brackets doing unfamiliar things — though I may not know how to make unfamiliar code behave on command, I can figure out where it begins and ends and search for the bits that might make sense soon.
Do I always do this?
When I was first getting to know WordPress’s templating system I did it. When I design a completely new theme I may do it at some point – for simple CSS adjustments, not so much. Now that I’m learning how forum templating systems work — LOL — hell yeah I’ll be at my patio table with tape and scissors and a little (paper) notebook for observations.
Crazy, huh? It works for me.
Dreamweaver can wait.