As I move beyond the basics of HTML and CSS and discuss my little website with my webdev friends, I have begun to learn about these beautiful shortcuts.
Want to make your site responsive? Use a CSS template that guarantees responsive design.
Want to lay your site out like the pros? Use a layout template that guarantees maximum readability and style.
Want to get some cool transitions happening on your site using jQuery without actually understanding jQuery? Just copy and paste this pretty code from a site that someone else made.
And... so on. The truth is, there are a lot of shortcuts out there. Now, maybe it's my Caltech education that's holding me back, but I cannot justify using something that I don't understand.
Sure, shortcuts make the whole process finish faster. And sure, if you're on the hook to make something great, chances are that people who are smarter than you have figured it out already.
But what if the shortcut doesn't quite work? What if, in the process of blindly copying and pasting things that you don't fully understand, your entire site completely breaks? I see it all the time on forums - people say things like, "I did everything you told me to do, and now it doesn't work! HALP!"
Don't let yourself be one of those people.
Before you use a shortcut, make sure you fully understand why and how it works.
Pros can use shortcuts, because it helps them speed up their projects. But when things break (which, let's be honest, they generally do!), pros know what's going on and can fix the problem systematically and a whole lot faster than someone who's brand new.
So, let this be a lesson: don't be a cheater; be a pro! Understand your material from the get-go.