Writing for the Web

By Andi Smith - Wednesday, November 30 2011

Today is Blue Beanie Day, an anniversary where developers change their avatars to wear blue beanies to show their support for web standards. Today is also the day a new web initiative has been launched called “Move the Web Forward”, with a simple goal of making it easy for developers to start contributing to the web platform.

Two of the “activities” listed within this document are “Explore Front End Features” and “Write”. To me, these feel like they should be one and the same thing. I was someone who used to explore front end features but never write about them. But as you are probably aware, I have recently started writing about my experiences. And now I am here to convince you to do the same.

Writing for the web can be daunting. As I wrote my first blog posts one thought kept popping up in my head:

What if I write something and someone tells me I’m stupid?

It’s a completely silly thought to have, but it’s one that kept crossing my mind. Could I get heckled?

In April, I spoke at my first conference. I’d set myself a goal to publicly speak at a conference after attending Full Frontal the November before. It was something that scared me, but a friend convinced me and persevered when I had doubts. I found myself at a conference with 300 people attending in a part of the world I had never ever been to. When I arrived, I was scared. I was petrified. But the important thing to remember was that people weren’t attending this conference to see me fail, they were there to share and gain knowledge. No one would have taken any enjoyment if I had screwed up, and no one would have heckled if I had said something considered particularly wrong.

And it’s the same with writing on the web. No one will heckle you - people may correct you, they may ask questions, they may provide better answers.

Writing my post on “25 Secrets of the Browser Developer Tools” was an awesome experience for me.

Whilst writing the article I expanded my own knowledge of each of the browsers tools as I tried to figure out whether what I was describing really was the best way to do something and also how you could replicate the same functionality in each browser. I primarily use Chrome Developer Tools and Firebug for development, so using the other tools to discover those features rapidly increased my familiarity with them.

The feedback I received from writing the article was overwhelming. Twitter was filled with people saying that they were unaware of a particular feature, or that they had learnt so much. To be able to enhance so many people’s day to day development practices filled me with a warm fuzz, it was so rewarding. I went on to run an internal presentation at work to ensure that my colleagues also had the knowledge to improve their use of the tools.

Even after writing the article I was still learning. I learnt so much from the comments that people left. There were so many people that commented with their own methods, or corrections to my methods. And I was happy to have corrections or enhancements to what I had said, it made writing the article incredibly worthwhile.

Finally, the best part of writing a blog post is you have something to refer back to. If for some reason you stop using a particularly technology or tool for some months, re-reading an old blog post can provide the best refresher course you could ever ask for.

There are so many “big name” developers out there who share their experiences and because they work at Google or Opera or Mozilla it can feel daunting to try and do the same. But it shouldn’t feel that way - writing about your experiences is a sure-fire way to increase your knowledge rapidly and to give back to the community.

So if you are nervous about writing, take a subject you know with some familiarity and explore it’s extra hidden depths. Write about what you know, and what you find. It doesn’t matter if someone else has written about it before - maybe you have a new take on the idea. And when you are done, feel free to add a comment to the end of this post so I can check out what you found..

Andi Smith

Andi Smith is a web developer from London, United Kingdom. He likes to build highly performant websites which innovate with genuine value.