I want to design, or code, or something OR a Toronto guide to getting started as a web professional

Everyone who’s written any flavour of code for long enough (ComSci degree be damned) will say they are self-taught. My start was at Fanshawe College in a program that I just Googled and found no results. It provided me with what I call the ‘General Arts and Sciences of Multimedia': HTML4, CSS2, the Adobe Suite, video & audio recording, and 3D Studio Max. To make use of these skills, I sought tutelage from a programmer friend (to whom I owe much of my career trajectory to) for the basics of how to use PHP to create, read, update, and delete fields in a MySQL database. The rest is history.

At that time, people would glaze over with disinterest at my work, or they believed that I am a magic wizard. Since then, it’s come to be that most people have looked at HTML code and some kinda get it. Furthermore, people have realized that design and development extends beyond just punching code. And, that it can be a creative and lucrative skill, resulting in a job where there is always beer in the fridge, and a dog greeting you at the door. People want in. But, where to start?

No jokes, coding is another language and you have to immerse yourself in it. If you aren’t one to write code, then you’re going to STILL have to immerse yourself in the tools. And, learn some basic code skills. All the drag and drop “UX prototyping” tools in the world won’t help you understand how things are built. And if your fancy yourself a designer, you better learn Zurb Foundation fast and start ‘designing mobile first’ right away.

Here are the resources I would recommend to anyone in Toronto who is looking to get started. And my advice is to throw yourself at it. This isn’t a dabbler’s sport anymore. There is too much to learn. And relearn. And tweak. And rewrite, redraw, reinvent. First, before you go to any school – get an account with an online training platform and get a start. Then, get into a community. Make a project. Read documentation. Attend meet-ups. Join newsletters. And then, maybe, you’ll want to get some formal training. Maybe.

Here is a Toronto centric list of things to get you started:

Online resources:


Some reading:




CoderDojo Toronto

CoderDojo is a global movement about providing free and open learning to youth, with an emphasis on computer programming. The Toronto chapter was founded to bring this movement to the GTA, inspire other chapters, and partner with other organizations to better introduce kids to coding.


A previous post on this blog (The “Make-It-Fun Community Web-Dev Thinkubator”) outlines my goals for giving back to the code community. After doing some research I found CoderDojo, and through them a link to the year old and abandoned Twitter account @coderdojoto. After contacting my soon to be co-founder, we assembled a small team, and like it was no big deal we had our first session 6 months later.

As of 2014 we have secured a venue sponsorship with Bitmaker Labs, and a title sponsorship with FinanceIt, allowing us to focus on providing great coding programs to kids of all backgrounds and abilities. As one of 2 directors, this labour of love has proven to be a great experience for so many reasons.


Personal Website Redux

meaghanbent.com homepageI intend this to be a series of posts that roughly represent my progress through this spreadsheet’s priorities. As a web developer, it is a common feeling to know that your own profile site is out of date. In my case, it was not only out of date but it was purposefully lacking feeling. A few years back I realized that I had a vast and unrefined online footprint, exposing the growth of my career. A website from 2002 is certainly a lot different than that of 2013 and no developer wants to show off their first sites. But, what DO we want to show off? Projects we are proud of, our art, our process, what makes us unique, how we use the Internet, what drives us, where we’ve been and where we are going. All in one tight, sweet design that implies the richness of who we are in a package that is easily digested, not too stuffed with ego, and good looking enough to keep someone engaged.

Yesterday I wrote down the meat of what I intend to do. I realized that it was ego centric, an advertisement. I don’t want to advertise! Lord knows I don’t need anymore work. What I want to do is show off to my peers and motivate myself to learn. The focus of this website is to continue to expand my skills. Concepts, languages, rules, best practices, plug-ins, frameworks, libraries and fonts are all chugging along and if you wait 2 years to get to your own learning you will find that you’ve been slacking.

I’d been slacking.

Today I have a new site, which is basically just a prototype for a site but in the true spirit of Agility and iteration it is just the first step to be a playground to discover and build, a sweet pad to have pals over to, a curated collection of my work to vainly please myself and intrigue, woo and sometimes disappoint others. No worries, what’s for me is for you is for me!

See where I am today (www.meaghanbent.com) vs the document to get an understanding of how building a web project is a beautiful flower with room for unexpected growth.


Team meeting and SCRUM strategy

Email from Lead Project Manager to All Staff with bullets outlining the coming week’s work to be accomplished by each resource. This benefits each employee to know what is expected of them, and lets the product and management team have a viewable checklist of what they can expect to have accomplished. It also emphases the important of not derailing the resources with off the radar tasks, and asks if they can be prioritized for the following sprint (2 weeks) instead.

No *SCRUM are required on Mondays, but the team is encouraged to speak to their peers for needs they in shared projects.

End of day project report required. Time is logged toward sprint bugs. Note for Tuesday stand-up meeting to speak about whether the programming tasks were successful, and if not, what was in your way and how that impacts the sprint.

Tuesday – Friday
15m SCRUM details whether or not you logged 5 hours of programming time toward your milestone and if the time estimate it took to complete was approximately correct.

End of day project report required. Time is logged toward sprint bugs. Note for Tuesday stand-up meeting to speak about whether the programming tasks were successful, and if not, what was in your way and how that impacts the sprint.

In addition to SCRUM meetings, each team attends a 1 hour general meeting @ 3pm to recap the week and talk about ideas. The teams, in our case Back-End team, Front-End, & Product Team (includes project & product management + QA, covers assessment of the resource calendar and alignment of info on the wall board). We will alternate meeting spaces weekly as to each have an opportunity to use The Lounge™, boardroom and lobby spaces. Following, at 3pm all teams meet together in The Lounge™ for a similar style meeting with each team having a representative to explain what their team achieved and bring to the table ideas, or the progress on ideas. Beer during and foosball after.


Hiding keywords in HTML = bad practice

It is inadvisable to hide text on the HTML in the method previously used on aura.net. Google uses a clever algorithm and actually penalizes sites that try to trick it, placing keywords in hidden text is against search engine guidelines. A quick Google search for ‘hiding keywords in html’ will show many discussions regarding how Google ‘will get you’ and regards the practice as equivalent to ‘spamming’.


Less Framework 3

Less Framework is a cross-device css grid system based on using inline media queries.

The core idea is to first create a default layout normally, and then additional layouts using inline media queries. Any browsers incompatible with media queries will simply ignore the additional layouts, and will only use the default one. The additional layouts will inherit any styles given to the default layout, so coding them is a breeze.

All four of the layouts included in Less Framework share a common column-width and gutter-width, which makes it easy to design them consistently. Also included are two sets of typography presets composed around a baseline grid of 24 px.