Recently I have working on Spheriosity mainly because it is my project for the summer, but that is perhaps a topic for another entry. Anyway, I am trying to release the next alpha version of the program. I am actually a bit upset that I still need to call it alpha, but the fact of the matter is that few people have tested it so I feel it still needs more testers before I can bump it up to beta. I have finished most, if not all, of the coding for this release and now I have to go on and update the user documentation.
The documentation as it stands now is all in a single location located here and it is basically a list of the buttons in the main program and what they do/how to use them. When I first created the project as an assignment for my higher geometry class this was more than sufficient. I gave a small talk at a math conference about the software and that was all I had time to pull together. Now, however I really want to get some good documentation into shape. So I started by updating that simple page I mentioned earlier in case anyone should look at that and want a rough idea of what the program can do.
This leads me to the issue at hand which is that to change this page I had to dabble with my friends PHP, CSS, and HTML. Individually they are powerless, but united they form the tools of pretty decent web development. I am not much of a web developer, and I certainly don’t claim to be very good at it. Mainly I have trouble coming up with how things should look. If I were given a picture of a website I think I would probably be able to put together some CSS, HTML, and PHP to make it look correct, but if I have to start from scratch… that is rough ground.
It seems that when I try to do web development I end up spending about 10 minutes to make the content and then about 40 minutes fussing with the CSS, PHP, and HTML to get it all to look right. Yes, part of the problem is that I do not play with web development that often, but the other issue I frequently deal with is the fact that web browsers are still not as standards compliant as I would like. Granted, things have come a long way, and tests like ACID2 and ACID3 most likely bring hope to web developers every where that some day we might enjoy near perfect CSS compliance.
I hold a great deal of respect for good web developers because it is truly an art to get a page to display correctly on every browser and to do that with a minimal amount of browser-specific hacks.
Some day perhaps browsers will come to a reasonable point of compliance and more importantly everyone will be using them 🙂 . Until then I will always be a little weary before I dig into any web development project. Realizing that to make something good looking will require a fair amount of overhead in the form of development time.