HTML & CSS
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By Louis Lazaris

What are You Going to Learn This Month in Front-end Development?

By Louis Lazaris

In March, I wrote an article on the abundance of tools and technologies in the industry today, and how overwhelming it can feel. The article resonated nicely with many in the industry.

Many agreed that although we are ‘drowning’ in tools, and it can be intimidating, the best approach is to focus on the tools and technologies that are going to help us become more productive and solve problems.

So I thought it would be cool to open up the discussion and ask everyone: What are you going to learn next?

Is it a new language? A new CSS framework? A grid system? Maybe you haven’t touched Sass yet (shame on you! :). Maybe you want to become more familiar with a back-end technology, to complement your front-end stack. Or maybe it’s a new JavaScript library or framework. Whatever it is, I’d like to hear about it.

But I’ll go first.

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What I’ve Neglected

Here’s a short list of some stuff I’ve been meaning to enhance my understanding of (or get started with!) and that I’ve simply procrastinated for far too long:

SVG

SVG is huge and it’s here to stay. It has great browser support, and can be polyfilled or you can declare some kind of fallback or conditional. A great starting point is Chris Coyier’s recent SVG roundup. There’s also SitePoint author Joni Trythall’s upcoming SVG book (if you haven’t noticed yet, Joni is becoming to SVG what Hugo is to Sass).

In addition to the tons of articles and tutorials on the subject, there are a number of SVG-related tools worth looking into, many of which I’ve listed in my newsletter.

WAI-ARIA and Accessibility

It’s good to see WAI-ARIA is finally getting the attention it deserves. We’re no longer wasting our time debating pointless HTML semantics but we’re doing our best to add practical semantic value to our documents. WAI-ARIA can do that.

While I personally have some basic WAI-ARIA knowledge, I’m still guilty of not delving deeply enough into this subject. If you have WAI-ARIA on your hit list, you might want to start with The Accessibility Project website or MDN’s ARIA resource page. There’s also Stephan Max’s introduction to ARIA published recently on SitePoint.

As a related study, there’s the HTML5 Accessibility website, which provides info on which new HTML5 features have accessibility support in the different browsers.

Above-the-fold CSS and the Critical Rendering Path

This is another one I’d like to delve into more deeply. Basically, the idea is that we automate our sites to ‘inline’ our CSS rules that apply to above-the-fold content (theoretically going against what we’ve been taught for years).

Ben Edwards wrote up a discussion on the topic over at CSS-Tricks and my first introduction to the concept was this great post by Aqeel, who has followed up with a related grunt task.

As a starting point, if you want to see whether your website or app could benefit from this technique, you might want to run the filmstrip test on WebPagetest.org.

Of course, the critical rendering path isn’t only about CSS, so there’s lots to learn in that area.

AngularJS / Backbone.js / Ember.js

I’m really late to the game on this one.

There are many other competitors in the JavaScript MVC dogfight, but AngularJS, Backbone.js, and Ember.js seem to be the top three.

I’d like to look more into using one of these, but haven’t had the practical opportunity or the necessity. If I had to choose one today, I’d probably go with Angular, as it seems to be the favourite, although the learning curve is apparently steeper compared to similar frameworks.

I long for the days when simple unobtrusive JavaScript was the primary best practice we had to concerned about! But those days are gone and it seems that any kind of serious app development should involve one of these frameworks or, at the very least, a similar methodology.

If you’re looking to get started with one of these, you might want to check out this Angular course or this beginner’s guide to Backbone.js, both on SitePoint’s sister site, Learnable.

What About You?

Those are four specific areas I’m still looking into or would like to branch further into soon. What are you looking to learn?

And don’t be shy about commenting on simpler stuff — we’re all at different levels. Some developers would consider my list pretty basic!

So let us know in the comments: What are you going to learn this month?

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